By Published On: 19 Apr 2016

Share this story

I still remember when I walked up the gangway and onto my first cruise ship all those years ago. It was a mixture of excitement, anticipation and a strange sense of nervousness. I really didn’t know anything about cruise ship etiquette.

Since then I’ve been on big ships and small ships, and upmarket and budget cruises. So I thought I’d share my top tips on cruise etiquette.


What struck me on my very first cruise was how well mannered everyone onboard was. Almost every guest you passed in the corridors or on the decks said hello, or gave you a smile. It’s part of cruise ship etiquette.

At first this can be a little disconcerting, especially if you come from a big city where we tend to keep to ourselves. Within a day or so I realised this friendliness was what everybody did and it’s something I really love about cruising.

Be kind to room attendants

When you first arrive in your stateroom you will receive a visit from your room attendant or butler. Let me give you some advice: Make sure you are pleasant to them.

They are the people who will be cleaning your room and waiting on you throughout your voyage. Let’s face it, they’re a big part of what makes your vacation special and I have always found that encouragement with kindness goes a long way.

Pool rules

Sitting around the pool deck is one of the great pleasures of cruising, but there are some important rules to observe if you don’t want to get the other sunbathers offside.

First of all, do not stare, no matter how good looking anyone else might be! Unlike resorts personal space on a pool deck is somewhat limited and it’s important to appreciate that. So don’t make other people feel uncomfortable by staring. They won’t like it and neither would you. After all, we’re all in the same boat!

Another sore point of mine on the pool deck is when other guests plonk themselves right next to you even though there are dozens of vacant sun lounges around the pool. Once again, remember it’s good to give people their personal space.

I would also advise against trying to start a conversation with someone who is engrossed in a book, or cornering someone for a chat in the pool if they look like they are there to have quiet swim or relax.

When it comes to lido deck manners I always say ‘stay cool around the pool’.


Some cruise ships are much more child friendly than others – Carnival and Disney Cruise Lines are two of the more obvious ones. But even on these it’s important to keep an eye on the kids as part of cruise ship etiquette.

When your children are out and about in the public areas of the ship it’s a good idea to make sure they don’t disrupt other families enjoying their cruise vacation. Kids will be kids, but other guests won’t be happy if your little ones are causing a fuss.

A big no-no is bringing your children to designated adults-only areas on a cruise ship. Even if you think your kids are being well behaved, other guests (even those who have children), aren’t likely to appreciate them being there. The adults only-areas are peaceful sanctuaries and more often than not are often full of parents who’ve sent their own children off on activities for the day!

Table manners

The good thing about cruises ships is you can choose to dine at communal tables, or choose to dine privately at a table for two.
If you see people dining privately read the situation before you decide to strike up a conversation. The tables in dining rooms are often close together and there’s nothing worse than interrupting the romantic moment of the couple at the next table!

I also urge you to acknowledge your waiter. Addressing them by name is even better. It’s their job to look after you, but human nature dictates they’ll make your night even better if you treat them well.

A lot of people dread the arrival of the sommelier, or wine waiter, at the table. They feel like they’re being pressured to buy an expensive wine, but my advice is to treat the sommelier as your friend.

Like all friendships, the best ones are based on honesty so let him know exactly how much you’d like to spend (don’t be embarrassed), what you will be eating and your wine preferences. The sommelier knows every wine onboard and in my experience they always recommend something good based on what you’ve told them you want.

New best friends

After dinner, many of us end up at the bar or even in the nightclub. It’s easy to strike up conversations with fellow cruisers and in some cases end up on the dance floor with them!

But that doesn’t mean you have to be best friends for the rest of the cruise.

I’ve realised there are many times on cruises ships when you have a fun night with strangers, without any obligation to catch up with them again. You don’t need to sit with them around the pool and you don’t need to eat dinner with them the next night.

However, there are occasions when you will make new friends onboard and you might even enjoy a number of meals together or share a shore excursion. These cruise-friends can add a lot to your enjoyment of the cruise, but in my experience it’s important to remember that the friendships often only last as long as the voyage. That’s not to say you don’t want to keep in touch, but when you return home to every day life the friends you made onboard tend to fall by the wayside, especially if they don’t live nearby. So enjoy those cruise-friends and the time you share onboard without feeling obligated to stay in touch.

But then again there are occasions when you really click with people and you want to make the effort to stay connected. That’s happened a few times with me over the years, but only rarely.

Cruise ship etiquette golden rule

In the end cruise ship etiquette is all about reading the situation. Being on a cruise ship heightens every sensation, it’s all the excitement of life condensed into one floating palace. So I always think it is important to remember it needs heightened etiquette too. Learning how to read situations is a great skill to have and will make for a more enjoyable cruise vacation.

About the Author: Geoff

Senior jounalist


  1. Janice 19 Apr 2016 at 16:45 - Reply

    Great article
    I agree it’s important not to stalk people you meet and give fellow passengers space
    After all most of us go on a cruise to relax.

  2. Goodgollymsmolly 19 Apr 2016 at 20:30 - Reply

    Spot on Geoff! It’s also lovely if you can respect fellow passengers when sitting on the pool deck in a big group. Our last cruise was ruined by 8 women who took chairs from all the tables and grouped them around theirs. They drank from 9am until 2am every single day and were so loud and obnoxious, no one liked being around them. It was worse when they became very drunk and fights and swearing broke out. Praying they never go on another cruise again

  3. Jamie 19 Apr 2016 at 23:07 - Reply

    I hate it when people reserve pool sun beds and then disappear for hours

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newsletter signup