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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 Ship (Photo: Mike Brake/Shutterstock)
Fran Golden
Katherine Alex Beaven

Nov 8, 2022

Read time
7 min read

If you think it’ll be smooth sailing once you push off from port, and cruise ships can’t give you the boot once you're onboard, think again. While very obvious offenses like drug smuggling, violence, or otherwise breaking the law are no-brainer ways to get kicked off a cruise, they aren’t the only reasons a cruise line might send you packing -- at any point during your cruise.

Though it’s rare to be debarked in the middle of a sailing or in the terminal before your cruise even starts, it happens more often than you probably think, especially in the wake of COVID-19. It’s no secret that the cruise industry took a massive hit during the pandemic and fought hard for us to return to cruising, so don’t expect an outpouring of empathy if you don’t follow the rules.

From making sure you’re simply just not doing anything against the rules or that could negatively impact yourself, the staff, or your fellow cruisers, it’s pretty easy to make sure you don’t get jettisoned on your sailing. Need a clear explainer of what constitutes boot-you-off bad behavior on a cruise ship? Here are 11 things you should absolutely not do, unless you want to walk the plank.

On This Page

1. Get Sick

When we say 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. Keep in mind, 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."

A few sure ways to have your cruise end prematurely, possibly even before it starts, is by not following COVID-19 requirements, testing positive for COVID-19 before the cruise begins or while on board, and/or getting caught with fake COVID-19 paperwork.

A direct failure, whether intentional or accidental, of any of these requirements and protocols will definitely land you in the hot seat – and maybe even off the ship entirely.

2. Skip the Muster Drill

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 new 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! (Just know that because you have the privilege of participating in an eMuster drill, it doesn’t mean the ship won’t know if you skip it. Different lines have different ways to tell if you’ve participated in the drill – whether that’s dialing a confirmation number once you’re done, having your keycard scanned at a final checkpoint, or physically watching an eMuster video while in the presence of crew.)

3. Bring Drugs or Other Illegal Items Onboard

You might be approached by shady characters while in port who are looking to sell you drugs or other contraband materials. 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 -- and let’s just say the law doesn’t function fairly in some parts of the world. Plus, in this case, you might not even have the chance to get kicked off your cruise; you might just end up missing the boat.

4. Refuse to Go Through Required 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.

These days, this doesn’t just apply to the security screening. You’ll also need to comply with a health screening, which can include a temperature check, and pre-embarkation COVID-19 rapid testing in some cases. If you don't comply with your cruise line's requirements, you might just find yourself disembarking at the next port, tasked with finding your own way home.

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. Treat a cruise like a flight -- don't joke about blowing up the ship or releasing harmful chemicals into the swimming pool. Threats that go against public safety and security, whether made in poor taste or earnest could get you booted off the ship and in custody of the F.B.I.

Pro tip: 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 or Heath Documents

Left your passport at home? Forgot to get a necessary visa? 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. Any forged travel or health documents such as a passport, vaccine card, or negative test result may not only get you the boot but also leave you facing federal criminal charges.

7. Buy a Minor a Drink Onboard

Here’s where that myth about international waters comes in, at least in as much as who is allowed -- and not allowed -- to be drinking alcohol on your cruise ship. Your nephew or sister might be a good person and turning 21 in six months, but if you buy them a few drinks or let them borrow your ship ID to buy their 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 comply to onboard mask rules, engage in sexual misconduct -- any unruly behavior like this could potentially get you thrown off the ship.

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).

Need a few more examples? Avoid purposefully climbing over balcony or deck railings, entering restricted areas, or sneaking into an area of the ship that is for vaccinated passengers only when you are not vaccinated. Simply put, any reckless behavior that puts you or your fellow cruisers or any crew member at risk will put you on thin ice.

9. Break Quarantine

If you test positive for COVID-19 (even if you are asymptomatic), have a fever or otherwise show symptoms of the virus during your cruise, you and your travel companions will be quarantined. Don’t think you can create an alibi if you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive, either, as cruise lines use various methods of contact tracing.

Quarantine also applies if you show signs of norovirus or other communicable diseases. The ship's doctor may order you, and possibly anyone you’re traveling with to be confined to your cabin for 48 hours in order to avoid contaminating additional passengers. Disobeying or breaking quarantine is a serious offense and will get you kicked off the ship.

10. Steal Items From the Ship

We know things onboard ships can get pricey, 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, don’t expect a lot of leeway with the law when you’re caught. Keeping your hands clean on a cruise (and we’re not just talking about frequent washing and hand sanitizer) is an easy way to stay on the ship. Not to mention you’ll also free up more fingers for snatching up snacks, summoning a bartender, or waving to your new-found friends at the pool.

11. Be Abusive to the Captain or Their Crew

Being abusive to the ship's officers and crew is a surefire way to end up getting a one-way trip down the gangplank.

Just as most hotels and resorts on land do, cruise lines have a zero-tolerance policy for abuse or harassment towards crewmembers of any rank and position. So be nice, polite and friendly. You're on vacation, after all!

Updated November 08, 2022
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