Traveling during the peak months can have its challenges. Hop aboard the S.S. Etiquette with our Ms. Modern Manners, Sharon Schweitzer, JD, who shares her insight on the do’s and don’ts for when you set sail on your next luxe ocean excursion.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

How does one dress for a luxury cruise? I understand the first evening out to sea is not very dressy and certainly not formal.

Promenade Deck Pondering


Dear Deck Hand,

Darling, you’ll looooook marvelous! Each luxury cruise line will have a dress code provided on their website and in cruise booklets. Once you are registered for a cruise, carefully read the pre-departure material that arrives. The first evening out to sea, cruise lines may host informal champagne receptions, “sail-aways,” floor gatherings or an open evening as passengers settle-in. Attire for the first evening at sea may vary by cruise line, ship and itinerary — from black tie to dressy casual. Research the culture for your destination and be sure you will be appropriately dressed; for example covering arms, décolleté and legs in Africa and the Middle East. Our luxury soft expedition to Antarctica on a French ship with French chefs did not require formal attire. Keep in mind that passengers in a penthouse category and above may be invited to join the Captain’s Table or another Officer’s Table during the cruise and will need cocktail or formal attire depending on the dress code.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

What is the standard five-star policy toward gratuity for the cruise attendants when the trip is completed? I understand most of their income is derived by tips?

Tipping Texan


Dear Trip Tipper,

Luxury cruise lines vary in approaches to tipping and gratuities due to cultural variations around the world. In the US, tipping is considered the norm; however in other cultures tipping is offensive, rude and unethical. In parts of Australia and Japan it is a personal insult. Many cruise lines add a fixed gratuity amount to the onboard account which you may raise or lower at your discretion depending on service. Other cruise lines add the cost to the cruise and discourage staff from accepting tips. You may also place cash in an envelope and hand it to the staff.

Suggested amounts are as follow… Cabin Stewards: $5/night.  Room Service: $2 per visit.  Butler:  $5.00/night.  Baggage service: $1/bag,  Dining Room Waiter: $4-$5 per day.  Spa services: 20% of bill.  Activity instructors: $5-$10 per service

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

On cruises I have been on I have seen fellow passengers “stake” their chaise lounge with towels and not use them for hours. This applies to saving seats in the theater for a large group, too. How should that be handled?

Stake Status Seeker


Dear Statistician,

Saving prime real estate at the pool for a no-show is a no-no. If you need the chaise lounge, discreetly ask the cruise staff to approach the offenders. Yes, this applies to to large groups in the theatre as well. Reserving one seat for a short period of time is acceptable; however saving a row of seats is not. If a you and your traveling companions wish to sit together, arrive early and sit together. Otherwise, sit separately. Being an early bird has its advantages.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

Packing for a cruise can be a challenge. If I don’t want to participate in some of the costume-themed nights, may I wear a long black dress and go along with the party?

Costume Conundrum


Dear Costume Challenged,

Remember, the cruise line dress code will determine appropriate attire for the costumed-themed nights. If you do not wish to participate in the costumed themed evenings, you have the choice of room service or dining in another on-board restaurant. It is important to dress appropriately for the event that you are attending.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I understand that there will be many different cultures on my international cruise. Since I may not speak their language, if there is an issue, how do I proceed?

Logical Linguistics

Dear Logically Speaking,

Yes, international luxury cruises will have an intercultural component. The response to different encounters depends on how you approach it. Sometimes, what one culture views as inappropriate, another views as acceptable. If you were born in the U.S., and speak English as your native tongue, please remember a different language is not a “foreign language.” It is only foreign to you. If you do have a question that needs language interpretation, contact the ship’s staff, Guest Relations or the Concierge. Many members of the staff are multilingual. Finally, a small phrase book for your destination will come in handy. Bon Voyage and safe travels.