6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy

I used to think of myself as a considerate cruise passenger, trying to be polite and help make the crews’ jobs simpler, easier, and more pleasant. But I’ve had to reappraise what I was doing after a crew member discreetly told me on my recent cruise that some were having the opposite effect. Could get them into trouble with their boss. Affect their ability to get a promotion. And even get their contract renewed.

Shocked by this, I decided to ask the cruise director, waiters, shore excursion staff, guest services, guest entertainers and speakers, and my stateroom attendant, what well-intentioned things I was doing on a cruise that I should stop, and importantly, be doing instead. The answers were eye-opening.

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy – Not Complaining

As a Brit, I tend not to complain or like to cause a fuss. However, everyone on board told me to stop being so polite and raise issues instead of just letting them go.

For example, my cabin steward kept asking every day if everything was okay, and as I wanted. The other day I asked why he kept repeatedly asking me, and he said usually there is always something a guest wants changed, sorted, fixed or done differently. He often finds that while guests say everything’s fine, some do have issues that after the cruise they complain about in online reviews or worse – mention it in the post cruise survey, which then feeds back negatively on him.

The point he’s making is the crew cannot fix anything that they don’t know about. So, he suggested stop being so polite and raise issues, something every department I spoke to agreed with. And they say do it when it happens not later. Negative reviews and ratings make their life more difficult and could affect promotions or future contracts.

Another thing I always feel is the polite and right thing to do is give credit and praise when someone has gone out of their way to do something, but I discovered that too can really annoy the crew.

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy – Thanking Special Requests or Favours

I learnt this lesson a few ways but want to share one easy example, to show the impact on the crew and involved publicly praising the dining room staff for creating a special meal, and unintentionally creating a nightmare for them.

My partner, Mark, reacts badly to dairy products and has a sweet tooth. On our last cruise together on Queen Mary 2 he saw that an iconic cruise standard, Baked Alaska, was on the menu for dinner that night. As it has ice cream, he could not have it. At lunchtime he asked the Maître D if it was possible to have a vegan ice cream or a sorbet version made for him.

He was so delighted when they discreetly served him a custom-made sorbet Baked Alaska. He wanted to praise their good deed, and excitedly told others around us about it. Leading to several others asking for it too.

The crew were dismayed and frustrated as it was impossible to do. Mark’s was a one off, and they could not get the kitchen to make more without notice, creating tension when they had to refuse to get it for other diners.

Wait Until The End

The waiter and Maître D told us afterwards it is best not to draw attention if something has been done until at least the end of the meal. So, they can then build in and negotiate future requests with the kitchen, and not upset other guests and put crew in a difficult position.

The kitchen always has some people working on special requests or diets, but if cannot cope with many at short notice.

Everyone I asked across departments agreed it is best to quietly thank the people involved and consider the impact on the crew of broadcasting it.

One thing I know many passengers, including me, think the polite thing to do is be friendly with and get to know the crew, however this is not as welcome as I thought it was.

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy – Being Friendly

Many crew told me that one challenge they face is people being overly friendly, which can affect their jobs and even get them into trouble.

There are a few times I have done this now that I look back.

On one Caribbean cruise last year, one of the main dining room waiters, where I had breakfast most mornings, recognised me from YouTube and asked about how it worked, what cameras I used and so on.

I started over the next few breakfasts telling her in some detail all about it, bringing cameras, showing some shots using my Insta360, and giving her lots of tips. I thought I was being polite, helpful, and friendly, but I soon sensed other waiters were annoyed she was spending time standing talking to me, instead of serving others.

And I could then see that her Supervisor was not happy. Of course, she was trying to be polite to me, but I learnt that being too friendly was affecting her job and causing tensions.

My cabin steward on a recent cruise on Norwegian Viva pointed out that they have more cabins than they used to do for cleaning. So guests taking up a lot of time wanting to chat and interact can cut into their time too. I am more aware than ever of how much time I am taking that can affect a crew members job.

There is a more serious side to being polite and wanting to be friendly with crew, and that is around boundaries.

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy


If the line suspects or finds there is a romantic relationship between a crew member and passenger, they are likely to be fired. I learnt that even trying to build innocent friendships can put crew into a difficult situation and risk their job.

On a seven-week cruise on a leading British cruise line, Mark and I became very friendly with the female gym instructor who took the fitness classes we did most days. We’d ask her to join us on some activities we had planned in ports, like indoor skiing in Dubai, waterparks, beach trips and join us for drinks or coffees in ports.

This was being friendly as we enjoyed her company, but some Cunard senior staff felt it was not appropriate to be mixing so much off the ship and felt it was suspect. It was raised with her boss, who gave her a warning and she had to stop mixing with us.

While this was all innocent, it did strike home how we needed to remember the line between passenger and crew needs to be respected, as it could even risk their job. We later found out she did not return to that line after the end if her contract as think the stress it created was unwelcome.

I also found from talking to crew across various departments that gestures of appreciation, as polite as they seem, are also not always as welcome as I thought, and could cause problems for them too.

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy – Showing Appreciation

One was pointed out to me by some entertainers I spoke to. When they are performing around the ship some guests buy them a drink to show appreciation as a polite gesture.

However, this can cause issues based on the cruise line. Many ban their entertainers from drinking alcohol before or during performances, and also as they point out, it will cost a passenger perhaps $15 plus gratuity to buy a drink, but they can buy multiple drinks in the crew bar for that. And most don’t want to drink on the job.

So, a more polite way would be to give a gratuity instead. They would much rather have that.

For guest entertainers on board, it is also the same principle. Some that I have asked say that they often bring merchandise, like CDs or downloads of their music or guest speakers have books, and buying those is a much better way to show appreciation.

There is also another polite behaviour that every single guest entertainer, and in fact also every crew member, told me that they wish people would change and do something else instead.

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy – Talking To The Wrong Person

I used to do this too until I was told about a better way. Like many other passengers, if I liked a performer, be they cruise line one, guest entertainer, or guest speaker, I thought the right and polite thing to do was go and tell the Cruise Director, and even Guest Services or Senior Officers. Always thinking this helped get them another contract or booking.

However, I discovered all those people on board have no decision over what on-board entertainers, guest entertainers or speakers are given contracts or booked. That is all decided by head office.

While of course the Cruise Director might mention good feedback to Head Office they are not a decision maker, as all are booked by head office. And a major factor for them are the scores and comments about the guest entertainers and speakers in the post-cruise guest surveys.

So, the best thing is to name them and rate them in the end of cruise survey to really help them.

The same is true for any crew member you found good. Naming them in the end of cruise survey is the most important and influential way of helping them get recognised, rewarded, and even promoted rather than simply telling management on board.

But what about being polite and making a crew member’s job a bit easier. That too, I found, cannot always help!

6 Things “Polite” Passengers Do That Drives Cruise Crew Crazy – Giving Crew A Hand

I used to think helping to clear away things was a help. But on my recent Silversea cruise I saw it may not be. One of my routines has been having a coffee and snack in the coffee shop once or twice a day, often sitting outside enjoying the sights or watching the ocean on sea days.

I started picking up my used cups and plates and taking it inside to save the crew doing it. I realised I was probably doing something wrong as the waiters would always rush across and insist on taking them.

Discreetly, I asked about it and a waiter told me that a guest picking up and taking dirty dishes was seen as them not doing their job keeping tables cleared and ready. While on other lines there have been stations for guests to put cups and so on, but on this luxury line it was seen as crew not doing their job.

I also came to notice that in the main dining rooms where crew have to carry and clear many plates and dishes, there are methods and processes for clearing tables at dinner to pick up and stack the plates in a specific way, clear plates of leftover food, to go into the kitchens or into food recycling. So, I now realise the polite and right thing to do is be aware of the processes crew have to use and let them get on with it!




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2 Responses

  1. Mary Margaret Dyer says:

    This was the most helpful post I have ever read regarding cruising. Thank you!

  2. Ghislaine Desjardins says:

    Thank you so much for this. One thing I don’t understand because I grew up in a family owned resort, is tipping at the beginning of the week just to guarantee better service. High quality service is expected for every client. A special tip at the beginning. is considered insulting or at least inappropriate. Tipping is a Thank You at the end of a cruise. It’s the Canadian way.

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