Last updated: 01:28 PM ET, Fri August 12 2016

Formal or Casual: Which Is The Future of Cruise Dress Codes?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Cunard Line | Jason Leppert | August 12, 2016

Formal or Casual: Which Is The Future of Cruise Dress Codes?

 Photo courtesy of Cunard Line 

Attitudes toward cruise ship dress codes are both changing and remaining the same all at once, it would seem. The extremes of formal and casual wear are in question while most lines lean away from formality save for the likes of Cunard Line.

Tradition is alive and well on Cunard’s fleet, the newly remastered Queen Mary 2 included. In fact, it is thriving. The grand ocean liner is one of the last remaining cruise ships in which tuxedos and sequined gowns are commonplace sights among the classic art deco appointments. In the evenings at least, no casual wear is allowed across the bulk of the decks. Dress codes vary from formal to informal, sparing only ties for gentlemen and the fanciest of dresses for women during more casual instances. No jeans or shorts are permitted.

Of course, whether or not this rigid approach to dress codes is desirable is in the eye of the beholder, and Cunard loyalists certainly agree that it is. Indeed, there is something unique and special about dressing up for an evening of glitz and glamour, as though it were like traveling back through time to an era long since gone, recreating the so-called good old days.

 READ MORE: Cunard Loosens Dress Codes on Informal Evenings 

On the other hand, it is not altogether comfortable or practical, and most other cruise lines recognize this reality. After all, neck ties, although stylish, truly serve no greater purpose than a bib, and most men will concur that jackets are unnecessarily cumbersome while most women will likely parallel in regards to dresses and certainly high-heeled shoes.

These days, in regards to air travel specifically, bringing along a wardrobe of formal wear for multiple evenings, if not the entire cruise, is increasingly more difficult for its added weight in a suitcase. Fifty pounds fill up very fast, and shorts are naturally lighter.

 READ MORE: Crystal Further Relaxes Dress Code 

At least for awhile it was more common to see a mix of casual, informal and formal nights on most lines to mix it up, but even that is waning now. Carnival Cruise Line, for instance, has mostly casual nights with a handful of “elegant” evenings, but they are loosely expected. Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line is all casual, but I’ve seen its no shorts policy in the dining room enforced.

Growing in popularity is a country club casual policy wherein all manner of dress including shorts is appropriate during the day and more sporty pants, sun dresses and buttoned shirts are the rule by night. This has been adopted by such upscale companies as Azamara Club Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Viking Ocean Cruises.

Now that millennials have reached a cruise market penetration level comparable to boomers, casual is likely to hold even stronger into the future, and while Cunard appeals to younger generations as a novelty, it may have to reconsider its long-term approach. After all, hipsters maintain high style, but it differs greatly from traditional norms. If nothing else, the definition of what constitutes casual or formal onboard cruises will likely be the next thing to change.


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