OpinionCruise Elevator Survival Guide: 16 Rules for Avoiding the Madness

Cruise Elevator Survival Guide: 16 Rules for Avoiding the Madness

Some helpful tips and rules of etiquette when taking the elevator on a cruise ship

Elevators can create some very awkward moments, but on a cruise it’s par for the course.

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You will spend more time in an elevator than you may think, and you just never know what kind of stories you will come away with by the end of the cruise.

The average person on a cruise ship spends 15-30 minutes in an elevator every day –that’s right, I did the math.

While cooped up like a bunch of chickens waiting for feeding time, what are some things to remember?  This cruise elevator survival guide is here to help.

cruise ship elevators on Carnival Celebration
Cruise ship elevators on Carnival Celebration. Photo credit: Cruise Fever

After well over a decade of cruising I wrote down some things I’ve learned about cruise ship elevators.

Here are 16 helpful tips for using the elevators on a cruise ship that will make for a better experience.  Feel free to give us your own “elevator rules” in the comments below as well.


1.  Avoid the midship elevators on embarkation day

Main atrium on Carnival Victory
Main atrium on Carnival Victory

This happens on almost every cruise.  As soon as passengers walk on board the cruise ship they head to the midship elevators to begin the exploration process.

The issue is that these are the busiest elevators on the ship.  Even though cruise lines have tried to stagger the embarkation times, the elevators in the central part of the ship still get quite busy during those first few hours.

Not only does this create a bottleneck, but with cruisers still walking around with carry-ons and baggage, it’s even more snug than usual in the elevators.

If you can help it, try enjoying the main atrium for a while or walk to a different part of the ship on the same deck.   Ideally, you can follow the next point to get around.

Read more:  6 best cruise lines for a relaxing cruise experience


2. Realize you can take another set of elevators

I recommend walking to the forward or aft elevators as they are typically not busy at all.  You can get on the elevator quicker, have more room, and get to your intended deck with ease and less frustration.

This is true both on embarkation day and any other day of the cruise.  But the busiest times are embarkation day, port days in the late morning, and around dinner time.

Sometimes elevators are closer than you realize too.  On some cruise ships there are almost hidden elevators that you can easily walk right past if you’re not paying attention.

I remember on one ship that I didn’t realize until the last day that there was an elevator right next to the main pool, and it was hardly ever used because it was kind of tucked away on the side.

Elevators on Enchantment of the Seas


3. Don’t eat in the elevator

Call it a snack emergency or offering your own room service, but if you absolutely have to bring a plate of food into the elevator, resist the temptation to start eating it.

As a courtesy, I usually will try to take the stairs if I’m taking some food back to my cabin, but it’s not always so easy if having to travel 5 decks or more.  And taking the stairs with a plate of food on a rocking ship isn’t always ideal, so I get that.

This point comes from personal experience.  I’ve been in an elevator with someone who was voraciously eating some chicken from the buffet and that tiny elevator quickly filled with the smells and sounds of that unappeasable appetite.

Remember, room service exists for a reason, and there are plenty of tables at the buffet with great ocean views to enjoy your meal.  Putting an extra plate upside down on top of your plate could help, but if you can avoid bringing any food into the elevator that would be best.

Read more: 12 biggest dining mistakes to avoid on a cruise


4. Don’t leave your dirty plate on the floor of the elevator

Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed this one too.  Elevators are small enough.  We don’t need plates and dishes piling up, causing more of an issue for someone else to clean later on.  I think we can all agree on this one.

You can make your used plate someone else’s problem and assume a crew member will get it in a prompt manner, but many crew members have their own set of elevators and your dirty dishes could just annoy other passengers for quite a while.


5. Let crew members know if an elevator has a mess or spill in it

On my last cruise someone spilled their drink in the elevator.  Consequently, the floor was very slippery and was a hazard to other passengers.  If you see a mess like this, tell a crew member about it as soon as you can so a bad slip doesn’t ruin someone’s vacation.

Also, on this note, try not to cram into an already full elevator if you have a drink in your hand, as any bump could cause a spill.

Read more: Buyer’s remorse: 10 things cruisers most regret buying on a cruise


6. Don’t stand right in front of the doors

I shouldn’t even have to mention this one, right?  But if you’re waiting for an elevator to open, standing in front of the doors just delays the people who are trying to get off.

I’ve seen it too many times where a passenger is trying to get into an elevator before the other passengers have even had a chance to exit.  Not only is this a major nuisance to others trying to get to point B, it also is just plain rude.

Stand to the side and wait for the elevator to clear out of people wanting to get off before you try to hop in.


7. Know where you’re going before you even get in

Cruise ship deck plans near elevator

You would think this is common sense, but occasionally someone will come into the elevator and then have to stop and think about what button to push.

Most elevator areas have a little map of the ship with deck plans all laid out.  Before you enter the elevator know which deck you’d like to head toward.  And if you’re still unsure, don’t feel you have to rush into an open elevator.  Just wait for the next one.


8. Ideally, you should only hit one button

We’ve all been there.  Someone steps in and hits a button, and then realizes it’s the wrong deck so they hit another one.  And before you know it you have a Christmas tree of lights indicating you’ll be stuck in that tiny transporter for longer than you had thought.

This goes with the last point of knowing where you’re going before you get in.  Usually, if I make a mistake and hit the wrong button, I will just get off on that deck and take the stairs the rest of the way.

Read more: 12 tips for avoiding crowds on a cruise ship


9. Know which direction the elevator is heading

If you need to go down a few decks, wait for an elevator that is heading down.  Otherwise, you will have to ride it all the way up and back down again.

Sometimes, this can be quicker than waiting for an elevator that is going in the right direction, but people are often confused why the elevator is going further away from their intended destination.


10. Ask someone to press the button rather than reaching in front of them

If the elevator is already crammed full, just politely ask someone to press the button for you.  Reaching in front of someone or brushing them aside to make sure your deck’s button is pressed could be considered rude.  Plus, if they are holding a drink it just leads to more issues like we mentioned before.

Read more: 9 things to do right after your cruise is over


11. Keep down the rowdiness and offensive language

Everyone is on a cruise to relax and have a good time.  But remember, elevators are small spaces and someone can’t just walk away if they are offended by what you say.  Try to keep any boisterous behavior and foul language at a minimum when riding the “vertical expressway”.

That being said, it’s not a library.  You can be jovial and friendly and interact with other passengers.  Just know that not everyone might appreciate a crass comment that’s on your mind.


12. Be careful of those electric scooters

Electric Scooters for a cruise ship
Electric scooters outside the cruise terminal at PortMiami

On my last cruise the elevator doors were so narrow that an electric scooter could barely fit inside.  For some passengers there was less than an inch on either side.  Needless to say, my toes were almost crushed several times and I had to plaster myself against the wall like a cartoon character avoiding detection.

For those that require electric scooters on a cruise it can be difficult to find an elevator that is empty enough to use.  I will sometime vacate an elevator so someone with a scooter can use it without any issues.  A little courtesy can go a long way.


13. Dry off with a towel before entering

This happens on almost every cruise I’ve been on as well.  Someone just came from the pool and is still dripping wet when they enter the elevator.

Remember, this can make the floor extra slippery, so please use a towel and dry off before entering.  Ideally, you can wrap yourself in a towel or use a cover-up of some kind if you want to as well.


14. Play the guessing game to see which elevator opens first

I can’t be the only one who plays this game, right?  This isn’t really a rule or pet peeve but rather just a little game I play.  I try to predict which elevator door will open and stand nearby it – not directly in front of it, of course.

You can usually see which deck each elevator is currently on and make a close prediction.  You don’t win points, but you do get to be among the first to hop in.


15. If it’s only one deck up or down, think about the stairs

Cruise ship stairs when getting off the ship

Of course, you can always take a couple flights of stairs if you aren’t going far.  This is why I also like to study the deck plans of a cruise ship beforehand so I know the basics of where everything is.

Look at the stairs as your excuse for not needing to darken the door of the gym on board and still grab that second dessert.

Taking the stairs just one deck is almost always faster than waiting for an elevator anyway.


16. It’s OK to get the next one

For some reason, some cruise passengers feel like the current elevator that is open is the only way they can get to where they want to go.  The possibility of waiting for the next one doesn’t even enter their mind.

You can avoid the sardine-effect by just waiting for another elevator to open.  Like most things on this list, a little patience and courtesy will go a long way to helping your cruise vacation be as enjoyable as possible for everyone.

What cruise elevator rules do you follow or wish others would follow?  Let us know in the comments below.

Read more: Cruise cabin check: 11 things to do in your cabin before you empty your suitcase

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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
OpinionCruise Elevator Survival Guide: 16 Rules for Avoiding the Madness

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