Passengers on cruises used to wear tuxedos and evening gowns. Now one cruise company has determined that standards have slipped so far that it had to issue an explicit ban on "offensive" clothing.
Carnival Cruise Line recently made that revision to its onboard dress code. "All guests are expected to ensure their clothing and accessories are respectful to fellow guests," reads a new addition to the "What to Wear?" section of the company's website.
"Specifically," the notice continues, "items worn during the cruise should not contain any message that may be considered offensive or contain nudity, profanity, sexual innuendo/suggestions. In addition, clothing/accessories should not promote negative ethnic or racial commentary or hatred or violence in any form."
When Frommer's reached out to Carnival for clarification, company representatives emailed back a prepared statement describing the new regulation as a "very minor change" to the clothing guidelines already in place on Carnival ships.
The ban on offensive attire was not prompted by any incident during a Carnival cruise, according to the statement, but by media reports "about other travel sectors where customers were wearing clothing with very threatening messages."
The statement doesn't mention specific examples, but the "other travel sector" where this issue seems to arise the most is air travel. In the past few months, passengers have been singled out by flight crews for wearing rompers deemed too revealing and sporting shirts emblazoned with bad words and incendiary messages such as "Hail Satan."
With regard to enforcing the ban, Carnival's statement asserts that "our crew is not onboard to be the clothing or expression police." Instead, "we will evaluate situations on a case by case basis and respectfully ask guests to change a clothing item that clearly threatens, or conveys hateful ideas or lewd images."
Carnival says that early responses from customers to the updated policy have been mostly positive. But the reaction has been decidedly more mixed on social media.
On the lively Facebook page of Carnival brand ambassador and senior cruise director John Heald, more than a thousand comments have been left on a post about the dress code.
While some commenters welcome a return to decorum and hope that the ban is enforced, others worry that the rule is too broad and subjective. What, for example, should be done when a passenger finds a red MAGA hat threatening?
And at least one commenter would like a sub-clause protecting gentle word play.
"We did group shirts for our cruise that said 'I’m on vacation so...Beach Please,'" wrote Scarlet Sunset Sears. "I would be upset if we couldn’t have worn those."