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11 Ways to Get Booted Off a Cruise Ship
11 Ways to Get Booted Off a Ship (Photo: Mike Brake/Shutterstock)

11 Ways to Get Booted Off a Cruise Ship

11 Ways to Get Booted Off a Cruise Ship
11 Ways to Get Booted Off a Ship (Photo: Mike Brake/Shutterstock)
Erica Silverstein
Fran Golden
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Only drug smugglers or murder suspects get kicked off cruise ships, right?

Wrong! Ordinary people like you and me can also get the boot off our hard-earned, much-anticipated cruise vacation. Perhaps it's because we lose control and do something stupid. Maybe it's the result of a simple mistake or -- and this stings the most -- is actually through no fault of our own. Maybe it’s because in onboard testing for COVID-19, your result comes up positive. While it's rare to be debarked mid- or even pre-cruise, it happens more than you think. And if you're the one escorted down the gangway, don't expect a refund for the days you missed onboard.

To make sure your cruise does not end prematurely, here are 11 things you absolutely should not do.

1. Get Sick

We mean really sick, like a heart attack or stroke or a serious injury that shipboard doctors and medical facilities don't have the ability to treat. If you need hospital-level care, the ship's doctor will have you whisked off the ship at the next port of call and taken to the nearest hospital. It might not be the best hospital, and you might not be able to speak the local language, but if you're quite ill or hurt enough for immediate surgery, you will be booted off quicker than you can say "liability."

Depending on your ship’s itinerary and rules at the ports of call, any passenger who tests positive for COVID-19 onboard may be removed from the ship and sent to a local hospital or to other quarantine facilities, such as a local hotel. Or they may be sent directly home. Cruise lines have agreements with ports both in the U.S. and in other countries on how any COVID-19 cases will be handled. To handle the costs, several cruise lines including MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean are requiring all non-vaccinated passengers to purchase medical and medical transportation insurance before the cruise. (See also #9 for quarantine rules).

2. Skip the Muster Drill

Cruise ship muster drill (Photo: Cruise Critic)

It's embarkation day. You're at the pool, cocktail in hand, and you just can't be bothered to get dressed, pick up your lifejacket and proceed to your muster station for a briefing on emergency procedures. You might have heard the spiel 100 times, but if you don't go to muster 101, you could be saying sayonara before you even set sail. Don't believe us? Ask the couple that was kicked off Seabourn Sojourn for failing to attend the second muster drill on their back-to-back sailing.

The good news here is that during the pandemic shutdown, several cruise lines including Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises developed eMuster technology that allows you to watch safety presentations on your smartphone or cabin TV with only a quick electronic check-in at your muster station. You can get back to that drink more quickly!

3. Bring Drugs or Other Illegal Items Onboard

You might be approached by shady characters in Jamaica or Belize looking to sell you drugs, but they aren't cruise line-approved vendors. Get caught smuggling drugs, weapons or other illegal items onto the ship, and your glamorous cruise vacation could turn into a drawn-out stay at a local police station. We hope you didn't spend all your cash on the illicit articles because you might need money for bail, lodging (though jail stays are free, we hear) or a plane flight home.

4. Refuse to Go Through Screening

On a similar note, don't refuse the pre-embarkation security screening because you're worried someone will notice your contraband. If you don't comply with security officers, they do not have to let you board.

5. Make a Bomb Threat

No cruise line wants its ship to be the victim of a terrorist attack, and bomb threats are taken seriously. Don't joke about blowing up the ship or releasing harmful viruses into the swimming pool. You could get booted off the ship in custody of the F.B.I. Don't even let anyone joke about it pretending to be you: In 2012, Dr. Jack Kruse (a diet guru) was kicked off a Low-Carb theme cruise because someone posted on Twitter, pretending to be him, that he was threatening a bio-terrorist attack on the Carnival ship. Even after security staff realized it was a prank, he was still refused boarding.

6. Fail to Show Correct Travel Documents

Passport and Travel Documents (Photo: Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock)

Left your passport at home? Forgot to get a necessary visa? Ignore your ship’s required pre-cruise testing for COVID-19 (rules vary by destination and cruise line)? Forget to bring proof that you have been vaccinated? We're sorry to say that your cruise will end before it has a chance to begin. Cruise lines must abide by official rules regarding travel documents. While in certain cases the ship can procure a collective visa so you don't have to get an individual one, if it's your responsibility to have your papers in order and you don't, the only thing cruise staff can do is show you the door. Note that if your vaccine card is proven to be a forgery you may not only get the boot but also face federal criminal charges.

7. Buy a Minor a Drink Onboard

Your niece might be a good girl and turning 21 in six months, but if you buy her a few drinks or let her borrow your ship ID to buy her own, your family vacation could come to a sudden end. Cruise lines will not tolerate anyone aiding and abetting an underage person to acquire alcohol. If caught, both the adult and minor involved could be debarked.

8. Engage in Disorderly or Reckless Conduct

Throw a punch, throw a fit, throw a deck chair overboard, refuse to wear a mask in an indoor area where masks are required, try to sneak into an area of the ship designated for vaccinated only when you are not vaccinated -- any unruly behavior could potentially get you thrown off the ship. So can dangerous acts, such as purposefully climbing over balcony and deck railings. All cruise lines have Codes of Conduct, and passengers agree to abide by them when they sign their cruise contracts. The rules apply to adults, teens and kids. Misbehave onboard, and the lines reserve the right to end your cruise then and there (not to mention ban you from cruising their ships for life).

9. Break Quarantine

If you test positive for COVID-19 (even if you are asymptomatic) or have a fever or otherwise show symptoms of the virus during your cruise, you and your travel companions will be quarantined. Anyone you have been in contact with indoors for more than 15 minutes (cruise lines use various methods of contact tracing) may also be confined to their cabins, while they are retested and revaluated. Quarantine also applies if you show signs of norovirus or other communicable diseases. The ship's doctor may order you, and possibly your travel companion, confined to your cabin for 48 hours to avoid contaminating additional passengers. Breaking quarantine will get you kicked off the ship.

10. Steal Items From the Ship

We know that spa products are overpriced, but if you slip some unpaid-for lotion in your beach bag or, worse, make off with some diamond rings or precious art from a boutique, the authorities will not be kind to you if you're caught. So if you'd rather not terminate your cruise mid-trip, we recommend exercising your sticky fingers in more harmless pursuits, such as sneaking another chocolate chip cookie from the buffet or grabbing one extra travel-size bottle of the ship's shampoo as a souvenir.

11. Be Abusive to the Captain or His Crew

Ship officer leading a bridge tour on Legend of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)

The captain is the king of his ship; the onboard world is not a democracy. Tick off the captain or abuse his staff, including the onboard medical team, and he has the right to send you packing. So be polite. The ship's staff is there to ensure your safety and comfort; there is no reason not to be grateful for the work they do.

Updated July 22, 2021

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