Whether it be a Captain's dinner, farewell gala or simply a formal evening, for many it's a highlight not to be missed. Although the current trend with many cruise lines is the introduction of more informal dress codes, there are some that have retained the classic approach. Here are five of our favourites...
With a history stretching back over 175 years and their renowned White Star Service, Cunard has to be the first cruise line on the list. This proudly British line takes tradition seriously aboard their surprisingly modern fleet, and formal occasions will be a highlight of your cruise. There is a black-tie Gala Ball at least twice on each seven-night cruise, and many cruisers choose Cunard specifically for these glamorous evenings.
Exploring the wild beauty of the Scottish coast aboard the 50-guest Hebridean Princess is a quintessentially Scottish experience. This charming ship is more akin to a Scottish manor house than a traditional cruise ship, and you can expect the friendliest of welcomes on board. Most cruises have two formal gala dinners, including a farewell gala where the crew don their finest Highland attire and Robert Burns's famous 'Address to a Haggis' is enthusiastically recited. There's no better way to explore the Western Isles, and occasionally Hebridean Princess delights her regulars with a change of scenery by leaving Scottish waters to explore Ireland, Norway or Southern England.
Silversea's classic fleet appeals to those who enjoy the finer things. With butlers servicing every suite, it's no surprise to find an air of formality to the onboard style, particularly in the evenings. Dress standards are high throughout the cruise, with shirts and jackets for men common, even when jackets are not required. On itineraries longer than nine nights there is a formal black-tie evening, although some venues will allow more casual dress, and your butler will be only too happy to deliver in-suite dining, course by course, should you prefer.
Crystal Cruises made their name operating resort-style ultra-luxury ocean cruises, and over the last 30 years have won more World's Best and Reader's Choice awards than any other cruise line. With an abundance of space o nboard and a range of dining options, Crystal blend the formal and informal. Guests tend to choose the main restaurant, Waterside, or the speciality venues, Prego and Umi Uma, for an excuse to dress up, with the alternative restaurants Churrascaria and Silk Kitchen & Bar for a more relaxed atmosphere. Sail over seven nights and enjoy at least one black tie optional evening and a Crystal White Extravaganza, an evening enlivened by the Crystal showband featuring vocalist, violinist and their dance performers, where white attire is recommended.
For a line that was once referred to as the Yachts of Seabourn, their inclusion here my raise a few eyebrows, and it's true that Seabourn does lean towards a more relaxed style on board. Certainly, this is the case on expedition itineraries. Yet on a standard cruise there is one formal evening where men are requested to wear a dark business suit or dinner jacket, and ladies an evening gown or cocktail dress.
Of course, if you'd rather not partake in a formal evening many ships offer alternative venues with relaxed dress codes, but after a year in which many reasons to dress up have been cancelled, what better time to indulge in a little formality.