Casual-dress men, take heart: When you sail the seven seas, you can now leave that tux at home.
Instead of a "formal" night, Carnival Cruise Lines now offers a "cruise elegant" evening. Other lines offer casual-dining alternatives for those who don't want to change out of their shorts. Still other lines have tossed the dress-up concept into the ocean.
The thinking at Carnival: Requiring a tux was out of sync with the idea of a "fun" ship - and not always practical for someone dashing back from a late shore tour of horseback riding, snorkeling or a safari.
That's not to say people don't spiff up on the designated dressy nights at sea. On a recent Carnival cruise, though several dozen men did wear the traditional penguin suits, most went with a variation on the theme: coat-and-tie, coat with a collared shirt but no tie, or collared shirt with tie but no coat. A few women wore gowns, but more opted for cocktail dresses or dinner trousers.
"The reaction has been very positive," says Gerry Cahill, president of Carnival, which instituted the "cruise elegant" change about six months ago. "It really is what people wear today, how people dress."
Nor will you find "formal" nights on premium country club-style lines like Oceania Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club or Azamara. And in keeping with its "Freestyle Cruising" approach, NCL offers an optional "Dress Up or Not" night on its seven-day cruises, but not on its weekend voyages.
Other lines are sticking with tradition, including Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity, and luxury lines Regent Seven Seas and Silversea.
Formal night with 12 friends who cruised this past summer was a special memory, says Judith Javelly of Miami. "The other passengers and the common areas of the ship somehow seemed different; champagne flowed freely and the night seemed elegant and festive," she said. "We took tons of pictures."
Says Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of hotel operations for Royal Caribbean, "We have a lot of traditional cruisers, who like first and second seating and like formal nights. You see lines of people waiting to get their picture taken. Our guests seem to enjoy it."
But - as on Carnival - even those who do dress up often are dressing down. Over the past five years, fewer have opted for tuxes, more for suits or jackets, says Bauer.