What's causing bad behavior on cruise ships?

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Poll: What's your opinion of the upswing in bad behavior on ships? (Choose all that apply.)
Poll Results
What's your opinion of the upswing in bad behavior on ships? (Choose all that apply.)

Low fares are definitely attracting different or untraditional types of travelers to cruising

It's simple math; the more people cruise, the more troublemakers there will be onboard

I believe most outlandish conduct is the result of excessive drinking or carrying on

It's all media hype -- incidents are few when you consider how many cruises sail each year

It depends. Some passengers are justified in their "rebellions," others are downright rude

This poll makes me want to pick a fight (just kidding ... maybe)!

None of the above

Something else (which I'll post)

Multiple Choice Poll.

Voters: 872.  You may not vote on this poll.

867 Posts
Joined May 2004
Are incidents of rude and inappropriate behavior on the rise -- or is it just media hype as cruising becomes more popular in the face of lower fares?

Cruisers in the U.K. are rumbling about an influx of troublemakers (or "chavs," for the Brits) attracted by low prices, according to a feature on Times Online this week. Last week, Carnival Corp. CEO Micky Arison was pushed in an interview with the BBC's Jeremy Vine to defend falling standards as Vine dredged up a much-publicized brawl on P&O's Ventura last Christmas. Meanwhile, in the U.S., six Carnival passengers were recently arrested following a headline-grabbing punch-up with a taxi driver. And then, of course, there are mutinies... (Read our full stories on the topic -- from both U.S. and U.K. perspectives!)

Do you think low fares have anything to do with the influx of badly behaved passengers? Or are scandals here to stay as more and more people take to cruising? Vote in our poll -- but be sure to also post your opinion and stories (and tell us where you're from)!
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Director, Product Development
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Fredericksburg, va. USA
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Joined May 2001
I'm not sure "rudeness" is confined to cruiseships---drivers (at least in No. Va!) are rude as hell! Restaurants, offices....you name it.
I think it's a by-product of the cell phone, internet, etc....everyone is just too "into" themselves. There's no recognition that others share our space!
4,982 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
By low fares, do you mean posted rates or the last-minute deals?

I do agree that, sometimes, the desperate low-fare deals offered within a few weeks of the sail date may entice customers with little experience dealing politely with a crew of service people, and who may have unrealistic expectations about what to expect on a cruise vacation.

On one of my cruises recently, I saw an unsupervised table of 8-10 children, ranging in age from about 6-15, running the waiter ragged and laughing with glee as he hurried to politely fill every unreasonable request. One of the things I love most about cruising is being served by a crew of people who treat me like a celebrity for a week. I suspect there are people who allow that sense of power and entitlement to go to their heads, demanding more and more rather than appreciating how well they are being treated. (Just like those kids.)

I'm fortunate to be able to afford to take a cruise every year. While I appreciate the value of a cruise vacation, I don't really consider it cheap. It's something I save up to afford. I sacrifice so I can splurge on this annual luxury. I'd hate to see prices go up to discourage trouble-makers as it could price me out of the cruise market. But maybe those rock-bottom last-minute deals are something cruise lines should reconsider.

I think an even bigger problem may be the people who seem to believe that they're not having fun unless they can't remember what they did when they wake up the next morning. Sure, it's a benefit to be able to go to a nightclub without having to designate a sober driver in advance. But that doesn't mean people should get so carried away. It's not only obnoxious to other passengers and crew members, but it's dangerous for the over-indulger. People who become so impaired they lose touch with reality are the ones who "fall" off cruise ships by recklessly climbing on railings or jumping between balconies.
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It seems to me that manners/courtesy are no longer important to the general population on or off ships. Many people are so self-absorbed they think rules don't apply to them anywhere. I see so much rude behavior that courtesy stands out more because it's so rare.
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solo cruzer
Gilbertsville, PA
3,196 Posts
Joined Oct 2003
I "Voted" #3, however the truth is some combination of all the possible choices.

I think not enough people understand how to behave in general in today's society. Combine that with very reasonable fares for the majority of cruises and you attract more folks, unaccustomed to cruising with a propensity for ill manners. Put them on a huge ship, with thousands of others just like them, with no real place to truly escape, add alcohol to the mix and the trouble starts.

All that being said, even minor incidents are blown far out of proportion by people who HAVE to "tell a story" and the media who jump at any chance to run something negative on the news.

At this point in time I really think the poor behaving folks are still in the vast minority. If not, their behavior and actions would not leave such an imnpression on anyone else.
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Joined Apr 2009
Royal Caribbean is one of the last hold out on high prices what is their CEO whining about lost profits! That's why I cruise Carnival better value. No fighting and rudeness does not reflect so much on economic back rounds as it does Americans are over stressed these days due to the economy.
Rude to each other, as people take out their problems on each other and employees. When on vacation they get real upset if ports are skipped, etc because they want everything to go smoothly but this is not always possible. I know if there are storms I might lose ports or get substitutions, I might not like this but I accept it as part of cruising, and it's for our safety. Drinking is also a factor. Having classy behavior has nothing to do with how much money someone has it's integrity! I do think that people who are really out of hand (starting physical fights or who are destructive to property) or allow their children to be destructive, unattended should be fined cash. This would teach them to behave.
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Northern Virginia
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I think it's a combination of many factors.

Cheap cruise fares whether last minute or not are attracting new customers who may have thought they couldn't afford cruising.

We have become a very "me" society. We are the most plugged in we have ever been but we don't know how to act with real people. Everyone is trying to get the "deal", the upgrade, the freebie. Definitely alcohol plays a factor in a large number of these incidents.

We have 3 24-hour news channnels in the US alone. They have to fill the time with something. And an idiot missing a ship, falling overboard, getting into fights in port, etc... gets up loaded to you tube or sent to a local tv station and it quickly makes its way around the world.

The sad part is the people involved in these stories love their "15 minutes" of fame. There is no shame anymore.
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We've been on nine cruises, on 5 different lines. I find that most of the passengers are very relaxed and well behaved, after all we are on vacation. There are always a few that drink to much. and make a spectacle out of themselves.

I always seam to find the few passengers that are just pissed off at the world. They complain about everything, nothing is good enough, the lines are to long, the boat rocks to much, the prices are to high, the food is gross, etc.

I realize that some people just aren't happy unless they're miserable, and misery loves company.

I do commend the staff of all the cruise lines for keeping their cool in dealing with the malcontents. On more than one occasion I wanted to just slap the cr*p out of a few of them. Instead I just look at them as another form of entertainment, watching them make an a** out of themselves.

I refuse to let them ruin my vacation.

Just my two cents
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Definitely alcohol plays a part, and people may act differently on board 'because they are on vacation'. Still, it seems like common courtesy is lacking, and while I hate to sound like a snob, I have seen a larger than typical amount of 'trashy' passengers of late.

On my most recent cruise, I saw some things that boggled my mind -- people picking the shrimp off the sushi in the buffet, getting into fights (verbal and physical) at the bar, and having a shoving match while running down the hallways.
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Sailing Nieuw Amsterdam 11 2017, Star Princess 07 2018
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I've been on numerous cruises on the luxury lines and with one exception of a large group from a foreign country where everyone from the adults to the kids were horribly out of control (and not because of alcohol), I've never experienced truly poor behavior. Anyone know a reason for this?

I've seen fights in line at the buffet, where in one incident, two men started beating on each other, and breaking things in the dining room. They were both thrown off the ship at the next port. On another cruise, on a mass market line, a group of about 40 not from the US, made the entire 14 day Panama Canal cruise awful because of their behavior, and this time it was because the adults refused to watch their teens. Throwing feces in the pool, twice. Letting off a stink bomb in the disco. Swearing at the crew because they would not allow the underage teens to gamble. Getting into food fights in the buffet and main dining room. Believe me, this group was a nightmare, but Celebrity did absolutely nothing, but clean the pool and disco and basically ignore their behavior.

On another thread, we've been discussing--oh, oh---dress codes and how it may relate to behavior, and we've pretty much said that a dressed down group sometimes can lead to "dressed down" behavior. As a former public school teacher in an inner city school, we experienced all kinds of terrible behavior from the kids until we established a strict dress code. We saw problem incidents decline by over 75%. I think research can back me up in this.

But while dressing differently isn't the total cause, booze and a general downgrading in manners are the real culprits. No one uses kindness anymore, and it's become a "me first and me only" or "it's my money and I'll do as I damn well please" society. Add to that the cheap fares and those who may not have experience in being in social situations where manners are expected, all points to why there are so many problems with today's cruise passenger.

So, why do the cruise lines accept this kind of behavior? Plain and simple---money. They don't want to hack off their client base, so they just sit back and ignore, unless someone is injured or the behavior is dangerous. But I think if cruise lines would kick off more passengers with bad behaviors, word would spread that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. After a short time, you MIGHT see a change in attitude.
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Bad behavior has no socio-economic bounds.

Rude, disruptive people come from all economic strata.

I think a lot of "bad behavior" is the result of many new cruisers not doing enough research - which leaves them with an unrealistic expectation of the entire cruise experience.

I think some people simply feel powerless or fearful and overcome their feelings of inadequacy by trying to "lord" it over on others. They feel like it gives them some worth and meaning. Travel - cruising specifically - is a very anonymous experience. The passengers don't know each other, will probably never see each other again - and many frankly don't care how they are perceived by others.

All that being said, alcohol is usually behind this behavior. There are simply too many folks whose idea of a great vacation is getting blasted right after breakfast and staying that way all day. They become annoying, disruptive to others and out of control.

That is called immaturity...and there is no cure for that in an adult..
Sandy Springs, GA
6,559 Posts
Joined Jun 2006
It's a reflection of society in general. People are ruder absolutely everywhere.
  • They're ALWAYS in a rush - at home or when trying to get a seat in the theatre
  • They bump into people on the street at home or in line at the buffet and never bother to say "excuse me," let alone try to avoid the other person
  • They push their way onto or off of the elevator at the office ... and on a ship
  • They talk on their ^&*@#? cell phones incessantly, not noticing who they are walking into nor the fact that they're giving away unbelievably personal information to everyone within a 50 yard radius ... or they do the same thing on their walkie talkies on the pool deck
  • They insist on the "best" seat in the restaurant at home, and try to bribe the maitre d' to get the prime table for two by the window ... because they are special and just plain deserve it more than the rest of us
  • They can't be bothered to wear appropriate or clean clothes to work, and it's their vacation so why the heck should they do any better on a ship?
  • They glare at you if you get in their way in the grocery store, or dare to get near them as they barrel towards the tender
  • They make loud comments "under their breath" if they don't like your clothes, your accent, your hair or your appearance ... and that's at the shopping mall, let alone on formal night
  • And I could go on forever and ever

A good sized segment of society is so unbelievably self-absorbed, and these boorish louts are bound to be on cruise ships. This has nothing to do with "class" because some of the most elegant and well-mannered people I know have the least money or education. Nor is it a reflection of age because I've sure been shoved in buffet and theatre lines by a lot of people who are decades past retirement age.

We've really just run into the elevator pushies and the buffet slobs, but then we're perhaps we're lucky.

Good question ... but it did raise my blood pressure a bit!
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“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.” Elizabeth Taylor

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Columbia, SC
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There clearly are different people cruising these days than when I began in the 90's. This is not always a bad thing. Is it low fares? To some extent, but at the end of the day the change is a result of the successful advertising by the cruise lines of the value of cruising. That's why I started and that's why I continue, the value.

I too, like some of the other posters, am trying not to sound like a snob, but look at the cost of cruising. The overall fare has not grown much over the years. Particularly if you look at the cost of the standard cabins, which is all that used to be available. The newer ships with balconies draw a higher fare for the amenity of a balcony, but you can still get a window or inside cabin today for virtually the same prices as the late 90s. Combine this with a more diverse customer base and an arguably higher median income and you can see why the perception is that there is more tension and trouble on board.

Cruise lines do a great job of branding, similar to hotels. When you stay at a Holiday Inn Express you tend to accept that they cater to a client with less disposable income as opposed to staying at one of their Crown Plaza Resorts. You also expect to pay more at the latter and tend to have a better class (there I said it) of guest.

For those of us, myself included, who see the change in the passenger mix and would prefer a different mix it may be time to move up a brand. If we are not prepared to do that, we should become more tolerant and realize that back when we started cruising there were probably some folks that looked down on us. The sea is large and can accommodate us all. We just have to decide between budget cruising or paying a little more if we have higher expectations.
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It's simply a clash of social-economic groups.

In recent years the cruise market has opened up from being only for the toffy, stiff upper lip classes to a more general holiday maker.

In the same way as workplaces dress code has evolved from suited and booted to anything down to Jeans and a shirt the cruise market has evolved to appeal to the mass market with casual dress codes, freedom dining options etc..

The problem is when a cruise line like P&O try to be a jack of all trades and attract all groups into a common ship and as with any situation being cooped up in a confined space with alcohol flowing will lead to disagreements on what are acceptable standards.

With Carnival shooting themselves in the foot killing lines like Ocean Village and promoting Ventura as the suitable replacement whilst still insisting on ship-wide formal nights clashes are only going to grow..

Some people want a freedom, enjoyable, relaxed family holiday, some people want a traditional, formal holiday.

How many 5-star hotels do you see also offering budget rooms. Imagine a Hilton with a whole floor of Travelodge-style rooms.

Most of the reported incidents are likely extremes and retaliations.
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One must also consider the roll over and play dead stance the cruise lines themselves have taken with respect to passenger responsibilities. A few demand "the right" to wear whatever clothing they desire to the dinning rooms on formal night and the cruise lines bend over and make it "sort of dress-up night, if you feel like it." Some passengers think it is their right to smoke where ever they want, hoard deck chairs and theatre seats, push ahead in lines, skip safety drills, and the cruise lines look the other way so as to not cause a stir.

We find the vast majority of the fellow passengers we've met to be very responsible,polite, and enjoyable to be around. Those few we've seen who were inconsiderate,rude, and self absorbed, were often simply patted on the head by the crew even after complaints from the other guests. The atmosphere on any cruise ship is established by those in command of the ship and their expectation should include guest responsibility and proper behavior.
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Probably the lack of consequences. During my youth, if I ever behaved like this, I knew what was coming once I got home. At time, I got what I deserved on the spot.
Battle Ground, WA
576 Posts
Joined Apr 2003
Our culture has changed over the years and courtesy has taken a back seat to narcissism and bratty "me first" attitudes.
Personally, I haven't experienced any fights, but I sure have noticed people who believe the rules don't apply to them. Saving a seat in the theater is not allowed, except for them. Formal night is required, except for them. Being on the ship at sailing time is OK for everyone else, but not necessary for them. Obviously these people did not pay attention in Kindergarten!
Lynn Haven, Fl
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Joined Mar 2007
Many of us (people) have forgotten how to be civil. We, as a society, slip lower and lower on the scale of evolution, I fear. People cannot be bothered with others; it is a me centered society for many if not most people today.

We see bad behavior in schools, stores, movie theaters, and restaurants. Whey should we expect better behavior on cruise ships?

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I cruise for Warm Chocolate Melting Cake!
North Texas area
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I have been on about 15 cruises since about 1980. In all that time, I have only seen one incident where the people involved seemed to be truely mentally disturbed. This was a group of mother, father, 10 (or so) year old son and the mother's mother. We were on a ship-sponsored tour to a Mayan ruin. The boy interupted the guide, got in his face, tried to take his mike away and generally was being very disruptive. The grandmother tried to make him behave and the mother went nuts -- it was obvious she was not mentally well. This ruined our tour because we could not hear the tour guide explaining the ruins history, the jungle around us, the birds and animals, etc.

In my working career, I had contact with many people, both co-workers and clients. I did have occasion to interact with people who were not stable. Usually, I could avoid these people. I think on a cruise ship, or on a tour, you are "stranded" with these unstable people, without the ability to leave the area. I think the ship's security should make more people leave the ship -- some of these people are truely dangerous.
Atlanta, GA
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Todays cruises are one of the most affordable ways to see other places. That being said, the new cruisers of today have never been outside their own zip code (IMHO) The world of cruises have a niche for everyone. The simple fact is, cruising is a business. They have to make money on drinks, excursions and the casino daily to be profitable. People love to blame their behavior on alcohol. Funny that we never hear about some of these activities at land based all-inclusive resorts where the drinks are free flowing. I do agree with some of the posters about the "me first" attitude. I think its a carry over of the rushed and hectic lives some people lead. Have to be first onboard, first in line for food, first to get drunk. They try to pack a years worth of vacation into 7 days or less. In time the newbie becomes the seasoned passenger and the cycle continues.
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