The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

There used to be 9 unwritten cruise rules. Things that every cruiser understood were fundamental to making the cruise work and ensuring everyone had a great time. They weren’t written down in the terms and conditions, until one of them was.

Nine suddenly became 8 and that’s because cruisers did not stick to that one unwritten rule, so it became a formal written one, along with penalties like disembarkation, $500 fines and being banned for life.

What was that unwritten rule, you ask? It was a simple one. Be considerate. Children should be supervised; you should keep noise in the hallways to a minimum, follow queues and treat crew and other passengers with respect. It’s sad that so many Carnival Cruise passengers did not follow this, so it became mandatory.

The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

#1 Laundry Unwritten Rule

After that sobering note, I’d like to start with something a bit more frivolous, but serious at the same time. Any cruiser knows that the guest laundry is a competitive sporting area. It’s not for the fainthearted, but it’s the best way to hear the latest gossip going around the ship. Now, the written rules basically give you the opening and closing times of the guest laundry, so you don’t disturb others in cabins around them. But what they don’t say is how the whole thing really works.

Firstly, you do not hog the machines. You do one set of laundry per day, and you need to be back before the cycle’s finished. Immediately, you remove it and put it into the dryer. If you are waiting in line and someone’s washing is finished, you can take it out and put it in a dryer, but you do this at your own peril. Not everyone is thrilled by someone touching their washing.

Break these rules and it can get a bit hostile.

The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

#2 On Time Unwritten Rule

A more serious bunch of these unwritten rules is around timekeeping. And there’s three critical things to remember. First, being prompt when it comes to excursions, both for the meeting time and when getting back after any free time. Excursions always run based on the last or the slowest person. So, if you are late before the excursion leaves, that time is cut from the overall trip. If you’re late coming back from free time, that again reduces the amount of time you may have been scheduled to have somewhere else on the tour.

It happened on a recent trip when I went on an exclusion to Florence and Pisa. It’s a very long way from Livorno and people were slow at getting back at each of the places we went that offered free time. Because of this, we ended up losing an hour of exploring time in Florence. Do not be late.

The other thing that is important with timekeeping is if you’re on fixed dining and you’re sharing a table with others. Don’t be late because they are sitting waiting for you. The waiters will generally not serve the rest of the table until everyone’s seated. So, you disrupt it for everybody. This same rule applies to anything else you may have booked that you decide you don’t want to do, such as an excursion – just let people know.

The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

#3 Buffet Unwritten Rule

The next lot of unwritten rules focus on the buffet. There are some rules that the cruise lines have. For example, washing your hands, sanitising, and always using a new plate when you go to get more food. One of the most fundamental of the unwritten rules is about how you queue. There’s no formal system at the buffet and at busy times it can be a free for all. But there always ends up being an informal flow. So, the unspoken rule is you don’t cut in and come from the other side. You join those spontaneous lines.

Another unwritten rule is you don’t pile up your plate. Remember, you can go back as many times as you want.

Staking claim to tables is also a big one, and not letting people join in. The idea is you get your food, you find a table, sit down, and you let people join you if they wish.

The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

#4 Main Dining Room Unwritten Rule

Talking about dining, there’s also unwritten rules around the main dining room. One is that you can order as much as you want. Now, some lines are starting to push back a little on that, although we mostly see it in the speciality restaurants. For example, in Pinnacle Grill on Holland America recently if you wanted multiple starters or whatever, they would charge you for them.

But, in the main dining room you can order multiple starters. You can order two main courses if you want. Now, that’s not publicised, but it’s an unwritten rule and you’ll find it’s possible for the most part.

Also, another unwritten rule is you can usually do a takeaway. So, if you’re a bit full but there’s a dessert that you absolutely want, you can ask to take that away and have it later.

The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

#5 Chair Hog Unwritten Rule

There’s also another whole thing that goes on around the pool deck. Now, there is, on many cruise lines, a written rule and it varies. So, on a recent cruise I was on it was buried down in the daily program and just said, “Please be respectful and don’t hog the chairs.” On other cruise lines I’ve been on, there’s been signs around the pool area and pool deck basically saying you can only vacate for 30 minutes. Now, what you find is, although this is rule, everybody knows that crew members mostly don’t enforce it, I guess because it’s too risky for them. So, there’s become this kind of unwritten rule that if you are going to leave your things unattended, you won’t do it for more than 30 minutes.

On the flip side, if you find a chair that is being reserved but has been left for hours on end and you know people aren’t coming back, you are, as part of the unwritten rule, able to pack that stuff up and give it to the crew.

The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

#6 Crew Unwritten Rule

Another important rule is around the crew and any good cruiser understands that you do not treat crew badly. The crew are there for six-to-nine-months at a time, working seven days a week, not necessarily for amazing pay. So, the unwritten rule is that the more respect that you give, the more you will get back. And if that doesn’t work for you, there’s an important thing to bear in mind; understanding that you should never be awful to someone who is alone with your toothbrush or prepares and brings your food and drink.

For example, I was recently on Queen Elizabeth. My cabin steward was looking after 15 cabins and he had a lot of work to do. But, by making sure that I called him by his name, I got to know him. I found out about him, his situation, his likes, and his family, and he started to give me so much more. He would do my cabin the minute I left in the morning or the minute I went for dinner. He made suggestions and was incredibly helpful. I knew that I got so much more from him just by investing time in getting to know him.

There was also another rule which is very controversial but is basically that whether you like it or not, you should follow whatever the tipping rule is. The crew rely heavily on the tipping process.

The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

#7 Cruise Survey Unwritten Rule

One of the most important unwritten rules for me is that you should always fill out the post cruise survey and always call out the best people that you’ve come across by name and why.

And, that you should solve any problem before you get as far as the post cruise survey. Now, the crew rely very heavily on those surveys. They need the good scores to get rewarded, to get incentives, promotions, whatever. For example, I know some people who work as guest entertainers and they are not in fear of, but they worry about those ratings because that will determine whether they get asked back or not. Crew get promotions, they win employee of the month, the week and more. It’s a big deal. Make sure you fill out that questionnaire and you call out everybody who did a great job by name. It’s very important.

#8 The Unspoken Unwritten Rule

Now, one of the most critical unwritten rules of cruising is this next one. Bear in mind that cruising is like a game of poker. Every single other cruiser you ever talk to will always have a better cruise story, have had a better deal or a better upgrade than you have.

You can never win the argument. So, the unwritten rule is do not try and fight it. Just celebrate their apparent success knowing you really have outdone them.

The 8 Unwritten Cruise Rules Every Cruiser Needs To Know About

What unwritten rules have I left out? If you’ve got any, I’d love to hear of them.




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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 2 million video views per month.

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1 Response

  1. Juanita T Furtado says:

    All of the above plus be quiet in your cabin. That covers, children, TV, sex, argu,ments and my cardinal sin, taking shoes off quietly. I am bad about dropping them on the floor– clang! From the metal under the carpet. My bad.

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