Steering Clear of a Nightmare: 15 Tips for What Not to Do on a Cruise

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A cruise can be a phenomenal vacation filled with excitement, luxury, and adventure, but only if you make the most of your oceangoing getaway without tripping over common pitfalls. Whether this is your first cruise or you are a seasoned cruiser, these 15 mistakes can quickly sink your vacation plans.

1. Skipping Your Pre-Cruise Research

Every cruise line has a different character and offers different experiences to its passengers. If you don’t research cruise lines before you book, you might end up on a party boat when you’d prefer a more sedate vacation, or your could find yourself on a minimalist ship when you wanted to try all the newest innovations at sea.

Investigate each cruise line, individual ships, types of staterooms, onboard options, and ports of call to be sure you’re planning a vacation that meets your needs and preferences.

2. Overpacking

Cruise ship cabins are smaller than typical hotel rooms, and storage space is at a premium. Instead of packing a multitude of options for your casual wear, poolside outfits, formal attire, and all the accessories that go with each ensemble, choose versatile items that won’t take up as much luggage space. Similarly, minimize other gear you pack, and be sure to save room in your luggage for must-have souvenirs.

Also Read: Top 30 Cruise Accessories You’ll Want to Have Packed

3. Missing the Muster Drill

Every cruise ship holds a mandatory safety drill before setting sail. This procedure is required by maritime law and familiarizes passengers with emergency situations such as alarm tones, where to evacuate to a lifeboat, and how to properly wear a life vest.

Lifeboat drill
Lifeboat Drill

Passengers who skip this drill could delay the ship’s departure and may even be put off the ship for noncompliance. The drill only takes a half-hour or so, and is well worth the time to start your vacation safely.

4. Waiting to Book Shore Excursions

Popular tours in ports of call can sell out quickly, and if you wait until just a few hours before arriving at the port to reserve your space on an excursion, you may find yourself left behind while other passengers have a great time.

Shore tours for any port can be booked as soon as you board the ship, and many cruise lines even let you book tours online several days or weeks before embarkation, ensuring your reservation for those can’t-miss experiences.

5. Missing One-Time Opportunities

Just like missing out on shore tours, it is possible to miss out on one-time-only experiences on board the ship. Many popular shows, for example, may have just one or two performances and will not be repeated later in the trip.

Oasis of the Seas Caribbean Pool Deck
Photo: Royal Caribbean

Similarly, themed events such as dance parties, specialized contests, and comedy performances are often offered just once. Check the ship’s daily schedule closely for details on each day’s options and use onboard apps to remind yourself not to miss those experiences.

6. Getting Drunk

It’s perfectly natural to want to imbibe on vacation, whether that means a morning mimosa, lounging by the pool with the drink-of-the-day, enjoying a cocktail before dinner, or tossing back a few beers in the sports bar.

Take care not to get outlandishly drunk, however, which can have dire consequences on a cruise ship. Not only do you risk seasickness, but if you need most of the next day to recover from overindulging, you’ll miss out on everything the ship and ports offer while your hangover is in control.

7. Overeating

With food easily available from buffets, pizzerias, candy shops, ice cream machines, sushi bars, room service, and many other delicious options, you could quickly make yourself sick on too much deliciousness.

Lido Dining Food

Furthermore, you might inadvertently gain a few pounds on your cruise, making that tight dress or snug dress slacks uncomfortable or even impossible to wear on formal night. Do feel free to taste, but know your dining limits just like you know your drinking limits.

8. Littering

Littering is no more acceptable on a cruise ship than it is on land. All trash and waste should be properly disposed of, and no materials should ever be tossed overboard.

In fact, tossing items overboard is illegal and could be cause to be removed from the ship at the closest opportunity, even left in an unfamiliar port of call for violating the ship’s littering laws. Pick up after yourself, and if you aren’t sure where to place trash, ask a nearby crew member and they’ll be happy to help.

9. Rudeness to the Crew

Every member of a cruise ship’s crew, from the officers to the bartenders to the stewards, works hard to offer guests a memorable and enjoyable vacation. There is no excuse for being rude to the crew, even inadvertently.

Take care to make life easier for your cabin steward, and always be polite to all crew members, even if you’re dealing with an unpleasant situation or need to register a complaint. Greet crew with a friendly smile, don’t interrupt their work, and be genuine with your thanks.

10. Letting Children Run Free

Even parents need time off on vacation, but it is never a good idea to let children run free on a cruise ship. There are many places on a ship where unsupervised children could get into trouble or even be in danger, and it’s easy for children to get frightened and lost on the very largest ships.

Quantum of the Seas Theater (Photo: Emrys Thakkar)

Furthermore, it’s rude to other passengers to allow children to take over inappropriate areas, such as designated adults-only areas, elevators, or hot tubs where supervision is required.

11. Overspending

Because most cruise ships operate on a cashless system where your ship ID card is also a charge card for onboard purchases, it can be easy to let your spending get out of control.

Shops Onboard Quantum of the Seas
Shops Onboard Quantum of the Seas (Photo: Emrys Thakkar)

You don’t want that unpleasant surprise at the end of the cruise, however, so be aware of how much you may be spending at the bar, in souvenir shops, on shore tours, at the photo gallery, or on any other extras throughout the cruise. Savvy spending can ensure you enjoy your cruise while you stay on budget.

12. Cramming Too Much In

With so much to see and do on a cruise ship, it can be overwhelming and you may be tempted to try everything at once so you don’t miss out. If you do too much right away, however, you may find yourself too exhausted the next day to join in new activities, or you may be too sore to be part of shore tours, deck games, or dance parties.

Cruise Ship Deck
Cruise Ship Deck

Know your limits each day, and enjoy trying new activities and having fun without pushing yourself to injury, illness, or exhaustion.

13. Breaking Rules or Guidelines

Cruise ships do have rules, and guests need to obey posted guidelines and restrictions as well as any orders from officers and crew members.

Cruise Passenger on Aurora Railings
Photo By: Nick Corben

Stay out of restricted “crew only” areas, pay attention to crew directions, and avoid fights and other poor behavior, or you may find yourself in the ship’s brig, facing fines or other penalties, or even removed from the ship and banned from returning on future cruises.

14. Missing the Ship

You won’t have much fun on your cruise if you literally miss the boat, whether being late for embarkation or misjudging the time in a port of call. Cruise ships operate on precise schedules and will not wait for tardy passengers.

Related: Top 6 Videos Of Cruise Passengers Missing The Ship

Book your travel plans to account for possible delays when you arrive, and when in port, be sure you stay on “ship time” to get back on board before departure.

15. Staying in Your Comfort Zone

One of the biggest mistakes you can make on any cruise vacation is staying completely in your comfort zone. Cruise ships and different ports of call offer a wide array of opportunities to try new foods, enjoy a new drink, take on an unusual adventure, discover a new culture, and more.

Make the most of your cruise vacation by setting sail with confidence and trying something new to make it a truly memorable and amazing getaway!

Melissa Mayntz
Melissa Mayntz
Avid, enthusiastic cruiser (35+ cruises and counting!), having sailed on multiple cruise lines, 25+ different ships in a variety of classes, and visited ports of call in more than 6 countries, including Caribbean, Mexican, Alaskan, and Hawaiian ports. Widely traveled on multiple continents and homeported from Port Canaveral, as well as a professional freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years' experience and thousands of articles published. Find out more about us here.


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