Minimizing Dress Codes – Is There A “New Formal”?
Written by: Kuki
Cruise ships in fact may have been one of the latest holdouts in this movement; holding onto much more traditional dress codes onboard, including Formal dress on at least 2 nights during a 7 day cruise. But during the past decade each year has brought more changes, and less restrictions, on how the cruise lines are asking their passengers to dress.
It’s telling that even luxury lines like Regent and Seabourn, which one might expect to be bastions of “traditional” cruise wear, including tuxedos and gowns, have moved to “elegant casual” or “formal optional” for suggested dress codes. Crystal seems to the luxe cruising bastion of set designated Formal Nights, where you’re still likely to see a large share of men wearing tuxedos.
When Norwegian Cruise Line introduced “Freestyle Cruising”, it moved to almost a “dress as you please” structure as well, with the exclusion of shorts in the dining room. And as other lines followed NCL’s lead introducing more versions of “anytime dining”, they also began to introduce less restrictive dress codes. Where there used to be two “Formal Nights” on every seven night cruise, some lines now have only one night designated as “Formal”, and Carnival Cruise Line has even changed the language to designate “Elegant Night”.
Even on lines which still cling to the “Formal Night” one shouldn’t expect to see many men in Tuxedos or ladies in long flowing gowns. On the contemporary cruise lines the fanciest one can realistically expect to see on the majority of male guests wear is suits for the men, and cocktail wear on the ladies. In fact, on many sailings you shouldn’t be surprised if you see at least 50 % of the men not even wearing suits.
My first thoughts, when thinking about this for the Blog, was that it was the cruise lines adapting to the wishes of their passengers. Shortly after the move to more casual dress on cruise ships took place, the airlines began charging all sorts of baggage fees, and weight restrictions, with more fees for overweight and extra pieces of luggage. This gave the passengers who preferred to dress more casually a great excuse as well.
The fact of the matter, when it comes to suggested dress codes, is even when the cruise lines intended “Formal Nights” to mean formal dress, very few attempted to enforce their dress code policies, by turning passengers away at the doors to the dining room if they weren’t dressed appropriately.
Now that the suggested dress codes have become less restrictive, that reluctance to enforce even the new minimum levels continues. And that reluctance on behalf of the cruise lines serves to aggravate passengers, just as it did when finer dress was the rule.
I think it just plain “pisses people off” when a business (or any entity, and even their government) makes inconsistent judgments on which of their own written rules to enforce, and which rules they should ignore. It’s possible the backlash results in people following their example, and themselves choosing which rules to respect and which to ignore.
I asked our CruiseMates readers if they thought the definition of Formal Night was changing, and what they would prefer in reference to keeping or doing away with “Formal Nights” entirely. Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, the majority said they would prefer there still be at least one formal night during a seven day cruise. I suppose they still want to give a bit of a nod to the tradition of getting decked out in finery while cruising.
But they also noted that whatever dress code a cruise line puts in place, they would very much prefer it be enforced. It’s a complaint that was common when cruise information web sites first hit the Internet more than a decade ago, and even as dress codes have become more minimal, the complaint seems to still be prevalent and relevant. One would think after a decade, the cruise lines might listen.
Wonder why the cruise lines can’t just “act like adults” and quit printing a suggested dress at all? Or just print an absolute minimum of what is acceptable dress in their dining rooms?… and actually stick to it; rather then just ease it further the next time they print their brochures.
Do you even care what the people around you in the Dining Room are wearing? Do you want to see the designated Formal Night continue? Do you plan to wear whatever you like on your next cruise? Would you like to see the end of strings about dress codes on ships?
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Posted: February 1st, 2011 under Kuki.