I think it is easy for a 12 year old boy to look great, be comfortable and also be learning about appropriate dress for an adult occasion. He pretty much can go by the guidelines with maybe a few adjustments if he wishes- casual nights a pair of khaki's or dockers (just not jeans or shorts) with a polo or sport shirt, informal night an oxford button-down shirt possibly would be great or some shirt a little dressier than a golf type shirt (no tie required and at 12 I certainly would leave the jacket decision totally up to him), and I would add a jacket on formal nights if he has one. I don't know how he feels about a tie, but it would be nice on formal nights. Hopefully he's excited about cruising and you can make his dinner wardrobe part of the planning. Yes, I had not 1, but 3 sons, so I'm an expert on boys! And now have 3 grandsons. If they are consulted on these kind of decisions and treated like adults (at least given choices so they participate in the decision) I always found it worked better than 'telling' them what they had to wear. Have a great cruise!
I've been cruising since I was 7, I'm in my 30s now with 35+ cruises under my belt.
At no time regardless whether I was 7,17 or 27 was I given any breaks on the dress code. If it's formal evening that should be respected by HAL's guidelines. At no time should jeans or shorts be worn in the dining room.
When I was 13, and in the argumentive stage with my parents. I tried to wear a sundress on formal night, my mom had me go see the Maitre D earlier in the evening and ask if it was permitted. He said oh miss Karen you look beautiful in your dress, but I think you would look even MORE beautiful in your party dress since this a special evening where we all dress up! Well, even at 13 I got the point! lesson learned!
This is a perfect opportunity for you to use this as great experience on what fine dining is all about for your son!
I am having the same dilemna regarding my sons (12 & 15). We will also be on the 8/2 Zuiderdam sailing. I am leaning toward renting formal wear. We have so few opportunities to dress up in New Mexico (almost anything goes, regardless of the occasion) that formal dinners sound wonderful. They will get to spend plenty of time in swim suits and shorts during the day. My kids are ok with this (more the oldest than the youngest) but I don't want them to feel as though they are the only ones in tuxes. I'm dressing up, regardless!!
We took 12 and 14-year old boys on the Zuiderdam in May and had the late seating. There weren't a lot of kids on board, given the month. Girls wore everything from casual sundresses to formals. We actually had not planned on the boys eating with us on the formal nights, they thought they'd want to be on their own, so we didn't pack formal attire. When the boys decided to stick with us, we discussed our dilemma with the cruise staff and were prepared to make a purchase at the ship store. But we were told button shirts with ties would be fine. They were right, our boys were not underdressed, and felt very comfortable as well.
After seeing the wide variety of dress on the 1st formal night, our boys just wanted to wear polos with slacks and this was also not a problem. Unless your child loves to dress up, I would not rent formal-wear. I think after your boy realized others could be more casual, they'd refuse and you might be upset at the unecessary expense. Our boys wore kaiki pants and button-down short sleeve polos on most nights. The first formal night, they wore white oxford shirts; ties and jackets would be fine. (Even though dinner lasted about 2 hours, we all had so much fun with the dining experience all 3 teens in our group decided to go to dinner with us every night. Catching up with one another on our daily adventures, made dinner one of the highlights of our cruise.) Just so you know, the Zuiderdam was a great boat for our kids our age, they want to do it again a.s.a.p. If you or you kids have any questions, let us know.
Thank you for the detailed information about dinner attire. I'm happy to hear that your kids had a great time. I am sure that mine will. Between the ship itself and the various shore excursions, I don't think that we will run out of things to do!