A guide to cruising etiquette

couple taking selfie on cruise

Cruising is a wonderful holiday. Besides the thrill of travelling on the high seas, it is great value for money. You get to explore many places on a single trip, having to only unpack once on a ‘floating resort’. However, a cruise holiday is a bit different from a stay at a land-based resort, so there are some ‘rules’ to keep in mind to ensure smooth sailing for you and your fellow cruise mates.

Using mobile phones

If you need to use your mobile phone, speak quietly, especially if you’re on your balcony, as anyone on balconies around you, including above and below, will be able to hear everything you say. The same etiquette applies to making calls in public areas – on deck, in lounges and dining areas; instead, try to find a quiet, private place.

Private balconies

There’s a divider between your balcony stateroom and your neighbours’ for privacy, so don’t peek over it to see who they are and what they’re doing. Also don’t leave things on your balcony while you’re away from your stateroom, as they may get wet if the area is being washed, and if you’re at sea, they might blow away. Noise travels too, so be mindful if you use your balcony early in the morning or late at night, and if you leave the doors open, be mindful if you are inside playing music or watching the TV.

Dress appropriately

Although you’ll mostly wear casual clothing, on some evenings the dress code may become more formal, potentially requiring you wear a black-tie outfit, especially if you are planning to eat in the dining room. Other dress rules to be aware of include not wearing shorts or swimwear in the dining room.

The buffet

Norovirus outbreaks can happen on ships, so never pick up food with you hands, and always use the cutlery provided. Also wash your hands after using the toilet, especially public ones, and use hand sanitiser before entering the buffet and eating. If the buffet is busy, choose your food quickly so as not to hold up the line and never cut in.

The pool

Pool loungers can’t be reserved, and if you leave your things unattended for more than 30 minutes, your lounger will likely be freed up by staff. If you sign out a towel from a poolside towel service, always return it before you leave to avoid getting charged for it. Public health restrictions forbid children in nappies, or who are not completely toilet-trained, to use the pools.


Cruise lines have updated their smoking policies in recent years; smoking is forbidden in most public areas, including on your own balcony. Find out where you can smoke, and if it’s allowed on your balcony, don’t smoke out your neighbours, and dispose of cigarette butts properly, as they can be a fire hazard; never throw them (or matches) over the edge of the ship, as they can blow back onto decks or other balconies below.

Travelling with kids or grandkids

There are also some rules to observe for junior cruisers. Before you cruise, explain that running and not using the handrails on the stairs are against the rules. Teens usually have a curfew at night, and there may be areas where anyone under the age of 17 or 18 is not permitted. Overall, be considerate of your fellow cruise mates and keep a watchful eye on any children in your party at all times; letting them run wild whilst other guests are trying to relax isn’t encouraged.

Do you have any other cruising etiquette tips? Why not share them in the comments section below?

Also read: Six items not to pack for a cruise

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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  1. Have just returned from a P&O cruise from UK around the Mediterranean. No-one was washing hands or sanitising before entering dining areas.
    Lots of Sanitiser pumps not working. No masks worn inside, coughing and hacking without covering their mouths, almost like Covid and Noravirus doesn’t exist.
    Will never sail P&O again.

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