I've been on only 2 cruises so far (both in 2005) with my 3rd coming up in May and here's my thoughts:
You can't go by what the cruise line text says exactly for dress code because it can vary depending on where you are going and what time of the year it is, etc. On Princess I was pleased to see that everyone dressed up for dinners, formal night was elegant dresses and suits/tuxes, while casual night was nice pants and a nice top (dinner jacket not required).
On Carnival, I was glad I brought with a more casual dress because I peeked out to see what the ladies were wearing on the formal night and there was no way I was going out in my gown with everyone dressed to casual. I ended up changing into a casual dress and fitting in just fine. Most people wore jeans to dinner on a regular basis!
For my Celebrity cruise this year I intend on brining choices for myself and my husband. This way we can feel out what other people are wearing and then decide how dressy we want to be. I personally love dressing up for the cruise but don't want to stick out like a sore thumb by being over dressed. This cruise is to Alaska which I've heard will have a slightly older crowd which usually means they will be dressier which is perfect. If it was going to the Carribean or something then it might have a younger crowd and therefore a less dressy group.
R & D JENNETTE
2005 CORAL PRINCESS (PANAMA)
2005 CARNIVAL PRIDE (MEXICO)
2007 CELEBRITY MERCURY (ALASKA)
Failure to "enforce" the evening dress code is not limited to Celebrity; with few exceptions, it's pretty much industry-wide. The dumbing down of the dress code appears to be the cruise industry's response to its need to fill more and more berths as each new ship makes its debut, making it fiscally dangerous to alienate anyone with a heartbeat who may wish to sail.
That, however, does little to appease those of us who do comply with the suggested evening dress. I don't think anyone expects the clothing police to stand at the dining room door and pass judgement on who may or may not be allowed entrance; but, is it unreasonable to expect that someone who shows up on informal night in shorts, tee shirt, flip-flops and a cap turned sideways (as a "gentleman" did on our December Westerdam cruise) be directed toward an alternative dining venue? I don't think so.
I agree with you completely.
Historically, it was considered gauche for a host(ess) -- or anybody else -- to say anything to, or turn away, a guest who showed up to a private social function, such as a wedding, in something other than the proper attire. Of course, it was equally gauche to show up in something other than the proper attire in the first place. Conversely, though, restaurants and other business establishments always did enforce their dress codes in one way or another -- either by turning away patrons who came with inappropriate attire or by providing ties and jackets (usually in hideous colors and patterns that were a dead give-away to one's faux pas and that nobody would remotely consider "forgetting" to leave behind on the way out) to gentlemen who came without them. It's not unreasonable to expect a cruise line to behave in the manner of a business establishment in this regard.
And, with regard to filling berths, there's an excellent opportunity for a cruise line to differentiate itself from its competitors by enforcing its dress codes strictly and thus drawing the many of us who are totally repulsed by its competitors' failure to do so. The number of new customers drawn by such a change in policy probably would be at least an order of magnitude greater than the number of present customers that such a policy would alienate!