Carnival is cracking down on clothing deemed to be offensive or showing hateful images with a new dress code intended to keep its cruises family-friendly.

“At Carnival, we want to make sure that all of our guests feel comfortable when cruising with us, and that includes being around guests wearing clothing with inappropriate or threatening images or language,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in an email. “Like other cruise lines, we have long had some basic clothing guidelines in place, and our guests respect them and understand we are a family-focused business.”

He said that there have been “no specific incidents that have taken place on Carnival’s ships,” and that the change comes in response to an incident in October when a passenger on a United Airlines flight wore a T-shirt referencing lynching journalists.

After internal discussions, the new guidelines were created so guests and crew would be clear which images and messages were allowed — and which weren’t — in addition to the already stated dress code.

Gulliksen says they “don’t anticipate this being a significant issue, and our crew is not onboard to be the clothing or expression police.” Clothing that falls under the category that “clearly threatens, or conveys hateful ideas or lewd images” is what Carnival will look out for. Those situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis. If a guest is found to be in violation of the rules, the person will be asked to remove the item.

Dress codes have long been a source of debate among cruise-goers, with some lamenting the days of more formal cruisewear while others say they should be allowed to be as casual as possible.


Carnival’s “cruise-casual” dress-code guidelines for the main dining rooms already prohibit “cut-off jeans, men’s sleeveless shirts, tee-shirts, gym or basketball shorts, baseball hats, flip-flops and bathing suit attire.” The new ban goes slightly further because it names the types of clothing guests should avoid.

“All guests are expected to ensure their clothing and accessories are respectful to fellow guests,” an FAQ on Carnival’s website says. “Specifically, 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.”

In a Facebook post, Carnival Cruise Line’s brand ambassador, John Heald, polled users to gauge whether they agreed with the new rules. An overwhelming 97 percent said they did — that Carnival should step in to react against clothing that other travelers find offensive.

Some commenters voiced support as a way to protect their children onboard. “I appreciate this new rule personally, and so should other parents,” one user said. Others questioned how the policy would work in practice: “I agree but who is going to enforce the policy?” another said.

Many took it as an opportunity to highlight a gray area of whose perspective influences the ban. “I don’t agree with this at all. The first sentence says anything that people find offensive. Well some people find everything offensive,” a commenter said.

A repeated criticism concerning the country’s polarization was found throughout. “John, unfortunately United States has become a very sensitive nation!” one user said.

Gulliksen said there has been little resistance among travelers onboard. “Our guests have largely responded with support, like we knew they would, because we have long fostered an environment where everyone feels welcome.”