Miscellaneous7 Cruise Traditions That Should Go Away

7 Cruise Traditions That Should Go Away

If there is one thing about cruising, it is that traditions are hard to change.  While most cruisers do not like change, it is often necessary to keep the industry growing. Here are 7 cruise traditions that should go away, or at least be revamped.
(Updated February 9, 2018)

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Pictures During Dinner – We get it, cruise lines make a decent amount of money selling pictures that they take of you.  Some my favorite pictures that I have of my wife and I were taken by cruise ship photographers. However, dinner is not a time for pictures.

When I am enjoying dinner with my family and friends, please stop with the endless interruptions night after night while we are eating.  No one wants their picture taken with a mouth full of food.  Also, send the pirate to the kids clubs, not the main dining rooms.

Bringing Life Jacket to Muster Drill – There are some cruise lines that have already made this change and it is sorely needed.  There is no reason why any passengers need to bring their life jacket to the muster drill.  The cords often hang on the floor tripping either the passenger carrying the jacket or those who are following behind.  While the muster drill is extremely important, bringing your life jacket to the drill is not needed.

Mandatory Tipping to Porters – I once arrived at the pier and there was no porter in sight, so I carried my bags to the bin.  Right as I was loading them into the bin, a porter came over and said that I was not allowed to place them in there and that he had to do it.  After he placed my luggage in the bin, he asked for a tip.  A tip for what?  Moving my bags 3 feet after I brought them over?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for tipping great service.  If a porter meets me at the curb, takes the luggage out of my trunk and explains to me where to go to check in for my cruise, that type of service deserves a tip.

I have also read many accounts of porters telling passengers that if they want their luggage to make it to the ship, they need to tip.  That is extortion and needs to stop.  The porters are longshoreman who make union wages.  Tipping is for service, not moving someone’s bag a few feet into a container.

Saving Pool Loungers – Wake up early on a sea day and the first thing you do is head up to the buffet and grab a cup of coffee?  No, first you stop by the pool and “claim” 3 or 4 loungers for you and your friends so they will be reserved 4 hours later when you come back.

While cruise lines have tried to crack down on the saving of loungers on the lido deck, it is something that needs to stop.  If you aren’t going to use the lounger right away, don’t “reserve” it for later.

Formal Nights – Yes, I realize that many cruisers will disagree with me on this one and that is ok.  We just see things differently. Formal nights on cruises have changed in the past few years from mandatory to “suggested” attire.  It wouldn’t surprise me if in a few years they are done away with altogether on cruise lines that cater to families.

With airlines charging fees for checked baggage and some charging for carry-ons, it makes it harder to justify the extra 7-10 pounds of clothes (tuxes, suits, shoes etc) for formal night that you will wear for just a few hours.  Dress codes have become much more relaxed as cruise lines cater to millennials and that tend will continue in the future.

Flea Markets – $5 t-shirts, chains by the inch, cheap souvenirs, and whatever leftover items the cruise lines are desperately trying to get rid of.  As the comedian on my last cruise said, “If we wanted to take a cruise to a garage sale, we would have stopped in Cozumel”.

These sales are often located in public areas and hallways causing congestion.  During my last cruise, it was near impossible to just walk through that area to get to the theater as fellow passengers were grabbing up $8 watches and $15 purses.

Long Announcements on the PA – The PA system should be used for important announcements by the captain.  When cruise directors go on and go about bingo, spa treatments, casino tournaments, and whatever else, it just gets well, annoying.  I had one cruise director on a cruise make announcements so long, that the crew member that was running trivia just said “he is never going to stop talking, so let’s just continue”.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
Miscellaneous7 Cruise Traditions That Should Go Away


  1. I love love love the formal nights! It’s one of the best parts of the cruise! As well as, the pictures though they are TOO EXPENSIVE!!! The formal night need to be more STRICT!
    I think there needs to be a larger adult spaces and more activities that need to happen in these spaces. Also that adult spaces mean adult spaces! There have been so many carnival cruises I have been on with children on the serenity deck. There are not enough things just geared toward adults that do not include children.
    These parents that bring there children expect other or staff to watch them as soon as they step foot on the ship. There needs to be more strict rules for parents to keep an eye out on their kids! They are ruining cruises

  2. I have been cruising since the 1985 and I all most always cruise solo. So the is my main complaint also is that they charge double to solo travelers

    • I do not like this either but trying to figure out a way so that the line does not lose their money. they cannot simply put one person in a cabin. I know Norwegian Line has solo cruiser berths although I have not tried them and they are more expensive then simply 1/2 a cabin. Ugh 🙂

    • While I sort of understand the loss of one extra fare if a solo is allowed a room alone, I feel there could be a mutually beneficial solution so us single travelers dont pay double. I think since the single person is only. eating for one, showering for one, taking up one chair in dining room or theater, etc., the cruise lines should only charge 1.25% fare to the single traveller. Perhaps they should split some of the interior rooms down the middle, build another bathroom in the space that is now closets, incorprate a small closet at end of bed and the dressing table along the newly built wall. BADABING. BADABOOM. A PLACE FOR THE SINGLE TRAVELER……..just a thought.

  3. Your post is interesting, my only say would be regarding the Lifejackets, unfortunately this cannot be changed as it is a part of International Maritime Law that this has to happen. As a passenger I think the safety side of things should be of the highest importance and a lifejacket demonstration is certainly up there. For example you may need to put one on without a crew member present therefore it would be a good idea to know how to. As I have seen on many occasions, even though they are what I would call, a very straightforward piece of kit as donning one goes. I see people day in day out confused as to how to properly don a lifejacket. The lifejacket demonstrations I have seen also include important information regarding entering the water from a height whilst wearing a lifejacket which again I think is highly important if for whatever reason you may need to enter the water rather than a lifeboat. Therefore in conclusion to the demonstration the eventual, donning of your own lifejackets allows you to attempt it and the crew to check it is being worn correctly. This gives the passenger the confidence that they can correctly don their lifesaving appliance, which in the event of an emergency involving the sea, greatly increases their chance of survival. The belts trailing along the deck is a constant battle with other passengers, unfortunately common sense would dictate to pick up the belt but they don’t. The ships pre-drill announcements also warn regarding this, unfortunately by design this cannot be eliminated unless passengers take ownership of their lifejackets when walking through the vessel.

    • This has already changed. On RCCL we have not had to take life jackets to muster drills in at least the last 2 years, probably longer than that, I can’t remember.

  4. Deck chairs. I typically avoid the pools because of the deck chair situation. When every chair in sight is “reserved” you get peeved, which is the opposite of why you’re on a cruise. On the other hand, I don’t want the beach club situation where you have to rent a chair and umbrella for the day…but, at least, then you have one. Happy medium – How about we all sign up for a guaranteed deck chair for a couple of hours. You can have your little reserved sign for your time, and then someone else to gets a turn. Until people suddenly turn considerate, it’s about the best thing a cruise line could do.

    • I have actually seen people place little ‘reserved’ cards on several chairs, and watched while people avoided using the chairs because they looked like professional place holders one would use at a wedding or some formal event, or thought that the cruise line had placed them there for special guests.

  5. I also agree travelling overseas to go on a cruise ship its hard to justify putting a suit in as extra weight, not forgetting we will have to pack for winter and summer in most cases.

  6. Great article, have to agree with all except for the formal nights. As a matter of fact I think they should be enforced more strictly, this for many travellers is a special night and take pride in dressing up. Then to share a table with someone in shorts and a t-shirt takes away from the ambiance. There are many other options for diners who don’t want to dress up. If you don’t want to dawn a suit or jacket and tie then find somewhere else to eat on ship!!!

  7. I agree on all points especially life jackets. On a recent P and O cruise my friend a wheelchair user had her wrist in plaster and found it difficult to hold 2 lifejackets on her lap. We asked forassistance to return to cabin and was just told they could not get hold of room steward. So we were left to struggle back and with the lifts very busy we missed sailaway.

  8. YES!!!! All of this is completely accurate and reflects exactly how I feel about cruising. We experienced the porter threats on our last cruise too, after we brought our bags to them right before they went in the door with a nearly full cart…they told us without a tip we wouldn’t see the bags, even though they did nothing – we had to search them out! Come on. Some of these traditions are the worst…

    I would also add that specific dining times/sharing tables with strangers needs to go. That’s the reason we’ve chosen Norwegian! We want to go on a cruise together, and meet people as we choose, not because of a weird tradition…

  9. I have one complaint !! Well I have more but I leave it at one !! The smoking area !! Its needs to be closed in!! The last cruise I was on , the min we stepped out our door the smoke hit you in the face !! That’s was the worst !! We love our cruises !! I’m on my fifth cruise !!

    • People who know where the smoking areas are should stay away if it offends them, you have squeezed us out of smoking on verandas to cabins, there are many other places onboard to go that are smoke Free!

    • I agree, go get a burger or line up at the buffet if you can’t take the time to put on a suit or jacket and tie.

  10. I would like to suggest a “what to add” list…
    As in…a shop that carries formal wear…rather than crappy tee shirts…or, more shoe selections…I had blisters all week…and why are there no over the counter sea sickness meds sold? What about extension cords???

  11. .I agree on the picture taking at dinner,we r there to relax and have a enjoyable meal,we don’t need picture snapping:(. There is always lounge chairs you just have to wander the ship:),the flea market isn’t to bad I can always fine gifts to take back home,they just need to move it to a different are on the ship,and has for tips you pay what you think there help amounted to…..

  12. I agree about the chair hogs it’s gotten really bad. As far as any thing it’s my vacation not the ships or the passenger next to me and I’m going to do whatever I want as long as it’s not disturbing my fellow passengers from having a good time

  13. I hope they keep the muster drill as it is, yes, with lifejackets. It’s a small inconvenience and done before departure when everybody is still excited about cruising so no big deal. It’s important and it will be over it fast once the people arrive. Tardy people are my peeve; I have a back problem where I cannot stand for 30 mins waiting for the slow pokes to come sauntering in.. Think about it; you’ve seen the pandemonium that ensues…..people are told a hundred times not to put their lifejacket on in the hallways but they do anyway because they need help from other passengers. See what I mean….nobody listens. Imagine if a real episode occurred; do you want all those people blocking the hallways and exits, barely moving if not standing still wondering what to do with a dazed look on their face. Any cruseline still using that type of lifejacket with long cords surely has new sleek, easy to put on type now. Just the same many people need help cuz …i repeat….they don’t listen. I hope they all keep the roll call as well. One cruise I was on didn’t therefore I know not all passengers attended. I don’t want to depart to the open sea knowing many played hooky and thought they were cool.I don’t want to be a casualty in any of the shipping disasters that can and do happen. Think about it. Are you personally willing and able to help a couple hundred passengers? No, didn’t think so. Not only that but did you realise your entire crew does the drill every single time! Yes, you can do it too.

  14. I think these can be adjusted not taken away. I’ve never had an issue with pictures at dinner or formal night, for me these are actually highlights for me. I am that person that purchases several pictures in a day, they are the only souvenirs that I bring home.
    I’ve never had an issue with the porters, I am usually in the adult only section where there are lounge chairs always open, as for the tee shirts don’t buy them from the gift shop area if you don’t want them. Like any tourist industry it’s their job to make more money. So

  15. Totally disagree with not taking life jackets to drills. During a emergency you need to train the passengers to go back to their cabins to retrieve and know where their life jackets are. We tested this theory once and when we sounded the alarms the passengers went to their muster stations and over half the passengers forgot their life jackets. So we went back to taking life jackets to drills now.

    • I remember when we had to wear our life jackets to the drills. It was good practice for putting them on, which isn’t always easy.

  16. Ok I get your complaints but cruises have been made with allot of alternatives. My husband and I have taken 34 cruises on princess alone plus about 10 on other lines. If you don’t want to dress up on formal night go to the buffet but there are allot of people who enjoy it. The cheap stuff the sell at the “flea market” is great fun for some people if you don’t like it just stay away from it. If you say no when they ask to take a picture they will say thank you and walk away but there are some people who like it. Now the people who “hog” the pool lounges just point it out to a pool man and he will remove the towels they left. I have never once not been able to find a couple of chairs together. Please remember there about 2000 other people on the same cruise, do what you want but don’t take away your fellow passengers fun. And as far as the dock workers the cruise companies and ZERO control over them. It’s a union job, they DO NOT work for the cruise lines. Have fun and keep cruising

  17. I agree with everything accept the tipping of porters. I know sometimes it is a problem, but if you want your luggage to get to your cabin, best to tip.

  18. I agree with everything in this article. It mirrors my opinions. When I pay for my vacation I want to do just that VACATE! I get it some people feel the need to dress up to eat. I tend to enjoy just relaxing, meeting new people while I eat in a comfortable relaxed and non judgemental environment. I do understand formal nights are super important to some as well. I do not do the pool areas on my cruises but I have noticed the lounge hoggers things. We normally cruise with one company and we carry our own luggage onto the ship so that I have what I need right away. This past December we went with another company to get to a different island and at the port we were told we had to leave our bags and leave a tip. That situation was just weird. We basically just removed all of our valuables, cameras, and such, paid the tip and proceeded to the ship. I don’t shop at the flea market like sales because I have been on many cruises and the things are the same. It is just a fun environment for people so I just move along. I think that the cruise lines are becoming very innovated and progressing with the times. I just wait to try whatever new idea they come up with. It adds to my cruising experience.

  19. I dont understand one thing about american culture: Why fight in flea market by China souvenir? Is very funny see growups fighting in the flea market. If you have money to buy a cruise, probably you have money to buy good souvenirs in a port(made in China too)

    • Just because you’ve paid for a cruise, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a lot of extra money to spend, or want to. The sales are a good opprtunity to get those over-priced things you’ve had your eye on.

    • They should also do away with the “Meet the Captain” Champagne” night. Really boring and annoying especially for people that have cruised more than once.

    • I always enjoy meeting the captain. It’s something that was regularly done in the past. And his offering the welcoming toast was a special touch.

  20. YES please stop the pictures while eating. I do not want to smile while having a big chunk of green stuck to my teeth, but on the same note I do enjoy the formal nights, it is the only time I can get my hubby into a suit (other than a funeral) so I think they need to stay

  21. I agree with most though I concur I love the formal nights as there never seems to bew enough reasons at home to ‘dress up’ (and even I there was I would have to buy a new outfit as my at home friends have seen them all , where people on the cruise haven’t)
    You didnt mention my pet hate.
    People coming into lunch or sitting in the library or even a bar..in their robes.! I get it if you put it on after the pool if you HAVE to, but to eat in your dressing gown, do you really live in a nursing home ???

    • formal nights are not practicable. With airlines charging more and more baggage fees formal wear is not something that needs to be included. I have cruised 5 times and only dressed for a formal occassion on one….no more! I eat at the buffett that night.

  22. I agree with almost everything. A tip is for doing a good job, not to be used as a prerequisite for doing the job you’re paid to do. I like formal nights in the MDR and anyone who doesn’t enjoy that, no problem, there are plenty of alternatives that night.

  23. I love all of the points and feel that they are all valid. As I read each one I caught myself saying “yep”. The one I agree with the most is the one about the porters. We too were led to believe that if we didn’t give a tip our luggage would be lost. I told my husband to just give the tip! I didn’t want to go on a seven day cruise without my luggage And lastly, I’ve noticed the change in attire for formal night. I am a little disappointed about that. But my husband and I look forward to Formal Night and we still dress the part and we look forward to taking the photos AFTER or BEFORE we eat.

    • Kandi: On my last cruise; I was told the exact same thing as you were!! The man told me point blank if I wanted to see my luggage; I had betta tip him!! At first; I thought he was joking; but he let me know that he was dead serious!! So we tipped him!! I didn’t want to take the chance of my luggage disappearing!! My only real complaint about cruise lines is with charging solo cruisers double!!
      I always book an inside cabin because it is the cheapest; but I am always charged double for the cabin!! Carnival used to have a single supplement rate and I really wish that they would bring this back!!

    • I agree. My husband and I use to travel with my aunt and uncle. Well, my uncle passed away last year and now my aunt has to pay double for the extra empty bed in her room. She will not be traveling with us as often as she use to due to the expense. We cruise at least 3 times a year. I agree with most of the complaints stated by the other cruisers. I enjoyed the formal nights my first 20 cruises but now it is getting old and all our pictures are the same pose so I started wearing nice sun dresses and my husband a dress shirt and slacks and now our pictures are more casual. I wish they did not charge so much for internet usage. We get a few hrs free on RCCL due to being Diamond Plus but on other cruise lines we will have to pay. We need the internet because my husband is taking college courses on line. Lower the internet prices. Lower the price for soda and water.

  24. Congratulation to all those of you who are frequent cruisers!
    Oh, and BooHoooo (wiping fake years away) for your annoyances!
    Did You Forget that you are obviously Blessed enough to be on that cruise in the First Place!
    Stop complaining! Stop with the Spoiled Brat Syndrome and ENJOY your Beautiful Cruise Experience!

    If there are things you don’t like, Avoid them!
    There are those of us who saved enough to finally get to go on a cruise on our 10yr Anniversary and LOVED THEM! The Pictures, The Formal Dining, even the Cheap sales so I could bring my kids back something inexpensive. Like I said, if you don’t like them, Don’t take the photos – Don’t go to formal night (the buffet is still open for you)- Avoid the cheap sales. … Pretty Simple.
    As for the chairs, Really? People save them at local Pools! Did you think that wouldn’t happen on aCruise. I will say, we never had a problem finding a couple.

    With Love in my Heart, I Hope you take a More Blessed Perspective the next time you cruise and Enjoy all that it has to offer! We took our 2nd at our 20yr Anniversary and LOVED IT!
    I Hope & Pray I get to take my 3 kids soon before they are all grown and out of the house!
    Happy Cruising!

    • Hi Jeff try sailing on Celebrity they don’t have all that hoopla in the dining room and I love to dress up on formal nights.

  25. Totally agree about the photos at dinner. I usually put my hand up and say, “No photos…I’m in a witness protection program!”

  26. hey I liked your post. I know people complain about all the selling that goes on during a cruise. But let’s face it. People love to shop just like do the other stuff like sports, shows and eat. So on a leisurely sea day shopping offers some folks a relaxing way to spend a few hours if they are not into sun bathing. Unlike the photos at dinner that I hate, you can easily ignore it if you want or partake. If no one bought anything I am sure cruise lines would find something else to replace it.

  27. I agree with everything except the Formal night dress. We enjoy that but what we dont enjoy are the other cruisers who choose to think the rules dont apply to them and come to the MDR on formal night in shorts! Discusting!!

  28. I might add that “Baked Alaska” (they bring it out with battery operated candles)and all the hoopla that goes with that should now be BANISHED.
    I used to enjoy Formal Night, but after 6 cruises, have now opted for the buffet line on those evenings. I now believe that while I’m on vacation that I can actually relax.

  29. Wow, I can’t remember before reading so many points I completely agree with! We’ve cruised 10 times in the last 4 years and can relate to most of them. Being trampled over at ship’s sale was the low point (and I am not a small man). I can’t relate to the chaise lounge situation though, we’ve never had that problem. Plenty of really nice sun bathing spots on the cruises we take.

  30. Thank you for the awesome post, I enjoy formal night and hope it continues, but I do agree with your other points.

  31. I don’t see them getting rid of formal nights.
    They usually have all those photographers taking pictures
    after and during dinner. It adds to the companies profit.
    That and they usually have special drinks on those nights also.

  32. Gee from the airport to final debarkation sounds like a bad day all around on some of your cruises. I’ve never experienced the ‘let’s make a deal’ scenario upon arrival at the pier (Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Port Canaveral or Jax Port). As for formal night, I can go to the ships very casual buffet or depending on the ship, some of it’s other casual dining venues if I want to don my causal clothes. I guess I never noticed the chase lounge savers on the pool decks. Lastly the “flea market” is there just to keep folks busy on that lazy long sea day. It’s great for those last minute: ‘Gosh I forgot to get Susie something’ moments.
    Interesting article though.

  33. Good suggestions. I’m not at all a fan of formal night so as long as its suggested and not mandatory I’m good with that. The last two cruises I was on they didn’t make anyone bring the life preserver which was nice. Progress. And as for the photographers during dinner, yes, go away. What i hate is being pressured by others at the table that I don’t even know to have the picture taken. Just annoying.

  34. We also like to dress for dinner. However, i wish on any dining night, they would enforce no baseball caps, no flip flops, and no shorts. I watched a guy kick off his flip flops and eat barefoot. Gross!!!

    • I agree with you! No shorts no hats no shoes no service.
      Let them eat at the buffet if they can’t dress right for the dining room.

    • As far as I am concerned I love the formal nights. Getting a chance to dress up for a change People today are dressing slpier and sloppier. Also I now only sail with Celebrity which is a very classy ship. and I love it. Today people love to gripe about every little thing . Seems to me they should focus on what they have and they would be a lot happier.

    • my first cruise my wife and I were seated with another couple wich we did not know…talk about uncomfortable….not only are we dressed in uncomfortable clothes we have to make
      small talk with strangers?? I believe they have stopped this though.

  35. Interesting. I agree that you have some valid points in your opinions there…But you can not change human nature, therefore porter tipping will not cease, pool chair hogs, that is not going to happen either. I agree, I do not like the ‘flea market’ type sales either, but they are easy to avoid, and let’s face it, some people like that. And, anyone can look classy on formal night without the extra baggage weight, thats just a logical excuse for some. There are cruise lines that do not have PA announcements all day.

  36. I just read your article and I agree with almost everything that you have written. The one thing we would disagree on is formal night. While I see your point about the extra luggage, my wife and I enjoy these paticular nights and I would hate to see them go away. We like dressing up when we go to Dinner and some of my best pictures on our past cruises came from formal night.

    • I agree but with formal niggts love them. Due to flying trans Atlantic I weighted each item some times multi items together in a basket and I can tell you my formal clothes weight less then pants and top.And come on you guys need pants and shirts any ways all your adding is a jacket.

    • I completely agree. I get it on Carnival, NCL, RCCL, etc., but keep them on the classier lines (Seabourn, Silver Sea, Crystal, etc.)

    • I agree with you, except to tip porter’s and flea market, it’s like last minute shopping from the trip. But the saving the chairs at the pool side needs to end. That is as rude as cutting in line.

    • Just because a cruise line eliminates “formal night”, doesn’t mean that any person, couple or group can’t dress “formally” on any night they wish for pictures or just because they want to look more elegant. I’m not buying that everyone else should have to.

    • I totally agree with you, Jobrien. If people want to dress formally, it is ok….I prefer to wear a fancy dress shirt and nice dress slacks, but no tux or tie.

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