ETIQUETTE


It's hard to write about this subject. There's an old salt's expression, "different ships, different long-splices". Each ship, each company, and each country have their own seafaring customs and traditions. The best rule of thumb is "when in Rome, do as the Romans do". Watch how others conduct themselves, and try to take clues from them about what is expected of you.

As a passenger the most important thing to remember is not to get in the way of people who are working. Stay off the decks during cargo operations. Stay out of the pilot house and chart room when navigating in restricted waters or when a pilot is aboard. It is best to talk to the captain about visiting the bridge at any time. Keep out of the engine room unless invited, and unlike the film "Titanic" keep out of the cargo holds and don't climb on the railing, especially on the bow and stern. I doubt that the White Star Line would have allowed any passengers in those areas. These are the don'ts of shipboard conduct.

Always address the captain as captain, or captain Smith, etc., not by his first name. Other officers should be addressed as Mr., or these days Mrs. or Miss might be appropriate. Always be on time for your meals. If you come early or late it causes conflicts in the seating arrangements in the mess hall. Unless invited don't help yourself to things in the refrigerator, they may be someone's private stores. Keep yourself clean, but remember fresh water is a valuable commodity at sea, and don't spend a long time under the shower. Try not to complain too much about things that can't be changed, such as the schedule, weather, or crew. I sailed with Lykes for many years, and found that the passengers liked to write to the company about their trip, including their impressions of the captain and crew. Lykes took them seriously, and forwarded them to the ship, good or bad. For that reason the captain and crew became nervous around passengers, and developed a dislike for them. They liked cargo that didn't talk. Think of those passengers who follow you, and don't be a "pipeline" to headquarters.

If you go ashore during meal hours, enjoy a meal ashore, don't pack a picnic lunch or rush back at the last minute to ask for dinner when the crew are cleaning up the dining room. Don't invite crew members into your quarters, or go into theirs, either. The company doesn't need the legal problems that arise when this policy is violated. When entering and leaving port, don't bother the captain or crew. It is a busy time for them. I always felt pressured when passengers would be asking me about city tours, money changing, etc. when I was trying to clear the ship and start the cargo operations as quickly as possible. Treat your quarters like your own home. Try to keep things orderly and neat, even though the steward will maintain your cabin.

Finally, you are going on the trip to relax and have fun more than to be at a destination at a specific time. Try to keep your need for communication with the outside world to a minimum. If you need to sell a contract for hog bellies, do it before you go on board ship. Don't create situations where you have to do something important during the time of your voyage. You can take your notebook computer, but I don't think you will be happy if you have to "surf the web" and check your email on a daily basis. On the ships I sailed, this would have been nearly impossible. Today it is possible, but telephone connections via satellite are expensive and limited.