Cruise experience is changing like it or not

I just learned the other day Princess is sending out questionnaires regarding formal dress and formal evenings. We haven't been privy to receiving such, guess 225 days sailing with them isn't sufficient. However, it appears Princess is trending toward going the Celebrity route too.

On formal nights we really haven't ever witnessed anybody ever being asked to leave or not enter a MDR due to inappropriate dress. With the exception just recently on Princess in a specialty (extra charge) restaurant when they asked a fellow to leave due to the short sleeve polo shirt he had on. On the same cruise Princess had been reminding everyone, when they made phone reservations, in that restaurant, that it was a formal night and formal wear was required, no compliance no reservations. We had never ran into that before.

It appears to me that the entire industry is playing coy with this issue. Heretofore dress codes were sort of stated like this "On festive formal evenings, women usually wear cocktail dresses or gowns and men usually wear business suits or tuxedos. In order to complement your fellow guests, we ask that you observe the suggested dress code throughout the entire evening." So, guests dressed inappropriately while sitting with others in formal garb felt guilty. Now, the language runs something more like this for the same evening "For gentlemen, collared shirts and slacks are required in all fine dining restaurants." No more guilt.

But we have to ask ourselves, is this dress requirement such a big deal for us, more and more frequently while trying to eat dinner in the MDR we sit there waiting and watching a harried flurry of activity by the understaffed help forging a losing battle trying to keep up. Makes dressing up in my tux on formal nights and trying to dine there a joke. The mass market cruise lines have been toying with the idea of eliminating the MDRs for a while now. Maintaining a memorable dining experience in the MDR is very expensive when compared to operating the buffets. What is happening is that many lines are reducing both service and kitchen staff in the MDRs rendering the dining experience marginally undesirable, while bolstering the cuisine quality and service levels in their specialty (extra charge) restaurants.

Marketing experts suggest the industry is caught in a dilemma here. On the one hand most of their guests prefer a significant reduction in formality and quality over what traditionally has been offered for the entire cruise experience. On the other, a minority of their guests, demographically older, prefer the manner of sailing they are accustomed to. But more importantly, to do away with the old means losing the opportunity to cultivate a culture of younger cruisers to the older style of cruising. Putting the entire industry in a vulnerable posture if and when competition and technology alter leisure vacation preferences and the new mass market fad of cruising looses appeal.

49 Answers

"Makes dressing up in my tux on formal nights and trying to dine there a joke."

You are quite correct. Dressing up in penquin suits for a meal on a ship IS a joke

Personally, I prefer having the formal nights. I understand that many don't -and I am alright with that too. I would hate for it to get to the point where I feel overdressed in the MDR on formal nights.

I kinda think that it is a trow back to a more elegant time.Personally I enjoy the formal nights as I can order a Vodka Martini "shaken not stirred" and not feel silly.....Big Smile

With airlines watching the amount of luggage we take and a 50 pound limit I can see how packing a Tux takes up a lot of room for something that is only used for 8 hours out of the week.

Last time I packed my Tux was for a Celebrity cruise in Europe. Europeans just dress up more then Americans do. When in Europe I do as the Europeans do (if the full ship is formal then it can be fun). For the 7 night and shorter cruises out of the states I do not take a tux. On a 7 night Caribbean Cruise on Carnival I just wore black Dockers with a gray long sleeve shirt and a tie for the "Cruise Elegant" night and that was fine.

I can see the lines that cater to the older demographic like HAL and Cunard keeping the full out formal night and the average like RCI, Carnival, and NCL doing away with formal.

It is vacation after all and Im retired, I do not need a tux or business Suits anymore. After I retired I gave away about 10 or 15 suits and just kept the Tux and a few of my favorite suits for weddings, funerals and the occasional European cruise.

I'm more upset with the downgrading in food quality and service then I am in not wearing a tux or a suite.

I would hope Cunard will retain formal, but if they do it looks like they will be the last hold out of the majors. You mention HAL, I just found out they changed their dress code recently, "relaxed it" they say. It has been over a year and a half since we sailed with them, even canceled two cruises. I was unhappy with their cigar smoking on balconies policy so didn't pay attention. They are almost the worst of the lot now. "For gentlemen, collared shirts and slacks are required in all fine dining restaurants" that's a short sleeve polo shirt. That is it, the minimum requirement for "Gala Nights" (they even got rid of the "formal nights" designation). Of course, when they try to explain the change they say they always allowed guests into the MDR dressed like that on formal nights, so it really wasn't a change. One can still wear a coat and tie or even a tux if they like, HAL says.

I somewhat agree with you "I'm more upset with the downgrading in food quality and service then I am in not wearing a tux or a suite". But I believe they both go hand in hand, the formal night dress code relaxation is just a precursor eventually leading to a gigantic "Golden Corral Buffet" eatery in place of fine dining in the MDR. With the possible exception of an expanded number of extra charge specialty gourmet restaurants.

One guy my age told me this: "I think cruise lines have to evolve with the times, & the times are dictating that the days of formal wear are going the way of the dodo bird, like it to not. Times change, fashions change. I came across some photos of my parents & friends arriving at JFK for a trip to Bermuda back in he 70s. My Mom wore a dress, & my dad wore a sports fly!" I responded:

Hey, that brings back fond old memories. I'm your age as well. My roots were in the airplane game. I was a commercial pilot of light aircraft for years and then an airline executive. I recall the old timers flying up from Seattle in the spring then us flying them out to their summer homes in the bush. Most used to work in the mines or were prospectors, so their summer homes were their year around residences of years gone by.

What was important is that they all always dressed in suits and ties when traveling. I remember a French-Canadian, Archie, I bet his suit was made sometime in the first decade of the 20th. I was working with Alaska Airlines when we decided to provide first class service. You had to be properly dressed, suits and ties preferred. Lots of leg and elbow room in the coach seats back then too.

You may be correct, everybody prefers the cattle car, claustrophobic seating, thrombosis waiting to happen, no meals, on air carrier service today. Why? Well "times change, fashions change because they are following the worldwide trend to more casual". Not me, I yearn for the good old days in the air and on the sea.

When I got married 48 years ago, I wore a going away outfit for the flight on my honeymoon. It was a matching dress and thin coat. Now I wear somthing comfortable and casual. It was fun to fly then, no TSA, no body scans or pat downs. There was plenty of leg room and seats were bigger.

I did not start to fly until 1980 as a teen so I wore jeans (my youth was spent in 501's until I got my first professional job) and sneakers in a plane. Back then you did get a meal on a flight and the planes had smocking sections, no TSA, no search...... the old days.

"Cruising is not as good as it used to be but it is better then what it is becoming" Is a quote I read. It sums it up well.

I'm not really sure I understand the dress code argument. What is so hard about putting on a coat and tie for a formal night out? If you don't want to go along with the dress code, the ship has other activities you can partake in.

And I do still fly in a coat and tie -- you get better treatment from the airline staff that way.Wink


* is not a booking agent or travel agency, and does not charge any service fees to users of our site. Our partners (travel agencies and cruise lines) provide prices, which we list for our users' convenience. does not guarantee any specific rates or prices. While prices are updated daily, please check with the booking site for the exact amount. is not responsible for content on external web sites.

Back to Top