Your concept of cruise ship dining room “dress codes” probably is based on how long you have been in the travel industry. If you are fairly new to the travel industry, you are probably asking yourself, “What dining room dress code policies?” If you have been on many cruises in the last few years, it certainly appears there are none, as it seems that folks stroll into the dining room in whatever strikes their fancy.
On the other hand if you are like me, and are one of the old timers, you probably remember back when there were some pretty strict dress codes. As time has gone forward, it seems that many of them have changed. I fear that the days of enjoying a few “Formal Nights” will just become memories of, what I like to call, the golden age of cruising.
And yes, I know many of you new timers think “resort casual” works just fine. However, my experience has been that some folks haven’t been to many classy resorts. Sometimes it seems like dress depends upon how much they have had to drink. Cut offs, beach cover-ups and flip-flops sometimes seem to feel somehow appropriate on the few “formal nights” that still remain.
Worldly Cruiser Challenges
I still remember my first cruise, way back on January 19, 1974 on Sitmar’s FairSea. Okay, okay, don’t stop reading, just because many of you have never heard of Sitmar Cruises. Please let me share some cruise history with you. Sitmar had a Daily Bulletin in our cabin each night, which always had a BOLD heading that read “Tonight’s Dining Room Attire” which on two nights a week had the normal description we still see for Formal Nights. But, on the on the other five nights it always read “Jacket and Tie Required” for the men and “Cocktail Dress” for the ladies.
My father and mother were avid cruisers and my dad lent me his tuxedo and white dinner jacket to wear on the formal nights. I must say that with my dark tan, I looked very dashing for a 33 year old on his honeymoon. I have always thought life was too short not to have a little fun; so one night I carefully selected my attire and put on what appeared to be only a black velvet dinner jacket, a bow tie, black shoes and socks. While we heard quite a few gasps as we passed on the way to our assigned table (remember those days?), we soon heard applause as they read the large sign covering my rear end that read “Tonight’s Dining Room Attire: Jacket and Tie.”
Now before you think I am a little crazy (some say I am), let me share a little more cruise history with you. Back in those days, one of the cruise highlights was Costume Nights, where cruise guests were encouraged to come dressed in all sorts of costumes. If you didn’t bring one, they supplied you with crepe paper, scissors and even sheets; much like Costa does on their Toga Nights. It’s been a while since I’ve sailed Costa, please don’t tell me that Costa has stopped having them?
I am happy to say I won 2nd Place on Sitmar’s Costume Night and received a solid gold plastic trophy and a bottle of champagne. If you wonder why I didn’t win 1st Place, let me tell you. It just so happened that four men wore only large diapers, with a big bow attached to their hair. Maybe they are the fathers of those men who come to formal dinners in cut offs today. Anyway, they also had signs, which read Enie, Meenie, Miney and Moe. They were also tied together and led by Miss Boo Peep. I later learned that they had more to drink than I did, as we all partied into the night, fully enjoying the drinks that were being sent over to us. Yes, those were the good old days.
As I mentioned above, I am a recovering cruiseaholic, having been on 243 cruises since that 1976 inaugural cruise. And while most of my cruises have been on the same cruise lines you have cruised on, I have truly been blessed to have also enjoyed some wonderful cruises on Cunard, Crystal (my second honeymoon), Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, and what was Sea Goddess and is now Sea Dream Yacht Club.
For those of you that have been on any of these luxury lines, you know they have pretty strict dress codes. But, on one of my Seabourn cruises I met someone I grew to like a lot. He had found a way to stand out on a formal nights, when the rest of us looked like a flock of penguins, all dressed in our black tuxedos. While I could match his bright multi-colored bow ties and cummerbunds, he still stood out in the crowd and put a new twist on the formal dress code.
My new friend put a new twist on tuxedo formal nights in the Caribbean. He had his tailor convert a pair of tuxedo pants into a cool pair of Bermuda shorts. I sided with him, as I thought that was pretty cool. However, his wife didn’t quite see the humor in his formal attire, but he certainly stood out.
Preserve The Dress Codes
So as I get off my soapbox again, I would ask that you join me in trying to save the formal night traditions many of our clients so enjoy. On your next cruise, if you see the maître’d letting people into the main dining room in cut-offs, please let him know that you are not happy with the lack of respect for the other patrons who had dressed properly for dinner.
Better yet, use your last night comment sheet to express your displeasure with the lack of enforcement with the formal night dining room policy. Perhaps, if the cruise lines have enough complaints, maybe we won’t lose this old cruise line tradition. Maybe I just am too old and hanker for the “good old days”…what do you think? Please leave a comment!
Larry Norman, CTC, MCC is an icon in the industry. He has been a consultant to over 5,000 Home Based Travel Agents and trained an estimated 22,000 travel agents over his career. He was Travel Trade’s 1996 Travel Educator of the Year. Larry owned a four state network of 16 agencies, with annual sales of $28 million. Larry is known as “The Outside Sales Agent Expert” for his presentations on outside sales at Travel Trade Cruise-A-Thons, ASTA, ARTA and NACOA travel agent conferences among others. You can share your views with Larry at LarryNormanCTC@Gmail.com .