The Best Cruise Ship Theme Parties and Where to Find Them

by - May 18, 2022

 Now that the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have become, well, a lot less fatal, people are eager to do the things that they couldn’t do when we were forced to isolate and maintain our distance from each other.  The travel industry seems to be experiencing a boom and partying and social gatherings seem to be valued so much more after all that we’ve been through. In light of this, I present to you the best way to do both: If you’re into both partying and travelling, cruising is for you! 

Having worked for two different cruise lines, and with friends who work for many others, I compiled a list of what theme parties you can expect on which ships. So if you’re looking for the best theme parties at sea, this is where you can find them: 

(If you’re that type of cruiser who likes to be prepared, this list will also help you pack the right outfits or costumes for the relevant theme nights on board.)

Cruise ship deck party


Carnival Cruises:

  • Carnival Cruises is known for its signature 80s Rock'n'Glow Deck Party. 
  • They also have a Caribbean-themed party known as a Mega Deck Party on longer itineraries. 
  • White Hot Parties are also held on some itineraries where everyone wears white.
  • The ships Vista and Horizon are said to have a Latin dance party known as Amor Cubano.
  • Carnival also has a formal night. It has been a while since I have been on one of “The Fun Ships”, but I seem to remember them being a bit stricter about the dress code than a lot of their competitor cruise lines. Guests who were not dressed more formally on elegant nights would be denied seating in the main dining rooms and forced to eat at the buffet. Cruises six days or longer usually have two Cruise Elegant evenings.

Cruise ship 80s party
80s Night

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises doesn’t seem to have one main signature theme party, instead, they seem to have a number of experiences or events specially tailored to certain venues on specific ships. Across the board, some of the theme nights you’re likely to experience include: 
  • A 60s party, 
  • a Motown party, 
  • a Latin party called Sizzle, 
  • a rock masquerade entitled Masque, 
  • And a silent disco. (They seem to be the only cruise line that does this, which is quite surprising considering the noise complaints we used to get on party nights when I worked in the guest services department of one of their competitors.)
  • White Hot Parties are also held on some itineraries where everyone wears white. 
  • Their formal night has been rebranded as “evening chic” which is supposed to be less formal than formal, but smarter than smart casual. 

Cruise ship white party
Dancers prepare the crowd for the White Hot Party

Costa Cruises

  • Costa cruises are also said to have a white night and a 70s party. 
  • Some itineraries also feature a black & red night and a masquerade party.

Disney Cruise Line

  • Disney Cruise Line is known for its Pirates of the Caribbean Deck Party complete with a fireworks display. (And let me tell you, pyrotechnics on a cruise ship with loads of kids on board? That sounds like a logistical and safety nightmare! ...But also, probably a lot of fun.) 
  • The Disney Wonder is also said to have a Pixar Pals Party, while the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic have a Frozen Party. 
  • Each cruise also has an optional “Dress-up night” (where you are encouraged to dress in formal attire, not pirate attire - just to clarify what they mean by “dressing up”).

Cruise staff wait for guests at formal night party
Cruise Staff await the arrival of the guests at the formal night party.

MSC Cruises 

  • White parties are also common on MSC cruises. 
  • Other theme parties include a Tropical Party, a Flower Glory Party (A 70s party), a Carnival party (themed around Brazillian carnivals and not MSC's competitor) and a Space Party (I would like to experience that one).  
  • Cruises longer than seven days have two formal nights, often referred to as Gala Nights.

For South Africans or those cruising on one of the local itineraries, apparently, you can look forward to a tropical party (floral clothing encouraged) and a Retro Party. 

Cruise ship 70s party
Moments before their ABBA performance on 70s night


Norwegian Cruise Line

  • Norwegian’s Mega ships (Breakaway class or bigger) are known for their Glow parties where guests are encouraged to wear neon colours. 
  • The smaller ships host White Hot Parties where guests are encouraged to wear all white. 
  • Other theme nights you may find on an NCL ship (dependent on the length of cruise and itinerary) include Latin night, Caribbean Night, a 50s & 60s sock hop, 70s night, 80s night, a country hoedown and a Latin dance party.
  • There will be at least one “Dress up or not night” per cruise, with the possibility of more on longer itineraries. 

NCL Glow party
Glow Party

P&O Cruises 

  • P&O is known for a Bianco party, their version of the White Party, as well as a Nero party, the antithesis of a white party where everyone wears black. Way to shake things up, P&O! 
  • They are also rumoured to have a Back to School Party. 
  • P&O seems to be most well known for its Gatsby Party. From what I understand, this overlaps their signature party and their formal night. Apparently, they do 1920s dance classes and sequinned headband-making craft sessions in preparation for it. 

Royal Caribbean:

  • A 70s night or 'Disco Inferno' is also a common theme night on Royal Caribbean, but they seem to have replaced the 70s party with a 90s party on The Harmony of the Seas.   
  • They also host a Red Party on the Harmony of the Seas, a high-energy party with DJs, surprise performances, special effects and technology.
  • Some of the other parties you may experience on Royal Caribbean include a Black & White Night, a 50s, 60’s or 80’s party or a Country Western party. 
  • Toga parties and Caribbean parties (dependant on the itinerary) also happen on occasion.
  • Sometimes on Royal Caribbean, the formal night is replaced with a masquerade ball (pre-pandemic these masks covered your eyes not your mouth but that may have changed). Cruises that are seven days long or longer usually have two formal nights, the first one being a bigger deal than the second.  (Formal attire is recommended but not mandatory.)
 
Cruise ship 80s deck party
Another 80s night

Virgin Voyages:

  • Virgin Voyages obviously does things differently. They have swopped out the white night for a red night or ‘Scarlet Night’ which is said to feature art installations and performances throughout the ship. It’s less a party and more a ship-wide activation. 
  • It may also be the only cruise line that doesn’t do a formal night.
  • Apparently, the spa is also the location of a spa party complete with DJs.

Additional Parties

  • In addition to this, Sailaway parties are standard on most cruise lines
  • Halloween, New Year's Eve and Christmas have their own theme parties 
  • If you’re sailing off the coast of the USA, you can also look forward to parties that commemorate the Super Bowl, the 4th of July and St. Patrick's Day.  
  • If you cross the equator, there's also a party for that.


  • Cruise ship Glow deck party
    Glow Party

The best way to find out what theme nights to expect on your specific cruise:

To the best of my knowledge, each cruise line publishes a list of activities that are delivered to your stateroom each day. Royal Caribbean has the Cruise Compass, Norwegian Cruise Line, the Freestyle Daily, and Carnival has the Fun Times. The best way to find out what theme nights to expect per cruise is to google a recent schedule from the ship and itinerary you are cruising on (passionate cruisers often post these online) and look through each day’s program to see what theme parties are included in it.

You may also be able to find out this information through the cruise line’s app.

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I have not cruised on all these cruise lines so please feel free to let me know in the comments below or through my contact page if I am incorrect about any of the information included in this post?





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