Is Cunard Relaxing its Dress Code?

March 19, 2013 | By | 17 Comments

Apart from smoking and tipping, few other topics spark debate like what to wear onboard. It seems everyone and their great aunt has a view on whether you should dress up onboard.
Which is why when Cunard — regarded as the most formal of all the lines — announced it is “loosening” its dress code for the nonformal nights, things get a little crazy.

Within three hours of posting the news on our Facebook site, we had 61 comments and counting; some for, some against.
MD Peter Shanks first floated the idea on the Cruise Critic message boards about a month ago, in response to a question by billyvegas which asked (quite pointedly):
“Are you going to Kill the Cunard that most returning guests know and love by reducing the Formality of the dress code?”
To which Shanks responded: “I can certainly reassure you that Cunard will not give up our Formal Evenings.”
But he added: “I sense as we go forward, whilst maintaining the Formal nights then we may see the Elegant Casual approach becoming more popular and a chance to relax as we would going out with friends at home.”
This was confirmed Monday with a news release from the line that stated the strict policy of a jacket and tie at all times would be “loosened.”
So what was a slightly confusing dress code for the remaining nights –- a mixture of “elegant casual” (jacket but no tie for men) and “semi-formal” (jacket and tie for men, cocktail dresses for ladies) — has now been replaced with plain “informal,” which means men must still wear jackets, but ties aren’t required.
O.K., so this is hardly radical stuff, and I doubt we will see anyone walking around in swimsuits, flip-flops and cutoff shorts anytime soon. But it does mark a significant shift for what many regarded as the last bastion of traditional cruising.
So is this a naked play to attract new to cruisers and get hip with the times?
Back to Shanks on the boards in response to a question from charliedarlymple who asked: “As your loyal customer base ages, do you plan to make any changes in order to market the Cunard brand to a younger generation of cruisers?”
Shanks replied: “We have a growing number of younger guests coming to Cunard Line — but we focus on making the experience appeal to a wide range of ages. In the summer we see a lot of younger families — our Children’s Clubs are terrific — but we do not go out to really attract families — they find us thankfully.”
So over to you –- should Cunard be admired for moving with the times? Or has it lost touch with its core values?
Let us know what you think.

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    17 Responses to “Is Cunard Relaxing its Dress Code?”

    1. Charles R Sears II
      March 20th, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

      I am all for a jacket/no tie on casual days on Cunard ships. Having sailed on them several times I agree it is somewhat off putting to dress formal[tuxedo or dark suit] nearly every night.As a man of 61 I think a nice shirt and slacks,sport coat,or a suit with a contrasting shirt..say you are cruising in the islands and add a Hawaiian shirt under the suit,etc.Perhaps because of the dress code that is why I have not done an around the world cruise yet as I do not wish to dress in formal attire every night.

    2. bramblehoney
      March 22nd, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

      It is not good news to hear that Cunard are going more casual – but it is the way of the market. Our last cruise, with RCI, had gone very much downmarket – not to our liking.

      I expect that Cunard will “find its own level” on informal nights.
      I expect that most people [men] will wear ties on informal nights – and Cunard should take that into account when assessing their policy change.

    3. Harriett Ferziger
      March 19th, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

      I am desolated at the thought of relaxed standards! Also appalled at the way some folks dress in the dining room, interpreting “casual” to mean slovenly. There i a something about “dressing up” and also being in the company of other dressed up people that gives us all chance to be at our best in ALL respects: apparel, behavior and courtesy.

      I have managed 14-day cruises with 2 evening outfits: a long black skirt that I pai4 with everything ranging from elegant to casual and a short dark skirt that matches all the tops too. Jeans and 2 more “bottoms” for day wear plus some tee shirts and a sweater, dressy silver sandals, cute flats and athletic shoes and I’m set.

      When I first cruised (in 1967), dinner required long white gloves. I really felt SPECIAL (as if I’d been cast in the role of a VERY posh lady)and I loved every second of it!

      (My style trick is NOTICEABLE nut not MEMORABLE.)

      Maitres d’ should make NO exceptions to dress rules, and dress rules should not be downgraded!

    4. Hazel Pacitto
      March 19th, 2014 @ 3:42 pm

      I travel Cunard and Holland America. I would much prefer that the dress standard not be lowered. I enjoy getting dressed up, and it gives my grandchildren a taste of formal

    5. Robert Gotham
      March 19th, 2014 @ 3:42 pm

      We have avoided Cunard primarily because of the very upscale dress code and hierarchical dining room assignments.

      Celebrity, our favorite cruise line, encourages a dressy casual which is perfect for us and access to almost all dining rooms for a surcharge. We hope to sail on Azamara soon which advertises a similar policy.

      It will be interesting to see if Cunard gains or loses through the dress code relaxation. After all, if you really like dressing up on a cruise ship, there are few other alternatives other than the high-end boutique lines.

    6. Nancy Malczewski
      March 19th, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

      I’ve been on seven Cunard cruises. My sister and I love the formal atmosphere on Cunard and we love dressing up. A top rate cruise line deserves folks that look top rated as well. I’ve been on other lines and the dress code on most of them is very lax. I find this disappointing at best. I never heard anyone complain about having to dress for dinner on Cunard. That’s what makes Cunard special.

    7. J. Stephan Edwards
      March 19th, 2014 @ 7:16 pm

      I am a Platinum (almost Diamond) Cunarder and have traveled regularly with Cunard for over a decade, mostly transatlantic. I particularly enjoy the dressing up aspect of Cunard, especially since I already live in the ultra-casual resort town of Palm Springs. Like Ms Ferziger, I am “desolated” that Cunard has chosen to embark on a path of lowering itself toward the same level as its sister companies Princess and (horrors!) Carnival. ALL of the standards aboard Cunard ships have been allowed to slip/descend toward the Carnival-esque, from the reduced size of the turn-down pillow chocolates to the quality of the onboard entertainment to the attitude/manners of the staff. Even the luggage tags, which were formerly souvenir-quality cardboard plaques on a string, are now do-it-yourself cut-and-paste bar-coded paper. In my opinion, Cunard sealed its own eventual doom by over-expanding without recognizing that there was not a large enough demand for high-end cruising to fill that expansion. Now they are being required to cut standards so as to lure in the Princess and Carnival crowd simply to fill all three ships. In my opinion, Cunard will go one of two directions in the coming decade: either the old Cunard reputation will be utterly lost and the Cunard brand will become synonymous with Princess and Carnival, or Cunard will have to dispense with one of its three ships (most probably the Queen Elizabeth) so that the remaining two can more easily be operated in the black. I will be on the Queen Victoria for the April 16 transatlantic, and I am already dreading the sight of people dressed “informally” (i.e., sloppy) at dinner. If other recent trips are any indication, “informal” at dinner leads directly to simply appalling attire during the day-time … shorty-shorts on fat women and men in cut off jeans! Saw both on the Victoria in Norway last August!

    8. Jeannie Carraro
      March 19th, 2014 @ 8:40 pm

      I’m sorry, but we do NOT cruise where we have to dress up. We are on holiday to relax, not put on a fashion show. There is nothing relaxing about dressing up. We are seniors and we just want to be able to put on decent casual clothes, NO dress shirt or tie for husband, and NO dress/skirt for me. My husband dresses in his nice pants and shirt, and I dress in my slacks. I can not wear heels or dressy sandals because of bad feet. I know that some women love to dress up, but not everyone does. That’s why we always sail on NCL. They have both, and there is nothing wrong with that. Rules should be for everyone, not just for those that want to everyone to dress THEIR way.

    9. Joyce Ann
      March 20th, 2014 @ 10:50 am

      recently sailed on HA. of the four grandchildren traveling,prior to boarding in the departure city I purchased the 14 yr old young man his first suit jacket,tie and dress shirts.All our men were in tux’s for formal nights.This young man has worn that outfit many times since. a proud young man that didn’t realize the respect he got and felt when the men were in their tux’s. Its not just having to dress formally but notice, thoughts and memories some formality in life. thanks Cunnard.

    10. Ann Pearce
      March 20th, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

      I agree with everyone about not lowering the dress code standards. I have cruised with HA many times and totally enjoyed dressing for formal nights and elegant casual for other nights. There is no reason to lower dress code standards as most have done. The terrible outfits some wear on cruises in unbelieveable. Too much skin, too tight, too everything. I think Cunard should stick to the established way of dressing. I miss the “old days” when people dressed properly for travel and cruises.

    11. Dorothy Samel
      March 20th, 2014 @ 11:40 pm

      I’m with Jeannie on this one (even tough we’re in the minority here, apparently). I’ve never taken a Cunard cruise, and in all likelihood never will, precisely because of this snooty and ridiculous attitude about Proper Attire for dinner.

      With cabins the size of closets, the last thing I want to have to drag along is a whole other suitcase full of “formal” get ups just to be allowed into a dining room full of total strangers I’ll never see again in my lifetime and have zero interest in impressing.

      I’ve been on enough cruises to know that formal night used to mean room service or a burger at the sports bar in order to avoid the dining room. I hate to break it to you, people, but clothes do NOT make the man — or the woman — it’s the type of person you are that’s important.

      Most of the time we’ve taken Norwegian, because they were the first to stop the nonsense of forcing people into gowns and tuxedos just to eat a meal they already paid for.

      I can’t pretend to understand why anyone would want to go as Lady Cora just to eat, but if that’s your thing, then fine. By all means, knock yourselves out! But I don’t want to be bothered with this nonsense, and since I paid my way the same as you did, I’m going to be the one giving the fish eye right back at you when we have the misfortune to encounter one another at dinner.

    12. J. Stephan Edwards
      March 21st, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

      While I agree with Dorothy that “clothes do not make the man” (and putting lipstick on a pig will not turn it into a beauty queen!), I do very much believe that clothes reflect “the type of person you are.” If the rule is Formal Attire and you insist on ignoring the rule because it takes a little more thought to plan an appropriate outfit, a slightly larger suitcase to carry it, and a few more minutes to put it on, that tells me that you are lazy, have limited respect for yourself and no thought for how others may perceive you. I have already experienced this new “Informal” dress code on Cunard, and it has been used by far too many as an excuse to wear jeans and t-shirts to the dining room. Lazy slobs. As Joyce said, those who do dress up get to enjoy a nicer memory and sometimes a few positive compliments. The solution is simple: If you want to wear your Harley t-shirt and bedazzled sweat shirts and stretch pants with sandals at dinner, choose Carnival and Princess and avoid Cunard. If you DO find enjoyment in “going as Lady Cora just to eat,” then choose Cunard. After all, dinner in even the Britannia dining room is a multi-course meal of fine food served in an elegant way, and should be appreciated as such … with elegant attire. But I suspect that most of the naysayers think of Olive Garden and Red Lobster as elegant restaurants and thus want to dress as though they are going to the mall …. If you insist on deliberately dressing down while on Cunard, I will indeed “give you the fish eye”! And I will make it easy for you to do the same to me in return: I am usually the best-dressed man on board, so I am easy to spot!

    13. Stuart Denyer
      March 22nd, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

      Regarding Cunard “attracting a younger crowd”: We are a younger family (in our 30s with a toddler) and we are firmly in the more formal camp. It is perfectly normal to dress for dinner when on vacation. One can wear casual clothes when dining at home. When on a ship or train, I prefer to wear a dinner jacket (tuxedo) or tailcoat in the evenings. That is part of the reason we prefer Cunard to some other lines, where some people are too lazy to look smart for their fellow travelers.

    14. Rosa Bradley
      March 23rd, 2014 @ 4:22 pm

      I am disappointed! One of the reason I have enjoyed cruising with Cunard is their enforcement of the dress code, and therefore, avoiding the horrors seen on cruises with other lines as alluded to in the other blogs. Please, Cunard, keep up the standards!

    15. Sheila Hardy
      March 24th, 2014 @ 11:53 am

      why would you change the dress code? it is the one great thing about Cunard cruises. All the other lines changed and now you see everything at dinner, tee shirts, shorts ,sloppy looking people if you do not want to dress up ,stay home or do a beach trip,agents need to tell their clients how to dress on a cruise…ALL the lines have spoiled cruising.I am a travel agent and I do try to inform my clients of dress for a cruise

    16. Diana Hershberger
      April 2nd, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

      I was slightly put-off by formal nights on Cunard. Packing three or four formal gowns just adds too much to checking bags on airlines.

      I like to pack so that I can mix and match, looking nice at all times. I don’t carry jeans or t-shirts on a cruise, and I leave my really good jewelry at home.

      I am all for smart casual…meaning a dress or slacks, but no jacket or tie for men. Men can have nice shirts and slacks.

      No shorts for anyone in the dining room,…yuck, those bare sweaty thighs on my seat??? (oh…I just thought….maybe that should be said for short mini skirts too)

      Not sure if it is on Cunard, but if a man tries to enter the dining room without a jacket, they lend you one at the door. I wonder if they ever clean them?

    17. Carol Lovell
      April 2nd, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

      I agree with Mr. Edwards. I am a Diamond member and have watched the Carnivalization if Cunard as it has lowered it’s standards. I enjoyed dressing for dinner and if there is a night you do not want to dress formally you can eat in the Kings Court. Every time I go on a Cunard ship since the demise of QE2 something else has changed for the worst. I’m glad someone else noticed even the size reduction of the chocolates.

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