When we decided to take our first cruise we discovered the hierarchy of cruise lines. This seems to be based as much on facilities and ship size as it is on the dreaded dress code.
Cruise lines, like the Disney Corporation, are marketing organisations whose principal role is to lure you to their artificial worlds and then extract as much cash as possible while you are their captive. They exist to sell you their stuff not to watch you consume yours and they do this by subtly altering reality so that you are swept along in a brand identity and lose touch with the reality of money/time and almost everything else.
They do this by establishing both a brand identity and a rigid class system. Cunard do this by romanticising the bygone era of transatlantic crossings from the 1920s and 1930s. Interestingly the only reference to the Titanic’s owner, the White Star Line, still exists in what Cunard call White Star Service “Legendary, Elegant, Memorable”. I suppose the Titanic certainly delivered “Memorable”
I love the fact that the Cunard typeface is Sang Bleu or Blue Blood. I suppose the other choices of typeface like Rich Bastard Bold and Entitlement Grotesque were not available. The style guidelines also allude to what they call a ‘Touch of Britishness’ as follows
By which we don’t mean bullish patriotism, but rather the positive post-2012 Olympics sense of self-possession and inclusiveness, coupled with hints of old traditions and quirks recognised the world over.
I love the idea of post-2012 Olympic British self-possession and quirks. So if I turn up as an unemployed asylum seeker in a suit of armour I should be fine.
However, it is dress code that really delivers the Cunard brand identity. While some cruise lines are increasingly relaxed about dress code, Cunard isn’t. After 6pm the ship enforces a strict dress code which basically says that if you want to wear jeans you can either stay in your cabin or slum it with the proles in some food court below the waterline. For the rest of us life becomes more complex.
On formal nights (every other night) it is black tie or a dark suit for men and ball gown or cocktail dresses for women. They used to allow white tie with medals or national dress for formal nights and I was disappointed they had dropped this. My plan was to pitch up in a neon jockstrap (gentleman’s athletic support) with a lamp shade on my head. When challenged I was planning to remonstrate that this was my national dress and how dare they besmirch the honorable tradition of my nation.
On informal nights (every other night), it is jacket for men, no jeans, shorts or anything else deemed as too casual. Ties are optional but try and find an official publicity shot showing men without ties except at breakfast. For women it is cocktail dresses or smart separates.
If that wasn’t enough on many of the formal nights there are balls to attend like the Royal Ascot Ball, Masquerade Ball, Black White Ball, 175 Ball, Christmas Ball, New Year Ball and the list goes on. For these you can hire accessories or bring them. So if I was really going to get into the swing of this I would be packing my Morning Suit with top hat, Venetian masks (of which I naturally have many to choose from), White tie. As it is I am already taking bow ties in three colours.
For Elly, she has been shopping like a woman possessed. Ball gowns, cocktail dresses, shoes, costume jewelry, hats and even I have been buying jackets and shirts. As a result we will need a small tug towed behind the Queen Mary 2 just to accommodate our wardrobe.
Clearly dressing-up is a major part of why some passengers (sorry guests) take a cruise (sorry voyage) on a Cunard ship (sorry liner). They want to pretend that they are in Downtown Abbey at Sea and that an army of butlers and under footmen will be on hand to deliver their fantasy. The fact that Mr Carson is a young Filipino on minimum wage is just an annoying detail.
So I am ready to embrace the up market dressing-up box that is Cunard and accept that is all balls……when it’s not informal nights naturally.