Refresher Course: Etiquette on the High Seas

Etiquette used to mean “keep off the grass”. The gardener of the French monarch Louis XIV realized that the well-to-do were trampling through his garden at Versailles, so he put up signs or étiquets. It is not always effective now and it wasn’t effective then, until the King himself declared that no one was to ignore these étiquets. Over time, the meaning of étiquets morphed into the ticket used to enter a court function, which prescribed the expected behavior in court. It has also come to mean good manners in all social settings.

Everyone needs some guidance to help them feel comfortable in a new situation and a cruise is no different from any other activity in this respect. So, how do you “keep off the grass” on a cruise ship? One of the first rules of etiquette is to dress appropriately, and this is true for most activities, from a night out at the casino to a sporting event to a meeting with the board of directors of a company. For example, everyone should dress nicely for dinner, not in shorts or swimwear in the formal dining area; save your shorts for more relaxed seating areas that will allow for it.

We’ve all heard plenty of stories of visitors who were late for the ships departure and had to be left gazing forlornly out to sea on the dock as the ship sailed away. Be timely for your departure to avoid the ensuing confusion and because it’s proper etiquette. 

A cruise is one of the most relaxing types of vacations, where you can enjoy activities all in one place. However, guests should be considerate of others and keep the noise levels down when leaving their cabin; either coming in from a late-night outing or going out.

Tipping is another area that always causes some uncertainty regarding when to do it and how much, but this can vary: Some cruise lines add it as a service charge to your account while others leave it up to your discretion or prod you somewhat by leaving envelopes in strategic places. You can do your own research and see what is done on varying vacations in different parts of the world as well.

While you’re having fun on a cruise, be prepared to share, though, because, during meal times, you may have to share your table with strangers. Hopefully, you’ve learned the art of communication. Also, note that a cruise is one place where there is a fusion of different cultures; whether it be among the crew or guests. So be mindful of all the different cultures on board and the differences throughout the trip.

Rude passengers are generally the minority, but it only takes one who doesn’t follow the rules of cruise etiquette, like slamming doors in the middle of the night, to stain an otherwise fantastic vacation. As we travel more and more, we have gradually become less and less civil. Let’s return civility to travel, particularly when out on the high seas. After all, proper etiquette is what separates man from beast.

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