Is your casual ‘smart’? Cruise ship attire…take 2

There isn’t a cruise travel web site or discussion board that isn’t full of questions from first-time cruisers (and even more seasoned cruisers trying out a new cruise line) that doesn’t have a slew of questions about the appropriate things to wear on board.  And we say, “Bravo!” to everyone who cares –because we’re here to tell you that not everyone does! Our April cruise taught us that lesson.  Yikes!

The last time we took on the subject of the dizzying array of sartorial monikers in our discussion of dressing for dinner on board cruise ships, we reviewed some of the definitions of the various levels of dress expected (permitted?).

Art shows off his casual attire for going ashore in Monte Carlo – an onboard ‘smart casual’ evening look!

It’s fairly easy to figure out what to wear during the day because you really need to dress for your location and the weather.  If you’re in the Caribbean you’ll be more casual than if you’re visiting Rome, for example, on a Mediterranean cruise.  And you’re unlikely to wear a bathing suit on deck if your cruise is leaving from Reykjavik.  The most confusion is within the evening “casual” dress codes because day-time casual won’t cut it.  So, we thought we’d provide a bit of sartorial guidance – based on our ever-present agenda of generally improving the dress and behavior of tourists everywhere (Do we need to say it one more time?  White sneakers are for the gym.  Do you know what an embarrassment you are for your countrymen?  You know who you are.)

 What the heck is ‘smart casual’?

Could the cruise lines have chosen a more oxymoronic way to describe what kind of ambience they’re trying to create in the evenings?  There is usually nothing whatsoever ‘smart’ about casual.  What’s important to understand here is the objective: when a cruise line says smart casual for evening, they’re trying to have a laid-back vibe that doesn’t encompass what you’d wear on Saturday afternoon at home on the couch quaffing a beer and watching the game.  There should be more emphasis on the ‘smart’ part than the ‘casual’ part.  Step it up a bit, people.

Although the cruise lines try to define what they mean, we think people need pictures and a list of what not to wear (with apologies to Stacey and Clinton from the TLC television show of the same name).  Here are the things you should not wear on smart casual night:

There is nothing smart about this casual!
  1. Flip-flops.  How many times does it need to be said?  Flip-flops are not real footwear.
  2. Ripped jeans. On the cruise lines we prefer, jeans are not permitted in the dining room in the evening ever, even without rips. Just leave them for the day time please.
  3. T-shirts without collars.  These are for the daytime. The very least you can do is pack a golf shirt with a collar.
  4. Shorts, unless you’re a model and the shorts are Bermuda length.
  5. Bare stomachs.  We just put that one in because we think bare stomachs should be relegated to the beach and the pool – and even then only if you actually look good in that kind of beach wear.
  6. Pedal pushers.  This is the odd length of female trouser that flatters no one.  If you wear a slightly high heel, you can get away with a cropped, narrow pant.  That can look modern, but if you’re in doubt, wear either a casual skirt or a pair of full-length pants.

Then what’s ‘elegant’ casual?

Some of the luxury cruise lines have a dress category that they like to call elegant casual.  We like the sound of that, and although they do have a definition, most people on board the six-star lines have no need of explanation.  This is what they’d wear out to a casual dinner at home.  It’s a step up from the smart casual look, and just makes the ambience of the evening that much nicer without having to get dressed up as in the more formal evenings.

Our pictorial guide…

Smart casual on Regent. Art could lose the jacket for smart casual on a line like Celebrity.
Smart casual for women.
A smart casual look for women.
Elegant casual on board Regent.
Elegant casual – sometimes there’s little difference between smart and elegant casual.

3 thoughts on “Is your casual ‘smart’? Cruise ship attire…take 2

    1. So glad you’re enjoying our musings on our travels. Thanks for reading! More to come later this week on our most recent trip to Ireland – just back a week now.

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