(9 a.m. EST) -- Jackets and ties no longer will be required in the main dining room on select nights onboard a Celebrity Cruises sailing. The line is replacing formal nights across its fleet with more relaxed "evening chic" nights, starting in December.
The new dress code, which the line calls evening chic, is dressier than the "smart casual" attire recommended for most evenings but less dressy than formal attire. The change, driven by the line's evolving passenger mix, is designed to enable passengers to express their own sense of sophistication, Brian Abel, vice president of hotel operations for Celebrity Cruises told Cruise Critic exclusively. Where one couple might feel most glamorous in a tuxedo and gown, another might feel more elegant in a sport jacket and designer black jeans and a flirty sundress.
"As we're watching our guests, we see this is how they're vacationing. They are becoming more casual but at the same time, still sophisticated," Abel added. "They still want great food and great service, but they want to experience it in a more relaxed, casual way."
There is such a thing as too casual though. While designer-looking jeans will be acceptable, ripped jeans will not; nor will shorts and t-shirts be permitted in the dining room on evening chic nights.
Other long-time formal night traditions are evolving. Sparkling wine at the Captain's Reception will no longer be de rigeur; instead drinks (still free) will depend on your cruise destination. Sailing in the Caribbean, you might be treated to mojitos. Journeying through the Mediterranean? Bellinis might be passed around. (Sparkling wine will always be available for those who just can't go without, Abel said.)
Portrait opportunities on evening chic nights also will be expanded, with locations opened up on the Lawn Club (on Solstice-class ships) and other sophisticated venues. Another popular formal night tradition that will be expanded with evening chic nights is officer-hosted dining tables. But where previously only a Captain's Table was available, there will now be tables hosted by several officers ranking three stripes and above, such as the hotel director or guest relations manager, and tables will be at multiple dining venues on the ship.
"This gives more of our guests the opportunity to wine and dine with our officers," Abel said.
And have no fear, Abel emphasized: One of the most popular formal night traditions isn't going anywhere -- lobster will still be available on the menu on all evening chic nights.
Evening chic nights will be offered twice on sailings of seven nights or longer. They will roll out to the fleet, except onboard Celebrity Xpedition, on all sailings beginning on or after December 4.
--By Dori Saltzman, Editor