No Jacket Required?

In cruising land, one thing guaranteed to split opinion are dress codes. Some hate dressing up, some don’t mind occasionally, others love it. Even I’ve been told to go to another cruise line by P&O and Cunard loyalists just because I say informal should be dropped. In 2011, 9/18 nights on Aurora were dressing up, making it difficult for my friend Juanita to pack with her luggage limit from Australia. On QM2, also in 2011, 7/11 were dressing up. And they can’t see that’s too many??? Well each to their own.

Now I don’t mind formal nights as long as they’re kept to a minimum and only on sea days. On my recent cruise on Radiance of the Seas there were just 3/18 nights. Just wish there were launderettes on that ship! I bought a new case last year which I took with me on Constellation in October (12 nights) and Independence of the Seas (11 nights) 6 days later. I had to take my old one for QM2 in December (11 nights) because of the 6 nights of dressing up! And they STILL can’t see something’s wrong??? On my forthcoming QM2 Fjords cruise, we have 3 formal nights in a week. That is one too many. On QE2 in 2008 it was only 2 for the same length. Back in March, Cunard revised their dress code. It now is this:

We recently undertook extensive research with both our existing guests and the broader luxury traveller market to understand their views on our existing Dress Code Policy. As a result of this, we will now be adding increased flexibility within our formal classification and will be simplifying our policy by offering just two classifications: Formal and Informal. Having two classifications will make it easier for guests to understand and for us to communicate.

The formal evenings aboard Cunard will remain a core part of our brand proposition, they help define the very special Cunard experience and are well received by our guests. They create a unique sense of occasion and there will be no changes to the overall proportion of formal evenings on board. However, we will be introducing new flexibility into our offering by enabling guests who wish to wear less formal attire to dine in our casual alternative restaurants (Kings Court and Lido) and also enjoy pre/post dinner drinks in the adjoining Winter Garden and Garden Lounge Bars. On Informal evenings, gentlemen will be required to wear a jacket but ties will be optional. This increased flexibility will enable us to satisfy the preferences of our existing guests whilst being more appealing to potential newcomers within the wider luxury holiday market.


1. Formal

Dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit with tie for gentlemen. A range of gentlemen’s formal wear is available to hire on board ship.
Evening or cocktail dress for ladies

2. Informal

Jacket required, tie optional for gentlemen
Cocktail dress, stylish separates or equivalent for ladies.

Please note that after 6pm, shorts and blue or worn denim (for men and women); sandals and sleeveless tops (for men) are not considered appropriate within the ship. On formal nights, any guests wishing to dress more casually are welcome to dine in the Kings Court or Lido main buffet restaurant and relax in the Winter Garden or Garden Lounge bar, but should not use other areas within the ship, including our Alternative Dining Restaurants, out of respect for their fellow guests.

The Ships will have the option on occasional nights – such as deck parties or where there is a high volume of late flight arrivals – to state in the daily programme that ‘a jacket will not be compulsory this evening’ – but that would be on a small number of occasions and we will not refer to this in any published Dress Code collateral.

Did they REALLY do research? I’m sceptical because other lines have (including Fred Olsen now) and dropped informal nights due to popular demand. Even P&O regraded it as ‘Smart’ in 2011, which is really casual going by what people turned up to dinner wearing and got away with it. On the ships themselves, I’ve noticed more casual wear on Cunard informal nights than those poshed up, including older ladies (men continued wearing a jacket and tie) while more dress up on booze cruises than longer ones. During my recent Norwegian Breakaway transatlantic, they had (to my surprise as NCL is a casual line) two optional formal nights. A minority dressed up. Perhaps that’s the way to go because anyone dictating how people dress each night will certainly lose custom. Tastes have changed and the majority of cruise lines are reflecting this while Cunard sadly goes backwards.

I realise my opinion will be disagreed with but this is mine after 50 cruises with 9 cruise lines. A few Formals – YES. Informals – NO! Can’t be clearer than that.

Happy cruising!

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6 Responses to No Jacket Required?

  1. Fay says:

    To me ‘informal’ means normal comfortable clothes and not jackets, cocktail dresses and all that other smart clothing. Cunard’s definition of ‘informal’, as per their dress code reproduced above, to me just mean ‘watered down formal’.
    Okay, I wouldn’t go so far as to say wander round the ship in the evening dressed in baseball hats, t-shirts with offensive slogans or the arse hanging out of your jeans but what’s wrong with tidy black denim and a reasonable top?

    Which brings me to people advising those who dislike excessive formality to ‘Go elsewhere then’…to them, please do us a favour and shut up.

    • Agree. You board a ship after a long and tiring day, or are on 1st sitting after a long day in port. Last thing you want is to dress up. Even 6* cruise lines don’t go as far as Cunard are. How on earth and Cruise Critic posters complain about Cunard ‘dumbing down’ when they’ve actually gone the opposite direction? People will vote with their feet and they need business.

  2. Daniel Smith says:

    Frankly I’m an overweight person and I am about to take my first cruise this June 3rd with P&O’s Ventura. I had for a long time been looking at a Cunard cruise, but frankly I DO NOT want to dress up, I’m on holiday I want to relax and do what I want, I only own 1 suite for all occasions and its the last thing I would want to wear on a holiday.

    I understand the image they are wanting to maintain, class, elegance, but its horrible how its forced on the customer. I think I have 2 / 5 formal nights on my P&O Cruise but I’m told there’s plenty of ship I can hide in if I do not wish to dress up.

    I think the industry needs to put more flexibility and focus on Single travellers and relaxation rather than Rules.

  3. Fay says:

    Well said, Daniel, I totally agree.

  4. I have noticed whenever someone says to get rid of INFORMAL nights, as witnessed on my FB page, people go on about how they love formals. I have never said get rid of formal but the pointless in-between one. Most cruise lines don’t have informal any more due to passenger demand, even P&O but Cunard are taking all the dressing up to the nth degree. It’s like these Vantage Fares they now offer. We got onboard credit on QM2 this July when they reduced the fare and was a lone voice saying I’d rather have the reduction. Others thought it was wonderful the cruise lines “give you something” while failing to understand the OBC is your OWN money so they’re actually giving you zilch. And if you don’t spend it all, they keep what’s left. That’s unfair.

  5. whisperingjack says:

    I have seen some very cheap CUNARD cruise fares lately. Could it be that prospective clients are not booking because of the strict formal requirements and number of formal nights on CUNARD cruises? I have had several Seabourn (6 Star) cruises and their formal nights are really relaxed.

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