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  • Writer's pictureTrey Tracy

Top 10 Tips for Cruise Etiquette

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

Ocean cruises are one of my favorite types of travel. However, when you are aboard a large cruise ship with several thousand other passengers, there will always be those who do not follow cruise etiquette. But what is proper etiquette on board? Below is my list of tips for cruise etiquette that all passengers should consider in order to make the vacation more enjoyable for everyone.

Top 10 Tips for Cruise Etiquette

1. Food One of the best things about a cruise is the food. There is no reason anyone should be hungry on a cruise ship, as food is served just about around the clock. Plus, cruises offer a wide variety of cuisines, which gives you a chance to try new things.

Unfortunately, one of the common things you will see passengers do is overfill their plates with food and then only eat just a little bit, thus leaving a lot to be wasted. When partaking of the buffets, only take what you will eat. You can always go back for more if you are still hungry.

To be socially responsible, some of the cruise lines are encouraging passengers to not overload their plates. Any leftover food that has been cooked will then be boxed up and handed out to underprivileged areas in the ports of call.

2. Saving pool chairs Every cruise line asks that its passengers not save seating around the pool areas. This request doesn’t mean that you can’t save the seat while your travel partner is in the pool. What it does prohibit is getting up to the pool area when it’s empty and putting towels out to save a bunch of seats for you and your travel mates.

There are more passengers than there is seating. Items left unattended on a pool chair after a certain length of time will be taken up by pool staff so others can use that seating. Some passengers will always save seating. When you and your family are struggling to find seating for yourselves, you’ll understand the frustration and also the importance of this common courtesy.

3. Attire Cruises are meant to be casual. Therefore, during the day and while on board, feel free to be relaxed. Swimsuits and coverups are perfectly acceptable during the day in most areas of the ship. However, wet swimsuits are not allowed in any of the dining rooms.

During the evening in the main dining room, casual attire is the expected level of dress. A nice pair of jeans or slacks and a golf shirt for men and a sun dress or capris and top for ladies are acceptable. Cut-offs, flip-flops, etc. are not allowed in the main dining rooms but can be worn in the casual dining options located around the ship, such as the main buffet, even at night. On “formal nights,” you should plan to wear at least slacks and a sport coat and tie for men and a nice dress for ladies, but don’t be surprised if you see passengers in tuxes and beaded gowns.

Lastly, cruise lines are moving toward a dress code of banning anything that is considered offensive or racially disparaging. This stipulation can mean different things to different people, but certainly no profanity or lewd images should be part of your cruise wardrobe.

4. Gratuities Most of the crew aboard the ship are working for less than a typical minimum wage. Therefore, they are very dependent upon gratuities. The easiest way to cover gratuities is to pre-pay them at the time you book your cruise vacation with your travel advisor. That way, you don’t have to worry about it once onboard.

If you don’t pre-pay for gratuities, then they’ll automatically be charged to your onboard account each day of the cruise. This area is where some cruisers really show their lack of cruise etiquette. They will contact customer service while onboard and ask that the gratuities be removed. While a portion of these folks are probably paying the gratuities in cash directly to their waitstaff, room steward, etc., many are simply snubbing their wait staff by not paying gratuities at all.

Note: Gratuities will vary from cruise line to cruise, but the average gratuity is $14.50 per day per passenger. Of course, you are welcome to give higher amounts if you receive outstanding service.

5. Children Most cruise ships are packed with lots of activities for children, but not everyone wants to participate in those structured environments. Still, kids should not be allowed to just run all around and cause chaos. I have been on a cruise where a fourth of the passengers onboard were children and teens, and we knew it. The kids were running wild over the ship or just hanging out and blocking corridors, and the cruise director was constantly announcing over the PA system for parents to control their children. They were disrupting the ship. Adults are not alone in the need to follow ship etiquette.

6. Pay Attention To The All Aboard Time Don’t be one of those passengers waiting til the very last minute to go back to the cruise ship when in port. Cruise ships will not wait for you. Once the designated sailing time has arrived, they set sail whether you are onboard or not.

Note: If you are participating in a cruise-sponsored excursion that runs late, the ship typically will wait for your excursion to return. However, the ship’s crew will be aware of who is on which excursion and which excursions are behind schedule.

7. Muster Drills Are a Must Shortly after the cruise sets sail, you will have a muster drill, which is a mandatory safety meeting. A roll call will be taken. If you are not at your designated muster station, then you will be paged over the PA system, and the staff will search the ship for you. Passengers will not be released from the muster drill until all passengers are accounted for. You will certainly not be everyone’s favorite passenger if you try to skip the muster drill.

8. Keep Clean Cruises get a bad wrap for being unclean and illnesses spreading rampantly. This reputation is partly due to over exaggeration by the media. Additionally, cruise lines are required to report illnesses unlike hotels, airlines, etc. When you have several thousand passengers packed on a cruise ship, germs can easily spread. Just like on land, your best defense is to properly wash your hands often, especially after using the restroom and before eating or touching your face. Also, make use of the hand sanitizer stations provided in all the onboard restaurants.

If you are feeling sick, contact the onboard medical staff immediately, even if you just think you are sea sick. This practice is for everyone’s safety.

Note: The recent outbreak of coronavirus may have you nervous about travel in general and cruises specifically, but common sense and diligence will go a long way in helping you to stay healthy.

9. Be a Good Passenger The walls in between the staterooms can be thin. Therefore, be considerate of your neighbors with regards to the noise level in your own room. If you have issues with your cruise neighbors, then contact the customer service desk for assistance.

Do not participate in outrageous behavior aboard a cruise ship. The captain is the head of the ship, and he/she has the discretion to remove passengers from the ship at the next port of call, if necessary.

10 Respect Different Cultures Most of the crew aboard your cruise ship will not be Americans. Additionally, you may encounter guests who are also not American. Be respectful of their culture as you would want them to respect yours.

The same goes for when you are in a foreign port of call. You are a guest in their country. So be respectful of the people you interact with. Common courtesy goes a long way, and you may even learn something new, as well as make some new friends.

If you still have questions about cruises before booking one or are looking for a travel advisor to book your next cruise, contact me. I will be glad to provide a complimentary quote and look forward to working with you as your travel advisor.

Do you have any tips for cruise etiquette? If so, please post in the comments below.


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