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 never 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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Never arrive too early to port
These days, many cruise lines have moved to “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 may asked to return at the appropriate time.
In addition, we think it’s smart to wait to board until later in the day anyway. That way your room will already be prepared and the crowds are much smaller in the terminal.
Never stand in front of the elevator doors
Elevators are the lifeblood of a cruise ship. Cruise ships can have 12+ decks (some have up to 20 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 off should you then try to hop on. Otherwise, you’re simply creating a traffic jam with those trying to get off.
Never book a flight too early to go home
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 (though facial recognition is making things move much faster). Then you have to deal with the flood of people trying to leave the port all at once.
That’s why we suggest booking your flight for early afternoon at the earliest. This should give you plenty of time to debark and still make your flight without having to stress.
Never fly in the day of the cruise
Between weather delays, mechanical malfunctions, 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 at the port in time. Instead, scheduling your inbound 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.
Never 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.
Never 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.
Never 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 or member of the entertainment crew, keep looking elsewhere.
Never go topless (except for Virgin)
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 on U.S cruises.
The one exception is Virgin Voyages. Since they are adults-only, they do have spot designated for topless sunbathing if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
Never forget your passport or birth certificate
As a rule, Cruzely recommends having a passport, but that’s not always practical as it can be expensive and take a long time to get one. 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.
Never bring drugs on the ship
No matter where you are sailing — including states where marijuana is legal — avoid the temptation to bring drugs on a cruise. Since cruise ships follow federal law, drugs (even legal marijuana) aren’t allowed. Even worse, there have even been stories of local authorities in ports of call busting passengers for possession. Just leave the stuff at home. CBD is also against the rules.
Never think ports are 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. Use common sense and you should have zero issues.
Never eat at just one place on the ship
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.
It may be tempting to avoid spots like specialty restaurants that cost extra, but they can be well worth the money as they are typically a step above the food you find elsewhere on the ship.
Never 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.
Never 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 excursion. So a family of four may drop close to $500. 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. Of the cruises we’ve taken, excursions are typically what we remember the most vividly.
Never 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 cruise ships — and why they were associated with the early days of the pandemic. 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.
Never 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 so you can be more discreet. Balconies aren’t as private as you think.
Never go nude on the balcony
Are we really telling you not to go nude on a balcony right after mentioning the fun of being romantic there? If you want to get frisky on the balcony, we suggested waiting until it’s late, dark 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 — during the middle of the day.
Never 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. In fact, the cruise line apps with menus, maps, and schedules practically mean you have to carry your phone around.
We suggest putting the phone down and unplugging for your trip when you can. Enjoy the relaxation that comes with being hundreds of miles away from you normal day-to-day.
Never forget to shop for parking
Yes, parking at the official port parking is always the most convenient. It’s right at the cruise ship, meaning you can park and walk to your cruise. 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.
Never 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.
Never 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 to show you where to assemble in case of an emergency. Thankfully following the pandemic the drill is much easier. Watch a video on the phone, check-in at the meeting station, and then watch a demonstration of putting on a life jacket. No longer does the entire ship shut down for muster.
You aren’t allowed to skip the drill and trying to avoid it may cause delays. Get onboard, get it done, and then enjoy the rest of your cruise.
Never be afraid to haggle in port
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.
Never skimp on tipping
Tipping is somewhat of a controversial topic. Some 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 the gratuity.
Never 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. The good news is that the cabins are fairly soundproof (within reason).
Never climb or sit on 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. Even if you are hanging onto a post and it’s just for a second. It’s not worth the potential of falling.
Never wear camouflage in port
In most places, wearing camouflage pants or a hat 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. Just leave the camo at home and you don’t have anything to worry about.
Never 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. Or maybe they put their towel down and go around doing other stuff around the ship. Meanwhile, the chair stays empty for hours even though others would love to sit there. Chair hogs are universally despised 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.
Never 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 and 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.
The last thing you want is a sour taste from having to spend way more than you planned. You can view your spending account via the cruise line app on your phone.
Never 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. It can also get you in trouble with the cruise staff if you are caught doing it. Just don’t do it.
Never smoke in your room (or balcony)
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 as fire is a major worry on a cruise ship. Instead, keep it to the specific designated spots on the decks and the casino.
Never forget your allotment of drinks to bring
Cruise lines don’t let you bring on hard alcohol of beer, but most do allow for a bottle of wine/champagne and to bring on non-alcoholic drinks when boarding. We suggest never forgetting to bring what’s allowed as it can save some serious money. For example, soda on a cruise can cost $3 each, so that 12-pack you can bring on is worth nearly $40.
Never 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.
Never think the ship is your babysitter
Cruises are great for families as there is something for everyone. Kids areas on the ship are happy to watch your children while you relax and enjoy your cruise… and it’s included in the cost of the fare. 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.
Never 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. While it’s rare, there is the risk that it could get lost on the way from the terminal to your cabin.
Never 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 no sense in not doing something about it when you could be feeling better. Tablets and patches are available just a few bucks and can mean all the difference in enjoying your cruise and being miserable.
Never 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 vacations as there is something for everyone.
One place to avoid if your kiddo isn’t potty-trained is the pool. Kids that aren’t potty-trained aren’t allowed in, even if wearing swim diapers due to the obvious health reasons. The good news is that some ships have splash pads just for the little ones, or else you can wait until you hit the beach.
Never stomp in the cabin
Cabins in cruise ships are extremely close together. 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.
Never 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.
Never take the elevators to only go a floor or two
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.
Never forget to turn your phone off or on 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.
Never 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.
Never 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 versus parking right at the ship, which is more expensive.
Never 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 things that cruise passengers should never do? Let us know in the comments below!