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8 Cruise Ship Rules People Always Break

Gina Kramer

Jan 8, 2020

Read time
5 min read

 (Photo: Ai825/Shutterstock.com)

Listen up, rebels. The "rules are meant to be broken" mentality doesn't fly on cruise ships. You can't just pack whatever you want, ignore the fine print and disregard the policies you don't like. Cruise lines put rules in place for a reason -- so everyone can enjoy the fun, carefree vacation they deserve while staying safe. To stay on their good sides -- and avoid getting booted off the ship -- follow the cruise ship rules and don't make life miserable for your shipmates by committing any of these eight infractions.

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Sneaking alcohol onboard

Sneaking alcohol onboard (Photo: Room 76/Shutterstock.com)

Mainstream cruise lines prohibit passengers from bringing their own booze onboard, with the exception of limited quantities of wine or Champagne. Does everyone abide by it? Of course not. In fact, it's such a notoriously broken rule that culprits have earned their own nickname: "rum runners." There's even an entire market of devices made for sneaking liquor, beer and other alcohol onboard. Whether you agree with the rule or not, it's one that cruise lines don't take lightly. Get caught in the act, and your booze will be confiscated. Under 21? Not only will you never see your prized bottle again, but you also risk the chance of being disembarked from the ship.

Smoking on cabin balconies

Smoking on cabin balconies (Photo: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV/Shutterstock.com)

We book balcony cabins to enjoy the fresh air and views ... not inhale wafts of secondhand smoke. Unfortunately, the latter happens too often despite most cruise lines banning smoking on balconies. A number of smokers knowingly break the rules, arguing that they paid for their balcony cabin and should be able to enjoy it however they want. The problem is: Smoking is not only a nuisance to most cruise passengers, but it's also a serious fire hazard. Cruise ships have designated areas for smokers, and most people take advantage with no complaints. Those who revolt, on the other hand, might think twice once they're caught by security (with their neighbor's help).

Ignoring pool rules

Ignoring pool rules (Photo: marchello74/Shutterstock.com)

The pool deck might be where we see the most rule infractions, from babies in diapers splashing in the kiddie pool to grown adults attempting to dive into five feet of water. Pool rules, which can be found on signs around any cruise ship lido deck, are in place for health and safety reasons and can lead to serious consequences if broken. Infants and toddlers, for example, should not be allowed in hot tubs as they're more susceptible to overheating and dehydration. Meanwhile, the U.S. Public Health Service requires that only potty-trained kids are allowed in cruise ship pools for sanitation concerns -- no swim diapers allowed. Running on slippery deck surfaces or jumping into shallow water is a good way to get hurt; you shouldn't need a sign to tell you that.

Lying on your public health questionnaire upon boarding

Lying on your public health questionnaire upon boarding (Photo: Chinnapong/Shutterstock.com)

Let's get one thing straight: Norovirus outbreaks don't occur because a ship is "dirty." They're more often than not caused by passengers who bring germs onboard, then ignore the sanitizer stations located throughout the ship and do a lackluster job of washing their hands (if they clean them at all). To make matters worse, some who are sick at embarkation check "no" when asked if they have symptoms, and board the ship anyway. Willfully lying on the public health questionnaire is subject to a fine and in rare cases, imprisonment. Why do people do it? Because cruise lines typically quarantine ill passengers to their cabins (since norovirus is spread by person-to-person contact), where they are required to remain until at least 24 hours after their symptoms have passed. We know getting stuck in your cabin is not ideal, but have some consideration for all the other people onboard trying not to get sick.

Skipping the muster drill

Skipping the muster drill (Photo: MIA Studio/Shutterstock.com)

Before a cruise ship sets sail, vacation is put on hold, and passengers are summoned to partake in a muster drill -- a mandatory safety exercise that shows them what to do in case of an emergency (including how to put on a life jacket). Apparently, the fact that the drill is required by law isn't enough to keep some people from skipping it. The crew is responsible for making sure all passengers are accounted for, usually via a roll call. Ditch the drill, and you not only drag out the process for those who've complied, but also put yourself at risk for a $100 fine or even worse -- getting kicked off the ship.

Disregarding the dress code

Disregarding the dress code (Photo: Tymonko Galyna/Shutterstock.com)

You've got to admit, some cruise line dress codes are a little enigmatic -- "Casual Elegance," really? Still, that's no excuse for Joe Schmo to rock jean shorts and a cutoff t-shirt in the main dining room -- or even worse, a Speedo in the buffet line. We don't mean to sound stuck up or petty, but utter disregard for dress codes can put a damper on the ambiance for other diners -- not to mention, it's downright disrespectful. If you want to keep it casual, fine, but there's a time and a place for it -- except Speedos in the buffet. That's just not cool any time.

Taking food off the ship

Taking food off the ship (Photo: Cruise Critic)

The idea of bringing some sandwiches, fruit and other snacks from the buffet with you ashore might sound like a good idea, but it's actually against the law in many places. Food that isn't prepackaged is often not allowed off the ship, due to agricultural regulations imposed by individual countries. Some cruisers get away with breaking the rule because security is generally tighter getting back on the ship than off it. In countries where the law is strictly enforced, passengers can face a fine or, even worse, find themselves in the hands of local authorities. Regardless of how minor sneaking a few bananas in your tote bag might seem, this is one cruise ship rule that isn't worth chancing.

Not returning to the ship when you're told

Not returning to the ship when you're told (Photo: CREATISTA/Shutterstock.com)

It's 5 o'clock somewhere ... until you see your ship sailing away from the dock. Before cruisers get off a ship in port, they're informed when they must be back onboard so the cruise can continue as scheduled. Not everyone takes the rule seriously -- waltzing back to the pier as they please, or downing so many margaritas they lose track of time. Wake-up call: While the crew might be able to delay departure a bit, ships will not wait around for you. Unless the cause of delay is due to a cruise line-sponsored shore excursion, the captain isn't going to hold up everyone else's vacation indefinitely because you couldn't show up at the designated time. If you make it to the gangway late, but before the ship sets sail, be ready for lots of catcalls and dirty looks when you board.

Updated January 08, 2020
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