I like the formal nights if they schedule them for evenings when the ship either leaves dock early or it is an "at sea" day. This may be shocking to some cruisers, but I take cruises based on the itenerary. I want to spend as much time as possible in the port to take in the sights. I don't want to return early to get ready for the evening. If the formal night is on a night the ship is in port or leaves late, I'll do the buffet.