Cruising Rules for Passengers

Cruising Rules for Passengers: Your Complete Guide to Safe and Enjoyable Sailings

by Christian Petzold - updated September 21, 2023

Are you setting sail soon? From onboard safety to dining etiquette, this article outlines essential cruise guidelines.

Whether new to cruising or a regular voyager, these tips will ensure a safe and enjoyable journey for everyone. Dive in and cruise with confidence.

The Essentials of Cruise Rules

1. General Cruising Guidelines 

Before setting sail, passengers must be familiar with a few essential cruise rules for everyone’s safety and comfort.

  • Safety First: All travelers must adhere to the ship’s safety protocols. Attend required safety drills, pay attention during emergencies, and know where lifeboats and exits are.
  • Dress to Impress: Each ship has a dress code. While some nights are formal, others might be casual. Pack appropriately and abide by the guidelines.
  • Respect on Deck: When enjoying onboard activities, be courteous. Don’t hog seats, smoke in designated areas only, and always be considerate of fellow travelers.
  • Port Protocols: Remember, you’re in a different jurisdiction when you’re at a port. Stay updated about local customs, laws, and immigration rules.

2. Prioritizing Safety Safety is paramount:

  • Mandatory Drills: Every passenger must join a safety drill before the voyage begins, where life jacket usage and emergency protocols are demonstrated.
  • Safety Amenities: Modern cruise ships have top-notch safety features, from fire suppression systems to advanced navigation tools and well-equipped medical facilities.
  • Pack Right: Certain items, like firearms or explosives, are forbidden. Double-check prohibited item lists before you pack to ensure hassle-free boarding.

Stay informed, stay safe, and set sail with confidence!

cruise ship

Onboard Etiquette

On a cruise, you must be aware of your behavior and how it affects others around you. Following proper onboard etiquette ensures everyone has an enjoyable and comfortable experience. Here are some cruising rules to keep in mind:

  • Respect personal space: Like on land, respecting other passengers’ personal space is essential. Avoid leaning over railings or chairs, and be mindful of your volume when speaking or listening to music.
  • Dress appropriately: Most cruise lines have dress codes for specific areas of the ship, such as formal nights in the dining room. Make sure to check with your specific cruise line for their dress code policy.
  • Be punctual: Being on time is essential to ensure the ship can stay on schedule. Make sure to arrive on time for any scheduled activities or excursions.
  • Follow smoking policies: Smoking policies vary by cruise line, so familiarize yourself with the rules before lighting up. Be mindful of other passengers who may be sensitive to smoke.
  • Use common sense: When in doubt, use common sense. Avoid being disruptive or disrespectful to other passengers or crew members. Remember that you’re sharing a small space with many others, so be considerate of others.

Following proper onboard etiquette ensures a pleasant experience for yourself and those around you.

Rules for Onboard Activities

When it comes to onboard activities, there are a few essential rules to keep in mind as you enjoy your cruising experience. These rules are designed to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort, so following them closely is essential.

First and foremost, make sure you’re dressed appropriately for each activity. For example, if you plan to use the ship’s gym, you must wear proper workout attire and closed-toe shoes. If you’re taking part in a formal dinner, ensure you’re dressed appropriately.

It’s also important to be mindful of the ship’s schedule and follow it closely. Be sure to arrive on time for any activities you’ve signed up for, and be respectful of any time limits or restrictions that are in place.

When it comes to participating in onboard activities, safety is always a top priority. Be sure to follow any safety instructions the ship’s crew provides, and don’t take unnecessary risks or engage in dangerous behavior.

Rules for Onboard Activities

Finally, remember that onboard activities are meant to be fun for everyone. Be respectful of your fellow passengers and avert any behavior that could be considered disruptive or inappropriate.

Following these cruising rules for onboard activities can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for yourself and your fellow passengers.

Dining Rules

When dining on a cruise ship, you should follow a few rules to ensure a pleasant experience for yourself and others. Here are some cruising rules to keep in mind:

  • Save food: Roughly all the food in the main dining room is included with your cruise fare, which means you can order more than one appetizer, entree, or dessert. However, be responsible and avoid wasting food. So it’s okay to order two dishes but don’t order something you know you won’t eat.
  • Observe dress codes: Some cruise lines have dress codes for their main dining rooms, especially during dinner. Check the dress code before you pack for your trip and follow it accordingly. If you need more clarification, it’s always better to dress up than to show up underdressed.
  • Be on time: If you’ve opted for set-seating dining, be on time for your dinner. Late arrivals can disrupt the flow of service and inconvenience other diners.
  • Don’t switch tables: If you’ve been assigned a table, stick to it for the duration of your cruise. Switching tables can confuse the waitstaff and other diners.
  • Be considerate of others: When dining in a group, be considerate of your fellow diners. Avoid talking loudly, using your phone, or engaging in disruptive behavior.
  • Tip accordingly: Tipping is often included in your cruise fare, but it’s always a good idea to tip your waitstaff if you receive exceptional service.
  • Try new things: Be bold and try new dishes or cuisines in the main dining room. It’s an opportunity to expand your palate and try something you would only order sometimes.
Dining Rules

By following these dining rules, you can ensure a pleasant dining experience for yourself and others on your cruise.

Cabin Rules

On a cruise ship, your cabin is your home away from home. However, there are some rules you should follow to ensure a safe and comfortable stay.

First and foremost, don’t use power cords with surge protectors. While you may need to charge your electronic devices, using a surge protector can be a fire hazard. Instead, use a power strip that has a built-in surge protector.

Second, keep the noise level down. Be considerate of your neighbors and avoid playing loud music or having loud conversations late at night. Additionally, refrain from calling people on speakerphone in public spaces, as this can disturb other cruisers.

Third, keep your cabin clean and tidy. Avoid leaving food or unwashed dishes in the sink, which can attract pests. Also, be sure to dispose of any trash properly.


Fourth, be mindful of your balcony. Don’t throw anything overboard; this can harm marine life and is against cruising rules. Keep the door and balcony locked appropriately to ensure your safety.

Following these simple cabin rules lets you enjoy a comfortable and safe stay on your cruise ship.

Rules for Shore Excursions

Regarding cruising rules, shore excursions are an essential aspect to consider. Here are some rules you should keep in mind for shore excursions during your cruise:

  • Booking through the cruise line: Most cruise lines offer shore excursions you can book. Booking through the cruise line is recommended as they have vetted the tour operators and ensured they are licensed and insured. Additionally, if the tour is delayed and you booked through the cruise line, they will wait for you or arrange to catch up with the group.
  • Unvaccinated guests: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise lines may restrict guests from going ashore in some ports. However, they may be allowed to go ashore on a ship-sponsored shore excursion deemed a “bubble tour.”
  • Refunds: You will be automatically refunded if you book a ship-sponsored excursion and the cruise line alters the ship’s schedule or cancels the excursion due to unfavorable conditions.
  • Local tour operators: If you book a shore excursion with a local tour operator, ensure they are licensed and insured. Additionally, ensure you have enough time to return to the ship before it departs.
  • Timing: Keep in mind that the ship will not wait for passengers who are late, so make sure to plan your shore excursion with enough time to return to the ship before it departs.

Overall, shore excursions are a great way to explore the ports of call during your cruise. Follow the cruising rules and guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Disembarkation Rules

When the cruise is over, it’s time to disembark. Here are some cruising rules to keep in mind for smooth and stress-free disembarkation:

  • Luggage Tags: Make sure to put your cruise-assigned luggage tags on all your suitcases before putting them in the hallway. Keep a luggage tag or take a photo to remember your color and number.
  • Keep Essentials: Remember to keep out clothes and toiletries for disembarkation day. Pack everything else in your suitcase and leave it outside your cabin before the designated time.
  • Disembarkation Process: Passengers who have paid for a priority option, those booked in suites, and those who have high-level loyalty status will be allowed to disembark first in port, along with those who have booked early shore excursions through the cruise line. Everyone else must wait until announcements are made, giving the generalship.
  • All Aboard Time: Cruisers don’t have to be back on the ship until “all aboard,” usually about 30 minutes before the ship’s scheduled departure time. Make sure to keep track of the time and arrive on time.
  • Early Flights: Avoid booking flights home before noon. It takes several hours to clear a ship of thousands of passengers.
  • Clearing Customs: Be prepared to show your passport, customs declaration form, and other required documents when clearing customs.
  • Disability Access: If you have a disability or require special assistance, inform the cruise line in advance to arrange for assistance during disembarkation.
Disembark Rules

Following these cruising rules will help ensure a smooth and stress-free disembarkation process, allowing you to end your cruise on a high note.

Emergency Procedures

When cruising, it’s essential to be prepared for emergencies. Here are some cruising rules to follow to ensure your safety:

  • It is important to always bring your passport with you in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or if the ship docks at an alternate port, even if your cruise itinerary indicates that it won’t be necessary.
  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency evacuation procedures by attending the mandatory muster drill. Pay attention to the location of your muster station and the route to get there.
  • Keep your cabin door locked at night, and use the peephole to identify anyone knocking before opening the door.
  • Leave your belongings behind in case of a fire, and follow the crew’s instructions. Use the stairs instead of the elevators, and cover your nose and mouth with a damp cloth.
  • If you feel unwell, report it to the medical center immediately. They are equipped to handle medical emergencies, and time is of the essence in such situations.
Emergency equipment in cruise

Remember, the crew is trained to handle emergencies, so follow their instructions and remain calm. Following these cruising rules can ensure your safety and make the most of your cruise vacation.

Rules for Special Needs Passengers

If you have special needs, cruising rules are in place to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some important rules to keep in mind:

  • Notify the cruise line of your needs as soon as possible. This will allow them to make necessary accommodations and meet your needs.
  • If you require a wheelchair or scooter, bring it with you. Most cruise lines do not provide these items; you must bring your own.
  • You must have a capable traveling companion if you need assistance with daily tasks such as dressing or eating. This is for your safety and well-being.
  • Be aware of the ship’s medical facilities and services. If you require medical attention, the ship’s staff can assist you.
  • Follow all safety procedures and instructions. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask a crew member for assistance.
  • Make sure to pack any necessary medications and medical equipment. Bringing a copy of your medical records in an emergency is also a good idea.
  • Take advantage of any special services or programs for special needs passengers. Many cruise lines offer special activities and events for passengers with disabilities.

By following these cruising rules, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on your next cruise.

Children and Youth Rules

If you’re cruising with children or teenagers, it’s essential to be aware of the cruising rules that apply to them. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Minimum age to cruise: Most cruise lines require babies to be at least 6 months old on the day the ship sails to sail on most cruises. However, there are exceptions for trans-ocean crossings. Be sure to check with your cruise line for their specific age requirements.
  • Youth curfew: Guests 17 years of age and under who are not guided by an adult in their traveling party, 21 years of age or older, must be clear of all public areas by 1:00 am. This rule is enforced to ensure the safety and well-being of all passengers.
  • Minor guest policy: Guests between the ages of 18-20 do not have any restrictions and may book whatever location they prefer. However, they cannot purchase or consume alcohol on board.
  • Childcare services: Many cruise lines offer childcare services for children of all ages. These services are typically available for an additional fee and may include activities such as arts and crafts, games, and movies.
  • Safety rules for children: It’s essential to teach your children some basic safety rules before embarking on a cruise. For example, children should only open the cabin door for people they know. Room service can always be left at the door. Children should also wear a life jacket when participating in water activities and never run on the deck or climb on the ship’s railings.

By following these cruising rules for children and youth, you can ensure that your family has a safe and enjoyable cruise experience.

Health and Sanitation on Cruises

Health and cleanliness are paramount on cruises. Key measures include regular handwashing, use of sanitizers, and covering up during sneezes or coughs.

Ships now clean public areas more frequently and encourage personal item use to minimize germ spread. 

Pre-boarding screenings and temperature checks are standard, with mask-wearing and social distancing in designated areas. Abiding by these rules ensures everyone’s safety and enjoyment.

Addressing Complaints on Cruises

Should you have concerns while cruising, raise them promptly with guest services or onboard management. When communicating grievances, be transparent, polite, and provide specific details.

If unsatisfied, escalate to a higher authority or file a formal complaint. Being respectful and calm throughout can foster better resolutions.

Author’s Note

Sailing the seas on a cruise is a unique experience, blending adventure with relaxation. By adhering to these essential guidelines, every traveler can contribute to a journey that’s memorable for all the right reasons. Happy cruising!

Learn how to dress for your voyage and discover the best cruising tips. Navigate fashion and practicality seamlessly with our expert advice for an unforgettable cruise experience.

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