Easy European Cruising
I am sailintg on my third cruise ship in as many months, this time a posh Yacht Club Suite aboard the newly launched MSC Splendida. We are on her maiden voyage from the STX shipyard in St. Nazaire, France. Yes, I am blessed with a fantastic job, my duty to report to you the inside information won't find in any brochure.
This is one of the loveliest suites I have ever seen at sea. The colors are my favorite combination a deep blue fabrics with gold ingot trim. When the sun is fully out and the sea becomes the bluest blue possible, the entire room becomes perfectly color coordinated to the ocean abundantly visible through the three full-sized picture windows.
This suite comes with butler service and access to an exclusive Concierge Lounge with complimentary beverages and tapas-style dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack. They will deliver the same food to your suite or you can empty your minibar fridge daily at no additional cost. I feel like a millionaire, truly.
But here is the incongruous part, which only adds a mischevious delight to this sumptuous treat. A few years ago a self-described Greek "serial Entrepreneur," whose name is unspellable and unpronouncable in the English language, started a modest cruise line called Easy Cruise. His idea was to offer a completely casual and a la carte cruise line where you pay separately for the room, meals, maid service, towels and even bathrooms if you wanted one in your stateroom.
His target market was Europeans, and although Easy Cruise didn't work out, I can understand why he thought it would. When it comes to cruising, the often staid Europeans are unapologetically casual! I literally cannot believe what I am seeing even though I know that the penetration of cruises into the European vacation market is still as low as 1% of the population in some countries here.
Last night the ship dress code was designated as "informal," defined in the program as "coat and tie for gentlemen." These Europeans just didn't get it! I saw men in sneakers, blue jeans, t-shirts and flack jackets; all pockets and no sleeves. I saw women in Capri pants, sandals and tube tops - in the main dining room!
Our own Kuki just wrote a piece on the demise of cruise wear on U.S.-based cruising, but one of these Pan-European cruises would have put his jaw on the floor (where mine was). You have to understand, what I am describing is literally what everyone was wearing, not just a few odd examples. Dressed in my suit last night, as the program recommended, I actually had ship photographers following me.
Now here is the odd part, I can't say for certain what these Euro-cruisers were thinking. I suspect some couldn't find the code in the program. I had to search a long time, which as an experienced cruiser I am conditioned to do. I also suspect that many did see the code but chose to ignore it, preferring their personal style of leather pants and muscle shirts.
Some actually appeared to be mocking it, like Mr. Parachute Pants with an untucked pink shirt and a daisy-yellow necktie down below his crotch. Many of the older folks apparently wanted to comply but hadn't brought the proper clothes. "Jacket required" prompted these folks to wear their windbreakers or cardigans if they had one, and the rest had large scarves draped over their shoulders like tourists visiting a cathedral.
Naturally, this is no reflection on the quality of the cruise line, just the haughtiness of young Euro-style-fascistas and the innocent naivety of older European "cruise virgins." With a few years of cruise experience I suspect the younger cruisers will remain casually style-conscious, but the older ones will learn to bring the proper clothes.
MSC Splendida is still a beautiful ship with delicious food, tasteful artwork, elegant decor and a wide variety of entertainment options. There is a wine and cheese bar, a gellateria and espresso coffee available at every bar onboard. If you want first-class cruising, without the mandatory dress code requirements, these Pan-European cruises (Costa Cruises is also another line in this market) are the perfect thing for you.
CruiseMates, one of the 25 Best Value Travel Sites
Cruisemates is the most useful cruise-review site.
We especially like its advice columns, which are
written for people of different ages and interests.