10 Rules of Engagement for Smooth Cruising


After some 14 cruises on a variety of cruise lines, we’ve made some observations of the behavioural characteristics of cruise ship passengers who everyone likes to have on board – and those who most other passengers would be just as happy to leave behind at a port or toss overboard.

It’s interesting to view cruise ship passengers like any other traveler in general: the best travelers are those who remember that they are not the only people around. We’re getting ready for our next cruise which starts next week so were inspired to pull out the notes we’ve made over the years. If you’ve never cruised before, you might find this informative. If you’ve cruised extensively, you might find it entertaining. In either case, enjoy!

Rule #1: Don’t go around the jogging track the wrong way. Yes, we’re talking to you. There is a reason for the signage indicating the direction of flow.  It’s bit like a skating rink: going the wrong way is just asking for a collision with that serious, lycra-clad runner with the ear phones and the cap over the eyes. And for the rest of us, it’s just annoying.

Rule #2: Never “save” deck chairs. This is considered so rude and annoying that most cruise lines (and resorts) have rules for how long you can leave your chair. Yes, of course, you can leave your chair to go to the bathroom or the bar, but arriving two hours before you plan to use them to “save” chairs for yourself and the half dozen hangers-on who are accompanying you is disrespectful and you just might find your belongings (that single flip flop or book) on a communal sort-of lost-and-found table.

DSC05462.JPGRule #3: Don’t leave your dirty towels on your chair or strewn on the deck when you leave. Yes, the staff will pick them up, but based on the “savers” (see Rule #2 above), many of the rest of us, in an effort to be nice, will not take a chair that has a dirty towel on it unless we have observed its emptiness for at least a half hour. There are bins for the used towels near most doors. Just find one on your way.

Rule #4: Never appear in public in your cruise-line-issued bathrobe (or any other bathrobe for that matter). Good lord. It is not a sun cover-up. Hate us for this if you like, but everyone is entitled to their idiosyncrasies.

Rule #5: Be on time for the entertainment. If the evening show begins at 9 pm, be in your seat, actually sitting down, drink in hand if you like when the lights go down. Why is it that on cruise ships people seem to think that this isn’t real entertainment? Or that the rest of the audience will appreciate you climbing over them after the show has begun? Or that the performers aren’t affected by the commotion in the audience? Most otherwise normal individuals would never come in late to a play or a musical on land. Why do people persist on doing it at sea? The times are sent out in the newsletter each day so there is no excuse for not knowing or planning.

Rule #6: Never miss an opportunity to learn something new. Whether it’s yoga, cooking or the deep background on the history of a port you’re visiting, all cruises offer something. We have honed our culinary skills, learned about the in-depth background of the South Pacific Islands, enjoyed the history of the cruise industry, our son has attended RADA workshops (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts on Cunard), Patty has taken a dance class (well, that wasn’t so successful). Anyway, there is much to be gained.

Rule #7: Do not choose shore excursions for which you lack the physical capabilities. Every shore excursion has a description of the physical requirements. If it requires a lot of walking or hiking and you can’t do that, then don’t go. The cruise lines will sometimes intervene if they have indicated that they will not take wheelchairs, walkers, canes etc., but if you don’t have an obvious problem, you will find yourself slowing down everyone else, and worse not being able to fully enjoy what is offered. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Rule #8:  Don’t monopolize the bar staff. We all do it from time to time: these people are so accommodating and will engage you in conversation at a bar whenever you sit down. However, some of them find it difficult to break away from a conversation – so help them out. There is nothing more annoying than sitting at a bar (without a drink) being unable to get the bartender’s attention because he or she is engaged in a long conversation with another patron. Let’s help each other out.


Rule #9: Don’t forget to use your headphones if you are planning to listen to music on deck or even on your verandah. Those verandahs are a bit like having a curtain pulled around a hospital bed. It may feel private, but everything that goes on can be heard. Everything. We might not appreciate your hip-hop music, but you might not appreciate our jazz. So we all need to be considerate. By the way, if you choose the verandah to have a rip-roaring fight with your spouse, we’ll hear every word if we happen to be out on our verandah.

Rule #10: Watch your time and barring an actual accident or other uncontrollable event or natural disaster, return to the ship at least a half an hour before it is scheduled to sail out of a port. There are many stories floating around the travel blog world about cruisers left behind or cruise ships waiting. And yes, if you take a cruise-line shore excursion and the group is late returning, they will probably wait if it’s not too long.

Remember that you are not the only person on board, but if you have a problem, you will get a lot more support and empathy from others if you haven’t been that idiot everyone recognizes as such.

Okay, that’s our list. We have never been on a cruise where all of these rules were ignored – but we have been on enough such trips to have seen all of them at one time or another. We just try on every trip to avoid being that cruiser!