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Kids on Carnival Horizon (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

8 Cruise Safety Rules for Families With Children

Kids on Carnival Horizon (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)
Erica Silverstein
Senior Editor, News and Features
Aaron Saunders

Last updated
May 14, 2024

Read time
5 min read

Large cruise ships have been likened to floating cities, and like any city, bad things happen from time to time. We don't mean to scare you: a cruise vacation is about as safe as a holiday can get and while most people never have a problem, cruises are -- like anything else in the world -- not exempt from things like theft, fights and sexual assaults -- not to mention bad behavior that has led to falls and physical injury.

Most adult travelers know that by staying alert and using common sense, it's pretty easy to have a good time without incident. But traveling with the kids -- especially teens -- can be a whole different story. Raising kids to use good judgment is the first step in keeping them safe onboard, but throwing in a few rules they have to follow onboard only keeps them safer.

Here are Cruise Critic's top tips for staying safe on your next cruise with kids:

On This Page

1. Never Invite Someone Into Your Cabin (Or Go Into Someone Else's)

Cabin corridors aboard Carnival Conquest are classic Carnival, but are in good shape (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Rule number one for kids: don't go into someone else's cabin, or allow someone else into yours.

Impress on children that even if a buddy needs to grab something from his room, they should wait for him in a public place. It might seem harsh, but even if they trust the friend, they can't be certain who is waiting behind that heavy cabin door.

Corollary rule: If a child is alone in the cabin, they should not let in a crew member or any other individual if the visit is unexpected or if the child feels uncomfortable. Room service can always be left at the door.

For maximum protection when alone in your stateroom, adults and kids alike should place the "Do Not Disturb" sign out. Most crew are forbidden from entering when those signs are placed out.

2. Never Accept a Drink From Someone Else, Or Leave Yours Unattended

Child on a Holland America cruise (Photo: Holland America Line)

It's sage advice for cruise travelers of any age -- and it doesn't matter if you're drinking juice, soda or booze.

Keeping an eye on what you drink is always a good idea. Make sure you see your drink being made (or poured) in front of you. Even better if you're given an unopened can of soda or water.

A good rule of thumb: if you need to leave where you're seated for any reason, take your drink with you or leave it with a trusted family member or friend. Returning to it later -- after it's been left unattended -- is not a good idea.

3. Encourage Routine Check-Ins

Princess Cruises' Ocean Medallion (Photo: Carnival Corporation)

It's up to parents to determine how often their kids check in onboard and whether they must do it in person, or via walkie talkies, cabin-door white boards or by chatting on cruise line smartphone apps. .

This one goes both ways -- kids need to know their parents' plans and where they can find them, just as parents need to know where the kids will be. If those plans change, it's both parties' responsibilities to alert the other.

Checking in also has other benefits: you and your family can make impromptu plans to meet for activities or meals, or just to ensure that things are still going well for all involved.

Some lines, like Princess Cruises' Ocean Medallion technology, even allow you to "track" family members to see their relative positions on the ship (with their permission, of course).

4. Abide by the Cruise Line's Curfew Rules

Daily Programs often note Junior Cruiser curfews (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

There's not much reason for kids to be roaming the ship in the middle of the night. That doesn't mean parents can't let their kids stay out later than usual when on vacation -- parties in the kids' clubs often go until 1 a.m. But let your child or teen know they have to be back in the cabin once the party is over.

Kids who don't adhere can expect to be escorted back to their rooms -- with a rude awakening for the parents.

5. Follow The Cruise Line's Rules

A balcony cabin on Celebrity Reflection. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

We all know how groups of kids or teens can egg each other on to do crazy stunts. On an 18-deck ship with open balconies a hundred feet above the sea and multi-story atriums, and pools unattended by lifeguards, daredevils can find themselves in danger.

Impress on your kids that horseplay is not allowed. No climbing on railings (or furniture near railings) or from one balcony to the next, no leaning out from windows or over the edge of the ship, no diving into pools and no racing across slippery pool decks or down steep flights of stairs.

Doing any of these things can land kids (and parents) in serious trouble that can result in removal from the ship -- and a possible ban from cruising with that line in the future. Modern ships have hundreds of cameras onboard, meaning staff will be able to decisively prove - from several angles, likely - what went on.

And if your kids come back and tell you they've seen something like the above happening: report it immediately to the Guest Relations desk.

6. Never Enter Crew-Only Spaces

One of severa engine rooms aboard Sun Princess (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Unless you've paid for a behind-the-scenes tour or happen to have a family member who works onboard, there is absolutely no reason for kids or teens to enter spaces marked Crew Only -- even if invited.

Entering on your own will result in swift action being taken that can include being disembarked at the next port. Entering crew areas at the behest of a crew member you don't know is a strict no-no for both parties.

7. Use the Buddy System

Kids in Andy's Room on Disney Fantasy (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)

While there isn't always safety in numbers, it's better than being alone. Have siblings or friends from your travel group stick together, or if kids are hanging out with new friends, parents might want to make a point to meet them (and their parents) before letting them roam the entire vessel alone.

Staying together in groups is always a good idea, even during the daytime.

And if you see something you don't like: ask a crewmember or trusted adult for help.

8. At Least One Parent Should Stay Sober

A refreshing pool deck beer comes included with a drink package (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

While some cruise lines allow kids 18 or older to drink - depending on destination -- most U.S.-based lines limit the age of consumption to 21.

Alcohol consumption by minors frequently leads to a whole host of problems. But the same holds true for adults.

It's good practice to have one parent stay sober (or sober-ish) at all times as well. The last thing kids need is two parents unable to make smart decisions or assist them if they're in trouble.

Being mindful of alcohol consumption doesn't just hold true onboard: parents should keep that in mind while ashore, too. That doesn't mean you can't have a drink or two, but only you know your limits. A ship won't wait for you and your family if you drink a bit too much and lose track of time.

This list is fairly strict, and we can see parents thinking: How in the world will I get my independent kids to mind these rules? The answer is simple. If they break even one rule, they will suffer the most horrible punishment imaginable: the next 24 hours spent entirely by their parents' sides.

Publish date October 10, 2019
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