What can make the best cruise go wrong? External factors may sometimes play a role. But often, your own mistakes can get you into trouble. Perhaps you didn't prepare for your trip as best you could, or maybe you said yes when you should have said no..
We hate to see anyone's sailing turn sour. We've identified 11 bad decisions that can turn the best cruise into a nightmare, so you can avoid potential pitfalls. When faced with these situations, we hope you make the right choices, so you can have the best cruise possible.
There's all sorts of important information in the fine print of your cruise contract about instances where a cruise line can deny you boarding or kick you off the ship, when the line is within its rights to change your itinerary, what your responsibility is to obtain necessary travel documents and what the fees for canceling are. Miss something important, and the best cruise could be ruined before it begins.
What else can get you booted off a ship? More than you might think.
Cruise to Alaska early in May, and you'll find the salmon are not yet running and snow is still blocking hiking trails. Cruise to the Caribbean during spring break and your planned peaceful retreat might be overrun with tipsy revelers. Cruise to Antarctica in November and it will be too early for the penguin chicks to hatch. Sail Hawaii in the summer, and you'll be out of luck for whale watching. Pay attention to seasonality if you have specific goals for your vacation; otherwise, you will be disappointed.
Discover the best time to cruise major cruise regions.
Your travel party can make or break your cruise. If your mother-in-law is nagging you all week, kids are getting in the way of your R&R or that new friend isn't interested in the same activities as you, you won't enjoy the cruise as much as with more compatible cabinmates. Choose your travel companions wisely -- or at least have realistic expectations before you set sail.
You'll have better results if your follow our etiquette tips for sharing a cabin.
If you show up at the cruise terminal without the necessary documents (passport, birth certificate, mandatory visas), you will never make it onto the gangway. It's your responsibility to obtain the correct documents and to carry them with you during boarding. Packing them in your luggage and handing your suitcases to a porter could end with no cruise for you.
While you're at it, you should also avoid these packing mistakes.
The muster drill is a mandatory safety briefing that takes place on the first day of every cruise. We know it's annoying, interrupts your first-day fun and isn't anything avid cruisers haven't heard before. But skip it and you will be found out -- and possibly kicked off.
Best to follow these do's and don'ts for embarkation day.
Horsing around 10 decks above sea level is always a recipe for disaster. While cruise ship balcony railings comply with industry safety standards, reckless behavior certainly doesn't. Hoist yourself up to sit on your balcony railing, try to climb from one veranda to the next or even climbing on the patio furniture can quickly lead to you plunging into the waves below.
Here are more things you should never do on your balcony.
Fire is one of the biggest dangers on a cruise ship, and lines protect passengers by limiting areas where passengers can smoke (as well as prohibit the use of candles and electronic heating devices in cruise rooms). Smoking is forbidden in your stateroom. If you choose to light up in your cabin, you run the risk of accidentally starting a fire, and if caught, you'll most likely be fined and chances are you'll be booted off the ship at the next port of call.
You also should not do the following things in your cabin.
Your ship might be leaving port at 5 p.m., but that typically means you need to be back onboard by 4:30 p.m. or earlier. Whether you lose track of time while enjoying daiquiris in port or you never noted the all-aboard time in the first place, the ship won't always wait if you show up late. And if you race back to the ship in the nick of time, you will have made yourself a pier runner and dozens of balcony dwellers will ridicule you as you rush, breathless, toward the gangway.
Also, be sure to note if ship time is different from the time at the port you're visiting.
Unsupervised kids at the pool are annoying at best and a danger to themselves and others at worst. They take over hot tubs and splash sunbathers -- but they can also slip and hurt themselves or fall into pools with no lifeguards to rescue them. Don't let your family vacation turn tragic by putting your sunbathing desires ahead of your little ones' safety.
We've seen other types of bad behavior at cruise pools -- don't do those either.
If your cellphone is downloading texts and accepting calls at sea, or in port if you don't have an international plan, you will be stunned when you get your next bill. Roaming charges are outrageous on a cruise ship, so be sure to put your phone in airline mode or turn it off completely.
Can't disconnect? Read our tips for using your phone on a cruise ship.
If you plan to set your luggage outside on the last night of your cruise so it can be picked up and transferred to the terminal for you, do not pack the clothes you plan on wearing on debarkation day. You don't want to depart the ship shoeless, in your pajamas. Leave a toothbrush and some deodorant out, as well.
These additional disembarkation mistakes can also make the best cruise have a sour ending.
Updated March 16, 2023