• After working on cruise ships for nearly 10 years, there are some things I'd never do on board. 
  • I'd take advantage of the cruise line's digital app but would skip paying for a virtual balcony.
  • I've found booking excursions independently isn't worth the cheaper price. 

After working on various cruise ships all over the world for nearly a decade, I know a lot about their inner workings, from the best onboard activities to the tastiest dining options.

But with this knowledge, there are also things I'd now never do on ships. 

I wouldn't skip downloading the cruise line's digital app 

We're living in a digital age, so most major cruise lines have apps that provide all of the essential information for your vacation.

These apps include logistics like port times, activities, and dress codes. Plus you can often use them to make dining and show reservations. Some can even unlock your cabin door or make a personal calendar of your events.

Excursions booked independently of the ship come with extra risks 

Excursions booked through the ship come with the guarantee that if your tour runs late, the ship will wait for it to return.

Many guests book external tours for a cheaper price, but it's often not worth it. I've seen my fair share of passengers running down the pier and missing the ship.

Excursions booked through the cruise are the safest option if you're worried about your ship leaving without you. 

Lining up to get off the ship first usually gets you nowhere 

Every time the ship pulls into port, it's not uncommon for passengers to congregate near the gangway exits, crowding the staircases and hallways.

This can be difficult for the ship since customs officers often have to come on board and inspect these areas.

Crowding can be a major no-no and can delay ship clearance, so most of the time, the crew ends up sending these guests back upstairs to wait. If you're hard-pressed to get off early, look into buying a shore excursion that grants you a priority exit once the ship is cleared. 

I wouldn't book a virtual balcony 

Some ships offer virtual balconies, a large screen with ocean views, but I don't think they're worth it

You pay more money for a screen to show you the outside world, and a lot of the time, the electronic adds some heat to the room. If you want a view, spring for an actual balcony or get a window instead. 

There's no need to pack prohibited items

Certain items like irons, steamers, and liquor are usually not permitted on cruise ships, but guests often pack them anyway. You may think you can get away with it, but luggage gets scanned in the terminal.

If you have any prohibited items, your bags will be held longer in the security area and may not be delivered to your room until later. Your belongings can also be confiscated until the end of the cruise. 

Removing gratuities can affect the livelihood of the crew

Cruise ships typically charge automatic gratuities that are split between a few different departments and are essential to many crew members' paychecks.

But they're not mandatory to keep, and many guests remove them when they get on board.

Unless you're going to tip the staff individually, removing the gratuities affects the income of crew members and their families.

I wouldn't eat at the same spot every night 

I know a lot of guests are glued to their favorite food spots on the ship, from the buffet to the main dining room, but one of the best parts of cruising is the delicious and diverse eateries.

Some options are included while others are an extra cost, but I've found you typically get way more bang for your buck while dining at onboard restaurants. 

This story was originally published on October 5, 2022, and most recently updated on July 9, 2024.

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