Cruise Ducks: The Whimsical Tradition You Didn’t Know About

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A rubber duck sitting on the side of a cruise ship pool

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Cruise ducks are a fun and heartwarming activity popular among cruise passengers.

As you walk around the ship and discover rubber ducks, you can keep them as souvenirs or re-hide them for others to find. 

Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of hiding and finding cruise ducks.

What are Cruise Ducks?

A rubber duck sitting on the side of a cruise ship poolPin

Cruise ducks are a fun and engaging activity for passengers onboard a cruise ship. People take small plastic or rubber ducks and hide in various cruise ship areas. The cruise tradition creates a mini-scavenger hunt for passengers to participate.

When you find a duck on a cruise ship, you can keep it or re-hide it to continue the game.

Some people keep the ducks they find as souvenirs of their trip.

The idea behind ducks on cruise ships is to create a fun activity and foster a sense of community, interaction, and adventure during your journey.

So you may be asking, why ducks?

The simple answer is that rubber duckies are cute, universally recognizable, and easy to find. They’re also fairly cheap and only take up a little space in your luggage.

You can even get creative and bring themed ducks that showcase your personality. You can find unique ducks on Amazon, Etsy, or even travel-themed shops.

While the trend dates back to at least 2015, most people credit the trend’s popularity to a 10-year-old girl named Abby Davis.

When sailing on Carnival Breeze in 2018 with her family, Abby brought 50 little ducks to hide around the ship.

Throughout the cruise, Abby and her family interacted with passengers who shared the joy and excitement of finding the little yellow toys.

Today, cruise ducks are a common pastime for cruise ship passengers.

You can find them on every cruise line if you keep your eye out.

I’ve found ducks on Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages, Carnival Cruise Line, and Celebrity cruises.

Many cruisers have created Facebook groups where you can share your findings and connect with other passengers who hide and search for cruising ducks.

Types of Ducks (And Where to Get Them)

five funny themed rubber cruise ducksPin

You’ll find all kinds of rubber ducks, from holiday themes like Christmas and Easter to more fun designs like pirates, unicorns, royalty, or ones with wacky hats and accessories.

Remember, the sky’s the limit when customizing your duckies.

You can get cute rubber duckies from a dollar store, Amazon, Etsy, or onboard most cruise ships. 

Many cruise ships now offer claw games, where the prize is, you guessed it, a rubber duck.

Some cruisers add or personalize them with unique accessories. Other people get really creative by knitting or crocheting their own ducks.

The more inventive you can be, the more joy you’ll bring to fellow passengers when they discover your hidden treasure on their cruise vacations.

Rules for Hiding Ducks

The game is simple: passengers hide rubber ducks throughout the ship for others to find.

There aren’t any formal rules to the game, but we’ve put together some general guidelines to make the most of this activity.

  1. Hide your ducks in public spaces.
  2. Never hide a duck in a spot that could cause danger to someone looking to retrieve it.
  3. Don’t place ducks in retail stores; otherwise, the finder may look like a shoplifter.
  4. Refrain from hiding ducks in restrooms, spa facilities, fitness centers, restaurants, or any other places where hygiene is a concern.
  5. If you place a label on the toy, ensure the label’s content is family-friendly.
  6. If you place the duck outside, ensure it is safe from the wind. You don’t want your duck to be swept into the ocean, as it is against the cruise line’s policies and environmental concerns.

Keeping these guidelines in mind ensures the activity remains fun for everyone.

And don’t worry; there are plenty of places to hide your duck on the cruise ship. My favorite hiding places are the tops of signs, plants, sculptures, and bookshelves.

Some people like to attach little notes to the duck. The “cruise duck tags” usually contain a story about the passenger or a heartfelt message to the person who finds it.

After hiding a duck, it’s a lot of fun to sit and wait to see if someone finds it. You can check your hiding spot later in the cruise to see if your rubber duck has been discovered. 

Tips for Finding Ducks

A rubber duck I found on my Celebrity Cruise VacationPin
Here’s a rubber duck I found on my Celebrity Cruise Vacation

Finding toy ducks is half the fun.

Here are some tips to help you locate those hidden treasures:

  1. Keep your eyes open: Cruise ducks can be hidden virtually anywhere on the ship. Be attentive while walking around the vessel, and keep an eye out for small ducks hiding in nooks and crannies. You’ll often find ducks in hallways, on the pool deck, in the atrium, and in other public spaces.
  2. Visit popular spots: Some areas on the ship are more popular hiding spots for cruise ducks. For example, on Carnival cruise ships, the RedFrog Pub is known to have ducks hidden in the restaurant’s fake palm trees.
  3. Connect with fellow duck enthusiasts: Joining cruise-related social media groups or forums can help you connect with other duck fans. They can provide hints or share locations of ducks they’ve found on your specific cruise ship. The Cruising Ducks Facebook Page has over 200,000 members!
  4. Keep it fun: Remember that finding cruise ducks is meant to be a lighthearted and enjoyable activity. Don’t get too competitive or frustrated if you can’t find any ducks during your cruise. The main goal is to have fun and create lasting memories.
  5. Revisit hiding spots: Ducks migrate to new areas each time someone finds one. If you’re keen on finding a duck, it pays to check the same locations multiple times throughout your cruise vacation.
  6. Post on social media (optional): It’s not mandatory, but many people post photos of the ducks they find on social media. So, take a picture, and use #cruisingducks to spread the joy.

When you find a duck, you can keep it as a souvenir, re-hide it in a new spot, or return it for another guest to see.

There’s no judgment about what you do when you find a duck. I like to re-hide them, but the choice is yours.

What Do Cruise Lines Think?

Cruise lines generally appreciate the cruise duck tradition as it adds an element of fun and excitement for passengers on board. It encourages engagement and interaction among guests, creating a sense of community during their voyage.

Most cruise lines have embraced the phenomenon, adding claw machines where passengers can win a little duck to hide on the ship.

Some cruise staff even get involved, joining the hunt or helping to hide ducks in creative locations.

I’ve talked to several people who hide ducks in their staterooms for the crew to find. If you want the cabin steward to take the duck, leave a note telling them it’s intended for them.

Otherwise, they may avoid taking it, thinking it’s your belonging.

But not everyone loves the duck tradition.

Some passengers feel so strongly against the scavenger hunt that they suggest cruise lines ban ducks altogether.

Carnival Cruise Line’s Brand Ambassador, John Heald, was asked in a Facebook group if the cruise line would ban rubber ducks. Heal said that “Many of the crew love finding the ducks and have them in their cabins as they bring them cheer.” He added, “We have absolutely no problem with guests leaving them as we do think it’s fun.”

As of now, were not aware of any cruise line adding rubber ducks to their list of prohibited items.

So go ahead and join the fun.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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