What Can You Not Do on a Cruise?
Before You Board
You don’t want to make any cruise faux pas, and you want your first cruise to be perfect. So what are the dos and don’ts on a cruise ship?
While a lot of things are common sense, experienced cruisers can give you tips on cruise dos and don’ts that you wouldn’t otherwise think of. These can save you time, money, and huge headaches, not to mention make your cruise experience amazingly better.
We’ve broken our list of dos and don’ts into three categories relating to pre-boarding and preparations, tips while you’re on the high seas, and final things to not forget before you disembark. We cover everything from practical tips to some pointers about finding that special someone.
Do research your cruise. Experienced cruisers say there is a cruise for everyone. Are you interested in the cruise experience itself on a luxury liner, or are you more of the excursion type who wants to prioritize destinations and excursion options?
Don’t plan to arrive at your embarkation point the same day your cruise leaves. Buses and cars can get a flat tire. Flights can be delayed. But regardless, the cruise ship is not going to wait for you to arrive unless you’ve actually booked your flight through the cruise company. To prevent sad scenes like pier runners arriving at the port only to see their cruise ship sailing into the sunset, many cruise companies will offer packages that include the option for dinner or even a night’s stay in a hotel the day before you depart.
Don’t go on a cruise if you have a highly contagious illness. If you arrive to the embarkation point showing signs of sickness there’s a good chance they won’t let you on. Cruise companies screen passengers for illnesses and if you’re flagged you’ll get a quick medical checkup before you join the rest of the passengers. If you’re worried about getting sick before your cruise the best thing to do is buy travel insurance that covers medical cancellations.
Do bring your passport. Even if you technically don’t need it you never know what can happen. You might go on an excursion, forget to check the time, and get stranded in a foreign country. You might get sick and need to be medevaced to the nearest hospital. Keep your options open.
Do take advantage of online check in. It can save you hours waiting in line.
Do bring sea sickness medication. You can find this for sale on board but you will save a lot if you plan ahead. The same goes for your swimsuit.
Don’t bring a clothes iron on board. They will confiscate it at the outset and give it back to you when you disembark. On-board fire is one of the most serious risks cruise companies do their utmost to minimize.
Do put your phone in airplane mode before you set sail. Otherwise you might rack up triple or even quadruple-digit roaming charges. If you go to an on-board service desk the staff can even check your phone to make sure it’s not incurring extra roaming charges. In 2018 a boy surprised his parents when they got a phone bill for roughly $13,600 because he had downloaded slightly less than half a gigabyte of data while at sea on a cruise. Even if you think you know your phone plan, it’s best to double check with your carrier about coverage in international waters. Some phone companies even offer cruise plans, in addition to those that are available for purchase on board.
Don’t forget to make reservations at the kids clubs. Going on a cruise with your family can be a great experience, made all the more so by having some special time away from the kids while they’re being entertained at the on-board children’s clubs. You just need to remember to book space in those in advance. Otherwise it’s first-come-first served, and there are many like-minded parents who are looking forward to some kid-free time alone in the cabin or at a nice restaurant.
Do price out a drink package before you buy it. Do the math and add up how much you would have to drink to make it pay off. Factor in how many days in a row you can pace yourself, along with variables like potential sea sickness, a queasy stomach from eating food you’re not used to, and the days spent on shore excursions away from the ship. And speaking of alcohol:
Don’t try and bring alcohol on board. Cruise companies don’t allow it and they screen for it. If you must bring alcohol on board, take the advice of long-time experienced cruisers: “The best way to bring alcohol on board a cruise ship is in your stomach.” You are allowed to bring as many cigarettes as you want.
Don’t bring devices that can play music loud. You will get in trouble, and you don’t need to; there are plenty of places all over the ship where you can find DJs playing loud music. In fact, don’t be loud in general in the passenger quarters.
Don’t expect it to be like The Love Boat. Romance is never far away on a vacation cruise…for couples who came aboard together. If you’re single you might find it more difficult than you thought to meet someone in the same boat. Cruzely published the results of a survey they did in 2017 that found only 5.5 percent of passengers reported getting frisky with someone they met on board a cruise.
Don’t send your non-potty-trained child into the pool. Accidents will cause it to be closed until it’s cleaned and disinfected. Keep in mind that most cruise lines don’t allow non-potty-trained kids into the pool, even with swim diapers, and often have the minimum age limit set at two years old.
Don’t try and skip the lifeboat “muster” drill. Staff comes around to every stateroom to make sure no one is hiding. If they catch you trying to dodge out they have the option to kick you off the boat.
Don’t blame the cruise company for bad weather on your vacation, and don’t expect a bad-weather refund. This is specially written into the terms and conditions of your ticket.
Don’t try and get too close to the crew. The saying goes that a crew member who is found to be having intimate relations with a passenger will get chicken or beef. “That’s what a flight attendant asks you when you’re put on the first flight home.” Says veteran cruise director Dru Pavlov, featured in a 2018 Bloomberg article about industry secrets.
Don’t be in a rush at the buffet, or anywhere else for that matter. Some people get annoyed at those who cut the line and dart between others for single food items. And when you’re at the buffet, use the tongs that are provided instead of touching food with your hands. You might gross other passengers out, but more importantly, you might be spreading a contagious bug around. Cruise ships are particularly rigid about hygiene for good reason. If someone reports that you’re touching the food with your hands you won’t get a talking to from the dining staff; you’ll be contacted by security.
Don’t reserve deck chairs with a towel and then not sit in them. This might seem like a minor issue but it’s actually something that irks many passengers. Some cruise companies will even have deck officers patrol the chairs and put a time-stamped sign on those occupied by something non-human. If you don’t sit in the chair within 45 minutes your items will be bagged and sent to the lost-and-found.
Don’t spend all your money at the casino. It goes without saying but there’s always someone who does. In an article for Yahoo Travel a former cruise ship doctor told the story about a man who had gone on a cruise to help him get over a particularly hard breakup. During a night of depression he went to the casino and lost a couple thousand dollars. Feeling despondent he went from the casino to the front of the ship where jumped off, falling eight stories until he hit the water. Luckily a crew member saw him go over and immediately radioed the captain, who took evasive measures to avoid sucking him through the propeller. The man was rescued and survived.
Do keep track of the time. You are always on ship time unless told otherwise. The time zone may have changed and be different when you’re on a shore excursion, but your ship is going to depart at the scheduled ship time.
Before You Disembark at The End of Your Cruise
Do return all the things you’ve checked out before you disembark. Cruise companies keep track of everything from pool towels to on-board cell phones, and they will charge you for anything that’s missing. Even the little things can add up.
Don’t forget to clean out your stateroom safe. Ironically people are prone to forget their most valuable possessions in their safes because they don’t use them during the cruise.
Last but certainly not least, do remember that you’re on vacation. Don’t hurry; enjoy yourself!