All Dressed Up in the Middle of Nowhere

Day 14, Grand World Voyage

Monday, Jan. 16, 2023; South Pacific Ocean.

Formal night is back! And boy did the Zuiderdam passengers dress for the occasion.

But first, we are in the middle of nowhere, it seems. Above is the map my iPhone app gives me when its GSP works, but there isn’t an Internet signal to supply the map details. Spooky, I know. We are somewhere between Panama and Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas.

Long ago on cruises I packed actual ball gowns to wear on formal night. My corporate job called for me to attend galas so I already had the wardrobe. I acquired a small collection of gemstone jewelry that I loved for accessorizing. And where better to wear them than on a cruise?

Formal night, 2003. From left, me, Eloise and Mom

Even my nephews Zan and Colton (now in their 20s but 10 and 5 then) had tuxes for our Thanksgiving week cruises.

Over the years cruise attire has trended toward the casual, particularly in Alaska and the Caribbean. Most people don’t want to pack formal attire for a short cruise. The cruise lines stopped offering tuxes for rental. Instead of eating dinner in the main dining room, many cruisers opt to eat dinner in the Lido where almost anything but swimsuits and nightwear is acceptable.

In response, Holland America and most cruise lines have loosened their recommendations for dining room attire. Most nights on board are casual, about anything except shorts, beachwear, distressed jeans and men’s tank tops in the main dining room.

Once or twice a week is usually dressy night. The dressy description recommends slacks, skirts, dresses, blouses and collared shirts. What we in the south once called “church clothes.” For men, a jacket and tie are preferred but not required in the dining room. You do see cocktail dresses and the occasion tuxedo on the dressy nights.

The designation was recently changed to dressy from gala; Holland America says it felt dressy was less stuffy and more festive. I don’t get it, and many cruisers still seem to be confused, judging by social media posts. The “dress code” leads to some interesting and even contentious discussions. Like everyone in society, some want to push or ignore the rules, and others want to impose their strict interpretations on the rest.

So it was refreshing earlier this week to see everyone dressed up for formal night. Before the cruise, Holland America told us there would be five formal nights – one a month – on the grand world voyage, in addition to 11 dressy nights. I’m not sure if the other grand voyages (Grand Africa, Grand South America, etc.) have formal nights, but it sure appears that everyone on this cruise was ready to break out their fancy clothes.

My estimation is that about half the men wore tuxedos and most women had sparkles. And both levels of the main dining room were packed. The captain greeted us as we entered the dining room and supplied wine with our dinners.

We could choose between entrees of coq au vin, lamb chops or the traditional surf and turf, with the waiters removing the lobster meat from the tail.

Eloise, Elaine and I dined with Jean and Lee, friends traveling together who also were on our 2020 world cruise. Following dinner, the Zuiderdam ball featured dancing in three venues, offering a choice of music.

I failed to take many photos of the evening, but my friend Pete posted many on his Inside Cabin blog. He brought five tuxedo jackets and invites others dressed similarly to join him for “Tuxedo Junction” in one of the lounges for pre-dinner drinks on formal and dressy nights.

As a special treat, entertainer Elliot Finkel entertained us with piano selections. He and his late father Fyvush and brother Ian performed for years on cruise ships. (You may recognize his father’s name from his acting roles in Picket Fences and Boston Public.)

When we retired to our staterooms, we found the first of our Grand World Voyage pillow gifts – an embossed travel journal.

Now, if we can just get a little Internet service in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I may be able to publish this blog post.