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15 cruise ship rules you shouldn't break

Pool Royal Caribbean ship

Before you set sail on your next cruise, there are some rules that you should know about. While some, like rowdy teenagers, might be inclined to try and bend them, these rules are in place for a reason. Everyone onboard deserves to have a safe and relaxing voyage. 

While some may seem like common knowledge, like not skipping the muster drill or sharing a drink package, others are more about being a courteous passenger. Adhering to these rules will help you contribute to a positive atmosphere.  

Keep reading to learn about 15 cruise ship rules you should not break.

Read more: 20 rules of cruise ship etiquette no one ever tells you (but should)

Be honest when filling out the health questionnaire 


While the majority of covid protocols have been relaxed, many cruise lines still require you to fill out a health questionnaire prior to boarding. This is to protect the health and safety of everyone onboard. 

For that reason, you should not lie about any ongoing symptoms that you may have. You should not be overly worried about falling ill on your cruise, as ships have state-of-the-art ventilation systems to help prevent this from occurring. However, if you know that you are sick and still decide to board, you risk getting others sick, too!

Only smoke in designated areas


In order to facilitate a pleasurable experience for every passenger, cruise ships do not allowing smoking in every public area. When you are ready to light up a cigarette or e-cigarette (like a vape), you will have to seek out the designated smoking areas onboard.

Moreover, not all outdoor areas will permit smoking, even on your private balcony. If caught, a cleaning fee will be added to your onboard account. This goes for all staterooms, too. 

Don't reserve pool chairs 


Nothing is as frustrating as heading up to the lido deck on a beautiful sea day just to find empty chairs claimed by towels and other passengers' belongings. 

These individuals, nicknamed "chair hogs," leave personal items on one or more chairs near the pool in order to try reserve them for later use. Then, they'll go do other things around the ship, such as eat breakfast, return to their stateroom, etc.

While most cruise lines try and limit this practice by monitoring which chairs are being actively used, there is only so much they can do. You should not engage in this practice and only use the chairs when you need them. 

Read more: How to beat the chair hogs on your cruise ship

Refrain from giving alcoholic beverages to those under the legal drinking age


Just like on land, underage drinking is against the rules on cruise ships. If you are traveling with someone who is under 21 (or 18 in some markets), they'll have to enjoy mocktails instead. 

They can still drink tropical beverages by the pool or at dinner. Many favorites, like strawberry daiquiris and piña coladas, can be made sans alcohol! In other words, children and young adults won't be limited to just coffee and juice.  

Read more: 10 mocktails to try on your next cruise

Don't share your drink package with other guests

Alchemy Bar

Speaking of alcohol, you should not share your drink package with others. In fact, cruise lines make all adults over the legal drinking age staying in the same stateroom purchase a package if one person does; this is to prevent guests from sharing it. 

If you're caught, you risk losing your drink package benefits without a refund! That would not be a fun memory of your cruise vacation. 

Read more: Cruise Line Alcohol Drink Packages Guide

Leave the drugs and alcohol at home


Drugs and (most) alcohol should not be packed and brought to the cruise terminal. 

Even though marijuana has been legalized in a couple states across the United States, CBD oil and cannabis are not allowed on cruise ships, even if you have a prescription for medicinal purposes.

Per Carnival's website, "Since all cruise terminals in the U.S. are federal facilities, the terminals and our ships are drug-free zones...Any guest found to be in possession of illegal drugs will be denied boarding and no refunds or compensation will be issued." 

Alcohol stock image

When it comes to alcohol, some cruise lines do allow you to bring on limited quantities on embarkation day. You'll want to look up your line's specific guidelines to see what, if anything, you can bring with you. Royal Caribbean, for instance, allows one 750ml bottle of unopened wine or champagne per person. 

Don't try and smuggle more onboard with you. If caught, it will be confiscated. You'll be out the money you spent on the alcohol, as well as any special containers you bought. You are better off just putting that money towards your onboard alcohol budget. 

Don't bring any prohibited items onboard 


Speaking of prohibited items, there are other things that you should not try and bring with you, too. Some items are common sense, like drugs and candles. Others, however, are regular household items that you may be used to bringing on other trips, such as extension cords and steamers. 

If you're caught with any of these items, they will also be confiscated. You will get them back on the day of disembarkation, though. 

Read more: 20 things cruise lines really do not want you to bring on ships

Stay behind all cruise ship railings


All cruise line employees are concerned with the safety and well-being of all passengers. This is why you are not allowed to climb on ship railings. 

There have been people banned from cruising again who have been caught doing things like this! In 2019, a guest sailing onboard Symphony of the Seas jumped off while the ship was docked in The Bahamas. 

He and his friends were notified shortly thereafter that they had to get off of the ship and book a flight home. He now has a lifetime ban and cannot sail with Royal Caribbean ever again. 

Enjoy the ocean views safely behind the railings, and don't try anything like this!

Read more: 15 Things You Should Never Do in Your Cruise Ship Cabin

Make sure that you attend the muster drill


Emergencies at sea are rare; however, it is important that you be prepared for anything! The safety-- or muster-- drill is meant to familiarize you and your travel party with your assigned assembly station and other protocols.

It's mandatory for all guests, even those who have cruised before, as the assigned assembly location will most likely be different on each sailing. It is dependent on where your cabin is located!

Today, many mainstream lines have converted to a virtual muster process. This allows guests to watch safety briefings from their smartphones or stateroom television prior to visiting their muster station on their own within a specified window of time. Make sure that you have your cruise line's app downloaded on your phone ahead of time!  

Read more: The cruise ship muster drill: What is it and why it's important

Cruise ships won't wait for you in port, so make sure that you return before the all-aboard time


Waiting for late passengers is costly for any cruise line. With less time to get to the next port, the cruise ship must sail at a faster speed, which requires more fuel.

You do not want to push making it back in time. Once the gangway goes up, you will be stuck in a foreign place! You will be responsible for all costs associated with meeting the ship in the next port of call or returning home. At the last minute, this could send you way over your vacation budget. 

If you're worried, book a shore excursion through the cruise line. If the tour is running late, the ship will wait for longer than they would if you went off on your own on with an independent operator. 

Read more: Will the cruise ship wait for you if you're late at a port?

When returning for seconds at the ship's buffet, use a new plate


Let's say that you want another serving of something delicious at the buffet-- it is vacation after all! When returning to the buffet, you should not reuse your original plate. 

Instead, just leave your dirty dishes at your table. Each cruise line has crew members walking around to clear tables in between servings and at the end of the meal. You won't be responsible for taking them anywhere!

You should wash your hands prior to entering, too. This further helps reduce the likelihood of any germs being spread amongst passengers and crew. 

Don't throw anything overboard 


You should never throw anything off of your balcony or any other railing on a cruise ship. Cruise lines have a strict rule about throwing things into the ocean, as they have a commitment to protect the marine environments in which they operate in. 

Even if you have the best intentions, what you throw could disturb this! If you have a desire to interact with life below the shore, consider booking a snorkeling or scuba diving excursion. 

Read more: Video shows the curious marine life under a cruise ship when a GoPro is dropped in the ocean

Keep children in diapers out of regular pools

resort-style pool deck on board Odyssey of the Seas

For hygiene reasons, infants and toddlers who have yet to be potty trained are prohibited from swimming in pools onboard cruise ships. If you're cruising with younger children, you will want to ensure that your ship has a splash pad, so they are able to keep cool on sea days, too. 

On Disney Cruise Line, for instance, you will find Nemo's Reef onboard Disney Fantasy. Similarly, select Royal Caribbean ships have the Baby Splash Zone. 

Don't be the person who thinks their child is the exception. You don't want to be the reason that everyone has to vacate the pool for it to be drained and cleaned!

Read more: 5 Kids' Cruise Lines the Whole Family Will Love

Stay in passenger-friendly areas


Don't try and sneak into crew-only areas. They are off limits for a reason. Plus, you will not find any fun activities here. All the action takes place in guest areas, like the pool deck, theater, and atrium. 

For those interested in the behind-the-scenes operations of a cruise ship, considering booking an all access tour. While these cost extra, they are a great way for you to take a peak into these off-limit areas, such as the Bridge and food galley. 

According to Carnival Cruise Line's website, the cost of their "Behind the Fun" Ultimate Tour is between $55 USD to $95 per person. In comparison, Royal Caribbean's "All Access Tour" is anywhere from $155 to $200 per person.

Read more: 14 cruise ship extra charges you should know about

Rowdy or unruly behavior is not tolerated


Cruise ships are meant to be fun and provide everyone with a memorable vacation. You don't want to look back at your time onboard and remember that you wasted time speaking with a security officer or getting involved in an altercation with another passenger.

If you find yourself in a situation where tensions are raised, you should not try and resolve the problem yourself. Instead, locate a crew member and alert them of the issue. They'll help  deescalate the situation in an appropriate manner.  

Those caught fighting could be banned from the cruise line! In fact, Carnival Cruise Line recently sent out a reminder to booked passengers about the Guest Conduct Policy. The letter read, "Our experience has taught us that everyone has a better time when children are supervised, noise in the hallways is kept to a minimum, guests follow queues, and that a spirit of community and neighborliness is shown by all.”

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