Why Formal Night Isn’t as Nice as it Used to Be

cruise formal night dress codeFormal night on a ship: It’s a night when passengers are supposed to conjure up thoughts of days long ago when travel by sea was once elegant, luxurious, and considerably more romantic. However, those days are getting even more difficult to imagine as cruise lines adapt an ‘anything goes’ attitude towards formal night and the general decline of respect for nicer things permeates the traveling public.

On a seven day cruise, you can expect two formal nights. You can also expect there to be a wide variety of what people refer to as formal/elegant, and little to no enforcement. Gone are the days when gentlemen adorned tuxedos and women made their men look as good as they do. Formal night is now only a ‘slightly dressier’ night, and leaves us wondering why cruise lines continue the tradition at all.

The answer is likely a combination between female passengers being happy and picture sales.
Most ladies like to dress up, and in general, most get their husbands or boyfriends to at least follow the dress code of slacks and a dress shirt. On a recent Carnival Cruise, there were over a dozen photography stations setup throughout the ship (maybe more) with anywhere from 20-50 people in line at any given time. They were packed for hours.

In the dining rooms (the only place where the dress code is officially ‘restricted’) you’ll still find guys wearing jeans, t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, etc. With Carnival’s anytime dining, there’s a good chance you’ll be seated uncomfortably close to another group – especially if it’s just two of you. It’s nice when you get to meet new people, hear about their excursions and where they’re from – but if I’m wearing a tuxedo and another guy sits next to me in a t-shirt, I feel like a real doofus (even though logically speaking, he’s the doofus who didn’t follow the dress code).

But why would he? Only rarely have we seen people waiting in line in the dining room be told that it’s formal night and that shorts/flip-flops aren’t allowed, and the majority violators walk right in and get a table without issue.

On our last cruise, out of a couple hundred people in the dining room, there were probably 3 men in tuxedos, 30 in suits, 70 in slacks/shirt, and a handful of rule-breakers (certainly more than there were tuxedos – which are even mentioned in the dress code). Ladies generally all look nice regardless.
Carnival and other cruise lines should step up enforcement or get rid of formal nights. As it is, it just causes those who dress up to be frustrated with sloppy cruisers and the staff who don’t enforce their own rules.

Maybe the more budget family cruise lines should stick to ‘fun’ and leave ‘formal’ to other cruise lines.

What do you think about formal nights and dress codes?