A cruise is a pretty straightforward vacation in most ways. Show up at the gangway, head to your cabin, unpack, and start enjoying yourself. There are, however, a few quirks you may not be aware of, including these five things that often surprise first-timers:
Ship time may be different from shore time.
As ships sail though different time zones, they usually adjust their official onboard clocks to match the time in port — but not always, since it’s at the discretion of the cruise line.
As a result, it could be 2 pm on the ship’s clocks and 3 pm in port. Make sure you know the observed time before venturing onshore so you don’t miss the ship when it sails away — or precious time in port.
You shouldn’t wear camouflage.
Wearing camouflage-style clothing on many Caribbean islands (including Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, and St. Kitts) is against the law because people have tried to impersonate local police or military officials to harass or rob people. If you’re seen wearing camouflage clothing while in port, the real police on these islands may ask you to change your clothes or — worse — charge you a fine or even arrest you.
The food may have traveled farther than you did.
Because of strict quality control regulations that cruise lines choose to follow, most food is shipped from the cruise line’s headquarters. So even if you’re cruising in Alaska or Asia, that grilled halibut, prime rib, and bottle of Chianti you’re enjoying at dinner were brought to the ship all the way from, say, Miami (where Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines are based) or Rotterdam, Netherlands (where Holland America Line and SeaDream Yacht Club get their provisions).
There could be dead people onboard (really).
In the unfortunate event that a passenger or crew member dies while at sea, most ships have spaces to hold the bodies until the next appropriate port of call — and passengers are not notified in these incidents. Some cruise lines just use regular freezers; others have mini-morgues.
You’ll probably drink some desalinated seawater.
Cruise ships carry fresh water onboard in large water tanks for drinking, washing, and doing laundry, and they often pick up more water in port. However, big ships don’t have the space to carry enough potable water for thousands of passengers and crew for an entire cruise, so they have desalination machinery to convert seawater into drinking water. (Cheers!) The good news: You probably won’t be able to tell the difference.