Formal nights are a big part of a cruise and depending on the length of the cruise, you might have multiple. The majority of people, at least on the cruises that I have been on, tend to go all out.
The women look all glamorous and the men turn into real gentlemen in their suits and tuxedos. The halls are filled with photographers to take that perfect picture.
I love formal nights as they give me a reason to dress up and wear those dresses that normally gather dust in my wardrobe.
However, there are people that do not enjoy dressing up like I do, or they prefer a casual look. Some people just want to walk around in flip flops all the time and others might not be able to bring their fancy outfits as they have no space in their luggage. The cruise might be a small part of a longer trip.
So, what can you expect from a formal night?
What are the does and don’ts?
What is the dress code?
Well, as I already hinted there are those people that love formal nights and dressing up and those who do not. Whichever option you prefer, it does not matter as the cruise lines cater for everyone.
Let’s see what you have to look out for, whatever you do on formal nights.
On a formal night the restaurants are open to those guests that partake in the formal night and are dressed for the occasion.
Normally, the restaurants on that night do not really allow people that are not dressed up inside. I have seen the occasional person in chinos in a restaurant during the formal night as it is up to the staff to decide if they let anyone in or not. But to be honest you would look out of place, in my opinion.
For those that decide they want to have a casual night, the buffet or room service is always an option and most cruises have a pizzeria as well. There are still plenty of choices and you do not have to starve if you are not going to the restaurant for the formal night.
If you decide that formal nights are for you, join the club! If you are not, that is okay of course and just ignore this part.
Here are a few ideas of what to wear. But I would recommend just to use common sense and not to overthink what you can and cannot wear. Think of what you would wear if you were to go to a ball, a wedding or if you are in Britain possibly to the Races.
If you are a man and you have a suit and a shirt, you are more or less good to go. Just pair it with some simple leather shoes. Done.
Men are expected to wear the following:
- A suit or tuxedo
- Smart dinner jacket
- Tie, but mostly optional
- Dress slacks and shirt
- Appropriate dress shoes such as Oxford, Derby or Loafer
And women usually wear:
- Cocktail dress
- Blouse and elegant trousers/skirt
- Trouser suit
On formal nights the ship is taken over by photographers and their big screens and cameras. There are different set ups, so you can get pictures with different settings and backgrounds.
For instance, you might get a picture with the ship in the background, a tropical beach or a lovely sunset. The choice is yours.
Lots of people like to get their picture taken, but it is not compulsory. If that is not your thing, no need to get involved. Just pass them.
The photographers will be located in the atrium as well as main corridors that may lead to restaurants as well as the bars.
A lot of people take some time to get ready for the formal nights. You want to have a shower, do your hair and nails, maybe have a drink before dinner.
If you want to get your hair done professionally or want a manicure, I would recommend booking these appointments in advance as slots can go quickly on the formal night days.
Also, check the voltage of the sockets on your ship if you are planning to bring your own hair straightener. Some devices may not work if the voltage is too high or low.
The majority of people leaves the pool area around 4.30 pm. Thus, if you do not like formal nights this is the time to have the Jacuzzi for yourself!
I find the ship almost deserted between that time and when dinner starts and always make use of the pool, the Jacuzzis as well as the sauna on those days.
On formal nights, all people seem to follow the same time table at night for some reason.
Everyone wants to get into the restaurant at the same time, mostly straight away when they open around 6 pm. And everyone wants to go to the first theatre show, which starts around 8 pm as they will just have finished their meal.
Hence, expect longer waits and queues.
If the restaurant is full, you will normally get a buzzer that will vibrate when a table is ready for you. Waits can be anything from 5 min to 30 min. The restaurants are busier on those days and people tend to take longer enjoying their food.
So, if you are not hungry around 6 pm already, you can eat a little bit later to avoid the long waits and queues.
Just remember the times for the theatre show so you can schedule your dinner time accordingly and not miss the performance. On formal nights the dinner may take 1.5 hours approximately.
I am a big fan of formal nights, but I know a lot of people are not. However, they are not compulsory and therefore it is up to you if you want to participate or not.
No one is being forced into anything they do not want to do!
Make sure to check your cruise line’s website about the formal nights as these vary from cruise line to cruise line. Some enforce it more than others and some do not even do formal nights.
However you choose to spend that night, just enjoy it and have fun. You are on holiday!