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Aerial view of a cruise ship at sunset
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7 Things You Should Never Do on a Cruise Ship

SmarterTravel

Cruises are meant to be relaxing escapes from reality, where you can board and leave your troubles behind on land. That doesn’t mean that anything goes on a cruise ship—there are certain behaviors that can get you kicked off, thrown in the onboard jail, or worse.

Skimp on Hand Hygiene

On a cruise, you’ll see constant reminders about keeping your hands clean, from big signs to hand sanitizer stations. If you want to avoid getting sick, it’s important that you maintain impeccable hand hygiene. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a helpful guide for keeping your hands clean on a cruise ship. The CDC advises cruise ship passengers to “use warm water and soap to wash their hands. Washing is always best. If water and soap are NOT available (perhaps on excursions), use an ethanol alcohol-based hand sanitizer, preferably in a gel form. The sanitizer should be at least 60% ethanol.”

Always wash your hands after using the restroom and before eating. 

Disregard COVID-19 Protocols

Person holding phone displaying their COVID vaccination status
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Don’t plan on skipping a mandatory pre-cruise COVID test and think you’ll be able to talk your way out of it once you’re at the departure port. If a cruise line requires a pre-trip COVID test and you don’t have one, you won’t be allowed to board. 

For example, according to Royal Caribbean, unvaccinated guests who do not have a negative pre-cruise result “will not be permitted to sail.” Most cruise lines have very limited options for day-of tests, so don’t plan on being able to get one at port. 

Leave Your Data Plan On

Forgetting to switch off your cellular data at sea will be an expensive mistake. Many cruise ships have their own roaming network that guests can connect to (for very pricey rates). Even if you’re not making calls or texting, the apps on your phone will still auto-refresh and use data. Be sure to put your phone on airplane mode (or turn off your data) before you pull out of port. 

Overindulge 24/7

Full breakfast table in front of an ocean view window on a cruise
Solarisys | Adobe Stock

A cruise vacation is definitely the time to treat yourself. You want to sample all the delicious food and drink that’s available around-the-clock at the restaurants and buffets. However, it’s important to treat eating and drinking on a cruise as a marathon, not a sprint. If you deviate from your normal diet and eat large amounts of rich food at every meal, you’re going to be feeling pretty sick midway through the cruise. 

Try to pace yourself and eat a mix of healthy food and treats in moderate portions so that you won’t spend your whole trip lying in your room with a stomach ache. 

Arrive Late

Planning your own off-ship excursion that arrives back to the cruise five minutes before its scheduled to leave is a very dangerous gamble. Whether you’re planning out when to arrive before your cruise begins or how early to get back after a day out, you’ll want to leave lots of extra time. Remember that ship time is often different from local time, and change your clocks accordingly!

If you do miss the ship, you’ll have to pay (and arrange) for your own transportation to the next port to meet the cruise, or give up and head home early. 

Overpack

Overflowing suitcase on a bed
moodboard | Adobe Stock

Cruise ship cabins are notoriously small, so you can bring a massive checked bag—but then you’re just going to be tripping over it your entire trip. A duffle bag, or other soft carrier, is ideal as you can easily unpack and stash it away in your cabin. Smaller carry-ons are also a good choice, as they won’t take up too much space in your room. 

Become Drunk and Disorderly

It’s tempting to overindulge if you’ve purchased a drink package and have unlimited access to alcohol, but it’s also an easy way to wind up in the brig (aka, cruise ship jail). Extreme intoxication can also result in accidents on a cruise ship (such as falling overboard) so take it easy at the ship’s bar.

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