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Why some people hate hiding ducks on a cruise ship fad

08 Apr 2024
Elizabeth Wright

In recent years, a particular trend has emerged within the cruising community: the practice of hiding ducks. Though a seemingly harmless game of hide-and-seek sea, the phenomenon has received its fair share of hate. 

Photo by Ken Jarvis

According to Cruising Ducks, the tradition was supposedly started by an 11-year-old on a cruise sailing out of Galveston. Abby Davis asked her mother if they could purchase rubber ducks for their sailing. 

Throughout their 7-night cruise, they hid seven ducks per day for other passengers to find. Supposedly, they hid a duck on the BlueIguana sign onboard their Carnival ship, and it wasn't found for three days! 

Critics of the activity argue that they contribute to the spreading of germs, as well as detract from the refined experience many passengers expect onboard a cruise ship. Nobody wants to see a duck that was accidentally knocked over into food in the buffet. 

Photo posted by WAYNO on Royal Caribbean Blog's discussion forum

One comment on a Cruise Radio Facebook post went as far as stating that hiding ducks contributes to the "dumbing down of America," with others advocating for a "cruise duck assassin club." There's even a Facebook group dedicated to the ducks' demise, "Cruising Ducks-Death Squad," though it's not as popular as those in favor of hiding ducks. 

A separate post in a Virgin Voyages group asks for those sailing on the adult-only line to leave the ducks at home, as it's a "childish hobby." 

There are plenty of environmental concerns, too. Those against the hiding of ducks have circulated rumors that any found by crew members and guests are often thrown overboard into the sea. John Heald, Carnival Cruise Line's Brand Ambassador, took to Facebook to clear up the issue.

Photo posted by Neesa on Royal Caribbean Blog's discussion forum

"This is completely untrue," he wrote, "Let me say this, if any crew member throws anything overboard, they would be in serious trouble and would for sure face disciplinary action....many of the crew love finding the ducks and have them in their cabins, as they bring them cheer." 

Other cruisers have reported seeing ducks in the trash, citing that participating is wasteful. 

Despite the controversy, duck-hiding lovers claim that it adds an element of fun and fosters a sense of community by connecting passengers from around the world

Photo posted by asquared17 on Royal Caribbean Blog's discussion forum

Even with all of the negativity surrounding hiding ducks on cruise ships, it remains a popular tradition. Today, the original Facebook group has over 258,000 members, and you'll find countless Reddit forums dedicated to discussing and sharing duck-related experiences. 

Guests can search for line-specific groups as well. "Carnival Cruising Ducks" has over 66,000 members, whereas "Royal Caribbean Cruising Ducks," has around 51,000. 

Oftentimes, those who want to participate will customize the ducks in some way. You may, for instance, find a duck with an informational sheet indicating the duck's origin, like New York City or Orlando. 

Photo posted by tiny260 on Royal Caribbean Blog's discussion forum

Imagine discovering a duck from England when you live in the United States! You can choose to re-hide it or keep it as a souvenir; however, make sure that you don't throw it in the trash. If you don't want it, leave it for someone else to find!

Should you decide to keep the duck, look to see if there are any instructions on the tag, if applicable, as to where the hider wants it to be shared. Guests often like to figure out where their duck is traveling to! It makes the experience more memorable for everyone. 

Those cruising around a holiday, such as Valentine's Day, Halloween, or Christmas, may find themed ducks during their voyage, too. 

If you plan on hiding decks on your next cruise, make sure that you're respectful of the ship's rules and regulations

Photo posted by RWDW1204 on Royal Caribbean Blog's discussion forum

Though you want to hide ducks in public areas, as nobody will find a duck stashed away in your stateroom, there are some guidelines to be mindful of. 

A general consensus amongst duck hiders is that the ducks shouldn't be hidden near food. Rather than leave one near food in the Windjammer, consider placing it in a commonplace location, such as a stairwell, where it won't be seen as an inconvenience to other passengers.

You'll also want to avoid placing ducks in the pools and hot tubs, as young children may endanger themselves by reaching for them and falling in. Shops with merchandise available for purchase are off-limits, too. You don't want anyone to get in trouble because it looked like they were shoplifting!

Photo posted by foulmouthedleon on Royal Caribbean Blog's discussion forum

While indoor railings, such as those in the stairwell, are okay, don't place ducks somewhere they could fall overboard. Royal Caribbean forbids guests from throwing things over the side of the ship; you don't want to get caught breaking this rule

When hunting, you'll want to ensure you're acting respectfully, too. Avoid running and destroying cruise ship property. Those who are too rowdy may accidentally injure themselves or another passenger. 

If you're sailing on an Oasis or Icon Class ship, be cautious of placing ducks in Central Park, as children may see it as an opportunity to crawl through the greenery. The horticulturists work hard to maintain all the plants onboard, and hiding ducks in them can inadvertently damage them. 

Ducks can be purchased on Amazon for less than $15

Photo posted by asquared17 on Royal Caribbean Blog's discussion forum

Looking forward to your summer cruise? Instead of bringing standard yellow ducks, spice up your experience by purchasing pirate-themed ducks. You can even find some that are patriotic if you happen to be sailing over the Fourth of July

Families sailing together over the holidays can get Christmas or Hanukkah ducks to spread festive cheer, while those cruising in October can embrace the spirit of Halloween with some spooky-themed ducks

Please note that we have linked Amazon items above, which contain affiliate links. The affiliate link costs you nothing extra, but Royal Caribbean Blog will make a small commission if you purchase the item through the link.

Elizabeth graduated from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with her M.A. in Journalism in May 2023. Growing up, she had the privilege of traveling frequently with her family and fell in love with cruising after sailing on the Oasis of the Seas her freshman year of high school. She wanted to pursue a career that highlighted her passion for travel and strengths as a writer. 

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