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Cruising Unwritten Rules: What Not To Do On A Cruise

Cruising Unwritten Rules: What Not To Do On A Cruise

When travelling on a cruise ship, cruise guests must follow several official rules and regulations. These cruise rules revolve mostly around your safety and include bans on things such as smoking indoors, throwing things overboard or bringing certain dangerous items onboard.

However, regular cruise guests will know that there are also a set of unwritten cruise rules; those that are not official but which every cruise guest is expected to follow so that everyone can enjoy a pleasant time onboard. Read on below as we share the best practice when you’re on a cruise.

What are the unwritten rules of cruising?

Think of unwritten cruise rules as cruise etiquette. They are expectations that cruise guests and crew have of one another so that when hundreds or thousands of people are on board a cruise ship, everyone can get along happily.

Of course, no one will put you in the cruise ship brigs (jail) if you break these unwritten rules. However, you will undoubtedly raise a few eyebrows and not be looked upon fondly by those around you.

So, what should you not be doing on a cruise ship? Here are our top eight unwritten rules of cruising:

Respect the buffet line

When cruise guests are asked, ‘Are there any unwritten cruise rules?’, this one tops many people’s lists. With so many people getting their meals in the main dining room, it is a significant bugbear when somebody cuts in line.

On most cruise ships, the main dining room will have several buffet ‘islands’, often grouping dishes into starters, salads, hot dishes and desserts, so informal queues tend to form for each. The best practice when you’re on a cruise is to join the back of these queues, follow the flow, and not cut in from another direction.

Be considerate of others waiting, too; don’t heap your plate and leave little for others behind you. You can always go back for seconds (or more), and remember to use a clean plate if you do.

Think about hygiene

When thinking about what not to do on a cruise, this rule has become expressed much more overtly since the pandemic and is particularly important in the dining areas. Don’t pick up food with your hands, use tongs or utensils provided and remember to use the hand gel where available.

Be considerate of noise levels

Another high priority when exercising best practice when you’re on a cruise is being considerate of noise levels. Stateroom cabins are not soundproof, so be mindful that loud noises will be heard from inside your room.

Keep voices, the TV or music low, particularly later in the evening when other guests may be sleeping. Also, remember how close others are when you are out on your balcony. It is surprising how clearly people in the cabins around you can hear any sounds you make.

Don’t reserve deck chairs or loungers for an extended time

Cruise guests love to find the best spot to soak up the sun. But if you do not intend to use a deck chair or sun lounger in the immediate future, be considerate of others who may want it.

It used to be a familiar scene by the poolside, where lines of towels were laid over sun loungers with no guests in sight. Therefore, some cruise lines have started to make this a ‘written’ cruise rule with signs stating not to leave belongings on deck chairs unattended.

However, written rule or not, the best practice when you’re on a cruise ship is only to leave your towel on a lounger if you’re going for a quick dip, grabbing a drink from the poolside bar or attending to a call of nature. If you’re gone for longer, it is perfectly acceptable for cruise guests to move your items to one side.

Be punctual

When it comes to going on a shore excursion, taking part in an onboard group activity or sharing a table during fixed dining, being late is another unwritten rule of what not to do on a cruise. Again, it is a matter of courtesy to others, who should not have to wait around and waste their precious holiday time because you’ve not turned up at the time requested.

Lateness usually results in activities being cut short or, in the case of dining, food service being delayed until everyone is present. Of course, plans can change, so if you know that you will not be able to make an event or activity at the agreed time, make sure you let someone know.

Treat the crew with respect


Crew members are there to ensure you have a great holiday and also for your safety. It is, therefore, only polite to thank them for their work, and you should always be respectful of any directions they give you.

Typically, crew members work long hours and are away from home for extended periods. So, although they are on a luxury cruise ship that travels around fantastic destinations, it can often be hard work.

Being nice to your crew may be a small thing to you, but will mean a lot to them. Take time to get to know them, too. It helps make their day better, and often, you’ll find they’ll help you out a bit more as well.

When it comes to tipping, you should always follow the standard set by the cruise line. Most cruise lines offer automatic gratuities that are added to your cruise account to make it more convenient for you.

Be sure to check, though, as tips are often significant to a crew member’s take-home.

Don’t curse

Many cruise lines today have families onboard, and even if they don’t, cursing is an unnecessary unpleasantness that other guests and crew members should not have to tolerate. The same goes for inappropriate comments or insults too.

Exercise lift etiquette

It’s a simple unwritten rule, but one which makes moving around the cruise ship much easier and more efficient. The best practice when you’re on a cruise ship is to always let others out of the lift before trying to get in.

Unwritten cruise rules have evolved to make the whole cruise holiday experience as enjoyable as possible for all. When thinking about what not to do on a cruise, ask yourself if you are being considerate of others in your actions.

If the answer is no, then you probably should avoid it.

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