The Unspoken Rules of Drinking on a Cruise Ship

Mark Yocca / Supercall

Cruise ships are all-in-one floating vacations, complete with pools, mini-golf, live entertainment, gambling, never-ending shrimp and, of course, a bar every thirty paces or so. Cruise ships are like no other place on Earth, so, of course, they come with their own set of rules—especially when it comes to drinking. To make sure you have the best time at sea, follow these cruise ship drinking guidelines.

Pace Yourself

This is not a two-hour booze cruise. This is your vacation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the options and start pouring Piña Coladas down your throat like there’s about to be a coconut shortage. But take a deep breath, sip your free welcome cocktail and know that there’s plenty of time to drink through the bar’s entire rum selection.

Embrace Vacation You

Everyone has a vacation version of themselves—it’s the you who wears big floppy hats and colorful shirts and joins conga lines. Let your vacation self order drinks, too. You might be a Manhattan drinker on shore, but here on the briney, you drink Mai Tais and Rum Runners.

But Limit Sugary Drinks

Just because vacation you wants Blue Hawaiis and Painkillers doesn’t mean that’s all you should drink. Drinking only sugary tropical punches all day will lead to a not great morning, so alternate with beer, wine or Highballs like Vodka Sodas (with a splash of lime juice, because you are still on vacation, after all).

Remember Sunscreen

As the day goes on and your drinks start to add up, you might forget to re-apply sunscreen, which might lead to vacation you waking up as red as the lobster you enjoyed at dinner. Set an alarm on your phone. Ask a friend to nudge you every hour. Tip one of the staff and ask them give you regular reminder. Whatever you do, keep slathering on that SPF.

If You’ve Had More Than a Couple Drinks, Skip the Water Slide

The Chi Chis you just had might be telling you it’s a good idea to barrel head first down the water slide or do your Happy Gilmore impression on the mini-golf course, but trust us, it’s not. Wait until you’re more clear headed to engage in any activity where there is a large population of children.

Take Naps (Under Umbrellas)

Napping is an underrated vacation activity. Submit to the easy rocking of the boat and drift off to dreamland on a deck chair—just make sure you’re under an umbrella, or risk that lobster situation we talked about earlier. Daytime naps mean more energy for night time drinking at the ship’s super cool discotech.

Do Not Mass Claim Bar Stools

Everyone knows you aren’t allowed to save more than one deck chair on a cruise. Well, the same goes for bar stools. It’s just not polite to drape your towel over five stools, effectively claiming the bar as your own private drinking establishment.

Don’t Be a Snob

You’re on a boat. Enjoy being on a boat. Enjoy the cold, probably not craft beer and the refreshing, probably not fancy wine. It’s very possible your bartender doesn’t know how to make a Boulevardier. But, guess what, he can make a damn fine Rum Punch. Enjoy it.

You’re Not Too Cool for the Parties

Organized activities can make you feel like you’re back at college orientation, but we’ll let you in on a secret: Many of the parties or events on cruise ships come with free booze. So suck it up and attend the captain’s soiree or the hula hooping contest.

Bartenders Make the Best Buddies

If you’re on a first name basis with a bartender, then you’re getting a drink before anyone else. Don’t be creepy about it, but do make sure to buddy up with a bartender or two when you first get on the ship. Hint: Tipping helps.

Keep the Cocktails Out of the Pool

Drinking while soaking is great, but soaking in someone else’s drink is gross. Even if you have a deathgrip on your cocktail, someone might bump you and your frozen slushie could end up contaminating the pristine pool. Just leave it on deck. It will be there when you get out.

If You Insist on Smuggling Booze, Make Sure You Do It Right

While we absolutely do not condone sneaking alcohol onto a cruise ship, we accept that it is a fact of seafaring life. If you decide to smuggle booze aboard, make sure you do it right. For example, line the inside of a shampoo bottle with plastic wrap before pouring wine into it. Because no matter how thoroughly you wash that bottle out, it will still make your Pinot Noir taste like tea tree oil.