Don’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers Crazy

Don’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers CrazyDon’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers Crazy

Did you see a recent story about an 18-year-old boy who convinced his parents to take him on the family’s first ever cruise to celebrate graduating high school? It cost the parents dearly, as they broke a fundamental cruise rule that applies to all cruisers.

While shopping in a Caribbean port after an excursion, the boy told his parents they should return to the ship because he’d noticed that there was an all-aboard time that was coming up very soon. The parents shrugged it off, saying the ship wouldn’t leave without all the passengers. He wasn’t convinced, left them behind and returned to the ship. By the time the parents got to the port, they found the ship, along with their son, had sailed. It cost them a fortune to join the ship at the next port. They were furious with the captain for not waiting and their son for somehow not stopping him.

This story of rule breaking and its consequences, got me thinking about other cruise rules I see being broken often. It struck me that some rule breaking bothered me and some did not, for while they might have nasty consequences for those involved (like for those parents), many do not directly affect my cruising experience. I wondered if everyone felt the same. So, I did a poll of cruisers and discovered there’s 6 key rules that when broken drive cruisers crazy more than any others.

Driving Cruisers Crazy – Hand Washing Rule Breakers

One threat cruises face is with many people on one vessel, norovirus (the gastro illness that can cause vomiting and diarrhea) can be spread fairly easy if passengers do not follow the simple prevention rules.

There’s a few rules passengers regularly break that can lead to outbreaks. First, before boarding we are supposed to report if we have signs of norovirus, upset stomachs or vomiting, so the medical team can assess, but some worry they will be isolated for a couple of days in their cabin until it has passed, so they don’t own up.

While this annoyed people in the poll, the issue that really drives many passengers mad is others not following the rules on stopping norovirus from spreading and causing an outbreak. And that is by washing hands frequently, especially after the bathroom and before going to the buffet or using the hand gel which is a fairly good alternative.

Norovirus spreads through touching a surface with it on and then touching your mouth. So, someone handling tongs in the buffet could spread it.

Norovirus, when it breaks out, can cause big issues. For example, just before writing this, P&O Cruises’ Ventura had a big outbreak. Some media reports stated up to 250 passengers were affected and being made to quarantine, ruining their trip. Rigorous following of the hand washing, and gel rule should have been able to stop or slow this down. That’s why it drives so many cruisers mad.

I suspected this next rule breaking would be high on the list, and it was, with 81% of cruise passengers saying it really grates them.

Don’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers Crazy

Driving Cruisers Crazy – Seat Rule Breaking

Yes, 8 out of 10 cruisers said that others reserving seats and chair hogging drives them crazy. Every cruise line I have been on has rules about this.

From the most up-market small ship line to the largest resort line, every daily program asks passengers to stop reserving seats on the pool deck and in the theatre. On many ship pool decks, I also see signs about not reserving deck chairs and loungers.

Most cruise lines have rules saying a lounger with personal effects on that has not been used for a set amount of time, often 40 minutes, will have them removed.

However, this rule is just not followed by many passengers. Partly because although cruise lines say that they will enforce the rule, most do not. And I can see why crew are reluctant too, because they will end up getting so much hassle. So, many know it is worth just breaking the rule as they almost always get away with it.

Every now and then a line will say they are clamping down, like Carnival and P&O Cruises UK did recently, saying they were getting crew to put notices with time stamps if they spotted any lounger not being used, which included the time they would remove items. But that approach did not last long it seems.

The next rule breaking that upsets people, I think, has probably grown as an issue, with 75% of passengers saying this one is a big issue for them.

Don’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers Crazy

Driving Cruisers Crazy – Rule Breaking Kids

Perhaps it is because more cruise lines are targeting and attracting families post-cruise shutdown. I see more passengers complain about this set of rules being broken than ever before, with lines and crew reluctant to enforce them.

I saw this first-hand on a Majestic Princess Alaska cruise last year which had many families, and the kids ran a bit crazy. They took over the adult-only pool. Babies and toddlers with diapers used the pool despite the rules posted against it. Kids constantly filled the hot tubs despite the signs with age restrictions. They even used and messed about in the gym, despite the no under 16s rule and would run around the ship and hallways late into the evenings.

I have noticed on cruises since then, that as the rule breaking is presumably getting worse, several lines added more rules. For example, on my recent Norwegian Viva Mediterranean and Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas Caribbean cruises both had introduced a curfew. With children aged 17 and under not allowed unaccompanied anywhere on the ship after 1:00am. There were constant reminders in the daily progam, and daily updates from the Captain reminding parents to supervise and ensure rules were being followed.

Talking of disruptions, the next set of rule breakers were the next biggest thing that drives cruise passengers who have booked a balcony cabin crazy with 58%, or around 6 out of 10, said this one got them steamed up.

Don’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers Crazy

Driving Cruisers Crazy – Balcony Rule Breaking

There are a few specific rules around cruise ship balcony’s, including things that can spill over to affect people’s balcony next to or above or below the rule breakers.

In the embarkation safety briefing, the Captain always lays down several balcony rules. Two of which really rile up passengers if broken.

Almost every cruise line does not allow smoking nor vaping in the cabin or on the balcony. But inevitably, as I have found, there’s occasionally people that vape or smoke cigarettes (or even something stronger) on their balcony and it wafts onto neighbouring balconies.

There is also a safety reason cruise lines have banned it, to avoid more incidents of fires being caused by people throwing cigarette butts, which they thought were out, over the side of the ship.

Star Princess

The most dramatic of these was on Star Princess in the Caribbean, where it’s believed a cigarette thrown overboard was blown back into another balcony, setting the furniture and the dividers on the balcony alight which led to one passenger dying, 11 people injured and over 100 rooms burnt and damaged.

But loud and raucous behaviour on the balcony is also something that has grown as an issue. I faced this on my Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas cruise I spoke about, with loud music and partying.

Don’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers Crazy

No Speakers

This trend has led lines to target the ability to play loud music with more rules. For example, recently, Carnival Cruise Line announced that large speakers and radios are prohibited and will be confiscated and discarded. They also added a rule that all guests must use earphones when listening to music or watching shows and movies on personal devices in public spaces.

Bluetooth, portable and wireless speakers are only permitted within a stateroom and not allowed on the balcony. And they must be played at what they called respectful sound levels and times of day.

I have seen reports of people being thrown off ships part way through cruises for breaking the smoking and loud music on balcony rules. So, as well as driving fellow guests crazy, the consequences could be devastating and costly.

Then of course, there’s the other rules the Captain reminds passengers about balconies like not leaving items like towels or clothes on the balcony due to the risk of them being blown off into the ocean and causing a threat to sea life.

Now on this next rule, I have been affected by this on a few cruises in the last 18 months. So, I am one of the 37% of passengers that gets annoyed by the next rule breakers too.

Don’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers Crazy

Driving Cruisers Crazy – Toilet Rule Breakers

It is a rule the Captain also always lays out on embarkation day, there is a sign above the toilet reminding about the rule, and often in the Daily program too. It is, of course, about the toilets.

Cruise ship toilet plumbing systems are suction based, and are easily blocked if anything is flushed down the toilet other than the supplied toilet paper and human waste. The main culprits for blockages on those cruises I have been on have been sanitary products and wipes.

I’ve been on several cruises where the toilets in my section stopped working because people had broken that rule. It is quite disruptive having no toilet, while waiting for the plumbers to unblock the pipes, with panels removed to get to the pipes in the corridor.

The next rule breakers, I thought, may be more annoying based on the amount of discussion and argument on Cruise Critic and cruise Facebook groups, though only 33%, or 3 out of 10, said it really winds them up.

Don’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers Crazy

Driving Cruisers Crazy – Dress Code Rule Breakers

And this is when passengers do not follow the cruise line dress codes.

While it only annoys a relatively smaller number of passengers, opinions run high, and passengers are very divided.

One camp argue that they choose a specific cruise line because of the ambience that the dress code creates. For example, some choose Cunard because it’s renowned for its dressing up nights with glamorous gowns, and black-tie tuxedos. Even on the more casual nights there is still a fairly smart code.

This camp argues if you don’t want to follow the dress code rules then consider lines like Norwegian or Disney, which have no dress code rules, and even shorts are fine for dinner.

Though most cruise lines do have dress codes rules, and as there are rules, some get annoyed when it is broken.

Those who don’t care if people break the rules argue others shouldn’t be bothered what other people wear and it shouldn’t affect their enjoyment.

While I don’t get hugely annoyed by passengers breaking the dress code rule, I am in the camp that feels if the cruise line has a dress code rule and it’s made clear when booking, it should be followed and enforced. If the cruise lines don’t want a dress code, they shouldn’t have one and just lay out what is not acceptable perhaps.

Don’t Break These 6 Rules Or You’ll Drive Other Cruisers Crazy

Choosing Cunard

When I go on Cunard, I choose Cunard because I’m in the mood to go on a cruise where I’m going to dress up and feel very smart. But, for example, I chose to cruise on Viking Cruises in Alaska, because I did not want to come to Alaska and dress up. As the place and ports were the main focus. Viking have a relaxed code which is basically a collared shirt and no jeans in the main dining room. I could have booked a similar itinerary on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, but didn’t as I did not want to follow those dress code rules.

There were several more serious rules that I see getting broken frequently, but like me, other cruisers in the poll did not rate them high on the annoyance level.

Things like people taking food off the ship in ports where countries ban this to protect their environment. Trying to bring banned items on board, and having fights. While they support them as rules, they shrugged them off as, while the consequences for rule breakers can be high, they hardly ever affect them.

While I have spoken about formal cruise lines rules that passengers break, did you know there are also unspoken cruise rules that experienced cruisers know and they expect passengers to follow?


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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 3 million video views per month.

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1 Response

  1. John Bainbridge says:

    I was on a Ventura cruise affected by the norovirus and one of the major concerns was having the cruise card taken by the server every time without them washing in between. This meant they would potentially handle someone’s card that was infected and then handle your own immediately after or at the same time. Also no one was on ‘washy washy’ duty at the buffet to remind people when entering of the hand washing requrement as we had on NCL earlier in the year (although there was no virus noted on that cruise)

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