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Lift a glass with the captain on Azamara's Tere Moana and toast fellow cruisers who are good stewards of the sea and ship.

TMK / Tim McKenna/Courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

Lift a glass with the captain on Azamara's Tere Moana and toast fellow cruisers who are good stewards of the sea and ship.

Being a respectful cruise passenger

How to be a better cruise passenger by respecting the sea, crew, destinations & fellow travelers

On land it's called being a good citizen and neighbor. At sea, we need to be mindful that we're still part of an extended community. 

I believe there are a number of things that every cruise passenger should do to be respectful when cruising that will make the experience better for other passengers, the crew and help to ensure we protect the regions we sail in. These include:

Respect the sea

Every time I speak to the captains of a ship, they always tell me that they encourage their crew to be very respectful of the sea — not just because of its power, but also to keep it clean and well preserved. We can help through these actions:

  • Never throw anything over the side of the ship.
  • Minimize waste, including the use of water, as everything has to be processed on board and, based on what it is, either disposed of into the sea or offloaded in ports.
  • Use cruise lines that have clear environmental policies and awards for environmental good practice beyond the minimum required by law. Cruise lines have to meet international environmental regulations, such as what they can discharge into the sea, recycling and the use of certain types of fuel when they are in port or cruising in some regions of the world.

Respect the crew

To avoid the laws and regulations of the country the cruise lines are based in, they register their ships in countries more favorable to the industry. This is called sailing with a flag of convenience and means they apply the laws in those countries only. It reduces costs to meet demand for low cruise fares by passengers, but has implications on the working hours, practices and salaries of the crew.

An Azamara Club Cruises crew member serves up a dish during a White Night party.
Jenna Lynn Pimentel / Courtesy of Azamara Club CruisesAn Azamara Club Cruises crew member.

Regular cruise passengers know that most of the crew they interact with work on contracts of three to nine months at a time, seven days a week, with long hours each day. Despite this, staff retention levels are high as most crew members come from emerging markets where even these wages enable them to support themselves and families.

There are ways to help the crew:

  • Pay gratuities. Tips form a key part of the crew’s wages and, in many cases, the bulk of their income.
  • Reward exceptional service generously. A few extra dollars from every passenger could add up to a significant amount for the crew across their contract.
  • Mentioning staff members by name on cruise evaluation forms. These recommendations are taken into account when considering granting repeat contracts and promotions.
  • Help reduce workload. A small adjustment in the way we keep cabins clean or self-disembarking will reduce the crew workload when multiplied across all passengers.

Respect the destinations & communities you visit

A vendor selling pepper shrimp in Jamaica.
Jamaica Tourist BoardA vendor selling pepper shrimp in Jamaica.

On a cruise itinerary to the Caribbean, Central America, Asia and elsewhere, many of the cruise itineraries take you to destinations and outlying areas where local residents and workers live in poverty or in subpar conditions. 

You can help by trying to support local businesses and independent providers, rather than just using the international chains and tours when in ports.

For example, hire local taxi drivers or tour guides to show you around the destination. Go to local shops and markets instead of the chain stores in the port-side malls.

And, this should go without saying, but make sure you leave the environment as clean as when you arrived.

Respect your fellow passengers

There are often hundreds or thousands of fellow travelers on your ship, and you are living and playing in close proximity to each other. Always consider how your actions may affect others and reduce their enjoyment. In another article I explore six specific things that every cruiser can do to be more respectful to other cruisers, such as taking care not to spread norovirus, not being a chair and lounger hog and not being a corridor noise nuisance.

Your take

How about you? What are your suggestions for how to be a more respectful cruise passenger? Would love to hear your tips.

See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!


Gary Bembridge
I'm a longtime cruise fan and ship geek. While traveling the globe, I operate, where you'll find podcasts, videos and advice about cruising and traveling.