Cruise etiquette: Guide to good manners while cruising

Cruise ships are a whole world of their own and as such also have their own set of rules for etiquette and manners.

For cruise fans, all these little quirks become second nature, but if you are new to cruising there are some simple rules to follow to make sure you get the best – and the best value – out of your next holiday.


Make sure you know the expectations for tipping before boarding to avoid any embarrassment.

We get it, Australians don’t like to be forced to tip. We really, really don’t, but many of the international staff come from very poor countries and rely on these tips to make enough money to live on.

Many ships charge you a daily set fee, but other ships’ policies expect you to pay the person who provided a service directly through card or cash. And it’s not just the waiters, you will also have to tip the cabin cleaners, hairdressers, bartenders and babysitters.

Expect to pay $10–$20 per person per day for your cabin cleaning alone.

It’s a good idea to do your homework before you book to factor tips into your budget.

Dress code

If a dining establishment has a dress code, you follow it. Turning up to an upmarket restaurant on board in shorts, thongs and a Hawaiian shirt is considered rude, because it is rude.

I have a photo of my father from the ’70s in a cruise dining room where everyone else is in a suit and he’s laughing and wearing a black T-shirt. Sums up the old man perfectly.

Unless it is a formal occasion or the top-tier dining establishment, no need to go overboard – cruising pun for your reading pleasure – just dress as if you are enjoying a good meal in a standard restaurant.

However, if you have been holding onto a few special outfits for want of somewhere to wear them, now is your chance to shine.

If jeans and T-shirts are more your thing, there are generally plenty of relaxed dining establishments onboard as an alternative.

Read: Tipping made easy

Captain’s table

If you are lucky enough to be invited to the Captain’s Table for a meal, there are a few simple rules. Respond immediately to an invitation and when you get there, don’t hog the conversation – they’ll have seen all walks of life and you’re probably not that interesting. Of course, it’s exciting but try to let everyone else have a chat.

Dress appropriately and the wine will probably be free but don’t get tanked and, most important of all, brag about it for the rest of your trip.

Captain’s Table invitees are generally frequent cruisers or VIPs, but there are often also some randoms in there too. That could be you!

Shall we dance?

If you are on a more upmarket cruise and a well-dressed gentleman offers to dance with you, your romantic luck has not changed, he’s just a dance host. Yes, they still exist. His job is to give unaccompanied women – or women with dance-hating partners – a twirl around the dance floor.

No matter the dance style, this guy can do it, although he’s probably not in any demand on the disco floor.

Read: How to drive a cruiser crazy

Don’t be a snob

There are plenty of potential cringe factors on most cruises including any number of activities that in normal life you would rather run in the opposite direction than take part in.

Just a short sample: mini-golf, boot scooting, dance lessons, educational lectures, craft workshops, Zumba classes. You name it, it’s probably on board.

Try as much as you can, you might be surprised how much you like it. And who cares if you look like an idiot, there will be plenty of fellow holiday makers right there along with you.

Cheese please

Be nice to the official photographers. They are just there to do a job. Yes, they know you probably hate having your photo taken, but you don’t have to buy anything, and you might even be surprised to be the subject of a holiday picture that could be a great memory in years to come. They are professional photographers after all.

What are some unspoken rules of cruising? Does meeting a dress code bother you? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

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