Formal attire for a 35-day cruise — you can observe as many or as few formal nights as you wish

By Tim O’Keefe

I have worn a tux to dinner on cruise ships and I would do it again but . . . I’ve added 20 pounds that won’t into my tux.
Every cruise line has its own dress code. On Holland America (HAL) and the Maasdam, women have more choices for formal nights. They can wear a suit, cocktail dress or gown. Men are confined to a jacket and tie, either with a dark suit or tuxedo. HAL typically has two formal nights a week, so 10 nights for my five week cruise is par for the course.
If you don’t want to pack formal wear or–like mine–yours seems to have shrunk, you can order it by calling Cruiseline Formalwear at 800-551-5091 or reserve it online. A tux with two shirts ranges from $85-$160, depending on how elaborate you want to be. Your formal wear should be hanging in your stateroom closet when you board.
On the other 25 days, the dress code is “smart casual,” Women can pretty much get away anything decent looking while men need only to wear slacks (no blue jeans and certainly not shorts!) and a collared shirt.
Here’s a secret about formal nights both men and women might appreciate. Forget about elaborate footwear—no one looks at your feet. I always wear classy looking black sneakers for every formal occasion whether on a ship or anywhere else.
How to avoid formal nights but not miss out on any special delicacies served for dinner. The menu for every evening is posted in advance outside the main dining room, where the formal affairs take place. Check it, then compare with the dinner menu posted outside the buffet restaurant, assuming one is there. Haven’t cruised on HAL in several years so not sure about their current practice.
The sure-fire way to have one of the best dinners possible. Most cruise lines offer room service but sometimes the menu is so limited it’s useless. However, on Holland America, you can order from the dinner menu and have your selections delivered fresh to your stateroom.
Don’t place your order before or during the first seating. Call and place your order between the first and second seating. Everything will be prepared fresh and not something taken off the line.
Tip your room service server $2-$3. The next time you call, you have no idea how much attention will be paid to your order.
As a writer and photographer (who needs to write a post and download/identify images after every cruise port) I order in probably more than most. Especially on formal nights.
Being able to order from the full menu for room service anytime of day is one reason I really like cruising Holland America.  Still, this bonus feature would be irrelevant and meaningless if the food wasn’t so good.
I’ve had several of my best lifetime meals ever via Holland America room service. Pretty impressive considering I’ve visited and dined on every continent, including Antarctica.  A chilled bottle of champagne was the best Antarctica had to offer.

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About Cynthia Boal Janssens

Cynthia Boal Janssens is the editor and chief blogger for AllThingsCruise.com. She is a former national president of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). She has sailed on over 40 cruises all over the world.

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