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Best Dresses for Cruise Formal Night! (2024 Updates)

Embark with us on this fashion expedition and by the time we drop anchor, you’ll be more than ready to dazzle on your cruise formal night.

So, shall we set sail through the dresses for cruise formal nights?

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure here.

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Understanding Cruise Formal Night Dress Codes

The tradition of dressing up for dinner isn’t new, yet every cruise line has its own spin on what’s considered apropos attire for formal nights.

While the essence of elegance remains constant, the definitions of formalwear have seen a high tide of changes over the years.

Let’s delve into the typical dress codes and how different cruise lines interpret them.

Explanation of Typical Dress Codes

  • Black Tie:
    • This is the epitome of formal attire. Men are expected to don tuxedos while women can opt for full-length evening gowns.
    • Black Tie events often herald a night of fine dining and sophisticated soirees.
  • Formal:
    • A notch below black tie, yet still drenched in elegance. Men might wear dark suits and ties, while women have the choice between cocktail dresses, elegant separates, or full-length gowns.
  • Semi-Formal (or Smart Casual):
    • Here’s where things get slightly relaxed. Men can opt for dress shirts and slacks, possibly with a jacket, while women can explore shorter dresses, stylish tops with skirts or trousers.
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Overview of Various Cruise Lines and Their Specific Dress Code Guidelines

  • Carnival Cruise Line
    • Known for its laid-back atmosphere, the dress code is fairly relaxed. However, on cruise elegant evenings, passengers are encouraged to dress up.
  • Royal Caribbean
    • They recommend suits and ties or tuxedos for men and cocktail dresses for women on their formal nights.
  • Princess Cruises
    • Encourages a smart casual dress code in the dining rooms, while formal nights may see men in suits and women in cocktail dresses or gowns.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
    • With their “Freestyle Cruising” concept, there’s a lot more flexibility with dress codes, but they do host “Dress-Up or Not Night” where guests can choose to dress up.
  • Cunard Line
    • Renowned for its tradition, Cunard hosts Black Tie nights where traditional evening wear is the norm.

Each cruise line’s interpretation of formal, semi-formal, and casual dress codes offer a glimpse into the onboard culture and what one can expect on formal nights.

Evolution of Dress Codes Over Time

The rigid dress codes of yesteryears have gradually relaxed, giving way to modern interpretations.

The transition from strictly black-tie affairs to the inclusion of semi-formal and smart casual attire reflects the changing demographics and attitudes towards formal dressing.

Yet, the charm of dressing up and partaking in a grand tradition continues to enthrall cruisers, keeping the essence of formal nights alive and well.

 Our Recommendations!

black formal cruise dress

Women’s Long Formal Dress

Price: $62.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

This elegant formal cruise dress is designed for women who want to make a statement. With its one-shoulder design featuring a bow, a thigh-high split highlighting slender legs, and a maxi length that exudes elegance, it’s perfect for formal cruise events.

red formal dress

Women’s Summer Formal Dress

Price: $44.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

This dress is a perfect choice for cruise formal nights, offering a variety of plain colors that allow you to mix and match accessories for different looks. The delicate ruffles create a soft and romantic appearance, ensuring you look charming and attractive during your cruise formal events.

navy cruise formal dress

Women’s Plunging Formal Dress

Price: $52.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

The unique embroidered floral pattern on sheer mesh adds chic appeal, and when paired with high heels and accessories, it’s suitable for cruise formal nights, parties, dinners, and other festive cruise occasions.

green formal dress

Womens One Shoulder Sleeveless Dress

Price: $41.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

This formal dress is an excellent choice for cruise occasions, featuring one shoulder with a sleeveless design, ruffle detail, and an elegant empire waist. The soft and stretchy material ensures a perfect fit, highlighting your body curves beautifully.

aqua formal dress

Womens Long Satin Dress

Price: $44.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

This versatile dress is perfect for cruise formal night occasions and can be styled with boots, high heels, sandals, and accessories. Whether you’re attending a cruise party, dinner, formal night, or enjoying a casual evening, this dress showcases your charm with its empire waist, side slit, and mock neck design, making it a valuable addition to your cruise formal night wardrobe.

black formal night dress

Womens Long V-Neck Dress

Price: $49.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

This dress is an excellent choice for cruise formal nights, featuring a sexy v-neck, elegant ruched high waist, and a comfortable, lightweight design. Perfect for formal or semi-formal cruise occasions like cruise parties, dinners, and formal nights, it pairs beautifully with accessories to capture attention.

chrome formal dress

Women’s Sequin Formal Dress

Price: $66.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

This glamorous short-sleeve party dress with sparkling sequins and an asymmetric one-shoulder design is perfect for cruise formal events like themed parties, dinners, and formal nights. You can easily pair it with heels or sandals for an elegant and dazzling look.

maroon formal night

Women’s Elegant Formal Dress

Price: $69.99 – $92.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

This cruise formal dress, with its charming chiffon design, double v-neck, and side slit, is perfect for various cruise occasions, such as formal dinners, evening parties, and formal night events.

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Selecting the Perfect Dress

Choosing the right dress for the cruise’s formal night isn’t just about adhering to the dress code—it’s about showcasing your personal style, feeling comfortable, and embracing the event’s festive spirit.

Here, we’ll navigate through the waters of comfort, style, and more to help you dock at the perfect dress selection.

Factors to Consider

  • Comfort:
    • Seek a balance between style and comfort. Remember, you’ll be mingling, dining, and possibly dancing, so opt for a dress that allows you to move freely.
  • Style:
    • Your dress should resonate with your personal style. Whether you adore the timeless appeal of a classic gown or the trendy allure of modern design, ensure your choice makes you feel fabulous.
  • Theme Nights:
    • Some cruises host theme nights. Check the cruise itinerary and consider choosing a dress that aligns with the theme while still adhering to the formal dress code.
  • Climate:
    • Consider the climate of the destinations you’ll be visiting. A breathable, lighter fabric like chiffon or silk is ideal for warmer climates, while a velvet or long-sleeved gown might be more suitable for cooler regions.

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Latest Fashion Trends in Formal Wear Suitable for Cruises

  • Color Palette:
    • Explore colors trending in the formal wear sphere. Classic blacks, whites, and metallics often reign supreme, but don’t shy away from vibrant hues if they speak to your style.
  • Dress Styles:
    • Delve into popular styles like off-the-shoulder gowns, high-low dresses, or dresses with unique cutouts and embellishments.
  • Sustainable Fashion:
    • With a growing emphasis on sustainability, consider exploring brands that offer eco-friendly formal wear options.

Body Type Considerations for Flattering Fits

  • Understanding Your Shape:
    • Understanding your body shape—be it pear, apple, hourglass, or rectangle—can guide you to styles that highlight your best features.
  • Dress Silhouettes:
    • Explore various silhouettes like A-line, ball gown, mermaid, or sheath dresses, and understand which styles complement your body type.
  • Custom Fittings:
    • Consider investing in a custom-fitted dress. A well-tailored dress not only looks elegant but can boost your confidence immensely.

Selecting the perfect dress involves a blend of personal preferences, awareness of the latest trends, and an understanding of what flatters your body type.

As you sail through these considerations, you’re well on your way to finding a dress that will make your cruise formal night a cherished memory.

dresses for cruise formal night

Popular Styles and Options

The world of formal dresses is as vast as the open sea, with styles evolving through seasons yet some classic cuts and designs remain evergreen.

Let’s explore some popular styles and options that have found favor among cruise-goers over time.

Overview of Classic Dress Styles

  • Ball Gowns:
    • Known for their full skirts and fitted bodices, ball gowns bring a touch of royalty to the cruise formal night. They’re perfect for those who dream of a fairytale evening at sea.
  • Cocktail Dresses:
    • With a hemline that typically ranges from above the knee to just below the knee, cocktail dresses are a versatile choice, offering a blend of sophistication and modernity.
  • A-Line Dresses:
    • Flattering on most body types, A-line dresses are fitted to the waist and flare gently towards the ground, creating a classic, elegant silhouette.
  • Sheath Dresses:
    • These dresses provide a straight cut and are usually nipped at the waist, with a skin-skimming silhouette that’s both modern and elegant.

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Modern Twists on Classic Styles

  • High-Low Dresses:
    • The playful asymmetry of high-low dresses, which are shorter in the front and longer in the back, adds a contemporary flair to the traditional formal dress.
  • Dresses with Cutouts or Illusions:
    • Incorporating modern designs like cutouts or illusion panels can provide a trendy, edgy look while maintaining elegance.
  • Two-Piece Formal Sets:
    • Two-piece sets offer a modern, versatile take on formal wear, allowing for a mix-and-match approach to achieving the desired look.

Plus-Size and Petite Options

  • Tailored to Fit:
    • Emphasize the importance of a good fit, regardless of size. Brands and designers offering a range of sizes or custom tailoring services can help achieve a flattering fit.
  • Style Recommendations:
    • Offer style suggestions that cater to different body types and sizes, such as empire waists for plus-size individuals or vertical lines to elongate petite figures.
  • Where to Shop:
    • Highlight some reliable retailers or boutiques that cater to plus-size and petite individuals, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to shine on their cruise formal night.

Exploring the sea of dress styles can be an adventure in itself.

Whether adhering to timeless elegance or sailing towards modern, trendy shores, the perfect dress is out there waiting to make your cruise formal night unforgettable.

As with any voyage, the journey towards finding the perfect dress is all about exploration, discovery, and ultimately, arriving at a destination that feels just right.

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Accessorizing Your Look

Selecting the perfect dress is only the start of your styling voyage for the cruise formal night.

The right cruise accessories can elevate your look, adding a splash of personality, elegance, and flair to your ensemble. Let’s chart a course through the sparkling world of accessories.

Jewelry: Choosing Pieces that Complement Your Dress

  • Necklaces:
    • When selecting a necklace, consider the neckline of your dress. For instance, a delicate pendant works well with a v-neck while a statement necklace can highlight a strapless or sweetheart neckline.
  • Earrings:
    • The style of earrings can either elevate or downplay your overall look. Classic studs or drop earrings often complement formal dresses well, while bold or oversized earrings can add a modern twist.
  • Bracelets and Rings:
    • Opt for pieces that harmonize with your other jewelry and dress style. A delicate bracelet or a statement ring can add that finishing touch.

dress for cruise formal night

Shoes: Comfortable Yet Elegant Options

  • Heels:
    • Heels undoubtedly add a touch of sophistication, but consider the heel height you’re comfortable with. Block heels or wedges might offer more stability on a moving ship.
  • Flats:
    • Elegant flats or sandals can be a chic and comfortable choice, especially if you plan to dance the night away.
  • Material and Color:
    • Choose materials and colors that complement your dress. Classic metallics, blacks, or nudes are often versatile choices.

Handbags and Clutches: Selecting the Right One to Carry Essentials

  • Size:
    • Select a clutch or handbag that’s big enough to carry your essentials, like your room key, phone, lipstick for touch-ups, and perhaps a compact.
  • Style:
    • Look for styles that complement your dress and other accessories. A sleek clutch or a vintage-inspired handbag can add a classy touch.
  • Functionality:
    • Consider options with secure closures to ensure your belongings stay safe as you move around the ship.

Accessorizing is like setting sail towards the horizon; it’s an exploration of personal style and the elements that can make your formal night look truly shine.

With the right accessories in your treasure chest, you’ll not only look stunning but feel your best as you step into the starlit elegance of cruise formal night.

Remember, the right balance between style, comfort, and functionality is the key to a memorable night at sea.

shopping for formal night on cruise

Shopping Tips

Sailing through the fashion seas in pursuit of that picture-perfect dress and accessories for your cruise formal night can be both thrilling and daunting.

Here, we offer some navigational aids to steer you towards a rewarding shopping experience.


  • Setting a Budget:
    • Define a clear budget before embarking on your shopping expedition. It’s easy to get carried away with the endless ocean of options, but a set budget will help keep your spending on course.
  • Cost-Effectiveness:
    • Look for pieces that offer a blend of quality and affordability. Consider options that you could wear on other occasions as well, ensuring you get more bang for your buck.

Where to Shop

  • Boutiques:
    • Local boutiques can be treasure troves of unique finds. Plus, the personalized service can help you find the right fit and style.
  • Online Retailers:
    • Online shopping offers a vast array of options from the comfort of your home. Look for retailers with reliable sizing guides and favorable return policies.
  • Department Stores:
    • These stores often have a broad selection of formal wear and accessories, allowing you to try on various styles and make informed decisions.
  • Rental Services:
    • If you’re not keen on purchasing, consider renting your formal attire from reputable rental services. This option can be especially cost-effective and eco-friendly.

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Timing Your Shopping

  • Sales and Discounts:
    • Take advantage of sales during the off-season or holiday sales to snag deals on high-quality dresses and accessories.
  • Allow Time for Alterations:
    • Begin shopping well in advance of your cruise to allow ample time for any necessary alterations for that perfect fit.

Seeking Professional Advice

  • Styling Consultants:
    • Some stores offer complimentary styling services. A professional stylist can provide valuable insights into the styles and colors that flatter you most.
  • Tailoring Services:
    • A good tailor can make all the difference in how a dress fits. Investing in professional tailoring services can ensure your dress fits like a glove.

Shopping for your dresses for cruise formal night is much more than a mere transaction; it’s about embarking on a journey towards finding the ensemble that resonates with your personal style while adhering to the formal night dress code.

With a dash of planning, a sprinkle of patience, and the exciting anticipation of the memorable night to come, your shopping voyage can indeed become a cherished part of your cruise adventure.

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Packing Tips

The anticipation builds as the day of your cruise looms on the horizon. Now comes the crucial task of packing your cherished dresses for cruise formal night and accessories to ensure they reach the high seas in impeccable condition.

This section will unravel practical cruise packing tips to safeguard your formal night ensemble from any voyage-related mishaps.

Preparing Your Dress and Accessories

  • Dry Cleaning and Pressing:
    • Ensure your dress is freshly cleaned and pressed before packing. Place it in a garment bag to maintain its pristine condition.
  • Organizing Accessories:
    • Keep your accessories in a separate, secure container or pouch to prevent loss or damage. Use jewelry boxes or padded pouches to protect delicate pieces.

Strategic Packing Techniques

  • Folding vs Rolling:
    • While rolling is often recommended to save space and prevent wrinkles, delicate formal wear may benefit from being folded carefully along its creases or laid flat.
  • Tissue Paper:
    • Place sheets of tissue paper between layers of clothing or inside folded areas to prevent wrinkles.
  • Plastic Dry Cleaning Bags:
    • Placing your dress in a dry cleaning bag before folding can help prevent wrinkles as the plastic reduces friction.
  • Packing Cubes:
    • Utilize packing cubes to keep your formal attire separate and protected from other items in your suitcase.

packing for vacation

Carry-On vs Checked Luggage

  • Carry-On:
    • If possible, pack your formal night attire and essential accessories in your carry-on to avoid the risks associated with checked luggage, such as loss or delay.

Onboard Care

  • Steaming Services:
    • Investigate if your cruise ship offers steaming services to rid your dress of any wrinkles incurred during transit. Alternatively, pack a portable steamer.
  • Emergency Sewing Kit:
    • Carry a small sewing kit for any last-minute repairs. A kit should include basic items like safety pins, needle and thread, and small scissors.

Packing with care is your first step towards dazzling on the cruise’s formal night.

While the voyage to the glamorous night may be laden with the hustle and bustle of travel, with thoughtful packing, your formal attire will disembark in the same impeccable condition it was in when it left shore.

And as you unveil your carefully chosen ensemble, you’ll find the effort invested in packing well was worth every moment, setting a smooth course for a night of elegant revelry under the stars.

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Onboard Alterations and Rentals

As the cruise ship sets sail towards the horizon, the anticipation for the upcoming formal night begins to sparkle among the waves.

However, unexpected circumstances like a minor wardrobe malfunction or a forgotten accessory shouldn’t dampen your spirits. Many modern cruise lines cater to such fashion emergencies by offering onboard alterations and rentals.

This segment explores how these services can come to your rescue, ensuring you step onto the dance floor looking nothing short of fabulous.

Onboard Alterations Services

  • Availability:
    • Discover if your cruise line offers onboard alteration services to ensure your dress fits like a glove, even if it suffered a few travel-induced mishaps.
  • Cost and Timing:
    • Understand the cost involved and the time it might take for alterations. It’s advisable to address any alteration needs as soon as you board to allow ample time for adjustments.
  • Types of Alterations:
    • Explore the range of alterations offered onboard, from simple hemming and taking in to more complex adjustments.

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Onboard Rentals

  • Formal Wear Rentals:
    • Some cruise lines offer formal wear rentals. Discover the variety of dresses and suits available, the rental costs, and the process of reserving your choice.
  • Accessory Rentals:
    • From dazzling jewelry to stylish shoes, explore if accessory rentals are available to complement your look.
  • Fitting and Returns:
    • Understand the procedure for fittings and returns to ensure a hassle-free rental experience.

Reservations and Recommendations

  • Pre-Booking:
    • Learn if pre-booking alterations or rentals is an option to ensure availability, especially during peak cruising seasons.
  • Reviews and Recommendations:
    • Seek recommendations from previous cruisers on the quality and reliability of the onboard alteration and rental services.

The convenience of onboard alterations and rentals adds another layer of ease to your cruise vacation, ensuring you’re impeccably dressed for the much-anticipated formal night.

Whether it’s a minor tweak to your dress or a last-minute accessory rental, these onboard services aim to banish any fashion woes, allowing you to immerse fully in the glamorous night that awaits.

So, with a little planning and the comforting safety net of onboard services, you’re set to make a grand entrance on the formal night, radiant with style and confidence amidst the gentle sway of the ocean.

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As the sun casts a golden glow on the tranquil waters, the excitement aboard crescendos towards the dazzling dresses for cruise formal night. From the moment you begin envisioning the perfect dress to the captivating night where you don it with elegance, the journey is filled with anticipation, expression, and unforgettable memories.

Navigating through the myriad styles and options, accessorizing with grace, and planning with a touch of meticulous care ensures that when the stars come out to twinkle over the calm seas, you’re ready to shine alongside them. Our comprehensive guide aimed to be your compass in this endeavor, leading you through each step with insightful traveling tips and suggestions.

The cruise formal night is more than just a tradition; it’s a celebration of elegance, camaraderie, and the enchanting experience of sailing across the boundless ocean. It’s about feeling the soft sway of the ship as you glide across the dance floor, witnessing the horizon’s endless stretch as you toast to beautiful moments, and cherishing the blend of classic elegance with the soothing essence of the sea.

So, as you step into the night adorned in your carefully chosen ensemble, remember, the beauty of the cruise formal night lies not just in the elegance of your attire but in the joy and memories you carry with you long after the voyage. As the soft melodies fill the night air, may your cruise formal night be everything you’ve dreamed of and more.

Your guide to a magical cruise formal night draws to a serene close, yet the adventure that awaits is bound to be a resplendent journey marked by elegance, laughter, and the creation of cherished memories under the starlit ocean sky.

FAQs on Dresses for Cruise Formal Night

1. What is the general dress code for a cruise formal night?

  • The dress code can vary slightly by cruise line, but generally, formal nights on a cruise call for elegant attire. For women, this includes cocktail dresses, evening gowns, or dressy separates. Men might wear suits, tuxedos, or dress shirts with formal trousers.

2. How formal should my dress be for the cruise formal night?

  • The level of formality can depend on the particular cruise line and the prevailing culture among its passengers. It’s advisable to check the cruise line’s specific guidelines. However, it’s a night to dress up, so feel free to embrace the glamour with a cocktail dress or an evening gown.

3. Can I rent a dress onboard for the formal night?

  • Some cruise lines do offer onboard formal wear rentals. It’s a good idea to check in advance with your cruise line about the availability, options, and pricing of this service.

4. Are there any color restrictions on dresses for cruise formal night?

  • There are generally no color restrictions for dresses on cruise formal night. However, classic colors like black, navy, or metallics tend to be popular, alongside vibrant colors that reflect the joyous spirit of the occasion.

5. How can I ensure my dress remains wrinkle-free throughout the cruise?

  • Packing your dress carefully in a garment bag, using tissue paper to prevent creases, and utilizing the ship’s steaming services or a portable steamer can help keep your dress wrinkle-free.

6. Is it necessary to wear high heels for the cruise formal night?

  • High heels are not a requirement. Comfort should be a priority, especially on a moving ship. Elegant flats or lower-heeled shoes can be a comfortable and stylish alternative.

7. Can I change into something more casual after the formal dinner?

  • Yes, most cruise lines allow you to change into more casual attire after the formal dinner, especially if you plan on partaking in other activities around the ship.

8. Where can I find ideas or inspiration for my cruise formal night outfit?

  • Fashion magazines, online blogs, social media platforms like Pinterest or Instagram, and even the cruise line’s website or forums can provide a plethora of ideas and inspirations for your outfit.

9. What if my dress needs last-minute alterations?

  • Some cruise lines offer onboard alteration services. It’s advisable to address any alterations as soon as possible upon boarding. Additionally, carrying a small emergency sewing kit could come in handy for minor adjustments.

10. How can I accessorize my dress for a chic but comfortable look?

  • Choosing accessories that complement your dress while not compromising on comfort is key. Opt for comfortable shoes, and select jewelry, handbags, and other accessories that enhance your overall look without being cumbersome.

11. What if I don’t feel comfortable in a dress? Are there alternatives?

  • Absolutely! Dressy jumpsuits or elegant pant suits are also acceptable alternatives for a cruise formal night. The key is to feel confident and comfortable while adhering to the event’s elegance.

12. What lengths of dresses are appropriate for a formal night on a cruise?

  • Both cocktail dresses and full-length evening gowns are suitable for cruise formal nights. The choice between a shorter or longer dress depends on personal preference and the specific dress code guidelines provided by the cruise line.

13. How can I know the specific dress code for my cruise?

  • The specific dress code for your cruise can often be found on the cruise line’s website, in your pre-cruise documentation, or by contacting the cruise line’s customer service directly.

14. Is it okay to wear the same dress for multiple formal nights on a cruise?

  • Yes, it’s perfectly fine to wear the same dress for multiple formal nights if your cruise has more than one. You might also consider bringing different accessories to change up the look.

15. Do cruise lines offer steaming or pressing services for formal attire?

  • Many cruise lines do offer steaming or pressing services for a fee. It’s advisable to inquire about these services in advance and utilize them as soon as you board to ensure your dress is ready in time.

16. Is it possible to over-dress for a cruise formal night?

  • The essence of a cruise formal night is to embrace elegance and enjoy a glamorous evening. While there’s a broad range of acceptable attire, it’s a chance to dress up and enjoy a special night, so don’t shy away from going a bit extravagant if you wish.

17. Are there shops onboard to purchase formal attire or accessories?

  • Many cruise ships have boutiques onboard where you can purchase formal attire and accessories. However, the selection may be limited and prices might be higher compared to shopping beforehand.

18. What kind of outerwear should I consider if the evening is cool?

  • A stylish shawl, wrap, or elegant jacket can be a great addition to your outfit while providing a bit of warmth during cooler evenings.

19. Can I follow current fashion trends for my cruise formal night attire?

  • Absolutely! Following current fashion trends can be a fun way to select your attire. Just ensure that your outfit adheres to the cruise’s dress code guidelines for formal night.

20. What should I do if I’m unsure about the appropriateness of my selected attire?

  • If in doubt, it’s always a good idea to bring an alternative outfit or contact the cruise line’s customer service for clarification regarding the dress code for formal night.