Elevators on cruise ships are constantly in use. Every single hour, elevators carry folks up to the buffet, and down to the theater. They are filled with kids heading up to the pool and adults going down to the bars, shops and casino. And we’re here to attest, not everyone understands the unwritten rules of good elevator etiquette on a cruise.

So, before you head out to sea on your next cruise, for the love of God, please take note.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

1. Let people off before you get on

When the elevator doors open, make sure to stand to the side to let people off before getting on. If you think about it, this really makes a lot of sense. It’s a simple concept, yet apparently (and frustratingly) it’s incredibly difficult for some folks to grasp. And if you’re traveling with children, please be sure to teach them this lesson early and remind them often.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

2. Make a decision

Know where you want to go before you push the call button. On our last cruise, I saw a man change his mind three times about whether he wanted to get off the elevator on deck five or ride one more to deck six. Each time the doors started to close he’d move, causing them to re-open and making everyone else on the elevator wait for his indecision. It’s okay to change your mind on where you want to go. It’s not okay, though, to make 10 other people wait for you to make up your mind.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

3. Leave the food at the buffet

You’d think this would go without saying, but after recently watching a man bring a plate of chicken wings onto the elevator and suck the meat off the bones in front of us, it doesn’t. Good elevator etiquette on a cruise means remembering that no one wants to watch you eat or hear you chew your food in close quarters. And don’t even think about touching the buttons with your greasy, buffalo sauce-covered fingers.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

4. Good elevator etiquette on a cruise means no video chats

The advent of better internet on cruise ships means that it’s now possible to talk on the phone with folks back on shore. The elevator, however, is NOT the place for that conversation. On our last cruise, we got to ride from deck six to deck 11 with a woman who was chatting with a friend via FaceTime on speakerphone. We’re glad she has a friend, but we didn’t need to hear the description of her dinner last night or her story on how she got a rash on her excursion to the beach. Our day (and the six other people on the elevator who all rolled their eyes and shook their heads with us) would have been a little better had she kept that conversation in her cabin. We’re aghast that anyone could be so selfish as to demand those around stand in silence while she carries on a conversation the phone.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

5. Good elevator etiquette on a cruise: watch the backpack

Backpacks are super handy to take ashore on excursions as they hold supplies like sunglasses, sunblock and a bottle of water. They are also great for carrying souvenirs you purchase and I take one with me at every port. But when getting on the elevator, remember that you have an extension on your back. In other words, recall that space is limited and turning around quickly might slam the pack into someone else. Good elevator etiquette on a cruise means being careful and thinking of those around you.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

6. Don’t sit on the floor

Sadly, we’ve seen this one enough that we have to include it on our list — mostly as something parents should teach their children about good elevator etiquette on a cruise. Elevators are tight spaces, and sitting on the floor takes up lots of space. Plus, for a tall guy like me, sitting kids are hard to see; I don’t want to step on them.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

7. Dry off for good elevator etiquette on a cruise

It never ceases to amaze me when I see someone (again, usually a kid whose parents didn’t teach him/her any better) get on an elevator while dripping wet after a swim in the pool. It’s one thing to have a damp swim suit for the trip back to the cabin, and another entirely to be dripping wet from head to toe, often barefoot, leaving a trail of puddles behind.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

8. A basic of good elevator etiquette on a cruise: Don’t pass gas

No one wants this in an elevator. No one. Ventilation is very limited. And no crop dusting while walking out of the elevator, either! Please, please, please hold it until you’re safely in the hall (and preferably outside or in a bathroom).

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

9. Don’t hold the door (for too long)

Like so many things in life, this rule has some nuance to it. Please do hold the door if it starts to close while people standing by the elevator are trying to get on. This is not only fine, it’s the polite thing to do. However, don’t hold the door to wait for someone who isn’t near the elevator, yet. If it will be more than five or six seconds, either leave without them, or wait for the next one. Another will be along shortly. Even if no one else is on the elevator, there might be someone waiting for it on a different floor.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

10. Good elevator etiquette on a cruise: step to the rear

When the elevator is busy, step to the back and make room at the front. Yes, there might be some awkward re-shuffling of people when the folks in the back need to get off before the folks in the front, but moving to the back makes it easier for everyone to get on. You can find your way to the front when it’s time for you to get off.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

11. Kids might not always get to push the buttons

Kids have liked to push elevator buttons since the day the first elevator doors closed. While cruising, I invite them push the buttons when possible. But sometimes the elevators get very crowded very fast, and kids on the elevator might need to step to the rear and lose their status as button captain. This is okay, as there will be another opportunity to ride the elevator again very soon. in fact, this situation is a great one for teaching good elevator etiquette on a cruise to kids.


good elevator etiquette

And, as a side note, for the love of all that is holy, please teach your kids that it isn’t funny to press the button for every floor right before they get off the elevator. Thank you.

Elevator etiquette on a cruise ship

12. Use the stairs

This is another nuance rule. For folks who have mobility issues, disregard this rule and take the elevator without guilt. For everyone else: if you’re just going one or two floors, please consider using the stairs. It’s likely faster for you, and it helps the elevators keep moving for those folks traveling more decks.

If you haven’t noticed by now, there is one common theme to all these rules: think of others. This is a concept that is sadly being lost in society today as people are more and more concerned with themselves and pay less attention to the people around them. So next time you’re on a cruise ship elevator (or any elevator for that matter), think about how your behaviors impact others and give these tips a try.