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Cruise Ship Etiquette: How to Behave at Sea

Cruises are an exciting, exotic experience, with specialized etiquette rules
BY Bill Lindsey TIMESeptember 15, 2022 PRINT

What could be better than a vacation at sea? Sailing a soothing ocean, en route to exotic, exciting ports, plus plenty of onboard activities? All that—but with manners.

Enjoy Yourself Responsibly

The reason to take a cruise in the first place is to relax and refresh yourself by spending time on the open ocean, with all your whims addressed by the attentive crew. Allow your stress to fall away into the ship’s wake, but don’t neglect common sense. Using sunblock can save you from a trip-ruining sunburn, and restraining yourself at the all-you-can-eat buffet helps ensure that you won’t return home to clothes that no longer fit. Don’t overindulge on tropical cocktails, either.

Be the Crew’s Favorite Passenger

As you walk up the boarding ladder to the ship, set a goal of being the passenger the entire crew can’t wait to have back for another cruise. Don’t skip safety drills, and respect lines for activities; you’re on a cruise, so what’s a short wait? Be punctual; if you’re wrapping up a port visit and miss the tender lift back to the ship, it’s your responsibility to find a way back, even if it’s at the next port of call.

Respect the Crew

Cruise ships are floating resorts, and, to the staff, just another place of work—albeit with a great view. From the captain down to the maintenance staff you may pass in a hallway, show them basic human kindness with a smile and a pleasant comment. Some cruise lines charge you a daily tip to be split amongst the staff, but this might not include casino and spa personnel, so make sure you take care of these folks, too.

Dress to Impress

Do some research before you book a cruise to know what to expect in terms of fellow travelers and the nature of the cruise, from a rowdy spring break crowd to sedate retirees to families with young children. You’ll also want to research the expected dress code. Some cruises have formal events, so when the crew is wearing dress whites, you’re expected to dress up as well; be sure to pack more than just swimwear and flipflops.

Mind the Young Sailors

On all cruises, including family-friendly ones, don’t expect the crew to be babysitters. While there may be activities designed to keep kids happily occupied, you are responsible for your children and their actions. This means you need to make sure they are exhibiting great manners and adhering to the ship’s rules for meals and activities, as well as at all other times. Even if other parents allow their kids to run amuck, keep yours happy and safe.

Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
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