10 Unusual Things Passengers Do on Cruise Ships

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Some travelers live and breathe for cruising. They count down the days until their next cruise. They know their favorite ships like the backs of their hands.

They’ve convinced everyone in their family and friend circle to go on a cruise with them — and maybe even converted a few to the cruising lifestyle as well.

For many of these avid cruisers, cruising comes with special little traditions that first-time cruisers can find a bit odd or unusual. Here are 10 of the weirdly wonderful things that you might see passengers doing on cruise ships (you might even want to get in on the fun and try some of these activities yourself!).

Decorating Their Cabin Doors

If it hasn’t been that long since you were in college, or if you have a younger family member currently in college, you might be familiar with the habit of decorating your dorm door to reflect your personality and make it easier for your friends to find you.

Some schoolteachers do something similar with their classroom doors, decking them out with themes and fun décor that helps students identify their classroom.

Well, some cruisers have taken this concept and adapted it for the cruise ship. They’ll bring along all sorts of gear, from professionally printed banners to craft supplies, to decorate their doors with a specific theme, whether that be a cruise-specific theme (like if they’re cruising for someone’s birthday or a similar special event) or just something that makes their cabin door easy to recognize in a sea of identical cabin doors.

Cabin Dorr Decoration

It’s worth noting, though, that while this is a very fun tradition for some, it does come with a small safety risk. If you put your photo on your door’s exterior, you’re essentially advertising where you’re staying.

Think of it like announcing your hotel room number to an entire crowded bar. Anyone could show up at your door! To stay safe, always check who’s knocking before you answer your cabin door, and don’t let strangers into your cabin.

Hiding Rubber Ducks

You might be aware of the trend among Jeep owners, of placing rubber ducks on other owners’ parked Jeeps, as they come across them in the wild. No need to know the owner. Just stealthily place a rubber duck on the Jeep, as a surprise for the owner to come back to. More likely than not, the owner will show off their duck on social media with a hashtag.

Cruisers do something similar, hiding rubber ducks throughout the ship for other cruisers to find. Ducks can be classic, yellow, plastic ducks, or they can be themed or even homemade.

The ducks will feature a small tag that informs curious spotters what the duck is for and what hashtag to use if the finder wants to post a photo of the duck on social media — and that’s pretty much the basics of the game.

Themed Cruising Ducks
Themed Cruising Ducks (Photo Credit: Vitaliy Kyrychuk / Shutterstock)

You bring ducks with you on-board. You label the duck with a name, cruise ship and sail date, and the hashtag #cruisingducks, with a paper tag tied around the duck’s neck or a printed sticker on the duck’s bottom.

Many also often label the ducks as “Keep or Hide, You Decide,” meaning that the finder can hide the duck again, or keep the duck, to add to a personal collection. Then, you hide the ducks.

Keep the ducks out of the water — so pools, hot tubs or anywhere that the duck could fall into the ocean, like on a railing — and don’t place them in retail spaces. Otherwise, have fun, both hiding your own ducks and looking for others!

Displaying Upside-Down Pineapples and Pink Flamingoes

For many, a cruise is a time to let loose. Let your hair down. Release your inhibitions. For some, that means taking a little break from monogamy — and that’s where upside-down pineapples and pink flamingoes come in.

Upside down Pineapple
Upside down Pineapple

While the former is a more well-known symbol, both are used to show other cruisers you’re interested in a little swinging and partner-swapping during your trip. You can display the symbols as part of your cabin door décor, or you can wear them on your clothing or as accessories.

So, if that’s something you’re into, go ahead and display your upside-down pineapple or pink flamingo proudly; you might just get lucky. If, though, that’s not exactly how you roll, maybe leave the pink flamingo-printed Hawaiian shirt at home.

Wearing Matching T-Shirts

For group cruises, wearing matching t-shirts is basically a must. Typically, one of the group cruise organizers will organize this well in advance, getting everyone’s sizes, designing a shirt and then ordering and distributing the shirts for everyone to wear throughout the cruise.

Matching T-Shirts on Cruise Ship
Matching T-Shirts on Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Aleksandar_Markov)

Shirts often just display the group’s name or the event for which they’re sailing, such as “Grandma Smith’s 90th Birthday Cruise!” Some might include a fun little slogan or saying. It’s totally up to the group; however, all the t-shirts are identical.

Read Also: What Are Group Cruises?

So, if you start seeing multiple people all wearing the same shirt, and start to think you might be losing your mind, you’re not.

(And it’s not just matching t-shirts that are a thing; some go all out and do matching outfits as well, including matching-themed outfits, like costumes that all follow the same general theme!)

Going on a Cabin Crawl

Forget the bar crawl! Go on a cabin crawl!

Cabin crawls serve multiple purposes. They allow everyone staying in the cabins to socialize, but then they also allow avid cruisers to see various different cabins and suites on the ship.

Cabin crawls can be organized among groups but, more often than not, they’re organized among strangers that happen to be taking the same cruise.

Carnival Spirit Balcony Cabin
Carnival Spirit Balcony Cabin (Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive)

For example, avid cruisers will all be in the same Facebook group or on the same forum, and they might see who all will be on an upcoming cruise, and then someone will arrange the crawl, taking everyone in the group from one cabin to the next, to meet each other, see the cabins and socialize (with much of the actual socializing saved for one of the larger suites that has space to hold everyone).

Again, while, like some cabin decorations, this trend does come with a slight safety risk — you’re letting complete strangers into your private space — a little awareness will go a long way to mitigate that.

Participating in Roll Calls

Along these lines, while you might not participate in a cabin crawl, you still might find it worthwhile to participate in a cruise ship roll call. This is just where, as alluded above, a group of avid cruisers will connect with others who are going to be on the ship, such as in a forum or in a Facebook group.

There, they’ll compare notes and plans for the cruise, and make plans to meet up and do something fun together, during the cruise.

Collecting Towel Animals

It’s not uncommon on a cruise to come back to your stateroom to see that it’s been cleaned while you were out, and that the attendant left behind a cute little towel expertly folded and shaped into an animal.

Carnival Cruise Line Towel Animals
Carnival Cruise Line Towel Animals

For some, coming back to find what towel animal’s been left behind on any certain day is a highlight, so much so that they set the animals aside, not using the towels, collecting a little menagerie as the days go on.

Worth Reading: Towel Animals to Look for on Your Cruise

Of course, you can’t actually collect the towel animals and take them home with you. That would be theft. However, you can collect them up until the day of your departure, and snap a photo of your zoo before you head out.

Walking Around the Ship in a Robe

This is probably less of a tradition and more of just a slightly weird habit. However, if it makes your day, go for it. Some cruisers just want to experience their cruise in ultimate comfort, and that means wearing their robe all day, every day, no matter where they’re going on the cruise ship.

Keep in mind, though, that there are some areas of the ship that might be off limits to you if you’re just wearing your robe, like a formal dining experience.

Dancing at the Deck Party

When attending the cruise ship’s deck party, you may suddenly realize that everyone around you is dancing in synch. Somehow, all of these strangers know the same dance and all the choreography, and you’re just left there scratching your head.

Virgin Voyages Entertainment
Photo Courtesy: Virgin Voyages

No, you’re not part of some flash mob. Instead, there are a handful of basic, choreographed dances that many cruisers know (either from past cruises, or from brushing up on YouTube at home, before departure) and, when certain songs come on, they all get into formation, for a fun, group dance that everyone can participate in.

If the thought of learning a new dance before your cruise intimidates you, don’t worry — many are classics that most have seen before, even if they don’t know all the moves, so you don’t need to be up on the latest TikTok dance crazes to participate. Think the Cha Cha Slide and Electric Shuffle.

Bringing Their Own Décor

From hot sauce to tea packets, when asked the oddest things they’ve brought on a cruise, cruisers on Reddit responded with some truly unique items.

However, some answers that really stood out among the weirdest? Bringing your own home décor, to make your cabin feel a little more like home (though, one might argue that the purpose of a cruise vacation is to get away from home!).

Carnival Cruise Cabin
Carnival Cruise Cabin

One respondent said that they brought their Christmas tree from home, packing the three-foot tree and then setting it up in their cabin for a Christmas sailing. They decorated it with ornaments from all of the cruises that they had been on.

Read Also: Carnival Cruise Passengers Create Custom Setup in Cabin

Another respondent said they liked to bring their kitchen fridge magnets, as well as the photos that they typically keep on their fridge at home, and decorate their cabin with them.

However, that wasn’t the “weird” thing they mentioned bringing with them; instead, they mentioned that they brought along a kitchen timer once, accidentally throwing it in with their magnets.

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