Awe yeah, vacation time is here and it’s time to pack. Time to think about the weather, the activities and this is a cruise vacation, so don’t forget to throw in those wonderful ball gowns and tuxedos ….. INSERT RECORD SCRATCH SOUND …. What?! Come again. I am going on vacation and I have to wear a ball gown??
That’s right, we are talking about formal attire. It is a very interesting subject and debated by many on cruise sites and forums. Since we have started our travel filmmaking, my thoughts on formal attire has changed drastically. At one time you couldn’t pay me to wear a formal outfit but now, formal night is my favorite night of the cruise. Why you ask? Well before I answer, I have to start back at the beginning of our cruising adventures…..
Our very first cruise was on Holland America in 2011. The Oosterdam is a traditional cruise ship with very traditional dress codes. This was our first cruise so of course I did all the research I could to find out what to expect and what to wear. And as you would expect, all the research led me at a store, shopping for formal attire. Money was tight (we had just started our company so things were very lean) so it was budget formal shopping but I managed to find a nice dress and I got Sean a nice jacket, button down shirt and tie. Fast forward to the cruise . The cruise is going good and the time has come for our first formal night. We get dressed and man, all I could think to myself was how uncomfortable I felt. I hated it. I honestly hated everything about everything. I hated the pomp and circumstance. I hated getting that dressed up. I was on vacation and this felt as far from vacation to me as it possibly could. Ugh.
Let’s fast forward 2 years (2013) to our next vacation. We decided to try this cruise thing once again but this time on a more family friendly, fun ship. We decided to try Royal Caribbean because it looked so cool on the commercials (insert eye roll from seasoned cruisers but we were cruise newbies and the RCCL marketing team is great at their jobs). I did research and saw that Royal Caribbean did have formal nights but it was only in the main dining room. You could basically opt out of formal attire and eat in the buffet and be good to go. PERFECT! I was so excited. We did not mind going to the buffet so we would just eat buffet on formal nights and we would eat in the main dining room on non-formal nights. It’s cruise time and the first formal night is here. We did not dress up that night and as we ventured to the buffet I noticed that everyone (it probably wasn’t everyone but it felt like everyone) was dressed to the nine’s and they were looking at Sean and I like we had just stepped out of a homeless shelter. Seriously, the stares and snide remarks were awful. So now here I was hating dressing non-formal on a formal night. Again, this was not the vacation I had thought it was going to be. Ugh.
At this point in our lives we were over the thought of cruising and cruise culture. This dress up thing was not for us so I guess cruising was not for us either.
It’s now a year later and here I was thinking about a cruise vacation again. Somehow the sea was always drawing us back so I started researching cruise lines. And wouldn’t you know it, I came across this company who started this amazing thing called Freestyle Cruising. What is Freestyle Cruising you ask? This was a statement by Norwegian Cruise Line that basically said vacation as you wish. If you like to dress up, dress up. If you like to be casual, be casual. Ultimately vacation as you would like. What? Could it be? This cruise style sounded like it was made for us. I was instantly hooked on this concept and we were booked on our first Norwegian cruise on the brand new NCL Getaway. And what an amazing vacation it was. We finally found our perfect cruise vacation!
Skipping ahead to the beginning of 2018 and at this point we have sailed with NCL 14 times. We absolutely love NCL and freestyle cruising but after sailing the same ships over and over again, our cruising adventure was on the stale side. We were reading about so many amazing new ships and we felt like we were missing out. So back to the keyboard and to the research. I came across a great deal for Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. A great deal but I knew Royal did formal nights and I was less than thrilled. I booked the cruise and off to the store I went. First I was shocked to see how cute formal attire had become. The last time I was looking for cruise wear, everything was bridal and funeral attire (this may have had something to do with the area in California we were living, lol). This was awesome. I found a really cute outfit and of course Sean had his tie again.
Cruise time and it’s the first formal night and we get dressed up. I curled my hair and we got dressed. As Sean and I stood there together, I smiled at how pretty we looked. It was the first time that I felt like a grown up. I could not believe I was thinking to myself, “wow, I kind of like this dress up thing”. The night was amazing. We had dinner in the main dining room and it was a cool experience to be in the dining room with everyone else dressed for the night as well. It was fun to look at all the outfits and see people happy and elegant. A far cry from where I started in 2011, on the Oosterdam.
So here I am, writing this article at the end of 2018. We have been on 9 cruises so far this year and 7 of those cruises had a formal night evening. I no longer dread the thought of formal nights. I actually embrace the event and look forward to spending a fantastic night with Sean, dressed in attire that we never wear in real life.
So what are my thoughts on formal attire? That’s a big YAY from me. I love it…now. For us, formal nights have turned into a great memory and those memories I will treasure forever.
I do understand those who do not enjoy formal night and, coming from my 8 year ago self, I completely get it. It took many, many cruises for me to get on board with this cruise tradition. My one suggestion for everyone, buy formal attire that feels comfortable and makes you feel good. Formal doesn’t necessarily mean ball gowns (although walking down the atrium stairs, you really do feel like Cinderella). Wear what you like and who knows, maybe in 8 years you will look at formal night differently as well.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think of formal night.
Happy cruising to everyone! ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Stefanie Mullen is a Travel Filmmaker, Vlogger, Artist, Brand Ambassador and the CFO & Customer Service ninja of Rampant Design, Inc. She is a talented painter and former Walt Disney World parade performer. Stef is married to the AMAZING Sean IRL.