Debunking dress code jargon
You shouldn’t worry. Essentially, there are three kinds of evening dress code and a cruise line will tell you before you leave how many formal nights or otherwise to expect. ‘Formal’ is the smartest and usually means tuxedo or dark suit for men and posh frocks and bling for women. ‘Informal’ or ‘semi-formal’ means smart cocktail dress or trousers for ladies and jacket and shirt for men. ‘Casual’ means no jacket required but still looking respectable; no shorts.
Some of us positively love dressing up, of course. In which case, you can’t beat a voyage on a Cunard Queen, where everybody dresses to the nines, or a glittering night on Crystal, Holland America Line or Silversea, when people-watching is all part of the fun.
You will see a wider interpretation of ‘formal’ on mainstream lines like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC and Princess. Funnily enough, it’s the kids who often rock the smartest gear, from teen girls in full prom queen outfits to little boys in mini-me tuxes, which is quite pleasing, in a way, as it suggests that future generations will keep cruising stylish.
If you are of the opinion that on holiday, nobody should be made to wear a dinner jacket, Celebrity Cruises might be the answer, with a simple ‘evening chic’ dress code, or Oceania Cruises, Viking Ocean, Azamara Club Cruises or Star Clippers, all of which trust you to make an effort but don’t lay down laws. The ultimate in casual is NCL, where there are no posh nights, although people still make a bit of effort in the evenings, especially in the smarter restaurants.