Much excitement and mystery surrounds the “formal nights” on cruises. It’s customary to have one formal night on a 5-day cruise, more in proportion on longer cruises. On my first cruise, I wondered what it would be like, how dressed-up people got, and what I would feel comfortable in.

Let me fill you in! I speak on cruise lines, and I’ve been on the Royal Caribbean, Costa and Carnival cruise lines lately.

Formal wear is officially defined as a tux or dark suit, white shirt and tie for men, and evening wear, cocktail dresses, fancy pantsuits or evening gowns for women. However, it’s ’03 folks, and I would consider Formal Night an opportunity to go formal, if you like to, but not an obligation. Many gentlemen do not wear tuxes. I’ve seen men in the dining room without jackets or ties, too. (Read your particular cruise line materials to see if a tie is required for gentlemen.)

If you consider it fun to go formal, this is your chance to shine and you can go as “formal” as you like.

You can make it a full-meal deal, pampering yourself with a massage, a beauty treatment, a facial and then having your hair done that day, but book early, appointments go fast.

Even if you’re cruising in the Caribbean in the summertime, the temperature is always cool in the dining rooms.


A large part of cruising for some people is the opportunity for formal portraits. It will say in your schedule when photography begins. Dress early, and you may have to stay in a small line. They happily arrange family groups, even as large as 50.

If you need a new professional photo, keep this in mind. They do designer-looking black and white head shots as well, and I wish I’d known. I could’ve saved myself the sitting fee here in town, and a lot of time. So consider bringing along a professional jacket for one of the portrait opportunities.


There are several options here.
· Plan ahead and shop sales to catch something on special.
· Shop in stores such as Ross Dress for Less – I’ve picked up wonderful formal gowns for $20-$30.
· Look in resale stores. Their prices run higher, but there are always designer items, and that’s fun, too.
· Don’t forget ebay – great deals, and TONS of stuff for men:
· Rent. Yes, they’ve thought of everything. CruiselineFormalwear, ( ), for instance, provides a service for cruise guests on Holland America, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Princess.

Here are some of the things they offer for the guys:
· Tuxedo rental, delivered to your stateroom
· Tailor on board ship, contact the Housekeeping Dept. No charge. (Try on your tux right away; don’t wait for formal night.)
· In case of major fitting problems (which shouldn’t occur if you measure right), there is usually extra inventory on board. Inquire.
· Instructions on the website on how to measure.
· When to order? Call 1-800-551-5091 to inquire about your specific cruise. (Usually 1-2 weeks prior.)
· Included is: jacket, pants, two shirts, cummerbund, bowtie, and cufflinks/studs.
· Shoes and other optional accessories are rented separately.
· Sizes up to 60 X-Long.
· The black formal socks with the rental are yours to keep

To place your order you need:
· Name of ship, sail date and port
· Current measurements (height, weight, coat size, chest measurement, pants waist and length (inseam and outseam), shirt neck and sleeve, and shoe size
· Credit card payment information

If your cabin number, ship or sail date change, YOU must notify Cruiseline Formalwear. The ship won’t.

Limited last-minute tux inventory for rental is aboard ship, but it’s first-come, first-served, and they may not have all sizes.


For women, they offer several different items you can rent, including: black velvet, gold, and glitter blouses, black velvet and black crepe long skirts, and black formal shoes.

If you should forget to bring the right jewelry, there are plenty of choices in the ship store. They also offer basic formal wear for women for sale.


CruiselineFormalwear also has tuxedos for boys available for rent.


You’re on a cruise and there will be food 24/7. Sometimes I’m good and don’t gain 5-10 lbs. Other times … well, I always pack this great pair of beautiful black spandex-type evening pants with an elastic waist to wear toward the end of the cruise. Get the picture?

Remember, too, there’s usually an alternative dining choice if you want to forego formal night. It’s your vacation; have it your way!

Author's Bio: 

(c) Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, offers coaching and Internet courses on emotional intelligence to improve every aspect of your life. Women's transitions, midlife issues, career. and for FREE ezine, FREE sample coaching session.