Manager’s Insight – Formal vs. Casual

By Don Dean, Director of Finance and Human Resources, The Cruise Web.

Over the last six newsletters we have been introducing our Management Team in this column. I am Don Dean, the Director of Finance and Human Resources at The Cruise Web.

By the time you are reading this newsletter, I will be cruising on the Island Princess as part of an industry event sponsored by Princess Cruises and Cunard Line. As my wife, Sara, and I began focusing on the itinerary for the cruise, we had a conversation about the scheduled formal dining evening. Much of the conversation turned nostalgic as we reminisced about how travel has changed over the years and much of that change related to attire. I recalled that as a newly minted accounting graduate the first accounting firm for which I worked had a dress code of suit and tie for business travel; which for me resulted in wearing a tie during several cross country flights and even on trips deep into Mexico during the summer. Given that as a collegian the universal dress code was blue jeans, t-shirts, and long hair; those first business trips in a tie were a challenge.

Over time, business travel attire became less formal as a sport coat and dress slacks became the accepted norm (tie optional, but if you were ambitious you followed the lead of the senior member traveling), and eventually sport coat with jeans was enough to identify you as a traveling business person which was worth an occasional perk or special service touch. On a recent Monday morning flight, I noted that the norm has changed further. As on this full flight, there was only one tie visible and there were very few ways to distinguish the business travelers from the vacationers (with the exception of a few vacationers who were more appropriately dressed for the beach than a three hour flight).

All this nostalgic conversation resulted in Sara and I realizing how seldom formal events occur and, as a result, we are looking forward to the formal night on the cruise and the opportunity to “put on the Ritz” for an evening. Such an opportunity has become a rare event compared to the regularly scheduled “Black Tie” business events of my early career which have morphed into “Business Casual” events. With that said, Sara and I did decide that “Smart Casual” for the other evenings was probably more to our liking and more suitable to our wardrobes. When I mentioned this conversation to a friend, he commented that his cruise dining preference was neither formal nor informal but was room service in a balcony cabin where the dress code was dictated by what you preferred to wear or preferred not to wear. What’s your preference?

Don Dean
Director of Finance and Human Resources
The Cruise Web, Inc.


1 Mary Lee Stallings { 09.21.11 at 1:34 pm }

There are plenty of casual occassions when cruising, including breakfast, lunch and some dinners. I look forward to at least one formal evening during a cruise and don’t particularly like to see the venue mixed with formal and informal… either it is or it isn’t.

2 angela longino mickalunas { 09.21.11 at 1:35 pm }

I prefer casual dining. I did enjoy the dining room very much. But was very disappointed in the shows, and especially the comedy shows. There were several people that worked for the cruise lines that i hope to never see again. One was Gumby who thought he was so funny. And our waiter Nino, we were not impressed with. But we did love the Carnival Dream, and we will take another carnival cruise.

3 Billie Rochevot { 09.21.11 at 1:44 pm }

We look forward to the formal evenings. They are part of what makes the cruise special. If I just wanted to wear jeans and a tee shirt, I’d stay home and save a lot of money! I’d prefer those who do not want to dress fit for the occasion go to the buffet or have room service. Don’t spoil a special night for others.

4 Jann feldman { 09.21.11 at 2:06 pm }

My husband and I prefer “country club casual.” in the dining room. A sport coat for him, dressy skirts or dresses for me, and it makes the cruise experience very easy!

5 Noreen Knox { 09.21.11 at 3:29 pm }

My husband and I are casual people but enjoyed the dress-up evenings. Made the cruise special. We knew we always had the option of going to a more casual setting if we did not want to participate = didn’t feel trapped into a formal dinner. We enjoyed our recent cruise very much and are planning another.

6 Paul Simeone { 09.21.11 at 4:35 pm }

We, that is, my wife and I as well as those we have traveled with in the past, Prefer casual and country club casual. However, we realize that many guests like to have a formal evening. Perhaps a dining room can be set aside for that formal dinner. I don’t think those wishing to dine formally would want to share a dining room with those more casually dressed.

7 Jan Shirk { 09.21.11 at 6:37 pm }

Very interesting comments. My husband and I prefer dressing up for one or two nights while cruising. Makes me feel special and makes the occasion very special. It disappoints me to see casually dressed persons in the formal dining room. Even my teenaged grandson likes dressing up. I especially enjoy being waited on. I can buffet it anytime, any place. Not on my cruise.

8 Denise margaret { 09.21.11 at 6:41 pm }

Love the formals. yes a dining area set aside for the men that either cant afford or cant be bothered dressing well come on ladies shape up the men take a good look at them im proud to bee seen with my man

9 Betty Hydrick { 09.21.11 at 8:43 pm }

My husband and I enjoy the formal nights on cruises. It makes the evenings more special. We have taken our adult sons and their wives on a couple of cruises, and they, too, have come to enjoy “dressing up” for the formal evenings. It is a nice change from blue jeans, shorts and flip flops!

10 Stan { 09.21.11 at 10:47 pm }

Air and cruise travel has changed. Now nearly all airlines charge for each checked bag, and some cruise lines (Princess and others) no longer offer on-board dry cleaning. Both latter policies now limit cruise clothing, which I think is better: blazer or sp0rt jacket, no suits or tux for men; simpler combinations and dressses for women. the idea was pioneered on the late, lamented Renaissance Cruise Line, continuing on Oceania, and worked well ( except for no dry cleaning for passengers taking longer cruises, and no way to get clothes cleaned during the short time in foreign ports).

11 Elizabeth { 09.21.11 at 11:06 pm }

I have dressed conservatively formal for the formal dinners only to find that I was overdressed which made me feel very uncomfortable. People showed up for dinner wearing the same clothes and shoes as one would when sitting around the pool. As the blogger before me stated, he does not wish to dine formally with those more casually dressed and neither do I. Getting dressed for dinner is fading out. Ten years ago everyone got dressed up for the Captain’s dinner. It was fun. No more, now everyone is “casual”. It’s a shame.

12 brenda yates { 09.21.11 at 11:10 pm }

Myhusband and I have just done our 1st cruise, after spending the days doing shore excursions or ship activeities it was nice to shower dress up and feel you were doing something special.

13 Jack Lubinskas { 09.22.11 at 9:34 am }

Formal wear is silly and so out of fashion. No one wants that old 1950’s mentality. Tuxes went out with the Titanic. We want comfort and luxury but that does not mean formal wear. Silly penguins…Get real please.

14 Sharon Bradley { 09.22.11 at 10:14 am }

My husband and I have been on 8 RCCL cruises, some having 2 formal nights…we love getting dressed up on those nights..and usually they are on the cruising nights and not port bights..On RCCL cruises probably 95% of the people dress formally on those nights. We are trying Princess cruise line in Feb 2012 and I am not familiar with their dress code, I hope they have a formal night!

15 Teri { 09.22.11 at 8:02 pm }

When I was growing up in the 50’s I thought I would never go on a cruise because I was given the impression they were for stuffy people and every night was formal night (ala “Titanic”). Thank goodness, that’s changed. I’ve taken two 1-week cruises where there were 2 formal nights out of 7. It’s perfect for those who want dress up 1 or 2 nights. If you don’t, you should go to the buffet or order room service–don’t go to the dining room in casual attire those two nights; it spoils it for the others!

16 Karma Haltom { 09.23.11 at 10:30 am }

I look forward to the dress up nights. We have gone so far the other way that we seldom have the opportunity anymore except on a cruise. As one person replied, their are other available dining options for those that don’t care for going formal or semi formal. Please don’t discontinue giving us a choice.

17 Bill Muench { 09.23.11 at 3:55 pm }

I agree with the comments that suggest a separate dining area (besides the buffet) for those of us who do not wish to participate in the formal nights. My wife and I live in Hawaii (ergo, I don’t even OWN a suit) and so cruising usually involves a minimum 30+ hours of travel each way so we usually combine it with an additional week or two of side trips, etc. Especially considering today’s restrictions on luggage, it makes no sense for me to pack a formal outfit for the one or two nights of use over the 3 or 4 weeks of travel. (Interesting to note that your line doesn’t handle cleaning anymore)

18 Yuen Koi { 09.23.11 at 10:02 pm }

I prefer formal evenings/ dining as it makes the cruise special and memorable. If I want to see casual, I don’t need to be on a cruise to do that. Strict dress code should be enforce on formal evenings. There are alternative dining options for those not wanting to dress up.

19 francis & inette dixon { 09.24.11 at 7:30 pm }

my husband and i would really enjoy dressings up. In his line of work, he rarely dresses up I do but it usely on one or two days per week. Yes lets shake off the shorts and flip-flops and be a little grown-up for a special night!!!!

20 Laura Moore { 09.27.11 at 4:03 pm }

I have just completed my 34th cruise and I love the formal nights. It gives both husband and wife and opportunity to go all out and put on the ritz. Of course, we lived in New Orleans for many years where dressing up for Carnival balls is part of the culture! We’re both retired now and spend most of our time in casual clothes so dressing for a cruise is a really special event!

21 Don Dean { 09.30.11 at 10:50 am }

My wife and I are back from our cruise on the Island Princess. We enjoyed the formal evening. Our dinner reservations were for a late dinner seating, so we were able to causally, with a glass of wine in-hand, watch the passengers arrive for the early seating. It was great fun to watch. Even the kids were enjoying the change. I have a new appreciate for the term Promenading.

22 Dusty Lineberry { 09.30.11 at 3:59 pm }

I love to Cruise and I love to dress up on special nights. If you choose not to dress up just dine in another part of the ship that night. Don’t mess it up for those that like to dress for dinner with our spouse to enjoy a night out that we don’t get to do very often.

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