Take the relaxed, joyful atmosphere on a cruise ship and amplify it with elaborate decorations, costumes and going-ons -- but for one night only. Cue cruise theme nights, particular evenings on a cruise ship where guests and staff dress up with a specific theme in mind and partake in tailored events, like concerts, shows, games, contests and more.
Fortunately, cruise theme nights are included in your cruise fare, but be sure to check your itinerary carefully and pack accordingly. Most cruise lines don't rent or sell materials for these theme nights onboard – though some, like Cunard Line and Disney Cruise Line, do. While it's not required to dress in accordance with the theme in most cases, it's certainly more fun to get in the spirit, dress up and join in.
Here's our list of seven popular cruise theme nights that you should know about -- and hopefully get to attend yourself.
Of all the cruise theme nights on Disney Cruise Line, the Disney Pirate Night is easily the most popular one to experience -- and for good reason. Picture Captain Jack Sparrow jumping from the crow's nest, hooks for hands galore and laughter filling the air. That's what you can get from Disney's Pirate Night and so much more.
On Pirate Night, cruisers can expect dinner to be decorated just so -- servers wear pirate garb and menus are stylized as treasure maps -- and events afterwards are, too. Dancing and games commence on the top deck post-dinner along with performances by Jack Sparrow and pirates (not real ones, of course). The evening is topped off with a spectacular fireworks show in true Disney style.
Pirate Night is filled with joy and wonder for not only children but adults as well. If you're feeling especially spirited, try visiting the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and be transformed into a buccaneer with eye patches, swords, bandanas and more. Note that these services are not included in your fare.
So-called “White Nights” have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, so it only makes sense for them to be aboard cruise ships as well. Guests and staff simply wear white clothes and engage in a dance party, their white clothes glowing with the help of black lights, strobe lights and lasers.
The White Party on MSC Cruises, White Hot Party on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and White Hot Night Party on Carnival are particularly notable mentions. Carnival hosts their White Hot Night Party once for sailings that are five nights or longer in length. MSC Cruises has their White Party once per sailing, and, being Norwegian's signature theme night, it's available at the end of all sailings.
These theme nights have extended to different colors as well. Royal Caribbean offers Red Night (guests wear red), Norwegian and MSC have Glow Parties (very similar to a white party but guests wear white and/or neon colors) and Virgin Voyages has a "Scarlet Night." The latter "red-themed" party is celebrated throughout the ship instead of being contained in one area.
Travel back in time to the peace-and-love decade at the Flower Glory Party on MSC. Guests are encouraged to wear their favorite floral gear along with other '70s classics, like tie-dye shirts, groovy headbands and flared pants. Enjoy '70s music played by a DJ and dance into the wee hours of the morning.
Every MSC sailing has at least one theme night, so it is likely the Flower Glory Party will occur on yours. However, you should check your itinerary to be certain.
MSC Cruises has turned the beloved silent disco, an event where attendees listen to music through headphones and dance together in one location, on its head. Their Silent Space Party is essentially what it sounds like: a silent disco with a space theme. Truth be told, we see it as more of a futuristic one.
The Silent Space Party is typically held in the indoor promenade on MSC Seaside, MSC Virtuosa and MSC Meraviglia, where there is ample room to mingle and dance beneath the LED starry sky above. Staff dress up in chrome-reminiscent jackets adorned with string lights and dance on small pedestals.
While silent discos are available on various other cruise lines, like Costa, Royal, Norwegian, Celebrity Cruises and even on some river cruise lines, like Uniworld, nobody else does it quite like MSC.
If you've always wanted to dress up as your favorite superhero on a cruise ship, then either the Superhero Music Party on Carnival or Marvel Day at Sea on Disney Cruise Line can scratch that itch.
The Superhero Music Party on Carnival sailings that are five nights or longer gives passengers the unique opportunity to dress up as their favorite superhero and dance the night away.
Marvel Day at Sea on Disney Cruise Line allows cruisers to dress up as characters from the Marvelverse on select five-night cruises from Fort Lauderdale to The Bahamas and Western Caribbean aboard Disney Dream.
Marvel Day at Sea is a bit different from Carnival's Superhero Music Party because it is a full-day affair and sailings are particularly labeled "Marvel Day at Sea."
Formal night has long been a part of cruising and is available on almost every cruise line and in every cruise style. While this is one of the more widely known theme nights in cruising, we felt it was still important to note, especially for packing purposes.
Cruisers wear formal attire for the entire event, and that sometimes includes dinner. Think cocktail dresses, pantsuits, dinner jackets and tuxedos. We recommend dressing appropriately for these events, especially if it includes dinner, because the ship’s main dining rooms and specialty restaurants may turn you away otherwise.
Formal night is available on almost all cruise lines and their itineraries. For just one example, Carnival has one Cruise Elegant night on all 3-to-5-day sailings and two Cruise Elegant nights on cruises that are six days or longer.
Some cruise lines, like Cunard, take formal night to the next level, with special themes like Roaring Twenties and Masquerade Ball. Cunard even sells Venetian-style carnival masks to passengers at its onboard gift shops prior to these events, and passengers take part with great enthusiasm, particularly on transatlantic crossings aboard the line’s flagship, Queen Mary 2.
Fitzgerald's West and East Eggs come to life in a Gatsby Party, a unique delight found only on P&O Cruises Australia. Gatsby Parties are inspired by the classic novel The Great Gatsby, which was set in the roaring twenties, and are held on all P&O Australia sailings that are three nights and longer.
At Gatsby Parties, guests sashay the night away in flapper getups and vintage suits. Note that this is a borderline formal affair, so be sure to dress accordingly. P&O Australia fortunately has plenty of 1920's accessories aboard for cruisers who have forgotten anything at home.