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What to wear on an official cruise party

Formal cruise ship nights are often a source of concern for many first-time cruisers. Worrying about what to pack and what clothes are allowed and not allowed can be stressful.

And while the formal night may conjure up images of guests dressed to the nines, that’s rarely the case once on board. In reality, there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to what to wear for a formal evening on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

What is a formal evening?

Formal night only applies to the Main Dining Room on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Specialty restaurants and other venues have their own dress codes, although they are generally quite similar to a formal night dress code.

Royal Caribbean states the following about formal nighttime dress code:

Consider our formal dress code a night out in your best black tie look – suits and ties, tuxedos, cocktail dresses or evening gowns are all acceptable options. There may be 1-3 formal nights during a sail and this is at the discretion of the ship. Our Chef’s Table dining experience also has a formal dress code policy.

Reading this, it might seem that a tuxedo and evening dress are the standard outfits that most passengers will wear to a formal party. In reality, however, this is rarely the case.

While you’ll likely spot a few guests in tuxedos and ballgowns, most guests will be wearing much more casual formal attire. Women can be dressed in a cocktail or sundress and men in a button-up shirt and dress pants.

Formal night dress code for men:

Collared shirts, slacks, and dress shirts are typical options for men on formal nights out. The most “casual” but acceptable attire for men on a formal evening is a polo shirt and slacks.

A dress shirt and pants is the most common option. Suit jackets and ties are not required, although many guests choose to wear them. Guests looking to dress up even more can wear a tuxedo, but again, this is relatively rare.

Formal night dress code for women:

Women have a lot more options than men when it comes to outfits for a formal night out. Clothing acceptable to women includes cocktail dresses, sundresses, skirts, blouses, dress pants, dressy rompers, and more elegant clothing like evening dresses.

Women should pack dress shoes like flats, heels, wedges or dress sandals to wear on a formal night out.

Can I wear jeans to a formal evening?

You can get away with wearing jeans in the main dining room at a formal party. However, it’s a good idea to make sure the jeans look good enough and don’t have any holes or rips. Dark wash jeans will look more formal, although you probably won’t be turned down with any type of jeans.

Clothing not to wear:

Passengers should not wear casual clothing such as shorts, casual t-shirts, flip flops, swimsuits and tank tops. Typically, you don’t want to wear the clothes you would wear by the pool or stroll around the harbor on a formal party on a cruise ship.

Should I attend a formal party?

You don’t have to attend a formal party on a cruise, but your evening dining options will be more limited. Since formal night is so flexible, it’s easy to participate even when wearing something as casual as a khaki and polo shirt.

Most specialty restaurants also require a semi-formal dress code. A good dinner option for those not interested in dressing up for a formal evening is the Windjammer, as casual clothing is still allowed there.

Other Ways to Prepare for a Formal Evening

Royal Caribbean cruise ships do not have irons in every cabin due to the fire hazard they create. However, customers can have their clothes ironed or dry-cleaned before the official night. When you arrive in your cabin on the first day of the cruise, you should find a paper there with information about laundry, dry cleaning and dry cleaning services.

Customers can also choose to have their hair done or a manicure done before the official evening. The Vitality Spa onboard salon offers services such as buns, blowouts, shampoos and dry styles, manicures and pedicures.

How many formal nights will there be on my cruise?

The number of formal nights on a cruise varies depending on the length of the ship. Shorter crossings will usually only have one formal night while longer crossings will have 2, 3 or 4 formal nights. Royal Caribbean lists the number of formal nights per cruise on its website, although the number of formal nights is ultimately at the discretion of the ship:

  • 3/4/5 night cruises – 1 formal night
  • 6 and 7 night cruises – 2 formal nights
  • Cruises of 8 to 10 nights – 2 formal nights
  • Cruises from 11 to 14 nights – 3 formal nights
  • 15+ night cruises – 3 or 4 formal nights

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