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Planning for formal night aboard your cruise can be both challenging and a little intimidating. You want to feel great, but you also want to fit in. Also in consideration is suitcase space and budget. After attending many cruise formal nights, viewing photos, and reading every major cruise line’s attire guidelines, I’ve come up with three recommendations that should cover what to wear on formal night. There are even options for those on a budget!
The Cocktail Dress
Every cruise line with some sort of formal or semi-formal night mentions that a cocktail dress is appropriate attire. Generally, they are lightweight and versatile enough to wear on multiple occasions including holiday parties or weddings. I would say that roughly 80% of the dresses you see on formal nights are cocktail dresses.
The Dressy Pantsuit/Formal Separates
Most of the major lines suggest an evening suit or pantsuit as being appropriate for formal night. As you can see, the term “suit” is a little misleading as not all of these images represent pant suits. A pantsuit can include matching pieces or a pair of elegant pants with a fancy top. While Princess does not specifically mention pantsuits as being acceptable attire, you will find plenty on board during formal nights. I would estimate that more than half of the women wear some version of a pantsuit for formal nights.
The nice thing about formal separates is you can mix and match the pieces to create multiple outfits. This is a fantastic option for longer cruises where you don’t want to pack multiple dresses.
The Evening Gown
While an evening gown is the most formal of your options, you may feel slightly overdressed on the more casual cruise lines. In fact, Royal Caribbean makes no mention an evening gown as part of their formal attire guidelines. That said, if there is a formal or elegant night on a ship, there is sure to be an evening gown or two in the crowd.
One thing to consider, aside from cost gowns can be quite heavy (especially beaded) and take up luggage space. If you are concerned about packing light or luggage weight, they may be an impractical choice.
Things to Consider and Tips
Need to save luggage space? Look for dresses or separates made from no or low wrinkle fabrics like matte jersey. Some you can literally roll into a ball and they will never wrinkle!
Bring one pair of shoes that go with all of your formal outfits. I just bought a great pair of metallic strappy heels that will pretty much coordinate with any of my dresses.
On a tight budget? I am a bargain-hunter and frequently shop any source where I can find a great dress at a great deal; from retail stores and discount retail to eBay and thrift stores. My favorite find was a metallic cocktail dress I found on clearance after the holidays for $6.49 at JCPenney!