One of the biggest concerns I hear about cruising is the worry about formal night. In our mostly casual society, the idea of dressing up can be rather intimidating to some so here are a few tips to keep your formal nights stress free.
- Ladies, You don’t have to spend a fortune on formal wear. If you have a large clothing budget, then you can skip this section, but for those of us who don’t want to spend a small fortune on something that we might wear only a few times, I have the following tips. When you have your cruise booked at least 6 months to a year down the road, it can be easy to shop sales. Most department stores will put their formal wear on sale at least 2 times a year as the seasons change. This can get a great chance to get gowns at 50-75% off. My favorite place is Dillards, because they tend to have a classic style and they often have a good selection from which to choose in their 75% off section. They have all sizes too. I’ve bought every thing from size 4 for me to a size 20 for family members. If you look at my cruise pictures, you’ll see some of the gowns I’ve bought recently. The original price on all of these gowns was well over $100 and I was able to get them from $24-$60. Another strategy is discount stores like Ross and TJ Maxx. Ross often has dresses for under $20 that while not as finely made as what your might find in a department store, will certainly work for your cruise. They important strategy here is to keep your eyes open and always look in the gown department when you are out and about – you just might find a great bargain.
- Men, go ahead an rent the tux. You definitely won’t be out of place, and the significant other in your life will be impressed with how good you look in your formal wear. It will also save her from having to worry about you. You can arrange to rent ahead of time through the cruise lines, but if you are hard to fit, are looking for a better price, or want to have choice of styles, then call around to the local formal wear shops in your town. Sometimes the local shops will put together a cruise package, where you can keep the tux for 2 weeks, and they’ll include several choices of cummerbunds, vests and ties. My husband rented on our 2003 cruise, but decided to go ahead and purchase a tux for the 2005 cruise. We were at the rental shop, and the owner was going to be closing her business in a few months. For the price of 2 rentals, she put together a sale package that included several shirts, cummerbunds and ties in addition to the tuxedo. I was so pleased to see both my husband and son looking so charming in their formal wear.
- Don’t mistake sparkle for formal. Look for classic simple styles that exude elegance rather than just flash. Some people confuse flash with formal. While there is some room for flash and glitz in formal wear, it is not a substitute for formal. For example, a long black crepe dress with a simple set of pearls worn with elegant make-up and a simple hair do like a low bun would qualify as simple yet formal. A silver lame miniskirt with a sequin embellished t-shirt, over sized rhinestone earrings, overdone make-up and sequin headband would be flashy, but certainly not formal. If you don’t have good eye for fashion, shop with a friend who does. But the best advice if you are not used to formal is to keep it classic, and avoid too much glitz. If you really want to go with the sparkle, then make sure it is with a true formal gown or dress, and not just bits and pieces thrown together.
I’ve always enjoyed the formal night on the cruise the most. I love the opportunity to get dressed up and look my best. I hope that these tips will help you to enjoy the experience as much as I do. We welcome any additional tips that you might have for stress free formal nights.