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Cruise Etiquette

I debated long and hard before I decided to post this article. However, after 70+ cruises we have come across just about every type of rude and inconsiderate behavior you can imagine. Unquestionably, some of you reading this may be offended. If so, I apologize in advance. I realize that when you are on a cruise, it is your vacation. But, it is everyone else's vacation, too. Sometimes it is easy to forget the latter.

For the most part, "cruisers" are very considerate folks. Most people you encounter on a cruise are in a good mood, they are relaxed, and everyone is having a good time. That is exactly what cruising is all about. In fact, a cruise ship is probably one of the happiest places you could be. No doubt, this is part of the appeal of cruise travel. If everyone will follow a few simple guidelines (as outlined below), everyone can have a great vacation experience.

Guideline 1: Don't save pool lounge chairs

This is a common problem on large cruise ships, especially in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Imagine that you are looking forward to a day in the sun. You get to the pool early to get in some of those morning rays, and voila, all of the lounge chairs are "taken", yet there are very few people in sight. Some guests head to the pool early in the morning, before breakfast, pick out the best lounge chair, plop down their towel, a book or flip-flops onto the lounger, then head to breakfast. Not only is this rude, it is prohibited on many cruise ships. On some ships, pool attendants may pick up your stuff and clear the lounge chair for another guest. If you need to use the restroom, or are only going to be gone from your lounge chair for a brief period, let someone nearby know (or inform one of the pool attendants/waiters).

Guideline 2: Be on time for dinner


This guideline only applies if you are dining in a "traditional" assigned seating/dining time. Let's say you are seated at a table for eight and everyone shows up at 7:30 pm, right on time, all except for one couple. With only six people at the table, the waiter is going to wait until everyone is seated to take orders. You and the other two couples who showed up on time are a little peeved with the couple who drags in 15 minutes late. There are times when you or someone at your table may choose to dine elsewhere on the ship. If so, it is a good practice to let someone at your table know the day before that you will not be at dinner the next evening. If this is not possible, then you should at least call the Maitre'd before dinner to inform him that you will not be at dinner.

Guideline 3: Slamming doors

For all their engineering magnificence, one area that cruise ship designers tend to overlook is the noise generated from the cabin door when it slams shut. Because of the close proximity of cruise ship cabins, a stateroom door that slams shut can resonate through the walls and wake you from the deepest sleep. Some cruise lines are attempting to address this problem. On a recent Seabourn cruise, we noticed a small sheet included in our room key holder instructing guests on how to properly close a stateroom door quietly. That's a good first step.

The problem of slamming cabin doors is magnified on the larger, mass-market cruise ships where you see more "first-time" cruisers and larger groups of people who don't get back to their staterooms until after midnight. Balcony, or veranda, staterooms introduce an even greater occurrence of slamming doors. In addition to the potential for the heavy balcony door to slam shut, the "venturi effect" of the air coming from the ship's HVAC system combined with the outside air from an open balcony door can cause the stateroom door to slam with such force that anyone standing in its way could actually be injured.

It is important that we all be conscious of the fact that other people may go to bed early, or be sleeping late. When closing your stateroom door, hold the handle in the open position and pull the door fully closed before releasing the handle. Then, gently pull the door toward you until you feel the latch mechanism engage.

Guideline 4: Noise in hallway

This is somewhat related to #3 in that it involves respecting the privacy and comfort of other guests resting in their cabins. I cannot count the times that we have been awakened by a group of people standing outside our cabin carrying on a conversation at full volume. Cruise ship walls are not as insulated as those in a hotel and sound can carry through them easily. It is impolite to stand in a hallway late at night (after 9:30 pm) or early in the morning (before 8am) and carry on a conversation. If you absolutely must speak in the hallway, at least lower your volume and be considerate of people sleeping or resting in their cabin. Also, if you are traveling with children, please keep them from running up and down the halls.

Guideline 5: Smoking

Cruise lines have rules and regulations regarding where smoking is allowed on the ship. This is both a comfort and a safety issue. Fire is the biggest threat to a cruise ship. New cruise ships are equipped with highly sophisticated fire detection and suppression systems. However, the best measure is to avoid a fire altogether. If you smoke, familiarize yourself with the smoking guidelines of the ship you are on. Your travel agent should be able to get smoking policies for the cruise line before you book your cruise.

  • Only smoke in designated areas of the ship where smoking is allowed
  • Never throw a cigarette butt overboard! The wind can easily blow a lit butt back into the ship on a lower deck and cause a fire.
  • Utilize the smoking lounge or cigar lounge
  • Do not smoke in your stateroom unless it is specifically allowed by the cruise line

Guideline 6: Moving Pool Deck Chairs At Night

So, it is midnight, after the show, and you and some friends decide to head up to the pool deck for star gazing. You and your group grab a few pool chairs and drag them across the teak wood deck to position them for your evening of relaxation under the full moon. What you may not realize is that someone's cabin is located underneath that deck and the sound of chairs and tables scraping across the deck is amplified.

Guideline 7: Talking on cell phones

A cruise used to be a vacation from television, radio, the news and telephones. Those days are over, apparently. People have become so addicted to Blackberrys, iPhones and cell phones in general, that many cruise lines are now making it possible for you to use your cell phone on board. This is a huge step backward in my opinion. The general population has never been educated on how to use cell phones without infringing on the privacy of others. We have all been in restaurants where someone at a table nearby is carrying on a conversation at full volume where everyone in the place can hear it. If that is annoying in a restaurant, imagine how annoying it is when you are sitting on your balcony of your $300 a night cruise suite trying to enjoy the sound of the ocean only to be interrupted by someone on their balcony screaming into a cell phone.

Guideline 8: Don't complain to fellow passengers

If a situation arises during your cruise that is not to your satisfaction, start by trying to resolve the situation with the front desk or customer service desk. It is impolite to complain to fellow passengers, making everyone you come in contact with aware of your problem. Why ruin their vacation? If you go through the proper channels with your complaint, most cruise lines will go out of their way to satisfy your requests. (Thanks to Dick for posting a comment on this below).

Guideline 9: Control your kids

You may be oblivious to the ear-shattering screams of your children, but the rest of us are not. A cruise is the perfect "teachable moment" to teach your children acceptable behavior in public.

  • Don't allow your children to run up and down the halls.
  • Save the screaming and yelling for the pool.
  • Don't let your kids pick up food items on the buffet, then put them back.

Guideline 10: Follow the dress code

Cruise lines have dress codes for a reason, and many are reluctant to strictly enforce them because they do not want to make a paying customer angry. I had a situation on Silversea Cruises a few years ago where I was sitting in The Bar with Rickee enjoying a cocktail after an afternoon lecture. We arrived at around 5:15pm. I had on dress slacks and a collared shirt, but no jacket. After 6pm, one of the waiters came to the table and kindly reminded me that a jacket was required after 6pm. At first, I was a little taken back, but then I immediately realized, he was right to do that. I thanked him for reminding me and I went to our suite to put on a jacket. Part of what people are paying for is atmosphere. And, if other guests are following the rules, it is not fair for other to ignore them.

  • NEVER wear shorts, swimsuits or t-shirts on a ship after 6pm*
  • NEVER go barefoot anywhere inside the ship, anytime of day
  • Always wear a coverup (if you are wearing a swimsuit) in restaurants during the day, even the Lido buffet

*Some ships have a casual dress code, Always refer to your ship's dress code and follow accordingly.


By following a few simple guidelines we can all have a much more enjoyable cruise vacation experience!
   
20 Comments
SUNNIE
Having to teach grown people common courtesies is a sad commentary on todays civilization. Can anyone tell me why people who have paid thousands of dollars on a cruise act as if they haven't eaten for a month when the buffet line opens.
Friday, July 19, 2013 6:28 PM  
TOM
You should have offered a comment regarding smoking to the effect that it is not acceptable to be constantly whining and sniping at those who do smoke ......... particularly when smoking in designated areas. Please understand I am a non-smoker who simply recognizes that smokers also have rights.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 10:03 AM  
CLAY
I found the article very informative. I am booking a cruise in May 2012, my first, so this was very helpful although most was common sense. It was good to be reminded that this everybody's vacation and we should act accordingly.
Thursday, March 08, 2012 11:03 PM  
MASHELLE
i'veonly been on one cruise and want to say i'm sorry to any of those passnagers that i might have offened. the cruise was the disney wonder back in 2002. my ex brother in law and ex sisiter were having a disgreement. a loud one. i'm so sorry for that and that it has taken this long to say i'm sorry.
Friday, July 22, 2011 3:21 PM  
JUDY
Most cruise line employees want you to enjoy your cruise and will work hard to provide excellent service. The only problems I have encountered on a cruise were problems caused by ignorant and rude passengers. If I see unaccompanied kids behaving rudely, I speak up...both to the kids and a crew member. Also let Guest Services know. One more thing to add...keep your room service trays in your room or call to have it picked up right away. The hallways are narrow and no one wants to step on/over your mess.
Sunday, May 22, 2011 5:21 PM  
MARK
Excellent commentary and advice. When aboard a Celebrity ship in the eastern Caribbean earlier this summer, my wife and I literally never set foot on our verandah because our next-door neighbors, two women from New York, kept their verandah door open all day and night, shouting at eachother virtually non-stop. While the front office did what they could to control the situation, we could just as well have booked an interrior cabin for a third of the price and had the same experience. Very troubling, indeed.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 5:11 PM  
MIMI BROWNING
Of course the people who really need to read these won't -- too bad as they are great suggestions
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 2:43 PM  
BOB
As for talking loud in the hallways,most of the times its the help.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 1:48 PM  
LYNNE MCKISSOCK
Agree wholeheartedly with all your comments. Common courtesy seems to be a thing of the past these days, especially if children are the cause of the trouble. Selective hearing on behalf of the parents seems to be endemic.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 11:09 AM  
JOHN LAVELLE
Very well put. If we could all practice "common courtesy" life would be so much more pleasant. Unfortunately "common courtesy" is almost as rare as "common sense", which we all probably consider an oxymoron.
Monday, May 17, 2010 12:43 PM  
SCUBACRUISER
As to your guideline No. 8... It depends on what the complaint is about. I would agree with this in general, but when it is a matter of safety or health concern, ships tend to hide this from passengers... so as not to create alarm. That is one category that everyone in my party will become quickly aware of as well as those that we develop friendships. If your advice is to leave this up to the ship, then please tell me how you would handle a Norwalk virus threat.... I have been on a ship that it hit, and we were alerted to the fact two days after it started by the ship in the daily rag. If we had not heard it from another passenger, we would have likely just trudged along in ignorance and potentially developed the illness thus ruining our vacation by being made ill and quarantined.
Friday, March 26, 2010 8:44 AM  
STEVE BURNS
One of the worst offenses happens at the buffets. People who will normally wait politely in line at a supermarket or anywhere else will walk over you to get to the food.
Thursday, March 25, 2010 4:39 PM  
SANDY J.
When on your balcony, one should remember to use your quiet inside voice. I might be quietly enjoying the view and not particularly interested in a loud voice discussing matters of a personal nature. Neither do I enjoy cigar smoke invading my personal space.
Thursday, February 18, 2010 2:18 PM  
SCOTT LARA
Cruise Etiquette...This is a great topic. Last month, the wife and I were on the RC Monarch of the Seas. Deck 6. Two kids ages (approx) 12 and 8 LOVED to run up and down the hall...SEVERAL TIMES A DAY. Something about those long halls I guess. I asked the dad to please ask his kids to stop doing that. He just ignored me.
Friday, December 25, 2009 4:23 PM  
LB
Regarding the smoking comment, although you may like to smoke on your balcony, the people below you do not want your ashes in their faces. Don't hang your cigarettes over the balcony please!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 7:19 AM  
DICK
If something goes wrong do your best to resolve it with the front desk in a calm considerate manner. Telling the entire ship of your displeasure is not going to increase your popularity with your fellow passengers and may infact ruin the mood of the entire cruise for everyone.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 6:10 PM  
CRUISER
Sad that such common sense considerations have to be taught.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 6:09 PM  
BARBARA
As a "good TA", I was thinking the same thing!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 11:53 AM  
DIANA FRENSON
wonderful article, I couldn't agree more
Monday, December 21, 2009 9:37 PM  
DAVID
A good TA should copy this and attach it to their confirmation notice.
Monday, December 21, 2009 1:43 PM  
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