The First-Time Cruiser’s Guide to Onboard Etiquette


Cruise holidays are an amazing, relaxing way to experience the world and escape from the stresses of daily life. As a first time cruiser, however, you might feel a bit intimidated by the tales of formal dinner dress and careful tipping that you’ve heard from other travellers. If you want your holiday to run smoothly and avoid any embarrassing situations, it’s important to follow a few basic rules about cruise etiquette. Read on to discover what to wear, what to tip, and how best to show consideration for those around you.

Watch the Clock

Many cruise ships keep to a timetable, otherwise the whole ship would be in chaos trying to cater for the thousands of guests that are likely to be on board. Being punctual is especially important when the ship stops in port along the way. If you’re late back for whatever reason, whether you fell asleep on the beach or spent too long haggling in the market, you may find a ship full of furious people. Worse, you may find no ship at all, as many cruise lines depart on time even if some guests have not returned. Catching up with the ship at the next port will be both expensive and embarrassing, so keep an eye on your watch.

Dress Appropriately for Dinner

Although most cruises are not as formal as their reputation may have you believe, most cruise lines will have a dress code for dinner, with appropriate attire indicated in the daily programme. It’s important to pack some clothes that are going to be appropriate, usually dinner jackets or dark suits for men and a gown or cocktail dress for women. Even on more relaxed evenings, it is likely that jeans will not be appropriate attire for the main dining room. At alternative dining venues, you might find the dress code is more relaxed. Even so, it isn’t appropriate to go to any of the restaurants in tank tops or a bathing suit, so be sure to get changed after a day in the sun.

cruise dining

Pay Attention to Noise Levels

Cruise ship corridors can carry noise surprisingly far, so be considerate to fellow passengers if you’re a night owl or an early riser. Onboard nightlife is one of the things people look forward to, with plenty of opportunities for drinking and dancing the night away. Try to keep it down when you’re returning to your cabin, however, as waking up your neighbours and their baby would be a bad end to a wonderful night. Similarly, try to leave your room quietly on a morning, as other guests might be taking advantage of the chance to sleep in a little longer whilst they’re on holiday.

Be Patient with the Kids

Unless you’re on an adults-only cruise, you’re likely to be sharing the cruise decks with one or two overexcited children. With plenty of space to run around, play in the pool, and join in activities, cruises are great for kids. They might not be so great for your quiet time, though, so you’ll need a bit of patience if you’re booking a big, lively cruise. Keep your expectations reasonable and don’t overreact if a little tyke in a Spiderman swimsuit accidentally splashes you. We were all young once.

Children cruise holiday

Respect Adults-Only Areas

Lots of cruises with families on board will have adults-only areas, designed to be an oasis of peace and quiet. If you’re taking the family on holiday with you, it’s really important that you respect these areas. There should be plenty of fun places for the kids to hang out and burn off some energy, but the adults-only areas aren’t it. This also applies to adults-only events, it’s best to arrange for a babysitter or stick to child-friendly events if you are bringing the whole family.

Don’t Overcrowd the Elevators

Having good elevator etiquette is an important part of cruise life. Try not to squeeze in an already over-full elevator, it’s likely that there isn’t ‘room for a little one’ so it might be best to wait for the next one. If you’re able to walk, give priority to those who would struggle to make it to their room via the stairs.

adult only cruise

Be Considerate in Little Ways

It’s often the little things that make all the difference when it comes to manners, and this is certainly true on cruise holidays. Although it might be tempting to try and reserve a sun lounger on a busy ship, you should never leave your belongings on loungers or chairs for more than 30 minutes. On some ships, you may find that staff members move your belongings to allow other people to sit down after this time.

Also, try to be considerate to other people by respecting their cultures and customs. You are likely to be on a ship with people from many different counties, so be respectful of their ways of greeting, eating, and connecting with people. A cruise holiday can be a great way to learn more about different people’s customs and make some great new friends.

Get in the Spirit of Entertainment

Entertainment is a huge part of cruise ship life, and you will probably find that most activities are quite lively and interactive. This isn’t a time for embracing your inner wallflower, so let your hair down and get into the spirit of things. It’s better to feel a bit silly dancing around the table with everyone else than sit it out with your arms folded. Who knows, you might even discover a hidden talent!

friends cruise

Tipping Guidelines

Gratuities can be difficult to navigate if you’re new to cruise ships, especially because each line has its own rules. Check before you set sail whether gratuities are included, as you may not need to pay anything extra to the staff if it is already covered. Even if your gratuity is pre-applied, showing your appreciation for a crew member who goes above and beyond for you is always a nice gesture.

If gratuities are not included, be aware that you will need to tip everyone who helps you out during your holiday. Most ships charge around 12% gratuity, so budget for this on top of the cost of your holiday. It is customary to tip the dining room waiters, head waiters, assistant waiters, cabin stewards and butlers on the last night of the cruise. Most cruise lines will provide envelopes for this purpose, so you can indicate who the tip is for. If you’re still unsure, check with your cruise line to find out their specific policy on gratuities.

Now that you’ve brushed up on the appropriate etiquette, why not book one of Cruise1st Australia’s amazing cruise holiday deals? Browse the full collection online, or call our sales team on 1300 857 345.


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