If you're worried about wearing a tux or gown to every meal, you've watched too many old movies. You can still get dressed up for formal nights, if that's what floats your boat, but most cruise lines today are loosening up when it comes to dress codes. Norwegian Cruise Line has gotten rid of formal nights entirely. For dinner in any of its restaurants, men can wear collared shirts and pants or nice jeans, and women have the option of wearing slacks, jeans, dresses or skirts.
Carnival Cruise Line also changed its dress code. It still offers Elegant Nights, with tuxedos and gowns welcome, but they're not mandatory. Jennifer de la Cruz, a Carnival spokeswoman, believes that the more casual dress code is a sign of the times when it comes to the larger vacation markets.
"When people vacation, they generally want to dress casually," she said. "They want to be comfortable, and they don't want to lug a lot of formal wear. Changing the dress code has been very well received, but we still give those who want to get dressed up for dinner in a tux or gown the opportunity to do so, and we welcome it."
Many cruise goers just can't seem to get out of those Bermuda shorts. The beauty of Holland America Line's As You Wish dining is that guests who prefer to dine at a time or place that best fits their schedule and dining style can do so.
"Often, after returning to the ship from a full day touring a port, some guests don't feel like dressing up for dinner," Primeau said. "They have the option of eating in the Lido Restaurant in their shorts, or just enjoying their meal in their stateroom -- in their bathrobes."
If you're worried about being out of touch with family or business back home, most cruise lines have access to the Internet, and ship-to-shore calls are available. But both are still expensive. A better option is to see if your phone and Internet providers have overseas chips for your devices. And while Holland America's gorgeous Explorer Lounge, with computers, café and library, became our favorite onboard hangout, we also used the Internet cafés in port. They were cheap, fast and a great way to get a glimpse of the local culture.
The average cruise ship generates about 30,000 gallons of human waste and 255,000 gallons of nonsewage gray water every day, according to Oceana, an international nonprofit organization working to save the oceans. But in the past decade, the cruise industry has been working to clean up its act -- largely in response to stricter pollution laws in U.S. and foreign waters, but also because its very success and survival depends on it.
Leading the way is the Cruise Lines International Association. Its membership of two dozen major cruise ship lines supports the adoption of aggressive recycling programs and green technology. If you're committed to sailing green, consider booking your cruise with an association member.