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WAPO: The Demise of Formal Nights on Cruises: How dress codes are tearing passengers apart


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Personally we don't get too dressy for formal night anymore (she'll wear a dress, I'll have shirt/tie dress pants - no suit); We also have not been to the main dining room on formal night in years. It's a few reason, one is to respect passengers who dress to the nines, the other is we aren't into the dining room experience. We've booked specialty restaurants or just gone to the windjammer. With two Oasis class sailings in 2020 the odds of seeing the inside of the dining room are very low.

With that, I do notice some people are very vocal (on the internet) about those not following the rules. I get why (kinda) but it's just energy not needing to be spent. Enjoy the company you're around, it's vacation after all.

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I skipped both formal nights on Anthem last month. I was cruising solo for the first time and didn’t think it was necessary for me to pack dress clothes given that I was the only one who had to please me. ? I did kind of regret not doing one of the formal nights but it didn’t make or break my vacation. And it was definitely nice to not have to fight for a seat in the Windjammer on those nights! Plus people of all ages chose the Windjammer right along with me, so I think people of any demographic might prefer to skip the whole formal charade. 

Honestly I pay little attention to what others are wearing or not wearing unless it is really memorable. When I reviewed my cruise on the Cruise Critic forums, someone asked me if I had seen people wear shorts in the MDR because they wanted to know if shorts were OK. I honestly didn’t even remember or care what people had on. It’s really not my business.

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Dramatic headlines sell papers.....or in this case, get clicks.

Other than our middle son's wedding, the only time I've worn a tie in over 25 years is formal nights on our cruises.  It's kinda fun.

That being said, in January I'm doing a b2b with my wife doing just the first one.  We're dressing up for the two formal nights together on the first one, but when I'm solo on the second, I'll just hit the Windjammer.  Most of the fun for me is being dressed up with my wife.

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Our first cruise we were concerned about dressing up on formal nights.

By the 4th cruise is was ... whatever ... business casual with a tropical twist usually. I have a few dress "cruise shirts" that are not too loud with an island/tropical print. That and a pair of cargo pant slacks and loafers.

I still see a few people that go all out. They are usually getting their photo taken and are part of some party or family celebrating something.

I occasionally see someone in cutoff jeans come dragging in. Personally, I think that is a bit too casual for the dining room. If you can't dress any better than that, go to the Windjammer or Johnny Rockets.

Have I ever seen seen anyone "torn apart" over their attire? Not once.

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2 hours ago, twangster said:

Click bait title.

Tearing passengers apart?  Please.  

People have opinions and preferences.  That's hardly being torn apart.

This is some really awful click bait. I mean, for a publication with the prestige of the Washington Post, this is extra awful.

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1 hour ago, ehw51 said:

Just got off the Anthem a week ago on Sun, we saw people wearing shorts and t shirts and base ball hats in the MDH, They should be a able to tell people like that they need to put pants and a shirt on. I am not saying they need a suit but crappy shorts and a t shirt are a bit much.

People in shorts and t shirts paid just as much for that MDR meal as you did.  Possibly much more if they are staying in a suite and you aren't.  If their attire ruins your dinner, that's your problem.

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For formal nights I think what one would wear to a corporate office setting should suffice.  Meaning that shirts are button-down or at least not t-shirts or tank tops. Pants are clean and no holes and affixed to the waist (jeans are fine just not dirty, holey jeans sagging on the floor).  No flip flops.  If someone wants to wear something nicer like a tux or a fine gown that should be fine but not expected.  Economically it doesn't make much sense to many people to spend a bunch of money on things they will typically not wear on a normal basis.  Please note this is only for formal night.  If you wear cutoffs, tank tops, and flip flops in the MDR on NON-formal nights I don't care.  Not my style but you do you.  Moreover, on non-formal nights there is no expectation to be had that people will looked more cleaned up.

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I have an idea about formal nights.  Let me first preface this by saying that I myself do not dress very formal on formal nights.  But I know people who really like dressing up, especially women.  It's their time to take out that favorite gown, the jewelry, the fancy hairdo.  Some families take it as an opportunity for that family photoshoot in nice attires. For some it is a change of environment from their otherwise "come as you are" events. I think there is still a good percentage of people on the ship who like these formal nights.  Being seated next to someone in a tank top and shorts on formal night somehow takes away from that expected ambiance of a formal event. (Yes, I was seated next to one, but I didn't mind)

Maybe Royal can designate a section of their MDR, especially on bigger ships with multi-level MDRs, to be formal attire only on formal nights.  It will be by reservation only and the dress code will be strictly implemented.  That way, the guests who are wired to enjoy formal events can have their good time and everybody is happy.  I know in the past, when formal nights were still "strictly" observed, formal attire only at the MDR and casual attire at Windjammer.  But I think that is not doable anymore.

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I am with @PG Cruiser  I think what the cruise lines should do is have a designated dining room for those that want to have that formal feeling.  IE,  this MDR will have a dress code, of at least a sport coat and tie.  The other MDR will be dress your best.

  •  I realize this would he hard for RCL, since they have MTD and traditional.  On smaller ships, usually MTD and traditional are only separated by the floor you enter.  Larger ships, like Anthem, they actually have designated dining rooms.  Maybe that night they could make the WJ,  like the MDR for lunch on sea days, buffet and menu for those that don't want to dress up, but also don't want a buffet.  

Personally,  we dress up like we are attending a wedding.  Cocktail dress for me and suit for him.  This is fun for us.  We make it a special night....cocktails on our balcony before dinner.  I like seeing people in their finest.  Than again, my hubby served 21 yrs in the military and we would go to military balls @2 times a yr.  I get the I am on vacation, and don't want to wear a suit.  However, I would love to take a poll.  My bet is the majority of women enjoys dressing up, and that feeling, whereas, the men would be more than happy not to!  

I also think the airlines play into the equation.  My hubby and I have no problem paying for checked baggage.  We fly a lot since 1 of our kids and the grandbabies live far away, in the last yr we have flown out to them, 4 times. Than add on flying for business.  In essence, between the 2 of us, someone is flying every 6 weeks for a week+.  Point being, most airline passengers only want to fly with carry ons.  That does not work if you need to pack a suit or dress.  Kind of.  my cruise dresses, are cocktail.  I purposely purchase dresses that travel well (wrinkle resistant...aka Chicos, lace overlay, Ralph Lauren, etc) I literally can roll them up in a ball and they will look perfect as soon as I unpack.  Hence, no excuse about wrinkling!  Hubby only wears Jos. A. Bank,  (probably bc I work there).  Just like Chico's they have a wrinkle resistant line called....wait for it....Travelers.  The fabrication is designed to do exactly like the Chico's woman's line...wrinkle resistant.  

In the end, RCL is following what their marketing dept says is trending.  

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Like someone else said, formal night in the mdr is the only time my wife can get a tie on me, and that's a bow tie, for her this night is special and we have cruised many times, we still enjoy the pictures and she enjoys putting that long dress on and some nice jewelry as someone said. One of our favorite parts of,the cruise is the mdr with friends we travel with or new friends we meet at the table. I am a blue jean and ball cap guy and just don't enjoy dressing up, I,always say if I need a tie, I don't need to go. But,one night, maybe two,a year I,can handle, but to each their own,I,really don't notice what,other around me wear and like most said, it don't ruin my dinner. 

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20 hours ago, Atlantix2000 said:

People in shorts and t shirts paid just as much for that MDR meal as you did.  Possibly much more if they are staying in a suite and you aren't.  If their attire ruins your dinner, that's your problem.

If they stink and look like slobs I don't care what they paid. If they took a bath and look neet I don't care what they wear.

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Wouldn't say it's tearing passengers apart, but there are hardliners on both sides.  We are two who dress for formal night (suit/tux and gown/cocktail dress) and even on the other nights dress smart casual (dress/casual slacks and collared shirt and dress/pants fancy top).  I do it to please my other half and I really like seeing her dressed up, even after dinner you will see us wandering the ship or attending shows or the clubs dressed as we left the dining room, it's a date night for us.  Now I could care a rats behind what anyone else wears, just as you shouldn't care how we are dressed.

Twice we have had tablemates get a little upset with they way we were dressed, the first time we dressed for the Prohibition Party and one of the lady's told my wife "tonight's causal night why are you all dressed up?" (she wore a flapper dress and I had a white shirt and bow tie on) and on another cruise a guy got upset because I wore a suit and another wore a tie on formal night because he thought we were embarrassing him as he thought we agreed to not dress for formal night.  

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The trend on land has been towards more casual dress in all aspects of life.  Even in the business world, more and more companies are going business casual vs suits.  Younger people are redefining what "dressed up" means for a date or night out.  RC is a business and wants (needs) to attract young people.

I have mixed feelings as I like the "dress up" part of cruise dining, at least on some nights.  I don't really feel that what anyone else wears affects me, although I think a minimum standard should apply to avoid "people of Walmart" on RC.

I'd like to see them eliminate formal night and go to a dressy night and set a minimum standard for the main dining room - no shorts, collared shirt etc.  If people want to dress up more, that's OK too.  I'd also like to see them have some casual nights where shorts are OK.

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5 minutes ago, wordell1 said:

The trend on land has been towards more casual dress in all aspects of life.  Even in the business world,

This is very true.  20 years ago, when I first came into the "beltway bandit" world, ALL women wore dark suits, stockings and heels.  Period.  Not long after that it became much more relaxed and nowadays women in the workplace pretty much wear whatever they want to.  Of course there are still occasions when you must dress more professionally, but the average day is no longer strictly suits for both men and women.

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42 minutes ago, wordell1 said:

I'd like to see them eliminate formal night and go to a dressy night and set a minimum standard for the main dining room - no shorts, collared shirt etc.  If people want to dress up more, that's OK too.  I'd also like to see them have some casual nights where shorts are OK.

I'd be all for this concept IF they enforced the minimum standard - which ISN'T done now. And definitely on board with shorts okay some nights as it would save me two clothing changes each evening that it applied (assuming I use the MDR regularly).

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1 hour ago, wordell1 said:

The trend on land has been towards more casual dress in all aspects of life.  Even in the business world, more and more companies are going business casual vs suits.  Younger people are redefining what "dressed up" means for a date or night out.  RC is a business and wants (needs) to attract young people.

My wife and I recently went to a fancy steakhouse for an anniversary dinner.  We have only been there several times because of the prices.  We had reservations for 6PM.  When we arrived at our seat we were both surprised to see the father of small child wearing shorts, t-shirt, and a backwards baseball capReally?  My parents would kill me if I ever tried that!!!  Even more unbelievable to us was just a short time later when another man came in with disheveled attire and also had a backwards baseball cap.  What happened to the days when this was considered disrespectful?  Is it pretty much anything goes inside restaurants these days?  I don't get it...

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1 hour ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

This is very true.  20 years ago, when I first came into the "beltway bandit" world, ALL women wore dark suits, stockings and heels.  Period.  Not long after that it became much more relaxed and nowadays women in the workplace pretty much wear whatever they want to.  Of course there are still occasions when you must dress more professionally, but the average day is no longer strictly suits for both men and women.

I was a financial analyst with Pillsbury. They hired me with my dreadlocks. After one year, they told me that some people found them offensive. Really. I was hired with my dreadlock. They were neat and most of the time I wore them up in a professional bun.

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I guess I've never really given this topic a lot of thought until now reading all the responses here.  On formal nights on cruises we just skipped the MDR and picked the windjammer or whatever else and that was it, we just didn't feel like participating and having to pack "fancy" clothes (we both work in a professional environment and don't feel like dressing too fancy on vacation).  I can understand the sentiment with the formal nights for people who are accustomed to that from prior cruises, it is neat to see people who go all out and dress up, I guess I never thought twice about what other people were wearing because it didn't affect my vacation or if I was having a good time.  My thoughts are, do what makes you happy and as long as you're not hurting someone else, then you do you.

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11 hours ago, Sweety said:

I was a financial analyst with Pillsbury. They hired me with my dreadlocks. After one year, they told me that some people found them offensive. Really. I was hired with my dreadlock. They were neat and most of the time I wore them up in a professional bun.

There will always be haters out there.  Especially in a professional setting, the hate is because they feel threatened.  That just means you are better at your job than they are.  Keep up the good work!

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On 12/17/2019 at 11:32 AM, sk8erguy1978 said:

Personally we don't get too dressy for formal night anymore (she'll wear a dress, I'll have shirt/tie dress pants - no suit); We also have not been to the main dining room on formal night in years. It's a few reason, one is to respect passengers who dress to the nines, the other is we aren't into the dining room experience. We've booked specialty restaurants or just gone to the windjammer. With two Oasis class sailings in 2020 the odds of seeing the inside of the dining room are very low.

With that, I do notice some people are very vocal (on the internet) about those not following the rules. I get why (kinda) but it's just energy not needing to be spent. Enjoy the company you're around, it's vacation after all.

I agree with you to a point, but one of the supposed benefits of taking a cruise is that you can have a nice romantic dinner and evening of entertainment with appropriate attire and atmosphere.  That is why different venues on the ship, are well, different.  If folks would stick to the plan, more people could enjoy their time (in every venue) without excessive compromise.  The idea is to think of others.  I wouldn't dream of going to a fancy restaurant where engagements and anniversaries are celebrated on formal night without contributing in a positive way to the atmosphere planned for that venue.  Everyone wins and enjoys!  In contrast, if I enter such a venue with "too casual attire", I am pulling down the other patrons to some degree, e.g., I am being insensitive to them by spoiling the ambience.  So I vote for trying to be sensitive rather than self-centered.  There are plenty of venues on the ship when I am in a "casual mood" on a formal night.  This is not just an issue about attire, it is also about behavior.  We all know that well-dressed, loud or drunken guests are not very helpful to the rest of the passengers.

Those of us who comment about attire on this site aren't being snobbish, we are just trying to point out that whatever the protocol is for a venue, it serves a purpose when it is followed and it may cause issues when it isn't.   As for changing the protocols or views on etiquette, that is always fair game under appropriate circumstances and has led to cultural changes over the years, but it can be accomplished with sensitivity.

I hope everyone enjoys their cruises.

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On 12/19/2019 at 10:59 AM, TomBryant said:

If I am wearing some more than jeans or shorts and have socks on, I am dressed up. I wore a suit for 40 years, so not going to voluntarily wear one on a cruise. I wear a shirt, usually untucked and pants. 

Why should I care about what someone thinks who I will never see again?

I guess it depends upon whether you want to pay it forward and be sensitive to others" needs.  There are lots of casual venues, and you don't have to wear a suit on formal night.  When I am treated nicely by other guests on a cruise, it helps me spread the love the next time I travel...Happy holidays!

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I don’t think it’s just cruises. Our society has moved this way entirely. As a child I always dressed up to go out to dinner unless it was McDonald's. We always dressed up to go to the theater as well, and to go to Temple. Now nobody dresses up anywhere. People even show up to our local Synagogue in jeans and t-shirts. I hate it but it’s just the way it is. And I’m not even that old. I’m 49.

 

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I agree that I think society has changed.

I also agree with @ChessE4  

I almost feel like this is a fight between passengers, and as I said before RCL has to be the parent.  It really is simple to make both sides happy.  For that 1 night, the MDR has to be re-arranged.  Think about a restaurant on land.  Every night they are re-setting tables do to reservations.

  •   Formal night make 1 DR formal, to include MTD and traditional, with suit and tie and the other regular dress code. 
  •  Typically they always have 2 MDRs, even if it is the same room (just different floors).  The traditional seating, they obviously close the doors whereas, MTD they don't.  In this case they just would not close the doors throughout the entire night.

 

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