Here’s What You Can Expect on Royal Caribbean’s Formal Night

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If you’re new to cruising or haven’t yet experienced a formal night on Royal Caribbean, you might have several questions. What is the dress code? How many formal nights will there be on your cruise? Is participation compulsory?

From my experience of enjoying many formal nights on Royal Caribbean cruises, I have put together this guide to address these questions and more, providing you with a better understanding of what to expect on a Royal Caribbean Formal Night. 

Key Points

Here’s a quick snapshot of the article if you don’t want to read the whole thing:

  • Formal Night: Think black-tie. Men can go from polo shirts with slacks to full suits or tuxedos. Women have choices ranging from cocktail dresses to evening gowns. Smart casual is also generally accepted.
  • Jeans: Dark-wash jeans without rips or holes can be worn but are not the norm. Pair with a nice jacket or collared shirt to elevate the look.
  • Participation: Participation in formal night is optional.
  • Alternative Dining: If you’re not keen on dressing up, dining venues like the Windjammer Buffet are available.
  • Number of Formal Nights: Dependent on the length of your cruise. One formal night for shorter cruises (3-5 nights), up to four for cruises of 15 nights or more.
  • Schedule: The number and schedule of formal nights are designed to strike a balance between embracing formality and maintaining a relaxed holiday vibe.

Recommended reading: How Strict is Royal Caribbean Dress Code?

A smiling couple dressed in formal attire seated at a dining table during Royal Caribbean's formal night, with a menu in front of them and a classic portrait hanging on the wall in the background.

Suitable Clothes

When it comes to a Royal Caribbean Formal Night, think of it as a night out in your best black-tie look. Avoid casual clothing such as shorts, casual t-shirts, flip-flops, swimsuits, and tank tops. Essentially, attire more suited for the pool deck or a day at the port isn’t the best choice for a formal night.

For men, the most casual yet acceptable outfit is a polo shirt paired with slacks. However, a dress shirt and slacks tend to be the more common choice, giving a good balance of formality without going overboard. If you like dressing up, you can wear a suit, with or without a tie, or a tuxedo if you want, but it’s not mandatory.

For women, there are a wide array of choices for formal night. Acceptable attire ranges from cocktail dresses, sundresses, skirts paired with blouses, and dressy rompers to more elegant options like evening gowns. Complementing the outfit with dress shoes like flats, heels, wedges, or dressy sandals.

While they recommend wearing formal, black-tie clothes, there are no strict rules about what men or women specifically have to wear. For instance, women who prefer wearing a suit or men who wish to wear a dress can do so. The key is to dress sincerely and respectfully. While it’s appreciated to adhere to the dress code, a smart casual look is typically well-received too.

Jeans on a Formal Night?

 A question that often arises is the acceptability of jeans on formal night. It’s possible to wear jeans to the Main Dining Room, especially if they are dark-washed and don’t have any rips or holes. 

While it’s not the typical choice, pairing jeans with a nice jacket or a collared shirt or blouse can make the outfit look more put together, but it’s up to you.

A group of four people, two men and two women, posing for a photo in formal evening wear, with a luxurious chandelier and casino slot machines in the background, indicative of a Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas formal night event.
Dressed up for formal night on Oasis of the Seas with my Husband, Mum and Dad.

If You Don’t Want to Take Part

Dressing up for formal night on a Royal Caribbean cruise is entirely your choice. However, opting out may limit your dining options for the evening.

While there’s a recommended dress code for formal night, it’s not strictly enforced. Smart casual outfits, like khakis and a polo shirt, are generally acceptable in main dining venues. The focus is more on guest comfort than on strict adherence to the dress code.

If you’re not keen on dressing up, you have alternative dining options. Specialty restaurants on board usually have a semi-formal dress code, and the Windjammer buffet allows casual clothing even on formal nights.

However, you should note that some dining venues have stricter dress codes. For example, pool wear isn’t allowed in the main dining rooms. Once, I saw some people turned away in the Windjammer buffet who were wearing pool wear.

Also, if you fancy dining at the Chef’s Table on formal night, bear in mind that the formal dress code is more strictly enforced there. Here, the elegance of the attire contributes to the exclusive experience this dining option offers.

Lastly, I should mention that formal night is a good time to get some professional photos taken. Around the ship, you’ll find photographers stationed in “Instagram-worthy” areas, ready to capture you and any other you’re with at your best. Or if you prefer something a bit natural, you could just take your own photos on your mobile phone.

A couple embracing each other, dressed in semi-formal attire, with the woman wearing a floral dress, on the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship during a formal night, with a vibrant, illuminated promenade deck in the background.
Another formal night photo, with my husband looking like he didn’t want his photo taken.

The Number of Formal Nights

The number of formal nights on a Royal Caribbean cruise is determined by the length of the cruise, ranging from one formal night on shorter cruises (3 to 5 nights) to up to four formal nights on cruises of 15 nights or more. This ensures that passengers have an opportunity to enjoy a formal evening without feeling overwhelmed by the need to dress up too frequently during their cruise.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown based on the length of the cruise:

  • 3 to 5 Night Cruises: Usually one formal night, typically scheduled on Day 2.
  • 6 Night Cruises: Two formal nights, generally occurring on Day 2 and Day 5.
  • 7 Night Cruises: Also, two formal nights, usually on Day 2 and Day 6.
  • 8 to 10 Night Cruises: Two formal nights, though the specific days may vary by ship and sailing.
  • 11 to 14 Night Cruises: Three formal nights, with the days varying based on the ship and sailing schedule.
  • 15+ Night Cruises: Three or four formal nights, again with the days and number varying by ship and sailing.

The rationale behind this schedule is to allow passengers to make the most of their formalwear, especially on longer cruises, without feeling the pressure of over-packing or the chore of dressing up too often. It strikes a balance between embracing the elegance of formal nights and maintaining the relaxed vibe of a holiday. 

Wrapping It Up

Formal night is really just about having a good time, however you choose to do it. It’s a chance to dress up if you fancy it, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t. Some people love the chance to put on something smart, while others are happier sticking to their usual style. You’ll see a mix of both on the ship, and that’s totally fine.

The main idea is to enjoy the evening, whether that’s trying out a more formal look for dinner or heading to a casual spot like the Windjammer. There’s no pressure to take part if it’s not your thing. And remember, you won’t be the only one, whatever you decide. So, just go with what makes you comfortable and enjoy the night!

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I'm Hannah and I've been cruising for as long as I can remember.

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