23 Things That You Should Never Do on a Cruise

Things Not to Do on a Cruise

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Things Not to Do on a Cruise
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Cruising for Trouble

From the peril of reckless selfies to the nuances of interacting with staff, and the absolute necessity of not missing the muster drill, cruise ship etiquette extends far beyond the buffet line. Whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned sailor, being aware of these lesser-known guidelines and things to never do on a cruise is crucial so your dream vacation isn’t turned into a nautical nightmare.

Closeup of Young Woman with a Large Smile in Bikini Taking a Selfie on a Small Cruise

1. Shoot Reckless Selfies

Just because you’ve booked a cruise of a lifetime does not mean you have the license to endanger yourself for a TikTok. Royal Caribbean's rules get right to the point: “Sitting, standing, jumping, laying or climbing on, over or across any exterior or interior railings or other protective barriers is strictly prohibited” and they enforce it as well; they’ve banned a woman caught posing on her balcony railing in her swimwear.

'Crew Only' Sign Hung in the Doorway of a Hallway of a Cruise

2. Hook Up With a Member of Staff

Every cruise line has strict and explicit guidelines on interactions between crew and passengers. Royal Caribbean even goes so far as to say: “Please do not misinterpret their friendliness. Crew members are prohibited from engaging in physical relationships with guests.” Staff are not permitted in staterooms except to perform their shipboard duties, and similarly, passengers are not allowed to enter restricted or crew areas of the ship.

Female Hand Holding a Passport on Top of Luggage in the Front Doorway of a Home with Front Door Opened to the Outside
Grace Cary/Getty Images

3. Forget Your Passport

Yes, you can go on a cruise without your passport but you need to make sure you have the right paperwork, and IF you get stranded in a foreign port of call and have to fly back, it could get tricky. So pack your passport and government ID on you, and leave it in your checked bag or you might end up being refused boarding.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Freedom of the Seas Leaving Port in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten During Sunset

4. Throw Anything Overboard, Including Yourself

Whether it’s a fork, a lounge chair, or even yourself, don’t throw anything overboard. It may sound like an obvious one, but as we know, common sense isn’t always so common. Cruise staff take this offense very seriously and passengers have not only faced fines but been asked to disembark, or even banned for life like this man who leaped from a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Related: The Worst Cruise Ship Horror Stories

Hanging Orange Safety Beacon and Life Preserver Ring on the Railing of a Wooden Promenade Deck of a Cruise Ship During Dusk

5. Skip the Muster Drill

A muster drill is a mandatory safety exercise that familiarizes passengers with emergency procedures such as using life vests and locating escape routes. Now that you can usually access the drills from your stateroom TV or via an app on your phone (applicable only to some cruise lines), you don’t have any excuse not to complete them. If you miss the 24-hour deadline to participate in one, find out how/when you can attend a makeup drill.

And if you think you can skip it altogether, according to Cruise Hive you can be forced to exit the ship at its next port of call. At the very least your cabin number and name will be broadcast ship-wide, so don’t be that person.

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Drone in Air Over Ocean at Dawn, Drone on Right in Focus

6. Fly a Drone

You can pack it but may not be able to use it, and it might be temporarily confiscated until the end of your voyage. Carnival and Royal Caribbean sailing are currently the only cruise lines that allow drones but there are conditions, Carnival only allows camera drones, Royal Caribbean won’t allow you to use the drone on the ship or even inside the port, and also their private destinations of CocoCay, Bahamas or Labadee, Haiti.

Related: Tips and Tricks for Smooth Sailing on Your Next Cruise

Woman Wearing a Face Mask, Siting Inside Looking Out of a Window of the Ocean, on a Cruise in the Mediterranean Sea
Giacomo Augugliaro/Getty Images

7. Hide a Communicable Illness

With so many passengers in an enclosed space, ships take any form of infectious disease (flu, coronavirus, norovirus) very seriously. According to Royal Caribbean, even if mild symptoms show up, you’re expected to return to your stateroom and report to the ship’s medical personnel by calling the medical facility onboard or risk a fine.

Closeup of Square Maroon CBD Gummies Out of Black Container

8. Bring Drugs, Even CBD Gummies

Don’t bring drugs. Not even cannabis even if it may be legal in your state. They’re not allowed on cruise ships, especially those calling into ports that have a hard stance on drugs. Try to sneak some in (even if it’s just some CBD gummies) and you risk getting arrested or even banned for life — even if you have a medical marijuana card.

Female Right Hand Holding a Dish of Spaghetti, Selective Focus, Against the Trace of the Ship on the Ocean on a Cruise Ship

9. Just Eat at the Buffet

Variety is nice but the ship’s buffet is often the most crowded and chaotic part of the ship. Take the time to browse the rest of the dining options (don’t just leave specialty dining to the last day) or order off the menu at the main dining room for a more peaceful dining experience.

Related: 14 People Who Should Never Take a Cruise

Female Passenger Checking Watch As She Goes Through the Boarding Ramp of a Cruise Ship

10. Be the Last One to Board

It doesn’t matter if it’s 20 minutes or two hours, cruise ships are on a tight schedule and they leave on time. If you think you can rock up at the tail end of boarding, don’t wing it because you might run late and get there just in time to see the ship sail out of port. But what about excursions, surely they won’t leave without you right? Nope. Just ask this woman who came back late and had to catch a plane to her next port of call.

Dining Room Buffet aboard the abstract luxury cruise ship.

11. Be the First to Disembark

Cruise staff can be pretty pushy when it's time to disembark, but you don't want to shortchange yourself. Some people don't even get coffee in their race to get off the boat, but the main buffet and main dining room are usually both open on disembarkation day, though possibly with a limited menu. Definitely grab some coffee at the very least.

Mid-Section of Woman Preparing Small Carry-On Bag on Bed, Focus on Items to Be Put in Bag

12. Forget to Pack a Day Bag for Embarkation Day

Cruise ships are basically moving hotels. Just because you checked in your luggage early does not mean it’ll be waiting in your cabin as soon as you board. So if you have essential medications, or need something specific for your first day of cruising, it's best to keep it handy with you.

Woman Sitting on Blue Stairs Feeling Sea Sickness on a Cruise Ship, Selective Focus, She Is Looking Outward, Distraught
Piyapong Thongcharoen/istockphoto

13. Think You Won’t Get Sea Sick

Even if you’re out on the water regularly, having sea legs on a large cruise ship is another thing altogether. There are wristbands and patches but you can pop a seasick pill every evening to keep you even-keeled.

Two Deck Chairs on the Balcony of Cruise, Woman Sitting in One of the Chair Enjoying a Glass of White Wine, Ice Bucket with Wine Bottle and Another Glass

14. Sneak Alcohol Onto a Cruise

Mouthwash bags, rum runner flasks, fake shampoo bottles: cruise staff are onto just about every method or product used to smuggle in booze — thanks TikTok for spoiling it for the rest of us — so just don’t do it or you may be asked to disembark at the next port.

Royal Caribbean’s alcohol policy explicitly states, “Guests who violate any alcohol policies, (over consume, provide alcohol to people under the legal drinking age, demonstrate irresponsible behavior, or attempt to conceal alcoholic items at security and or luggage check points or any other time), may be disembarked or not allowed to board, at their own expense.”

Most cruise lines will allow each 21-year-old and above adult to carry one 750 milliliter bottle of wine or Champagne onboard, which can be enjoyed for a corkage fee at bars, dining rooms, and specialty restaurants.

Focus on Six Colorful Cords in a White Surge Protector
Eekhoff Picture Lab/Getty Images

15. Pack the Surge Protector

You’ll need a power strip but make sure it does not have surge protection. According to Anker: “Surge protectors are not allowed on cruise ships because they increase fire risk. The reason this danger exists is that a normal surge protector only breaks the circuit on the “live” electrical wire, whereas both the “live” and “neutral” wires carry current on a cruise ship.”

Two Women Looking at Numerous Pieces of Artwork in Small Frames Along a Wall

16. Buy a Piece of Art at Sea

The onboard art auctions may be fun but they’re not the best place to buy a piece of art unless you’ve already done your due diligence — look up Park West Gallery which handles most art auctions on cruise ships — to make sure you’re paying the “right” price for it. The lack of Wi-Fi makes it difficult to do on-the-go research on an art piece’s provenance, there’s been controversy over authenticity, and while it’ll come with a COA (Certificate of Authenticity) it’s only as good as who issued it unless the artist signed it.

Related: Things You Should Never Buy on a Cruise

Bed in the Bedroom Cabin of a Cruise Ship, a Towel Animal Swan in the Foreground of a Made-Up Bed, All White
Ana del Castillo/istockphoto

17. Assume You Can Freely Vape in Your Room

Vaping is generally not allowed in a ship’s indoor spaces, though restrictions vary by cruise line. Seabourn and Oceania allow vaping in guest suites while most other cruise lines allow vaping in outdoor spaces, but some only in specific outdoor areas.

Many Rows of Lounge Chairs on the Deck of Cruise Ship, One Row in the Foreground

18. Be a Chair Hog

Everyone wants a chair by the pool so be a good sport and reserve it only if you’re going to be using it. If you think you can reserve a pool chair by placing a towel on it and then walking away for a few hours, you might come back to get your towel (and belongings) removed by a pool attendant or an irate fellow cruiser — and you’ll be the one in the wrong.

Luxurious Shopping Area Inside the MSC Grandiosa Cruise Ship, Blue Sky Through the Ceiling Windows

19. Go Shopping Too Early

Do go window shopping early in the cruise to curate a few things that you might want but leave it to the last couple of days to pull the trigger on your purchase. Why? Because you might find the same thing cheaper on a shore excursion, or more likely, it’ll be on sale on the last day of your cruise.

Attractive Woman Smiling, Wearing a Cameo Jacket Over a Denim Shirt

20. Dress Inappropriately

Going shirtless in Croatia, traipsing in heels when visiting the Acropolis, or wearing camouflage clothing in certain Caribbean hotspots (Bahamas, Dominica, Barbados, Jamaica) are some of the lesser-known clothing rules. So before you pack, make sure you take note of what’s accepted or not, usually a cruise line will clue you in.

Royal Caribbean’s website states, “Please note camouflage print clothing and accessories, as well as military-style clothing, is illegal in Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. This style of clothing is reserved only for members of the military at these destinations.”

And yes, this even extends to backpacks, just ask this cruise passenger who got escorted back to the ship in Barbados for his camo backpack.

Focus on Orange Tropical Cocktail Drink with Pineapple on Cruise Ship, on a White Table with Feet to the Left Side
Kirk Fisher/istockphoto

21. Overpay for Drinks

That Drink Package may look excessive when booking but it’s one way to not overpay for drinks if you’re likely to be drinking more than a couple of glasses a day. Other savvy ways to keep your drink bill reasonable include checking for daily drink specials and happy hour, attending the captain cocktail parties, and if you’re going to be playing at the casino, enjoying some complimentary libations.


22. Expect to Drink Bottles of Liquor Purchased on Board

If you buy bottles of liquor or beer in port or the ones they're hawking on the ship, you won't be able to drink it while on board, much to the chagrin of many. That bottle of tequila from Mexico will be taken by the staff as you board, as will any liquor you buy on the ship, and then delivered to your room on the final morning for disembarkation. Some cruise lines make an exception for fine wines, but only after you pay a corkage fee.

Woman working with a laptop on cruise ship

23. Buy the Wi-Fi Package

Using the internet on board a cruise ship is expensive, like really expensive. Some lines charge $20 per hour, and that's usually restricted to things like browsing email and social media sites only. On top of the price, the service is usually very slow, so you're not going to be able to get a lot done in those 60 minutes. Instead, plan to disconnect and enjoy your vacation, or do as most people do and mob the Starbucks in port and use its free Wi-Fi instead.