Passengers Behaving Badly: Cruise Critic Members Have Their Say

November 5, 2009
Passengers Behaving Badly (3 p.m. EST) -- Pushing in restaurant lines, swearing, hogging sun loungers, dressing inappropriately, drunken brawls, abusive behaviour towards waiters... No, it's not a bunch of football hooligans on tour; it's everyday behaviour on cruise ships, once the preserve of polite society.

This is according to the massive response by Cruise Critic members to our recent story, U.K. Cruisers: Chavvy Behaviour or Media Hysteria?, which inspired pages of debate on the message boards.

Trashy behaviour on cruise ships, it seems, is on the increase. But in our poll, members were divided as to why. Respondents placed equal blame for falling standards to low fares attracting the "wrong type" of cruiser -- and to excess booze. Some 43.95 percent agreed that: "Low fares are definitely attracting different or untraditional types of travellers to cruising," while almost as many, 45.42 percent, felt: "I believe most outlandish conduct is the result of excessive drinking or carrying on."

A significant percentage, 20.34 percent, blamed media hype on the rise in awareness of loutish behaviour onboard. Member K&RCurt pointed out in the forum that "even minor incidents are blown far out of proportion by people who HAVE to 'tell a story' and the media who jump at any chance to run something negative on the news."

Pirateskigirl added: "An idiot missing a ship, falling overboard, getting into fights in port, etc. gets uploaded to YouTube or sent to a local TV station and it quickly makes its way around the world. The sad part is the people involved in these stories love their '15 minutes' of fame. There is no shame anymore."

Others reckon that cruise lines sometimes create the wrong expectation of a cruise. Single Cruiser from Nottingham, U.K., says: "The problem is when a cruise line like P&O tries to be a jack of all trades and attract all groups into a common ship and as with any situation being cooped up in a confined space with alcohol flowing will lead to disagreements on what are acceptable standards.

"With Carnival shooting themselves in the foot killing lines like Ocean Village and promoting Ventura as the suitable replacement whilst still insisting on ship-wide formal nights clashes are only going to grow."

In fact, cruise lines came in for quite a lot of blame for ignoring bad behaviour. Member PROCRUISE says that: "One must also consider the 'roll over and play dead' stance the cruise lines themselves have taken with respect to passenger responsibilities. Some passengers think it is their right to smoke wherever they want, hoard deck chairs and theatre seats, push ahead in lines, skip safety drills, and the cruise lines look the other way so as to not cause a stir."

Nobody in the debate, however, equates bad behaviour solely to income, just as Carnival CEO Micky Arison commented in our news story: "Whether you earn 10p or £100,000 a week, it often comes down to how much beer you've drunk or the circumstances you're in." Member Simplelife is one of several who agrees, stating: "Inconsiderate behaviour knows no socioeconomic or cultural boundaries."

So what's causing the decline in manners at sea? Interestingly, there are a lot of pointers towards environment affecting behaviour.

Darcie, aka member kitty9, makes an interesting point: "When I'm on Seabourn or Crystal, higher priced cruise lines, you have every level of income onboard, from people who can write a check to pay for their cruise and not see a dent, to the ones who saved for years to afford this level of cruise. You have captains of industry to teachers to stockbrokers to retired phone company linemen. And despite the fact that you have all kinds of passengers on these ships, from many different cultures, you do not see the rude, selfish and out of control behaviour. Does it have to do with the environment onboard -- the fact that they are more formal in atmosphere and dress? Perhaps. But on Seabourn, you have alcohol included and I've yet to see a totally sloshed passenger behaving boorishly. Perhaps it's because it's mostly couples and VERY FEW kids onboard."

Interestingly, a number of members believe the answer might be to bring back formal nights. Kitty9, a former public school teacher in an inner city school, continues: "We experienced all kinds of terrible behaviour from the kids until we established a strict dress code. We saw problem incidents decline by over 75 percent."

BruceMuzz, a cruise ship crewmember, backs up the argument. "Working on mass market ships, I know all too well that Formal Night is the only night when we have no fighting, fewer drunks, and almost no drama. When people dress up, they behave better, tip better, and spend more money. We often comment that we wish every night was Formal Night."

Or perhaps the answer is simply to accept that cruising now attracts a broader market? R&RSC points out: "For those of us, myself included, who see the change in the passenger mix and would prefer a different mix it may be time to move up a brand. If we are not prepared to do that, we should become more tolerant and realize that back when we started cruising there were probably some folks that looked down on us. The sea is large and can accommodate us all."

You can still add to the debate! What would you like to see in a "Code of Conduct" onboard? Share your opinion here.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor