Over the past decade, the long-running cruise staple of black-tie formal nights has given way to freestyle cruising and its more relaxed dress codes. In doing so, cruise lines certainly were mirroring, if not themselves setting, trends in society at large, from the laid-back approaches to corporate dress and attitude to the proliferation of casual land-based, high-end dining concepts. And the increasingly younger demographic of cruisers had an effect on the choice, as well.
But there’s at least some evidence that these young professionals desperately want the skills and instruction to be at ease in more formal settings. In this BusinessWeek article, for instance, etiquette companies report a surge in interest. Whether we like it or not, we’re susceptible to how others view us – and poor wardrobe choices seem to be the number one problem among the millennial set, according to the article. Here’s where cruise lines may have an opportunity to step in. They can make the learning – and then displaying – of proper etiquette “fun.”
Based on personal observation and industry chatter among cruise consulting experts, it appears college students are increasingly leaning toward cruise vacations for spring or winter breaks. How about a formal/etiquette/trivia night where the winner gets free drinks for the duration of the cruise? These students can practice some of their well-won knowledge during the cruise’s formal nights, as well. And with so many families cruising, why not have the onboard kids clubs incorporate etiquette training and then give them an opportunity to showcase their skills to parents during formal nights?
Maybe cruise lines can be at the leading edge of a trend back toward formality on some level – enhancing the cruise guest experience at the same time as helping to groom a new line of well-mannered, well-dressed young adults. These same adults may develop a whole new appreciation for the formal cruise night.
So I say, bring back the formal night and milk it for all its worth. It may just spearhead a new trend in which Gen-Y-ers go black (tie) and don’t go back.