Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cruise Etiquette - the Ins and Outs on How to Make Your Cruise Experience Better

I love to cruise!  I love being on board.  My biggest frustration when sailing is how other cruisers act.  Common courtesy goes a long way.  Remember what your Mom said “do unto others and you would like done unto you”. 

I have been wanting to write this article for a long time.  I posted the question on my facebook page and I got many great ideas from my fans and I have incorporated many of them here.


No matter what dining option you have (traditional or anytime) many of these tips apply.

-          Make sure to dine in your appropriate venue.  Traditional diners are assigned a time and table in a specific dining room. Choosing to dine in the anytime dining room (although staff often check cards) takes away space from those who have anytime dining, while your table in traditional dining room goes empty.

-          If you have a set time for dining or have made a reservation make sure you show up on time.  Other diners at your table often wait for others and waiters hold back courses/order until everyone shows up.  This can especially be a problem if you are at first seating and that table is needed for second seating.  I have seen head waiters inform tables that they need to vacate to accommodate the next seating.

-          It should go without saying but often we forget.  No discussions about religion, politics or money.  You may have some topics that you would like to add to this.  Whenever I join a new table I always introduce myself and ask others their names.  I like to know where people are from too.  Then I try to ask questions like “how did you two meet”, “where has been your most memorable trip”, “what did you do in port today (or what will you do in port tomorrow”.   Sadly we have been at tables where we asked question but not a single question was asked of us.  So get to know your table mates, have an open mind, and be respectful. 

-          If the table mates are not of your liking or you can’t wait to end the meal, wait till at least dessert is ordered and excuse yourself thanking everyone.  Being polite will always earn you more points that being rude.

Other Dining Venues:

-          When eating at the buffet make sure you wash your hands or use the hand sanitizers provided.  Germs are spread like crazy here. 

-          Use the utensils that are provided for each item.  Don’t use your hands to pick up a cookie or bread.  If staff see this they have to replace the entire tray because of germs.  Also if you use the spoon for one dish make sure you place it back on the ledge/plate instead of in the food dish.  Leaving it in the food dish may cause the handle to get very hot.

-          Be patient, there are no specific rules on flow in the Horizon Court, there are various food stations so find what you like and go to it.  No need to line up and follow that line.  There are food stations and people approach each dish from all different angles.  If there is an obvious line for say the toast, join the queue and don’t butt in.  But mostly I find if there is a lot of people around a food station that is when I go somewhere else and come back to it in a few minutes.

-          Take note of those around you when you are walking around the stations, this is the place where you are going to run into someone.  Not everyone is paying attention (including myself) look over your shoulder, let others pass, offer to assist someone if they can’t reach something. 

-          If you want something that you don’t see politely ask one of the staff and they will more often than not arrange to accommodate you to a certain degree.  I know Bernie loves his anchovies whole for his Caesar and he just asks and they get it for him.

-          When finding a place to sit, everyone wants the window seat.  Not really sure why when you really can’t see outside at night, but I happily just take a seat anywhere.  If it is crowded offer people who are walking around looking for a place to sit to join your table, or likewise ask if you can join another table. 

-          If the buffet is really busy don’t lay claim to a table for hours. Playing games or reading here is fine if the place is not busy but when it starts to fill up it is time to move on.  Plus often crew need to clean and set the place up for next service.

-          When getting food at the International CafĂ© there can be a queue (although sometimes it is not obvious).  Be respectful and patient when waiting for your turn to be served.  If someone is served before you that came after you don’t get too upset, they may not be aware of what they did. 

Outside Decks:

-          Amazingly this still occurs, Chair Hogs!  People put a personal item (flip flop, magazine, towel) on a chair and expect that it is their chair for the duration of the day.  This is probably the most selfish thing I see.  Yes sometimes crew are directed to remove items and if this happens there is often a table set up to collect personal items.  So if you want a specific chair head out and enjoy that chair and when you are done take your stuff and move on.  Sure leaving items behind if you are just heading to the pool or to grab a slice of pizza or drink is fine.  But if you are planning on being gone for an hour it is time to take your stuff with you.  Personally I don’t see anything wrong with taking over a chair that someone has left just a towel on.

-          Personal speakers have become quite affordable now but on a cruise in a public area is not the place to enjoy it.  Nor is it appropriate to listen to them on your balcony.  There is no good reason why we all have to listen to “your” music.  Bring along some headphones and enjoy the music to your hearts content privately. 

-          Eating a burger or pizza is great outside but taking your plates back is appropriate.  Often cups, napkins, food get blown around on the open decks.  Not to mention it attracts birds.  On a recent cruise a couple left their plate on their balcony and seagulls enjoyed the leftovers while others on nearby balconies ducked for cover.  Then a bird got trapped on the balcony when it was stuck in the corner between the wall and glass (it was the last angled balcony) and had to be rescued.

-          If you are watching a movie at MUTS at night be considerate and don’t spend the time talking to others.  If you want to socialize there are better places for this.


-          If you are attending a show in the main lounges (Princess Theater or Vista/Universe Lounge) take a seat right next to the person beside you.  These lounges can get very busy and leaving a chair between you and the next only means that people may not get a seat.  Again take this as an opportunity to meet new people. 

-          If you choose to see a show at least be respectful enough to not talk during the show.  Others want to see the show.  If you want to have a chat there are so many other venues to enjoy this. 

-          Don’t reserve seats…. Amazingly this still happens even when they make announcements to not do it.  Sure saving a seat for your partner is very different than saving ten seats for friends.

-          Do NOT leave the show before the show ends to beat the crowds and the lights have come up.  Not only is this distracting to those still watching the show but can be dangerous if no lights are on. 

-          On a recent trip we noticed after attending an earlier show that getting out of the venue was horrible because those waiting for the next show were blocking the entrance.  So please stay clear of the doors to allow people to exit first.


-          Treat the crew as you would like to be treated.  They work so hard and will do everything they can to ensure your trip is pleasurable.  Don’t expect drinks/food to appear in a few minutes like they would in many fast food establishments.  Often when it is busy drinks may take longer.

-          Get to know the crew.  Often engaging with them and asking them about themselves and where they come from adds to your vacation experience, plus you may make a new friend.

-          A Please and Thank You go a long way not only with fellow passengers but especially with crew.  Saying hi to crew as they pass in the corridors is also common courtesy, but amazingly many don’t.

-          If a crew member is discussing an issue with a passenger (ie. Captain Circle Host of Future Cruise Consultant) be aware of giving them some privacy.  Concurrently be aware that they often have others wanting to talk to them and so keeping non work conversations to a minimum. 

-          To further expand, deal with the right person for the right issue.  Discussing boarding problems with the Captain Circle Host is probably not the best person.  Go directly to the Purser’s Desk.  Complaining to a bartender about a shore excursion is not appropriate, go see the Shorex Department. 


-          It is your private space so feel free to be comfortable; however take note of how noise carries.  TV and stereo (and other) sounds carry thru the walls quite easily. 

-          Take note of how the cabin doors slam shut, especially if you have your balcony door open.  That sound can carry like crazy.  I know often this happens in error but being conscious.  Also balcony door closing is a pain, you almost have to slam it shut to get the lock to engage but that sound carries too. 

-          If you are one who enjoys your balcony please be aware of the noise you create so it does not disturb others around you.

trust me we don't want to see your laundry

-          I know many want to use their balcony to dry their clothes (which the ship frowns on due to possible fire hazard) but note your balcony is not meant for a clothes line. Here is a shot of the view we had of the cabin above us who thought it was totally normal to hang out their clothes (including underwear) to dry for all of us to see.

-          You may think that your balcony is your own private sanctuary where no one can see you.  But you are wrong.  Not only can other people see you on your balcony from above, on the sides and even from the bridge.  There are also cameras all over the ship and I have witnessed how these cameras can easily zoom in on everything on the balcony including the type of tea your drinking.  So don’t hang out there in your underwear (or worse) – PUT SOMETHING ON.

Dress Code:

-          One great thing about cruising is it gives you the opportunity to dress up in the evening.  But today with personal choice you have options. 

-          Take note of what the dress code is that night and what that means.  If you don’t want to follow the dress code that is fine.  Dine in other venues like the Horizon Court.  However if you plan to dine in the dining room or alternate specialty restaurants you should be following the dress code. 

-          Under no circumstances should you dine in the evening in the dining room with jeans, baseball hat, shorts, flip flops or swimsuit.   And trust me I have seen it all.  Worst was a guy who wore his fleece vest with nothing under it, and this guy was hairy.


-          Traveling with your kids as a family is a great way to vacation.  Being aware of your child’s tolerance in public area is key.  Don’t book excursions that you know will be too much for your child.  No one wants to be disturbed by someone else’s child.  So make sure they are not running around and that they are polite and courteous too. 

-          Be aware of adult only areas on board and follow those guidelines. 

-          Kids pay a fare too and deserve a holiday as well.  Engage with others including children.  Getting to know them and learn from them will only enhance your holiday as well.

-          For dining be conscious of your dining time and how they can handle a fixed dining time.  This may be a great opportunity to teach your child about dining etiquette and nothing looks cuter than a little one dressed up for dinner.  Note the dress code applies to children too.

-          If your child starts acting up please take that child out of the venue and deal with them and then return once the child has settled down.

-          Portable entertainment devices like iPad, phones, etc. are used to entertain kids, and I am thankful.  However; make sure the sound is at mute or the child is wearing headphones.  NO ONE wants to hear the children's movie or their game's sounds.


-          Book excursions that meet your activity level.  Talk to the Shorex department to see what the physical requirement are and see if you can handle it.  I have been on excursions where we had to hike a ways to a place (which was described in detail in the excursion) only to find out that a person couldn’t do it and everyone was delayed because of it.

-          If taking a bus is part of your excursion please sit with your spouse if it is just the two of you, especially if the bus is full. 

-          Be considerate if the tour guide is talking that you keep your conversation down to a minimum so others are not missing out on the tour.

-          Adhere to times, make sure you are back before the scheduled time so you are not delaying everyone.


-          Have to say these are the two worst times for people.  This is where I see a lot of nastiness come out.  People are tired, they have been travelling, there is a lot of confusion, and people just want on or off.  Be patient…. I repeat Be Patient.

-          Respect the time you have been assigned for disembarkation.  Note that that time is an estimate not necessarily the time you will be getting off.  Make sure you arrive at your lounge just prior to your time, no need to arrive way ahead of time.  Enjoy this last bit of time to relax somewhere on the ship.

-          Getting on and off is hard to estimate exactly how long it will take.  There are a lot of variables like how many ships are in port, how busy is customs, and when people arrive, so patience is key.

-          If you are planning on doing self disembarkation make sure you can handle your own bags.

Other Things:

-          Elevators!  Oh my this was the most commented item when I posted this question.  Make sure you let people off the elevators before you get on.  Be respectful of those that have no other option but to take an elevator to move about the ship.  If you can, take the stairs the one or two flights if you are able bodied.  Also if you are the one standing by the panel, ask people where they want to go and push the buttons. 

-          If you travel with the aid of a scooter or walker be aware of your surroundings and those walking around you.  Don’t park your scooter in the hallways where it becomes an obstacle for other.  Not to mention the ship does not allow this cause in the case of an emergency it could block a pathway.

-          When walking down the corridors or up on deck or the promenade don’t stop without moving over.  Chances are you are blocking the way of others.  I am guilty of this as I stop and take a picture and then realize I just created a traffic jam.  This also applies to the top or bottom of the stairs.

-          Be aware of how much perfume you put on.  Many are sensitive and it can be a bothersome especially in confined spaces.

-          Respect quiet areas.  If you come into a lounge during a time where it is quiet and you see many are reading, don’t go and sit right beside them and carry on loud conversations nearby.

 I find one thing I always do is I try to make a connection with the people around me. Once you have made a connection with someone you are no longer a stranger and people will gladly give up a seat or make space along a railing if you have made a personal connection with them.  It may only be a “hello” or “would you like me to take a picture with your camera” or “feel free to join our table”.   I am not saying you have to have long conversations with them but a short banter could potentially create a new friendship and certainly a better cruise experience.

Lastly remember you can only control yourself and not others.  Don’t let what others do affect your day.  You are on vacation and my favorite thing to say is “it always could be worse”.


  1. Very good advice. We all need to be reminded at times of the proper etiquette. It makes our cruises more enjoyable for ourselves and everyone else. Thanks, Vickie for all you do.

  2. Thank you Vickie for such a detailed guide. One thing I would add under the 'Perfume' heading is, "DO wear deodorants. Not everyone gets off on body odour"


  3. Very true. Some voices are like fog horns so much so I used to sit at the other end of the outside bar because of one woman's fog horn voice. She simply was not aware of how loud she was!

  4. Thanks! I want to put this on every stateroom door!

  5. Thank you Vickie; some very good advice. I appreciate your taking the time to post this info. As much as I've cruised, reminders are always good. Especially the one about allowing people off the elevator before stepping in.

  6. Vickie this should be added to the Terms and Conditions of our Princess contracts [In large fonts of course]! Awesome, polite and respectful as always well done