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Holland America’s Refined Dress Code

The word from Holland America that passengers can begin to dress down from formal wear is one more break from tradition that is, frankly, necessary for what has long been a traditional cruise line.

Translation: There’s a whole group of people coming who won’t come.

Think not?

We have two sons and a son-in-law. Never mind that they don’t wear suits, we’re not sure if more than one of them even owns a suit, and he does because it used to be a requisite for his job. That’s used to be.

Whether it’s Generation X or Y or Z that’s coming, formal cruising as it once was is shrinking. Cruise lines that don’t get on board — yes, perhaps even Cunard — risk having problems filling their ships. 


Holland America is just trying to get ahead of the curve, at least the curve that applies to traditional cruising.

Dress code for dinner went from tuxedos to dark suits, for the men, and now it’s gone to “gala attire” which in Holland America’s world means a jacket and tie on “gala nights.” That’s the “preferred” dress code which the cruise line admits is not enforced. For passengers who are calling this a change in policy, Holland America says no…it’s just a “refinement.”

It’s also just the beginning. Eventually, it’s our guess that “smart casual” will be the universal code for dressing up. That’s casual enough to keep people like our “three sons” from staying away.

And for women?

That’s another suitcase, one that we’re not opening.

In the news…

• Splashaway Bay aquatic park to be on new Harmony of the Seas next spring
• Curtis Stone's first restaurant at sea, SHARE, on two Princess ships this year

Today at portsandbows.com: Oceania — exciting times around the world

Norwegian Epic
11 nights
February 3, 2016
Barcelona (return): Cagliari, Palermo, Naples, Rome, Florence, Palma de Mallorca
Inside: $509
Cost per day: $46

Change of Attire for Meeting a Queen

I think Cunard is getting ready for me. A product of the sixties — well, just in some ways — I've never really been a dress-up kind of guy. I've never owned a tuxedo. At our wedding, I wore a royal blue jacket and striped pants…or trousers, as they would say in Cunard speak. I could count the number of times a tux has been on this body on three fingers, maybe two.

Get the picture?

Cunard has always been a dress-up kind of cruise line. Tuxes everywhere, right? No tux, no ship. Well, not any more. The pendulum has swung.

This week, the world's most famous cruise line announced an update to dress codes, a loosening of the ties, its ties with the past that is. Actually, it's been happening for a while, this shift to a more casual attire, but now — methinks for the first time — there are more casual nights than formal nights on Cunard's three ocean liners: Queen Victoria, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth.

I loved Cunard's statement, positioning the news as a renewing "its commitment to the joy of dressing up" in explaining:

"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.”

In other words, a shift to modern trends while trying not to annoy passengers who have always loved the elegance of formality.

On a one-week Cunard cruise, there will now be "two or three" formal nights and "four or five" informal nights where jackets are still required but ties are not to "heighten the sense of anticipation for formal nights even more."

Whatever Cunard calls it, I call it a move to get me on board one of the Queens.

Norwegian Jewel
7 nights
May 8, 2013
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Astoria, Victoria, Nanaimo, Vancouver
Inside: $319
Cost per day: $45

Cruise Passengers and Tuxedos

It's not easy buying a tux. It's not easy wearing a tux, or so I'm told. The tuxedo-wearing man I live, cruise and do everything with is no easy study, either. I could count the times in four decades that he's worn one. On my fingers. One hand. No, not even on our wedding day.

It used to be that cruise ships demanded men wear tuxedos to the dining room, if not all the time at least part of the time. In these days or permissiveness in virtually every walk of life, even the queens of stuffiness at Cunard had to relax their "formal wear" mantra, now limited to three formal evenings, two semi-formal and one elegant casual. Cunard passengers aren't forced to wear tuxedos ("formal dark suit and black tie" will do), but many choose to dress to the nines.

You may see men in tuxes in other ships, not in response to a dress code, but just because they want to be. Not my man.

However, everything in life is cyclical. Maybe even mandatory tuxedos on cruise ships. I haven't sprung this on him yet, but I probably won't have to, now that he knows there is a company that rents tuxedos exclusively for wearing on cruise ships. It's called, strangely enough, Cruiseline Formalwear.

As with all clothing, there is a wide range of quality and prices. For $85, you (he) can get the basics, with either a black or white jacket. For $130, he can wear a Calvin Klein and for $160, both black AND white jackets.

If a guy's worried about having his wardrobe reviewed, he might want to BUY a tuxedo. Again, a huge range. The basics can be bought online for $130 but you have to get the pants hemmed (I can do that). On the other hand, if you buy into the recommendation from GQ Magazine, you'll buy plenty — $2,890 for a tux (Burberry), $495 for the shirt (Dior), $170 for the bow tie (Burberry) and $590 for the shoes (Ferragamo).

Who says only a woman can spend a fortune shopping?

Celebrity Silhouette
12 nights
June 12, 2012
Rome, Naples, Catania, Athens, Mykonos, Ephesus, Rhodes, Santorini, Chania, Venice
Inside: $1,329
Cost per day: $110

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