dj.jpgCunard has announced an update to its dress codes, describing it as a “loosening of ties” on non-formal nights. Why has it decided to make the change? And from a wider point of view, why are there dress codes at all on cruise ships?
When I embarked on my first cruise not far from two decades ago, I welcomed the opportunity to dust off my dinner jacket and pull on a bow-tie (elasticated and pre-tied, by the way – I have never mastered the art of doing it myself). On one memorable Transatlantic crossing aboard Queen Elizabeth 2, every night was a formal night, with the exception of the first evening after leaving Southampton and the last night before arrival in New York.
Nowadays, I must admit, the prospect of squeezing a DJ – or tux, if you like – and formal suit into a suitcase which is already straining to meet an airline’s stingy weight restriction has become an irritant. Especially when the suit might be required only once during a 12-night cruise.
And that’s without taking into account Mrs Greybeard’s extensive wardrobe of glamorous ballgowns and cocktail dresses. Do you know how much all those sequins weigh? Not to mention the collection of Louboutins and Jimmy Choos, plus matching handbags, of course.
How many people even own a dress suit these days? And how many can be bothered to hire one to take on holiday?
Trouble is, once people are given more choice about what to wear, it all starts to get a bit chaotic. Look at the anxieties caused when “dress-down Fridays” became popular. Freed from the obligation to wear a suit to the office, workers either spent a fortune on a new wardrobe, or panicked.
Would jeans and T-shirt be too casual? Will my mates laugh at me for wearing regulation chinos and a V-neck jumper, or dare I wear my raspberry crush corduroys? It was all too much of a hassle.
The majority of cruise lines now accept a dark “informal” suit, preferably worn with a tie, for wear on so-called formal nights. On some ships, passengers are reluctant to even go that far and there’s a growing acceptance of casual wear in main dining rooms whose head waiters would otherwise have banished scruffs to the buffet.
Cunard make the point that “passengers opting out of evening wear on formal nights will be welcome in the ships’ main buffet restaurants and in the adjoining Winter Garden or Garden Lounge bars, but not in other areas of the ship, out of respect for their fellow guests.”
Elsewhere, and on less formal nights, gentlemen will still be expected to wear a jacket, but can dispense with the tie.
President and managing director Peter Shanks said: “The glamour of dressing to the nines is a hallmark of travelling with Cunard, and distinguishes us from the mass of cruise operators where dressing up has become a thing of the past.
“In a world where everything seems to tend towards the casual, Cunard is proud to give passengers the opportunity to put on their best bib and tucker and really shine. Dressing up heightens anticipation and brings an extra special sense of occasion to an evening at sea. Our passengers tell us it makes all the difference to their enjoyment of a big night out on board.
“Formal nights are a chance for the ladies to sparkle in cocktail dresses or full-on evening gowns, while for the gentlemen, dinner jackets – or tuxedos or dark suits – always bring a touch of sharp, 007-type style to the occasion.”
Is everybody happy then? I’m not so sure it’s a huge difference at all. But I am still relieved that ripped jeans and cut-off T-shirts will be unwelcome in the Britannia Club restaurant – or indeed any other dining room – when I travel on Queen Elizabeth next month.
The 12-day cruise to the Canaries will include no fewer than FOUR formal nights, including a Cunard Ball, London Ball, Elizabethan Ball and a Starlight Ball. In addition, there will be two semi-formal evenings and six elegant casual nights. I’m expecting an anguished cry of “I haven’t got a thing to wear” from Mrs Greybeard any day now.