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Cruise With Only a Backpack

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In the late 1990s when I cruised several times a year, or more, I had to take along two 27″ suitcases, as well as at least 2 carry-ons, and Mrs. Kuki would drag along the same.

Our bags were so over filled it was crucial that we buy luggage on wheels or we’d have had to buy a porter’s carriage to travel with us. We also quickly learned all the packing tips, such as using dry cleaning bags to wrap all our formal wear before it was placed in the luggage (to prevent wrinkling). All of this as a result of ship’s “suggested dress codes”.

At that time cruise ship brochures quite specifically dictated what type of attire was acceptable on board, and once on board, made it understood their posted “suggested dress codes” were really the way they expected their guests to dress. The suggested codes addressed clothing expectations for passengers, for day time, pool side, and evening wear; all quite specifically.

During a seven day cruise there would be at least 2 formal nights, where men were expected to wear tuxedos to dinner, and women were expected to wear fine gowns. There were also 2 semi-formal nights, where slacks, a sports jacket, dress shirt and tie was the expected dress for men, and cocktail dresses was the norm for the ladies. Both on formal nights and semi-formal nights the  cruise lines made it very clear, sometimes in print in the ship’s daily newsletter, that the dress codes applied throughout the evening,  to any and  all of the ships public areas. Even nights designated in the dress codes as casual night, were defined as full length trousers, and shirts with collars for the men, and equivalent of the same for the ladies.

And the vast majority of passengers would dress completely appropriately to the descriptions in the suggested dress codes, as if they were laws. And if someone strayed too much from that evening’s suggested dress codes, they would actually be refused entry to the ship’s Dining Rooms, and directed instead to take the meal at the ships buffet restaurants on Lido and Pool Decks.

On lines like Cunard, and many of the luxury brands, every night was formal night, or at the very least men were expected to wear a jacket and tie on non-formal nights.

Fast forward to today and, with only rare exception, acceptable dress on cruise ships has changed so dramatically that casual dress is more the norm, than the exception. One can easily get by with a simple wardrobe, and a man can easily get by, and feel like they fit in quite well, with a sports jacket at the most, even for “formal nights”.

Casual dress pretty much dominates and defines today’s cruise ship apparel, with only the odd exception.

Norwegian Cruise Line led the parade when they introduced “Free Style Cruising”, and a dress code that basically said … dress as you like… within a few limits. “Free Style” dress codes seemed to be working, as traditionalists who wanted to dress up seemed to mesh favorably with those who wanted to dress more casually, and the other major cruise lines took notice. It became obvious that cruise passengers wanted to have the choice.

Shortly after, air travel changed as airlines began to put in place lower weight restrictions on luggage, and followed with fees for checked baggage.

Of course, technology has changed, and has to be taken into consideration for it’s effect in allowing people to more easily meet the luggage weight restrictions. I’d hazard a guess that a great many  people no longer carry cameras, books, etc. Instead they use tablets, and smart phones.

Both of these factors laid the path for the trend to alter dress codes on cruise ships.

Some cruise lines have pushed further down that path to casual cruise attire than others. In today’s cruise world, on many of the mass market lines even wearing dressier, or Bermuda shorts in the dining rooms on non formal nights is perfectly acceptable.

That’s not the norm yet, but the borders of acceptable dress are continuing to be stretched.

Aside from clothing items people area also taking a different approach to incidentals they require. Of course you need to take along any prescription medicines necessary, but many people are opting to purchase other incidentals as the need arises, either on the ship, or in ports of call.  There’s not many products you can’t find along the way, as opposed to packing everything you might possibly use, and paying extra fees to bring them with you.

As a result, today it is quite possible to feel comfortable packing only what you can fit in a carry on or backpack, and a small “small personal bag”, where you can avoid checking any bags.

It is quite possible to take a minimalist approach to packing for a cruise, with little worry about being under dressed or being turned away when entering a dining room on board.

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –





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Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time November 6, 2013 at 7:06 am

and do not forget to take your sleeping bag for on deck use since a cabin could seem frivolous, and never leave home for a cruise without paper clothes so it an be tossed away after wearing, and water less toiletries, such as shampoo and soap.

Comment from Tom haas
Time November 12, 2013 at 8:27 am

Holland Westerdam refused us entry into main dining room on first night of cruise even though our bag arrived 10 mins. Before supper. We had shorts on.
Never in 17 cruises has this happened to us on first night.

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