Spend any amount of time researching your next cruise vacation on the web and you’ll run into the question regarding what constitutes “smart casual” and what constitutes “formal” when it comes to dressing up in the evenings on the ship. This post isn’t exactly about that; the definitions are pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain and if they’re not then a quick search online will be able to explain what is what (for instance, are shorts okay for smart casual wear? It depends on the shorts. I happen to agree with what’s written here: Wearing shorts in the main dining room). This post is more about whether cruise lines should enforce a smart casual code in the first place and about the selfish arseholes trying to change the existing rules.

You’ll meet the selfish arsehole on cruises as soon as you embark on your first one. The selfish arsehole will ignore requests not to use flash photography in certain places on excursions. The selfish arsehole will not consider that somebody else might have been trying to look at that interesting thing they’ve now stood in front of for five minutes. The selfish arsehole won’t pay attention to meeting times and subsequently delay groups on excursions. And when it comes to evenings and dining or imparting words of wisdom in Facebook groups or cruise-related forums you’ll discover there’s the selfish arsehole who thinks you can wear what you want when you want. And the reason is the same in every case:

"I’ve paid for this cruise so I’m going to do what I want."

What an arsehole!

People who use Facebook groups in particular don’t seem to have any idea how to search for previous posts which is why questions like “Is it okay to wear trainers in the main dining room?” or “Can I wear smart jeans in the dining room?” will come up on almost a weekly basis. Some people will say no. Some people will say yes, if the clothing is smart enough, and if it’s not a formal night. Some people will scroll past the question because they know what’s coming and arguments are so tiresome. Some people will reply “You’ve paid for this cruise so you should be able to wear what you want” and they’ll probably throw a “lol” in there somewhere even though it’s quite strange to imagine someone remarking about what you should be able wear and actually laughing out loud. Come to think of it, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

Firstly, that phrase: “you should be able to wear what you want”. Yeah, should doesn’t mean can. They are different words for a reason. It is prudent, therefore, to ignore this answer as it’s been given by someone with a very poor comprehension of small, English words.

"Do you think I’ll be able to fly this plane even though I’ve had no training?"
"It should be the right of everyone to fly planes!"
"Well, that’s not what I was asking so thanks for nothing."

Secondly, let’s consider what this response entails. Would someone who thinks that because they’ve paid for something they can do what they like extend that to everyone else and in all walks of life? Of course not. Can you imagine how this person would react to guests who’ve paid in some way (time, travel costs, etc.) to attend their wedding or their child’s wedding and appear in expensive group photos for the album whilst looking dishevelled in a dressing gown? I suspect they wouldn’t be pleased. Would they be fine with visitors to places of worship wearing t-shirts with offensive slogans or having their genitalia exposed? Would a trip to the cinema be okay even if some other paying patron in front of them was wearing a suit adorned with flashing LEDs and on their phone the entire? No. Yet in each case the other person would be flouting some rule or convention but probably exercising some freedom of speech and, hell, they’ll have paid so they should be able to do what they want, right? It comes down to not being selfish and having a little bit of respect for other people.

The duration and venues on a cruise ship where you’re expected to dress up a little constitute a minority of the time on board. It’s usually limited to the evenings and there will still be areas of the ship where you really can wear what you like as you wander around. Is it so, so hard to accept that? Is it impossible to consider what other people are getting from the occasion and not just you? I know that the evenings are smart casual and that some are formal, and I like it. I like the look of people making an effort. I like to make an effort myself because when I’m not on a cruise ship I don’t. At all. If you’re really the sort of person who absolutely cannot be without your old jeans and t-shirt then maybe cruising isn’t for you. If you’re considering a cruise but really don’t want to have to dress up then you don’t have to but there will be a limitation as to where you can go as a result and if you think that’s unfair because you’re paying your money then try adding up what you’re spending against what everyone else on board is spending to see how much weight your desire has.

Here’s how life doesn’t work:

I really fancy a night out at a good restaurant followed by some entertainment in a theatre or club. But I want to wear my flip flops, shorts, vest, and baseball cap. I foresee no problem since I will be spending money.

Every evening on a cruise ship is potentially a good restaurant followed by some entertainment in a theatre or club. Act accordingly. Don’t be a selfish arsehole. And don’t listen to people who try to do away with the concept of smart casual and formal on cruises; shun them or try to persuade them to switch from cruise ships to cross channel ferries, for instance, as that really seems more their style.

Featured image is of smart casual wear in Brodie’s bar on board the P&O cruise ship Azura. That’s not a hardship to wear, is it?

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