44 Things Not to Do on a Cruise Ship

Let’s get one thing straight at the start — this isn’t meant to be a list of rigid rules that you have to follow. Your cruise is your vacation. That means you can enjoy it however you want to, short of breaking the law.

Instead, our 44 things not to do on a cruise ship represent tips and advice on how to make your cruise more fun, more memorable, and a better experience. From things that you don’t want to forget to pack to things that might get you kicked off the ship, we cover a full spectrum of “do-nots” that you’ll want to know before you take your trip.

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Don’t stand in front of the elevator doors

Elevators are the lifeblood of a cruise ship. Cruise ships can have 12+ decks, which means you’ll be riding elevators several times a day to get around. If you are waiting for an elevator, wait to the side of the doors. Then, let them open and let anyone who is exiting go first so that there is more room for passengers to get on. Only after everyone has gotten should you then try to hop on.

Don’t book a flight too early

Airplane taking off

If you are flying to the port for your cruise, then you need to be smart with your arrival and departure times. Due to having to go through customs and immigration, it can take significantly longer to get off the ship than it takes to board it. We suggest booking your flight for mid-afternoon at the earliest. This should give you plenty of time to debark and still make your flight without having to stress.

Don’t fly in the day of the cruise

Between weather delays, mechanical malfunction, and computer shut-downs, there are always horror stories of air travel. That’s why it’s a smart idea to avoid flying in the day of the cruise. Even if things go well, you’ll likely be watching to clock to make sure you arrive in time. Instead, scheduling your flight for the day before gives you plenty of time should your flight be delayed and leaves you ready to cruise on the day of your trip.

Don’t forget a nightlight

Most people don’t bring a nightlight because it’s an unusual thing to pack. But having a little light in a cabin is a godsend. When you get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom in an unfamiliar cabin, it’s your shins that pay the price. So instead of turning on a bright light and disturbing your partner, packing a cheap nightlight is much easier.

Don’t forget a outlet adapter

Another cheap item to not forget? An outlet adapter. Cruise cabins are notorious for having only one or two plugs that are supposed to handle all of your electronics. Instead, bring an outlet adapter that plugs in and provides several more outlets. Just remember to get one that doesn’t have a surge protector as they aren’t allowed on the ship.

Don’t think you’ll hook up with staff

Single? Ready to mingle? Better keep it focused on other passengers. It’s a well-known secret that hook-ups between the crew and passengers are off limits. Word is that it can cost employees of the ship their job. So if you have your eye on that cute bartender, keep looking elsewhere.

Don’t go topless

In the old days, many cruise ships had out-of-the-way decks far from prying eyes where tops were optional for adults. These days, that’s not the case. We know of no decks — even adults-only areas — where topless sunbathing is allowed. Sure, you can try to test the waters given that there aren’t explicit signs saying it’s not allowed, but it’s just easier to keep the top on while on your cruise.

Don’t forget your passport or birth certificate

As a rule, Cruzely recommends having a passport, but that’s not always practical. For most cruises, you can get by with a birth certificate and photo ID. No matter what ID you decide to use, don’t even think about forgetting it. In fact, go ahead and put it in your luggage right now, just in case.

Don’t arrive too early

These days, many cruise lines are moving toward “staggered” check-in. Whereas you used to just show up at port anytime during the boarding hours (usually something like 12 – 4 p.m.), to make things smoother many lines now provide a 30-minute boarding window. While it’s tempting, don’t show up before it’s your time to board. If you do, you’ll be asked to return at the appropriate time.

Don’t bring drugs on the ship

No matter where you are sailing, including states where marijuana is legal, avoid the temptation to bring illegal drugs on a cruise. They aren’t legal on the ship and there have even been stories of local authorities in ports of call busting passengers for possession. Just leave the stuff at home.

Don’t think ports are always Disney World

The feel of a cruise can be a little sanitized; everything is fun, clean, and friendly. However, that doesn’t always extend into ports. While the area right near the pier is usually made to entice tourists, get away from the ship a little and you’ll often see the less idyllic parts of the area. Just remember that you are visiting a real place — not just a tourist mecca. Keep your common sense and you’ll be fine, but petty crimes can happen.

Don’t eat at just one place on the ship

Blueiguana cantina sign

Ships come with a ton of places to eat — from buffets to the main dining room to specialty restaurants. But no matter how much you like the food at one of the restaurants, everything gets old if you eat it for a week straight. Be sure to try to eat at different places on the ship to keep your tastebuds from getting bored.

Don’t forget to explore

It can be all too easy just to hop off the ship and hang out in the touristy areas right near the ship. However, if you do this then you miss some of the unique aspects of the ports that you visit. Instead, look for excursions — or just head off on your own — to get away from the ship and see some of the unique culture of the area.

Don’t talk yourself out of doing that excursion

We know that the price tags on port excursions can seem expensive. It’s not crazy to spend more than $100 per person for an all-day excursion. Don’t let the price tag scare you off. Excursions are often worth the money and provide you with an opportunity to experience things you’d never get to do on any other vacation.

Don’t forget to wash your hands

An unfortunate side effect of having thousands of people all on one ship? It makes it a perfect place for spreading sickness. This is why you often hear about virus outbreaks on a ship. The best way to keep yourself from getting sick is to wash your hands religiously. As well, ships will have dispensers of hand sanitizer near all the eating areas.

Don’t miss the opportunity to get romantic on the balcony

A popular pastime in balcony cabins? Getting a little frisky out in the open air with a view of the water. It’s a poorly-kept secret that there is something about a balcony on a cruise ship that causes people to think of romance. Our advice? Just wait until it’s late at night and there aren’t as many people around. And also be discreet. Balconies aren’t as private as you think.

Don’t go nude on the balcony

No sunbathing sign

Are we really telling you not to go nude on a balcony right after mentioning the fun of being romantic there? Absolutely. If you want to get frisky on the balcony, we suggested waiting until it’s late and no one is around. If you want to do some nude sunbathing on your cruise, keep in mind that the balconies aren’t all that private. Large gaps in the dividers mean prying eyes could see everything — even by accident.

Don’t stay on your phone the entire time

These days phones are part of our lives. Just like we wear a pair of shoes everywhere, we bring a phone everywhere. On cruises, wi-fi has become more accessible and faster meanings even in the middle of the ocean you can stay connected. We suggest putting the phone down and unplugging for your trip. Enjoy the relaxation that comes with being hundreds of miles away from you normal day-to-day.

Don’t forget to shop for parking

Yes, parking at the official port parking is always convenient. But it’s also the most expensive. If you shop around for parking at your specific port, you can find independent lots near the cruise port that offer much cheaper prices (saving 50% is typical). These lots almost always have a free shuttle to the cruise port as well.

Don’t get back to the ship late

They are called “pier runners” — and those are the lucky ones. Pier runners are the people running to catch the ship before it leaves. Usually they make it. What you don’t see is the people that return to the pier after the ship has already left. They get left behind and have to find their own way home. The time announced to be back on the ship isn’t a suggestion. If you don’t make it, you’ll be left in port.

Don’t miss the muster drill

Muster drill isn’t the most fun part of a cruise, but it is mandatory. This drill, completed before the ship leaves is a drill to show you where to assemble in case of an emergency. During the drill, the staff will go cabin to cabin to make sure everyone is accounted for. You aren’t allowed to not participate in the drill and trying to avoid it may delay things further.

Don’t be afraid to haggle

In the United States, haggling isn’t very common. If Caribbean ports, it’s much more common. While you won’t really do it in “American” style stores with clearly labeled prices, in the out-of-the-way souvenir shops and with taxi drivers, it’s ok to haggle a little bit. So go ahead, throw out a lower price. You might get a discount.

Don’t skimp on tipping

Tipping is somewhat of a controversial topic. Many passengers feel like the suggested tip amounts are too high and that cruise lines should simply pay the staff more. Others see a hard-working staff that is there to make your vacation more comfortable and deserve recognition. No matter your view, you shouldn’t skimp on tipping the staff. If you can afford to take the cruise, you can afford to tip.

Don’t get too loud in the bedroom

Maybe it’s the warm weather or the skimpy clothes around the pool, but something about cruising puts people in the mood. That’s a good thing, but be respectful of your neighbors. If you want to go back and make whoopie in your cabin, keep it at a reasonable level. The cabin next to you likely doesn’t want to hear your good time.

Don’t climb the railing

Want that selfie on the ship’s railing? Don’t even think about it. Every year there are stories of people sitting on the railing and accidentally falling overboard. It’s dangerous. Don’t do it. Ever.

Don’t pack your drone

There are a number of things you can’t pack on a cruise, including most weapons (small knives are ok) and hoverboards. One more thing — drones. While they can take pretty video and pictures of beautiful ports, they are prohibited on cruises.

Don’t wear camouflage in port

In most places, wearing camouflage pants or a hate doesn’t even garner a second glance. In some Caribbean countries, however, it’s illegal. Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago prohibit people from wearing the design.

Don’t be a chair hog

Deck chairs near the pool are prime real estate. So prime that some people wake up early and head down to put a towel down to “reserve” their spot. Meanwhile, the chair stays empty for hours even though others would love to sit there. Chair hogs are universally hated on cruise ships and the staff will often move your towel if you aren’t around for an extended time. Don’t be a chair hog.

Don’t be surprised by your bill at the end of the cruise

Cruise lines make it easy to spend on the ship. Instead of cash, you put everything on your room card, which also serves as a credit card for your onboard account. It’s up to you to check in an keep tabs on your spending. You want to be sure to know how much you are spending so you aren’t taken by surprise at the bill at the end of your cruise.

Don’t throw things overboard

It shouldn’t have to be said, but don’t throw trash overboard on the ship. Even in the middle of the ocean, it’s litter and can harm the wildlife in the area. Just don’t do it.

Don’t smoke in your room (or balcony)

Vaping

Are you a smoker (or a vaper)? Then you are likely used to rules about where you can smoke. It’s the same on a cruise ship. The ships have designated areas where you are allowed to light up, and it never includes your cabin, even if you have a balcony. You can get into serious trouble for smoking in the room.

Don’t buy anything that’s not on sale

Cruise ships these days are filled with shops selling everything from t-shirts to high-end watches. We suggest looking around for things you like, but waiting to buy until it’s on sale. It’s normal for the ship to run sales on just about everything at sometime during the course of the trip. Being a little patient is an easy way to save some cash.

Don’t buy art without doing your homework

Art auctions are everywhere on major cruise ships. You should do your homework before you purchase anything, however. There are a number of stories of upset customers who feel they didn’t get a good deal on their purchase. If you see a painting you like and are ok with the price, then by all means, buy it. But if you are looking for a steal, be sure to do your homework first.

Don’t think the ship is your babysitter

Cruises are great for families as there is something for everyone. Kids areas on board are happy to watch your children while you relax on the ship. What you shouldn’t do is just let them run wild on the ship on their own, unless they are responsible enough to do so. The ship itself isn’t your babysitter and you don’t want your kids ruining someone else’s vacation or getting into trouble.

Don’t put the wrong things in your carry-on

Your carry-on should include everything you 1) can’t live without for the first day and 2) don’t want to be lost or broken. So that means you want to pack things like medicines, passports, wallets, a change of clothes, and any champagne or wine you bring on. Don’t make the mistake of putting things you might need into your checked luggage.

Don’t try to tough out seasickness

If you get even a hint of being seasick, don’t try to tough it out. Take a remedy right away. It doesn’t take much nausea to make you feel terrible. There’s not sense in not doing something about it when you could be feeling better.

Don’t let your baby swim if they aren’t potty trained

Taking a small child on a cruise? That’s a great idea. Cruises are great for family vacation as there is something for everyone. One place to avoid if your kiddo isn’t potty trained is the pool. Not only are they not allowed, but for health reasons, it’s a bad idea to let them swim — even if wearing swim diapers. Some ships have splash pads just for the little ones, or else you can wait until you hit the beach.

Don’t stomp in the cabin

Cabins in cruise ships are tight. And not only is there not a ton of space, but you will have cabins on either side, plus a cabin above and a cabin below. In other words, it’s nice to be considerate of others nearby. Don’t stomp around a cabin, which may be heard in the room below you.

Don’t play loud music

While stomping in a cabin may only bother those below you, loud music radiates out in all directions. It’s nice to keep it down and don’t disturb other passengers. You never know who is trying to get some sleep — no matter the time of day.

Don’t take the elevators to only go a floor or two

Stairs on a cruise ship

You’ll notice quickly on your cruise that elevators are the highway of the ship. They are almost always busy with people going up and down decks. If you’re able, you should use the stairs if you plan to go only a deck or two. Not only is it faster, but it means there’s less traffic on the elevators for everyone else.

Don’t forget to turn your phone off/airplane mode

There are horror stories of cruise passengers forgetting to turn their phones off or placing them in airplane mode. Then, the phone accidentally connects to foreign towers and racks up huge roaming charges. If you want to use your phone, connect to the ship’s wi-fi. Otherwise, we suggest using it in airplane mode to avoid any accidental charges.

Don’t forget travel insurance

There seem to be two groups of travelers when it comes to travel insurance — those who always buy it and those who never do. We’re in the camp that it’s always a good idea to purchase travel insurance. When you’re in the middle of the ocean or if there is a serious accident when in port, then costs to get help can quickly soar. Travel insurance also protects you from things like getting sick and having to miss your cruise and if you lose your bags. You can read more about the benefits of travel insurance here.

Don’t stay a hotel without a parking deal

Are you driving to the port? If so, then you need a place to park your car. If you plan to stay at a hotel near the port before your cruise, look for one with a parking package. Instead of having to pay separately for parking at the port, many hotels will let you park for free or at a discounted rate. It’s a great way to save some cash.

Don’t get upset if things aren’t perfect

A spilled drink or even a port that gets skipped due to weather? It happens. Not every single thing will go perfect on your cruise. Don’t let it get you upset. Roll with the punches and know that the cruise line wants to keep passengers happy. If you have a legitimate complaint, then let someone know. But don’t let a small incident ruin an entire cruise.

Have more “do-nots” for cruise passengers? Let us know in the comments below!


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