Suppose you’re planning on taking an upcoming cruise. In that case, chances are likely that you’ve thought about all the things you should or shouldn’t do while on the cruise ship (things like definitely checking out the cruise line’s list of daily activities, from bingo to trivia, or definitely not buying an overpriced shore excursion) — but what about the things you should or shouldn’t do near a cruise ship?

Whether you’re traveling on a cruise or just to a destination where cruise ships are often at port, these are the top things you should never do near a cruise ship, if you want to avoid fines, injury or other dangers.

Many cruise lines, from Carnival to Princess, offer jet ski excursions so that you can take to the waters while the ship is in port, and see your island locale from a different viewpoint.

However, while jet skiing can be an incredibly fun experience to add to your cruise itinerary, it’s important that you’re careful to only jet ski in approved areas and you should never jet ski near a cruise ship.

While you might be confident in your jet skiing skills, cruise ships can pose a big risk to your safety. There are numerous news reports where travelers have jet skied too closely to ships and narrowly escaped disaster.

In 2018, a video went viral when a jet skier steered too closely to a container ship. After the skier skims the side of the ship, they’re sucked underneath the water (thankfully, the skier survived).

In 2017, two jet skiers exploring the harbor in Cape Canaveral faced the oncoming Carnival Magic; they had fallen off their jet ski and they were in the water in a case of wrong place, wrong time. The two would’ve been hit by the ship had they not been rescued by a sheriff’s department boat at just the right moment. The ship did hit the skiers’ jet ski.

Most cruise ships offer travelers very specific places where they can smoke, whether that’s a public shared space or just on their balconies (a select few cruise lines allow you to smoke in your private cabin, such as Seabourn, which allows cruisers to smoke e-cigarettes in their suites). However, no matter where you plan to light up, you should avoid smoking on the ship while the ship is refueling.

Cruise Ship Refueling (Photon Credit: Wojciech Wrzesien)

Refueling occurs on embarkation and debarkation days and cruise lines prohibit all smoking on the ship during this time. Just like smoking while pumping gasoline comes with a fire risk, so does smoking while the ship is refueling.

Read Also: How Much Does it Cost to Fuel a Cruise Ship?

If you find that this will be an inconvenience for you, some cruise lines, like Carnival, suggest you pick a late arrival appointment, so that you can smoke ahead of arriving at the cruise ship.

You can then have less time to wait until the ship is on its way, and smoking is permitted again (an announcement will be made when this is the case).

After a ship docks, mooring lines are used to keep the ship in place during the ship’s visit to a port of call, allowing cruisers to safely disembark. It’s very important that passengers do not touch or mess with these mooring lines.

If the mooring lines break or if the ship is freed from the mooring lines for some reason, it can cause significant damage or injury, as this allows the ship to essentially drift away (not to mention smaller, less significant issues, such as itinerary delays).

Cruise Ship Mooring Lines (Photo Credit: byvalet)

Ships breaking from their mooring lines have occurred for multiple reasons, not just because of curious passengers. In January 2024, Norwegian Prima broke free from her mooring lines while passengers were debarking in Galveston, Texas. While this case, which was caused by strong winds, didn’t cause any injuries, it did cause gangway closures and delays.

Similarly, also in January 2024, MSC Sinfonia broke free from her mooring lines due to high winds and the ship drifted away from its dock in Sicily, causing damage to the docks and other, nearby ships.

Just like you shouldn’t drive a jet ski too close to a cruise ship, as it causes a serious risk of injury or even death, you should also never swim near a cruise ship or too close to the edge of the pier.

Regarding piers, the National Weather Service warns against swimming near any piers or pilings, as dangers abound. Rip currents, other strong currents and chaotic waves are more likely near these structures, and the structures themselves are often covered in items that could cause injury, such as sharp barnacles.

Passengers Swimming Near Docked Cruise Ships (Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators)

As for swimming too close to a cruise ship, the same dangers exist as when you jet ski too closely to a cruise ship. You could easily be sucked underneath the water and the ship; additionally, the ship’s movement can cause unpredictable waves and water swells.

Numerous incidences have been reported of swimmers dying after swimming too close to a cruise ship. For example, in 2022, a Miami man in Alaska swam in front of the bow of a docked cruise ship (Norwegian Jewel) and was seen to be struggling once he neared the cruise ship, before he disappeared under the water. His body was recovered sometime later. 

Even just the much smaller tenders can cause issues for swimmers, as has been reported in Hawaii, where swimmers have needed rescue after encountering strong underwater currents created by the boats.

Whether you’re standing ashore and flying your drone over a port or traveling on a cruise ship and want to break out your drone to get some cool footage of your cruise ship from the skies, think twice before you do so.

Drone During Travel (Photo Credit: Lucigerma)

Most cruise lines outright ban bringing a drone onboard. Only Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean allow you to bring drones onboard, but you’re not allowed to actually use the drone while you’re on the ship.

Carnival said that this was due to multiple reasons, including the risk that you might accidentally fly the drone into another cruiser, causing injury, or fly the drone into the ship, damaging it. You have to wait until you’ve left the ship and are ashore.

Worth Reading: What Are Port Fees on a Cruise?

Even then, you may not be able to use your drone, depending on the destination. Many destinations have guidelines around where you can and can’t fly drones, with specific guidelines for ports, and some even require that you register for a drone-flying permit. For example, Galveston doesn’t allow you to fly drones within a certain distance of the cruise terminal or ships.

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