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Formal Night for Black Folks: What To Wear on Formal Night On A Cruise

One of the joys of cruising is the “Formal Night”.  This is the evening when almost everyone gets dressed up and goes out to dinner.  All around the Cruise Ship there are places to take pictures.  There are fabulous backdrops that reek of class awaiting your appearance to document that moment for all of history.  You will eat an elegant, 4 or 5, course meal in the Dining room. You will see waves of beautiful dresses and sparkling jewelry worn by the ladies and the well-groomed men by their side.  That is Formal Night on a Cruise Ship.


How we get there can be a nightmare!

Formal Night or Elegant Night as called by Carnival is just what is says.  This is the night to wear “formal” and/or “elegant” clothing… period.  It is not Tramp Night, Hooker Night, or Club Night.  Please do not confuse them.  Formal wear according to Royal Caribbean includes “suits and ties or tuxedos for men and cocktail dresses for women. I bring this up because as a Veteran Cruiser I have seen it all.  Many of us have not dressed in formal attire since prom.


A little planning can make this day go smooth.  Poor planning can turn this day into a nightmare.  Keep it simple.  A basic cocktail dress or little black dress can go a long way.  Accessories can make your outfit. Jewelry and scarves can dress up an outfit.   Understand your environment!  You will be on a moving ship and in the evenings it can be bumpy.  Maybe 6 inch heels are not the best choice.  There is a lot of walking to be done! Also, remember you are on a ship and there are limited places to iron. If you wait until the afternoon the day of Formal/Elegant Night you may find there is a line of people waiting to use the iron, and you may be late or even miss dinner.  The best time to iron is around 7am in the morning.  However, there is nothing wrong with doing it the day before.  Don’t forget the basics starting with under and foundation garments.  It is not cute or sexy no matter how nice the dress is when you don’t have the proper underclothes.  Here is a tip; “underclothes” are designed to be worn under your clothes.  Make sure you have the proper bra with the correct bra straps.  If your dress has cutouts in the back if you are wearing the proper under garment then we can’t see your bra. Same is true with a strapless dress, backless, halter top, off the shoulder or single strap dress.  Just so there is no confusion the same rule applies to your daughter!    


This day can be very stressful without some preparation.  Plan what you are going to do with your hair.  You  don’t want to waste the day prepping it so think about what you can do quickly that does not require a curling iron because you will not have one on the ship.  Cruise ships do not allow curling irons and even if you sneak one on the power on the ship will not heat your iron up to the temperature you need.  The electrical current is not high enough.  Find something simple you can do with your hair that looks nice.  Don’t forget to have a nice formal clutch or cocktail purse.  Something big enough to hold your room key and any personal items you may need or want.

One of the joys of Cruising is the Formal Night.  This day can be very stressful without some preparation.  A little planning can make this day go smooth.  You can plan now and party later without the stress and headaches.  Enjoy Formal Night it is an opportunity to dress up as in gowns, cocktail dresses and lots of accessories Keep it simple, know your surroundings and be prepared.

Post your formal night pics on our Facebook Page for all of us to enjoy.

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Bill Collins

Bill Collins is a former Army Officer turned veteran traveler. I have traveled to 34 different Countries mainly concentrated in Central & Latin America and have spent the last 16 years exploring the Caribbean Islands.

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