Is formal wear and formal nights becoming less popular on cruise ships?

When planning and booking a cruise holiday, is the chance to dress up part of the holiday attraction.

Many cruise ships are focussing on a more casual basis to enable passengers the choice whether to participate in the formal nights or not.

This can be seen in a number of ways, with the increase in buffet style restaurants, the removal of some of the formal nights, the removal of enforced dress codes after 6pm.

Personally, having sailed on over 17 cruises around different parts of the world, I would argue no.  Many passengers still look forward to those special nights, when the “posh frocks” and smart tuxedos appear.  Admittedly, there are a growing number of people opting to avoid the formal dinner and dine in the alternate restaurants, but in terms of percentage of total passengers, I would guess this number is less than 20%.  Now on a large new ship carrying 3,000 passengers, this is 600 people, but  this is not a majority.

Indeed, if there is one element of a cruise that still draws the gasps, the photo opportunities and the glamour of cruising; the formal nights are still loved by many.  You only have to glance at the photo gallery after a formal night, to glance at the familiar faces, seen around ship for the previous days, to suddenly notice the big beaming smiles and sparkling eyes, as the photographers have captured those special moments as a couple or family have been “snapped” as they enjoy the evening dressed in their finery.  In fact, it is probably these pictures which will grace a wall at home or mantelpiece.

I personally enjoy seeing the variety, from the full tuxedo, the full Scottish outfit including kilt to the official blazer of a former armed unit or organisation.  The trail of children following their parents, each immaculately groomed, always watched with a mental estimate on how these must have taken to prepare and indeed how long they remain that way. Each well presented by a proud wearer. Yes, passing to other areas of the ship, I will notice the occasional open shirt and top at the buffets and bar, but these do not stand out.   Even the waiters and waitresses, changed from their normal smart serving outfits, sport the working versions of fine evening wear.

As passenger preferences change, and cruise lines try to match passenger expectations to their services, I believe that the market will adapt to some ships specialising in casual cruising, whilst some retain or indeed capitalise on the fact that some passengers enjoy and insist on the magic of a formal night.

This can already be seen on some lines such as the Island Escape, operated by Island Cruises or EasyCruise One, operated by Easy Cruise.  These  ships have little or no formal nights, and the atmosphere created is intended to be less formal .

Websites such as have been created to give passengers an insight into the ships themselves, whilst websites such as have been made to highlight some of the fabulous outfits that can be worn on ships, be they formal or informal.

Whatever ship you decide to cruise on, cruising is very addictive and one cruise will soon become more.

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