Relaxing by the pool, with a cliched umbrella drink in hand, is one of the great pleasures of a cruise vacation. It's what many 9-to-5ers dream of, as they sit in their offices, ticking off the calendar days until embarkation. So it's no surprise that cruise travelers get very upset when their sun-drenched fantasies are destroyed by screaming children, rude chair hoggers or unexpected splashings -- or feel sheepish when their own behavior gets them into trouble
Everyone can have a good time by the pool without too much effort, as long as we can all agree to follow a few simple etiquette and safety rules, and adjust our expectations from the idyllic to the realistic. Don't be the object of glares, stares or next-day regrets -- learn what not to do on a cruise ship pool deck…and don't do it!
Everyone should have equal access to prime sun loungers. If you want to get up at the crack of dawn, stick a book and towel on a chair, grab breakfast at the buffet, then return to your chair to eat it -- be our guest. If you don't plan on returning until late in the afternoon, preventing other people from using a perfectly good chair, you are a chair hog, and no one likes you. Please be courteous and only reserve chairs you're actively using when you need to step away to grab a drink, take a dip or run to the bathroom.
There are two parts to this "don't." First, as a parent, you are responsible for your kids' behavior at the pool, so don't let them terrorize your shipmates by running around screaming, starting water fights or otherwise being a nuisance. Second, most cruise ship pools do not have lifeguards, so watch your little ones when they're in the water to make sure they stay safe.
Several hours spent lying in the sun, plus no sunblock (or no re-application of sunscreen), equals one very bad sunburn that could ruin your vacation. Don't spend half your cruise bathing in aloe vera gel or unable to sit or go outside because you didn't take a few minutes on your first sea day to lather on some SPF 30. Don't love the lotion? At least put on a hat and cover-up to keep your fair skin out of the bright rays.
Unless you're a gorgeous model, and possibly even then, no one wants to see you in itsy-bitsy, very clingy swim trunks. The best rule of thumb when packing swimwear for a cruise is to remember that people of all ages, genders and levels of modesty will be sharing the pool deck with you. If you don't want to be stared at -- for whatever reason -- choose a bathing suit that fits you well and leaves some things to the imagination.
You might be cruising in Europe, but most cruise lines ban topless sunbathing for women in all destinations. If you want to pick an upper-deck lounger and untie your bikini straps while lying on your stomach, most likely no one will bother you. But this isn't the place to take off your top while sitting around reading a book or chatting.
What You Need to Know About Topless Sunbathing on a Cruise Ship
It's not safe (infants and toddlers can't handle high temperatures) and it's not sanitary (they don't allow kids in swim diapers for a reason), so don't do it. Besides, your baby is much more interested in crawling down cabin corridors and chewing on a restaurant menu than enjoying a hot, bubbling soak.
While we're on the subject of what not to take into a body of water…please finish your pina colada or Bud Lite before you enter a hot tub or pool. You run the risk of accidentally knocking your colorful, frozen concoction into the water, forcing a closure for cleaning. Plus, consuming alcohol can lead to dehydration, dizziness, passing out or dumb behavior -- all of which can be dangerous when you're in or near a pool or hot tub. (On that note, drink responsibly and mix in glasses of water between cocktail rounds to avoid inebriation or dehydration in general on sea days.)
The pool deck is slippery! Please don't run (or let your kids run). Lose your balance and you can hit your head, topple into the pool or knock someone -- or their fruity cocktail -- over. It's OK to walk slowly; lunch will still be there.
Cruise ship pools are the hubs of sea-day fun. Bands play, people chat, activities staff host silly games and fundraisers and movies or concerts play on huge LED screens. It's loud, and it's public. If you want to nap in peace, do a little alfresco canoodling or whisper tete a tetes with your cabinmate, book a balcony cabin and seek privacy there. If you don't mind company, but don't want to get splashed during the Belly Flop contest or get crowded by Instagram fans during the Hairy Chest contest, consider a lounge chair that's not located right at the edge of the pool
We saved it for last, but it must be said: Don't pee, fart or perform other bodily functions in the pool. Instruct your kids on the same, and follow all rules about not letting toddlers who aren't potty trained play in the water. Not only is it truly gross, but crew members are obligated to shut down contaminated pools to drain and clean them. One misstep on your part can ruin sea day fun for everyone else onboard.
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Updated September 07, 2022