MSC Cruises Formal Nights – Everything You Need To Know


If you are thinking about taking an MSC cruise you are probably wondering if MSC have formal nights. I’ve been on 3 MSC cruises to date and I personally love how relaxed the dining atmosphere and dress codes are. MSC ships are elegant and modern, they provide the perfect backdrop for guests who do want to dress up..

Do MSC Cruises Have Formal Nights?

Yes. MSC do have formal nights, these are called gala/elegant nights and the dress codes are relatively relaxed. On a 7 night cruise there will usually be one gala and one elegant night. The dress codes in place on gala/elegant nights tend to be a suggestion rather than being strictly enforced. 

There is a dress code for the main dining room on all nights of an MSC cruise. MSC have both ‘gala’ and ‘dress to impress’ nights, the dress codes are the same for both so both will be addressed in this post

In this post we cover:

  • On what nights the formal nights happen
  • Dress codes for gala/elegant nights
    • What to wear
      • Men
      • Women
      • Children
    • Where the dress code applies
  • Dress codes for dining on non formal nights
MSC Cruises Formal Nights Gala Elegant Dress Code
Examples of MSC’s formal night dress codes from our lovely Facebook group members!

How Many Formal Nights Do MSC Cruises Have?

On a 7 night cruise you will usually have around 2 gala/elegant nights, this is usually one of each. On cruises 1-6 nights in length you may only have a single gala night.  This number of gala nights does vary and MSC are able to change this as and when they see fit. On longer cruises the number of gala or elegant nights will increase proportionally, on a 14 night cruise you may expect 4 gala or elegant nights.

What is The Difference Between Gala and Elegant Nights on MSC Cruises?

Gala nights are when a special menu is served in the main dining room, created by a Michelin starred chef. On gala nights guests have the opportunity to have photos taken with the captain and these nights tend to be when guests wear their favourite outfits.

Elegant nights are similar to Gala nights but there is no special menu and no captains photos. The dress code is the same for both. On longer cruises you will find more elegant nights but there is usually only one gala night.

MSC Cruises Photos With Staff, Captain and Crew

On Which Day Do MSC Have ‘Formal Nights’?

If your cruise has sea days:

If you are taking a cruise which has sea days MSC will usually try and put the gala night on the sea day. This is because guests have the most time to get ready and the formal night becomes the event of the day.

If your cruise doesn’t have sea days:

If your cruise doesn’t have sea days there are a number of days where it could be. MSC very rarely put the gala night on the first night because guests may not have their bags and are tired from travelling.

Similarly the gala night will rarely be on the last night because the passengers have already packed their bags and it isn’t practical to dress in formal wear at this stage. I personally always avoid gala nights if they are at the end of the cruise, I’ve usually worn all of my favourite clothes and am feeling more like relaxing.

What is MSC’s Formal (Gala/Elegant) Night Dress Code?

Gala or Elegant Nights:

MSC’s gala night dress code is more of a suggestion than an enforced set of guidelines. I’ve cruised on 13 major ocean cruise lines to date and MSC are one of the most relaxed when it comes to dress codes. If you have cruised with Royal Caribbean or any other big American cruise line make sure you check out this post which highlights the differences between the lines: 10 differences between MSC and NCL/Royal Caribbean.Opens in a new tab.

MSC’s official dress code, as stated on their website is as follows:

For Gala evenings, the dress code is more formal. We suggest a tuxedo, dinner jacket, or dark suit and tie for men and a dressy outfit, formal gown, or cocktail dress for women. – source.Opens in a new tab.

What to Wear on MSC’s Formal (Gala) Nights:

Men – According to MSC’s guidelines men are encouraged to wear a tuxedo, suit or dinner jacket to dinner. Although a few guests do this, it is far from the majority. The majority of male guests on an MSC cruise will wear a shirt with chinos/trousers, many will also wear polo shirts and this always seems to be okay.

Women – Women have the option to either wear a skirt, dress or trousers. A simple skirt/trousers paired with a nice blouse would be more than acceptable. Women are encouraged to wear evening gowns but the majority do not, almost any dress would be suitcase for MSC’s formal (gala) nights as long as they weren’t too revealing or completely impractical.

Children – For children the relaxed dress code is relaxed even further. Around 1/3 of MSC’s passengers are families so this is a big percent of guests onboard. If you do have children travelling with you and they would like to dress formally they definitely wouldn’t look out of place but I wouldn’t worry too much about what children should wear. You certainly won’t be turned away from the main dining room because of the way your child is dressed (providing they are dressed of course)!

MSC Cruises Formal Nights Dress Code For Children

What Not To Wear:

There are only a few items of clothing that aren’t allowed on MSC’s formal (gala) nights :

  • Jeans (You could get away with smart black jeans if worn with a shirt but I wouldn’t try to wear blue denim)
  • Swimwear, this one is pretty self explanatory
  • Shorts

Will I Look Out of Place if I do Dress Formally?

No! Absolutely not. Lots of MSC cruisers love the elegance of formal nights and embrace it wholeheartedly. You’ll see lots of passengers in long gowns or tuxedos. I would definitely not worry about being overdressed, I don’t really think that is possible. On cruises I’ve seen lots of people wearing their prom dresses and some even wearing their wedding dresses again!

One of my favourite phrases is ‘It’s impossible to be overdressed, people will either think you’ve come from somewhere exciting or are going somewhere exciting’.

Where Does The Formal Night Dress Code Apply?

Unlike some other cruise lines where the dress code is enforced ship wide, this isn’t the case on MSC cruises.

The dress code for formal (gala/elegant) nights is enforced only in the main dining room. If you don’t want to take part in formal nights there are other places where you can eat.

msc meraviglia main dining room

Other Places To Eat:

If you do want to avoid the formal (gala) dress codes you can do this by eating in another restaurant onboard. The restaurants onboard do vary by cruise ship but generally speaking your options are a buffet, room service ($$$) or a speciality restaurant ($$$).

  • Buffet (on all ships, the size does vary)
    • Most guests who don’t want to take part in formal nights instead eat in the buffet. It’s by far the easiest place to go to grab a bite to eat and the dress codes in the buffet are very relaxed. You are not allowed to wear swimwear and shoes must be worn but these are the only requirements.
  • Room Service
    • Room service is available on MSC cruises but there is a charge per item so I personally haven’t ever tried this. It’s much easier just to take food from the buffet back to your room. Walking is one of the main ways that I keep fit when I cruise, to learn more about how I do this, check out this post: Avoid Cruise Ship Weight Gain – 7 Easy Things You Can DoOpens in a new tab.
  • Speciality Restaurants
    • All MSC cruise ships have a number of speciality restaurants which cost extra. Some speciality restaurants have a flat fee to dine in the restaurant and others are charged by item. Examples of speciality restaurants on MSC include Butchers Cut (steak), Eataly (Italian), Teppankayi (Sushi).

To learn more about the included food options on MSC cruises, and which things aren’t included, check out this post: Do MSC Cruises Include Meals? Your Guide To Whats IncludedOpens in a new tab.

Do MSC Cruises Include Meals? Your Guide To Whats Included

What is The Dress Code on Non Formal Nights?

On non formal (gala/elegant) nights the dress code onboard is very relaxed.  Based on my experiences of cruising with MSC I really believe you could wear almost anything. I love how relaxed the dress codes are on MSC cruises, technically speaking the only restrictions are that guests shouldn’t wear tank tops, bikinis, bathrobes or have bare feet in any restaurant at any time.

Can You Wear Shorts in the Main Dining Room on an MSC Cruise?

Technically speaking no. That said, I saw PLENTY of people in the main dining room wearing shorts during my MSC cruises. This definitely wouldn’t be allowed on formal nights but on most casual nights I doubt in reality this would be a problem. I’m sure I’ve done it on occasion…

I constantly recommend MSC to families and young cruisers, to find out why, check out the recommended cruise lines page here: Best Cruise Lines For Families (Tried & Tested, Pros & Cons!)Opens in a new tab.

Thank You

A MASSIVE thank you to all members of our Facebook group who shared photos for this post. We are a gorgeous bunch if I do say so myself! If you’re not already in our Facebook group, join us here: Cruising Isn’t Just For Old People Facebook Group. 

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Emma Le Teace

Hey, I'm Emma, an award-winning cruise blogger, and YouTuber. I share cruise tips, tours, and videos on this website to help you master cruising on a budget. You can learn more here: About Me.

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