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How formal are Royal Caribbean’s formal nights?

The words ‘formal night’ strike fear into many. The formal dress codes conjure up images of traditional cruising, set dining and table sharing but this is not the case onboard Royal Caribbean. Formal nights are still a part of the majority of cruises. But the requirements of the dress code vary a lot cruise line to cruise line.

For a full guide to Royal Caribbeans dress codes (with lots of photo examples) check out this post: Royal Caribbean Dress Code and Photo Guide With Examples.

My experiences with Formal Nights


It’s no secret that NCL are my favourite cruise line. They are famous for having no formal nights and no real dress codes in the main dining room, hooray! Some people do chose to get dressed up, and passengers certainly won’t look out of place if they do, but there is no requirement to do so. I do like to wear a dress to dinner on occasions but also am quite happy to eat in my jeans. Below is a photo of something that would be perfectly acceptable for dinner onboard NCL.

NCL Dress code dinner formal night


On the other end of the spectrum is Cunard. Cunard has very strict formal dress rules and they are applied to the ship after 6pm. The dress code is not only applied in the main dining room but also all public areas (apart from the Buffet). I cruised with Cunard last year and boy oh boy it was an experience! You can read more about that here if you want to know just how strict the dress code is: Cunard dress code. Below is a photo of what you can expect to wear on a Cunard formal night…

cunard formal night dress code tuxedo suit ball gown red dress boohoo girl short hair

How did Royal compare?

We cruised with Royal Caribbean for 5 nights and as a result, only had one formal night during this cruise. I do like formal nights as I have the opportunity to get dressed up and have photos taken but equally don’t want to have them every day or for any great length of time. That requires far too much packing and washing for my liking! Below is a photo of what I wore for formal night onboard Royal Caribbean.

royal caribbean formal night dress code women red dress balcony cruise ship

Royal Caribbeans dress code – formal night

The actual definition of formal night onboard Royal Caribbean ships is as follows:

Think of our formal dress code as a night out in your best black-tie look — suits and ties, tuxedos, cocktail dresses or evening gowns are all acceptable options. There can be 1-3 formal nights during a sailing and is at the ship’s discretion.

It suggests that you wear a tuxedo or evening gown but this definition seems to describe Cunard more to me than Royal Caribbean. The dress code was not strict nor strictly enforced, as long as men are wearing a smart shirt and women are wearing a dress/smart trousers then it seems to be acceptable.

Some people did go all out with the dress code, we saw some people who had really made an effort which was nice to see. However, I didn’t feel pressured into dressing formally and I didn’t feel like I was being watched by the other passengers unlike cruising with Cunard where I was in constant fear I would ruin somebodies holiday by not being formal enough….

royal caribbean formal night dress code girl red dress balcony cruise ship

How many formal nights are there?

The maximum amount of formal nights on any Royal Caribbean cruise is 3 (which suits me perfectly!) Cruises 1-5 days in length have 1 formal night, 6-13 have 2 formal nights and cruises 14+ have 3 formal nights. This is just a guideline as is up to the discretion of the captain but seems to be the general rule of thumb.

What about informal/casual nights?

Royal Caribbean do have smart casual nights and casual nights. The dress code for casual nights is as follows:

You’re on holiday – relax! Jeans, polo shirts, sundresses and blouses are all the right amount of laid back. Please keep swimwear to the Pool Deck. Shorts are welcomed for breakfast and lunch.

That sounds absolutely perfect to me. I love my jeans!

The dress code for smart casual nights are as follows:

Think of this as a step up from your typical dinner wear. Dress to impress with collared shirts, dresses, skirts and blouses, or trouser-suits. Jackets, sports coats and blazers are snazzy and welcomed.

It sounds almost as casual…

What did I wear/think?

I really liked having 1 formal night on a cruise, this is about ideal for me. There wasn’t any pressure to dress up but I did enjoy having my picture taken on the one occasion that we did dress up. I would definitely recommend a cruise with Royal Caribbean even if you are not a big fan of formal nights and formal dress. It seemed to me like a bit of lighthearted fun which really wasn’t taken so seriously.



Emma Le Teace

Monday 27th of August 2018

Hey Claire! Thanks for commenting :)

I enjoy the dressing up experience too. Bleh! Snails aren't for me either ha ha...

That sounds amazing! A Baltic/Mediterranean cruise would be perfect, so easy to get off and 'do your own thing'.

Michael Davis

Sunday 26th of November 2017

Thought I’d chime in here as this was a topic of discussion for me just this week. I think Royal’s written dress code is outdated and not followed much. We were very hesitant about sailing with them because of what it says they expect. What we found this week is that A LOT of people on Royal Caribbean do dress up on formal nights. But the comforting thing is that nowhere near everyone does. I’m also a Norwegian Fan and don’t wish to dress up at all. Sure we dress up compared to the shorts and T-shirt’s we wear throughout the day, but I haven’t taken a jacket in 15years probably. There were shorts and suits and everything in between. And that’s the way it should be in my opinion.