On almost every cruise, there are formal nights. Even on the most relaxed type of cruise lines, like Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising, there are nights that you can choose to wear something a bit fancier. These are like ‘opt in’ formal nights.

There are three types of people when it comes to dressing up during vacation: the ones that absolutely adore it, the ones that go with the flow and the people that completely despise those nights.

How formal is formal night?

There are levels of formality. The most luxurious and traditionalists cruises have a more restrict dress code, meaning gowns and tuxes. These restrictions apply ship wide after 6pm on cruise lines like Cunard! Emma wrote an entire post about the dress code onboard Cunard – definitely worth reading if you plan cruising with them!

Cunard Dress Code Queen Victoria Ball Gown Tuxedo Formal Night Dress Code
Emma and her brother onboard Cunard Queen Mary

Next comes the cruise lines that are only really formal during formal nights – and sometimes, not really. The formality of a cruise will vary mostly because of the itinerary and the time of year: holidays like Spring Break are more relaxed, opposed with some European cruises, for example. MSC are one such cruise line which has opportunities to dress up but the dress code is much more relaxed than some other cruise lines. It’s important to check your cruise line before your travel.

Dress codes changes!

Cruise line dress codes are always changing, Royal Caribbean were the most recent to make a change to their dress code . A huge argument started when they recently stated that shorts were allowed in the dining room, but since this they have changed their mind and said that  “under the casual dress code, shorts, tees, and tank tops have been removed from the list”.

Norwegian Cruise Line is an example of a more casual and relaxed cruise line when it comes to dining rooms. The freestyle concept allows you to wear what the guest feels comfortable in, if that means wearing a tux then go for it! The cruise line also has the traditional White Hot Party, when guests should be dressed in white to attend the party. But, again, nothing onboard any of the NCL ships is mandatory!

Formal NCL Norwegian Breakaway Balcony Dress Code Freestyle Dining Relaxed Girl Green Dress on Balcony Short HairEmma trying out some more ‘casual’ clothes for dinner onboard NCL.

My take on formal nights

I’m not a Cunard girl, not a buffet girl either. I do enjoy dressing up, but not as much as Cunard requires. A big part of that is definitely because I would need to bring a full ball gown with me across the Atlantic ocean and it would be so much trouble. However, I like wearing high heels (especially because I’m 5’2”), dresses (that are easy to pack), going to the salon to get my hair done, putting on makeup, and taking nice pictures… I like to dress up! One of the things that I always consider i how much trouble it will be to pack an item.

A word from Emma

Completely agree! The dresses that I brought on my Cunard cruise took up the majority of my suitcase. I did enjoy the formal dining aspect but the dress code being ship wide after 6pm did wear me out a little!

If you’re considering a cruise but don’t fancy ‘dressing up’ I would recommend NCL firstly. Then maybe Royal Caribbean. *Insert all other cruise lines here* with Cunard being top of the dress code pile. It is worth remembering that there are always other places you can eat if you don’t fancy dressing up one formal night. I ordered room service a couple of times on Cunard because I didn’t want to dress up for dinner. It really is worth checking a cruise lines dress code before you consider buying a cruise with them, there is not a lot worse than booking and cruise and THEN realising you’ll have to dress up.



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