Cruise Ship Etiquette

Cruise Ship Deck

A consistent complaint I read on various cruising blogs is the notable lack of cruise ship etiquette observed by passengers. Or, perhaps, a lack of etiquette in general?

While etiquette is situational and relational, most of the guidelines travel anywhere.  Even on cruise ships.

One Case Study

One of my long-time friends, her husband, and their seventeen-year-old granddaughter took a cruise from Barcelona, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal, with a stop in Casablanca.  One of their conversation topics every day turned out to be other people’s lack of mannerly self-command and apparent disinterest in the comfort of others on the ship.

Their granddaughter practiced many taken-for-granted habits: saying “please” and “thank you” every time something was done for her, opening doors for others when arriving first at the door, addressing adults as “Ma’am” and “Sir”, not interrupting when others were speaking.  So, invited to experience a luxury cruise and expecting to make full use of the etiquette skills she’d been taught, she was shocked at the lack of everyday, assumed and honed good manners.  She was especially bothered that doors weren’t typically held open for the elderly and elevator etiquette was almost entirely absent.

But things turned out well in the end, as my friend’s family made an extra and exerted effort to practice their own cruise ship etiquette and made a point to complement each other on observed kindnesses.  They noticed that being nicer to everyone became their conscious goals.

A Review of Cruise Ship Etiquette

Courteous behavior is expected wherever you are, and vacations are no exception.  Some etiquette practices particular to cruise ships are:

  • Treat the crew with consideration and respect.
  • Obey ship safety rules.
  • Pick up after yourself.
  • Use the words “Please” and “Thank you” liberally.
  • Respect other passengers’ property and the ship’s property.
  • Avoid “off limits” areas.
  • Wait your turn and do not jump the line.
  • Avoid reserving seats for people who are not present.
  • Do not leave towels and other items in deck chairs or sunbeds to reserve them for yourself.
  • Observe courteous buffet practices.
  • Follow proper elevator etiquette – not just for courtesy but for safety as well.

If there is any doubt as to what etiquette practices are necessary and expected on the cruise you are taking, the ship’s brochures and website outline them clearly.

When You Need to Make a Complaint

If there is something you need or something you are not happy about, tell a staff member.   Cruise ship staff work hard and work long hours, so satisfied passengers mean their work is not in vain.  Most of them are happy to listen to your complaint, especially when delivered thoughtfully and courteously, and will do all they can to make the situation right.  If a staff member is not willing or able to help, take your complaint up the chain of command as outlined here.

Many ships these days are practically floating cities.  The world’s largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, has capacity for nearly 7,000 passengers.  Having so many people on one ship, even a large one, there will be crowds to deal with.  There are only so many activity venues, restaurants and bars, and swimming pools available and they all must be shared.  Put your best foot forward and share the limited space with the cruise ship etiquette practices shared above.

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