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Don’t Be *That* Cruiser: 13 Things You Need to Know About Cruise Etiquette

Being polite goes a long way.

You booked a cruise to enjoy a vacation at sea, be that a relaxing time far away from real-world worries back on dry land or a thrilling time in ports of call and experiencing all that’s on board, from the escape rooms to go-karts found on the biggest cruise ships. The last thing you want is to be labeled “that cruiser,” the one who is rude, loud, inconsiderate, the passenger no crew member or fellow cruiser wants to see in the hallways or sit nearby at dinner. Thankfully, being a kind and pleasant guest is even easier than finding something delicious to eat on a cruise ship! Here’s a look at the 13 ways you can practice good cruise etiquette.

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Respect the Crew

Treat those who work tirelessly in the service industry with respect and kindness as you should in regular life at home. This includes, but is not limited to, your stateroom steward, bartenders, restaurant servers, and any maintenance workers you may see in the hallways. Take a brief moment to smile, say hello, and be a kind human being to the people trying hard to make your vacation perfect every day.

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Respect the Rules

You signed a cruise contract when you booked your cruise vacation, and inside that document, which you probably didn’t read, is a set of rules governing your conduct on the ship. If you don’t want to get kicked off the ship AND want to be a decent person who understands cruise etiquette, follow those cruising rules. This means don’t ever hang over the boat’s edge, only smoke in designated areas, and comply with the captain’s and crew members’ instructions.

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Don’t Worry About Dirty Dishes

It’s tempting to refill your water cup or return to the buffet with your plate for more french fries, calamari, and caesar salad because, at home, the last thing you want is to dirty more dishes. This is not okay on a cruise ship, however. While in the buffet, you are expected to get a clean plate, cup, and mug every single time you’d like more food, drink, tea, or coffee. This is for sanitary purposes and because you’re not the one doing the dishes, follow this simple rule to help keep everyone stays healthy.

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Complain Judiciously

Inevitably, something will not go exactly as planned during your cruise. Maybe a steak at the pricey specialty restaurant will be overcooked, or there could be a delay in your stateroom receiving its morning cleaning and fresh towels, or a port of call needs to be switched for some unseen issue. While you have every right to be frustrated and file a complaint, do so with grace, keeping in mind that the problems are not on purpose and that the cruise line and the crew want nothing more than to deliver a remarkable vacation at sea for you and your family.

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Have Patience

Whether you are hungry and cannot wait to tuck into a plate of fish and chips from the buffet or are eager to get on land and explore a fun port city, be patient. Hundreds, even thousands, of other passengers are also hungry and eager, and your desire to grab a bite or start your exciting day on dry land doesn’t supersede theirs.

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Avoid FaceTime Calls or Playing Your Music for All to Hear

There seems to be a rise in people, on land and at sea, forgoing BlueTooth connectivity and even classic wired headphones and instead playing their music loud and proud for all to hear. And then there are the people who are FaceTiming at dinner or using the speaker phone on the deck. Part of having cruise etiquette (and etiquette in general) is understanding that you are sharing this cruise ship space with others who may not want to listen to your music or hear every detail of your conversation.

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Do Not Save Deck Chairs

If you aren’t relaxing in them, soaking nearby in a hot tub or pool, or sliding down the waterslide, you should never “save” deck chairs with towels or clothes, only to return to your cabin for more sleep or head to the buffet for breakfast. It’s rude to occupy deckchairs when you aren’t actually prepared to use them.

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Drink Responsibly

Drunk passengers are not, generally speaking, pleasant passengers. Believe it or not, many of your fellow cruises do not think that you are the life of the party that you think you are when you get tipsy at sea. Rather than become that one passenger who disrupts others drink responsibly when cruising. Enjoy the taste of the wine, beer, and handcrafted cocktails, and appreciate how they pair with the food you’re eating, but never get out of control to the point where you negatively impact your fellow passengers.

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Wash Your Hands

Even as COVID restrictions loosen, don’t forget to stay safe at sea by washing your hands before eating. In the months after mask mandates became voluntary, too many guests have been strolling up to the buffet area without washing their hands. Not only is this unsanitary, but it’s also an example of not learning from the recent past and not having good cruise etiquette.

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Mind the Dress Code

While many cruisers still look forward to glamming it up on a formal night, most ships are not being too stringent with policing the dress code anymore. That said, part of good cruise etiquette is still being mindful of the dress code. This means, in part, that you shouldn’t be turning up to specialty restaurants in a bathing suit, for example. Poolside dining and the ubiquitous cruise buffet are the places where you can get and stay casually dressed in flip-flops, tank tops, bathing suits, sweats, and other comfortable attire.

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Control Your Kids

The tired saying, “kids will be kids,” is not an excuse to let your little ones run wild and potentially disrupt other passengers. If traveling as a family, have discussions with your children about cruise etiquette and keep an eye on your younger kids as they play to ensure they aren’t bothering other passengers. Additionally, if you are indulging in an adults-only area of the ship, ensure your kids are well looked after in the ship’s camp or a crew-led activity.

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While it is very likely that the price of your cruise vacation already includes all gratuities—either because the cruise line includes them for free or you’ve pre-paid all tips before boarding—it is considered good etiquette to leave a cash tip for your cabin steward and any other crew members (maybe a favorite bartender who learned exactly how you like your margaritas) who helped to make your cruise extra special.

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Be Quiet in the Hallways

Finally, this crucial etiquette advice applies to cruise ships and hotels alike. As you come and go from your room, be mindful of others trying to get to sleep who have sleeping babies or are relaxing in the quiet of their stateroom. Avoid being loud in the hallway, and please save the conversation for when you get to your room or into a common area of the ship.

kaarn1 January 23, 2023

Please...leave your Family drama at home.

elizabethmuskus4829 January 19, 2023

Add this to the cruise etiquette:  be quiet when the captain speaks.  He is the master of the vessel and responsible for the safety of all on board.