As a veteran cruiser who has sailed from the North Pole to Antarctica, I have seen some amazing behavior—and not in a good way–on some of my trips. People who may be kind, considerate and polite in their everyday lives suddenly morph into whiny, rude, self-centered aliens after they board a cruise ship.

Yet it’s really not that hard to be an ideal cruise passenger if you follow a few simple rules that are often versions of the classic “Do unto others.”

  1. Plan ahead. Do you have food allergies or medical conditions that require special diets? Virtually all cruise lines happily accommodate many such conditions—if they are notified before your cruise. Also, take a look at the shore excursions and activities. Are you able to participate? Some cruise lines specialize in adventure cruises where the level of activity may be too intense for some. So choose wisely for your own particular needs and etiquette
  2. Dress appropriately. Just because you’re on a ship doesn’t mean anything goes. Though most cruise lines have abandoned the old standards of formal dress, there is always a simple, easy-to-follow dress code. It may ask you to wear shoes (rather than flip-flops) in the dining room—or request long pants for men at dinner time. Take the time to find out what your ship requests and courteously follow it
  3. Kids will be kids. Not necessarily! If you are traveling with children, please understand that adult passengers looking for some peace and quiet while they relax on deck chairs will not be charmed by loud, boisterous behavior, no matter how cute your progeny are. Consider choosing one of the lines that is kid-friendly to the extent that all kinds of physical activity and fun are available and encouraged. cruise etiquette
  4. Don’t cut the line. Whether your ship carries a few hundred or a few thousand passengers, there will be lines, at the buffet, at boarding, at debarkation, etc. To maintain order, just wait your turn.
  5. Wash your hands. Often. You may have read about situations where entire cruises have been cancelled because of such conditions as the norovirus. To protect yourself (and others) from such infections, simply wash or sanitize.
  6. Be on time. When you sign up for an activity or shore excursion, you are making a commitment to be punctual and not to expect a bus or van loaded with other passengers to wait for you.
  7. Tip generously. Some cruise lines build the tip into the fare, with a stated per-diem amount added to your final bill. If that’s not the case, learn what the tipping policy is. Keep in mind that all those crew members who work so hard to make sure you have a good time often depend on tips for their etiquette
  8. Don’t talk during entertainment and/or lectures. If you must say something to the person next to you, keep your voice down so you don’t interfere with the enjoyment of others.
  9. Practice cellphone etiquette. As it is now possible to make cellphone calls in and around many port areas, keep in mind that other passengers do not need to hear about last night’s dinner or today’s shore excursion.
  10. Practice moderation. Just because alcohol is included in some cruise fares, don’t feel you need to “get your money’s worth” if that means you then behave badly.

And if by any chance these are too many rules to remember, then take along just this one: Have a wonderful time on your cruise—and be considerate of others.