Easy Entertaining, Modern Manners

Why a family cruise is a great opportunity to practice manners

My family recently went on a Carnival cruise to the Bahamas. Not only was it a relaxing and fun-filled tropical getaway, it actually provided many opportunities for my girls (ages 10 and 14) to practice their manners. I knew the sit-down dinners in the dining room would give them that opportunity, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many other opportunities presented themselves. I wanted to share a few of those with you in case a cruise is in your vacation plans, and so that you can be a little more prepared than I was and take even better advantage of cruise manner opportunities – and because it’s Modern Manners Monday here on Behind the Scenes Belle.

In the Dining Room

I purposefully planned for us to eat in the dining room every night (most cruise lines give you other options). I will admit that I panicked a little when I thought of the way the seating arrangements were made the last time I cruise (19 years ago). At that time, my husband and I were seated at a table with people we had never met. We have never met a stranger and had a great time getting to know them. But we were adults and had practice with more formal dinners. I was more than a little worried that our family would end up sitting with some perfectly lovely family who would soon tire of us correcting our girls or worse yet, seeing them forget to finish chewing before they started talking.

We did end up with our own family table – which seems to be more of the norm these days. This worked out great because it gave us the opportunity to gently remind the girls of their manners without embarrassing them or anyone else at the table with us. The table setting was more formal than we typically have on a  weeknight at home, but it was not overly dressed with so many utensils as to be confusing. The wait staff was amazing and treated the girls like adults so they in-turn conducted themselves like adults by addressing the staff by name, asking questions, making their requests in a polite manner, and expressing genuine gratitude. I would definitely recommend that you use this exposure opportunity at least a few times on your cruise – plus the food is amazing!

At the Buffet


Most of our other meals were eaten at the amazing buffets on the Lido Deck. Buffets present a whole different set of manners challenges and opportunities. Here are a few of the things we reminded our girls of:

  • Take a minute to survey the items (out of line and not in anyone’s way) to determine what you would like to try before going through the line filling your plate with things that may not appeal to you and then have no room for what you really like.
  • Do not pile your plate like you are having your last meal. You can always go back, and if you do, be sure to get a clean plate.
  • Keep the line moving and don’t hover too long in one place. You can always come back to something later.
  • But – even if the person in front of you is moving slowly, don’t try to reach around them. This presents too many opportunities for accidents.
  • Use the serving utensils provided to obtain food from that dish. Don’t use one serving spoon for something else, and never touch anything with your hands – expect maybe whole fruit.
  • Even if there are attendants coming around to clean the tables – leave yours as neat as possible to make their job easier.

Not just all about the food

As you can tell, we really enjoyed the food on this trip! But it was not all about the food – just the fact that you were on a small floating city with a few thousand very close neighbors provided even more opportunities to practice cruise manners.

Sharing a Room

We had a good size room for our family, but we are not accustomed to all sharing the same room and same bathroom for any extended period of time. This encouraged (ok forced) everyone to keep their area neat and to put their own things away when done if they did not want them stuck somewhere. It also allowed us to practice a certain level of consideration with taking turns in the bathroom which can be a pretty big deal with teen and tween girls.


Getting from here to there – elevators and stairs

Thanks to all of the glorious calories we consumed (have I mentioned we liked the food), we took the stairs most of the time. Simple things like staying to the right, not taking up the entire width of the staircase and not running can make getting in all of those steps much more pleasant for everyone. We did take the glass elevators when they were available as my youngest was obsessed with them. We had to remind her every time to let the people inside out first before charging in. From the number of times we got charged in on, I think my daughter is the not the only one who could have used this reminder.

Speaking with the Staff

I mentioned how my girls interacted with the dining room wait staff earlier, but every crew member we came in contact with on the ship, salesperson and tour guide in the ports, and staff member on the excursions all gave the girls excellent opportunities to address adults in a polite and meaningful way. Our girls are not shy and they are accustomed to speaking for themselves, but if you have younger children or ones that are more apprehensive to speak to strangers who can help them, these wonderful people were all patient and kind.

Now please don’t think we were sticks in the mud and made the whole trip a teaching opportunity. We laughed, we played, we swam, we danced, we sang, we embarrassed our kids, we played way more Bingo than one family probably should, but the nature of the trip offered many organic (and mostly unnoticeable to our kids) opportunities to practice cruise manners.

Have you used a vacation or family trip to practice manners? Do you have tips for me – cruise or manners related? I would love to hear them. Until then…

Stay humble, work hard, be kind.


Wendy - Behind the Scenes Belle




Behind the Scenes Belle shares how a family cruise can be both a fun-filled tropical getaway and a great opportunity for kids to practice their manners without even realizing it. From the meals in the dining room, to sharing small spaces, to interacting with the crew - the opportunities are endless, fun and effective!

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