Cruise Ducks: Tips, Rules & Everything You Need to Know

cruising ducks - cruising trend that will quack you up

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If you’re going on a cruise and have heard about cruise ducks, you might be wondering what its all about. Cruise ducks have been around for a few years and the fun trend is only becoming more popular!

While hiding cruise ducks is most well known on Carnival cruises, you’re likely to find cruising ducks on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Disney and other popular cruise lines.

I’ve been cruising for about 20 years, and first heard about cruise ducks about 5 years ago. Since that time we’ve found cruising ducks on several cruise ships. On a recent Princess cruise, we finally decided to join in on the fun and participate in the cruise ducks trend.

In this post I go over everything you need to know about cruising ducks, from it’s origins to how you play the game.

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What Are Cruise Ducks?

cruising ducks
Photo courtesy of Natali Sholes Young

Cruise ducks are small plastic or rubber ducks that cruise passengers hide in different areas of the cruise ship. You can buy traditional yellow rubber ducks or show off your personality with fun themed ducks.

Some cute ducks I’ve seen include sports themed ducks like hockey or baseball, holiday ducks for both Christmas and Halloween, Princess ducks, and more.

Some people create their own ducks by knitting or crocheting them, while others have been creating home made keychains. It’s pretty incredible to see how creative people are getting with this cruise trend.

However, this isn’t the whole story. Cruising ducks is actually a fun game, with a few rules to follow if you decide to bring cruising ducks on your cruise vacation.

The Cruising Duck Game

Cruise-ducks

The cruising duck game is similar to a game of hide and seek. People hide ducks on a cruise, and other cruisers look for the ducks. Sometimes this is referred to as Duck Hunting (in the sweetest way).

Once people find a cruise duck, they’ll often post a picture of it in a Cruising Duck Facebook page or use the hashtag #cruisingducks and post to Instagram.

Cruising Duck Game Rules

Are you wondering how to play? The cruise ducks game is simple, but there are actually rules to follow and a few things to know.

1. Buy or create ducks to hide

You can buy small rubber on Amazon and in party stores. These days you can even find cruise duck sets which include novelty ducks, tags and ties.

2. Label your ducks

Label your ducks with the following information:

  • name (can be family name)
  • cruise ship
  • sail date

As an example “Smith family – Carnival Mardi Gras – April 1, 2023)

3. Print out cruise duck tags

It’s fun to put your information on cruise duck tags or “passports”. Some people use stickers and place these right on the bottom of the duck, or may even label with a permanent marker.

4. Keep or Hide, You Decide

The cruising ducks game is really just meant for fun, so an important element is to use the message “Keep or Hide, You Decide” on the cruise duck tag.

It’s ok to search for cruise ducks and keep them, or to rehide some to continue the fun.

5. No hiding cruise ducks in shops, pools or hot tubs

Cruise lines don’t mind cruisers bringing the novelty ducks onboard. However, there is a rule that cruise ducks can’t be hidden in shops, pools and hot tubs.

6. Cruise ducks should never go into the ocean

Remember that you don’t want any ducks to go into the ocean, so never hide them on outer railings or anywhere where a gust of wind can blow them off the ship.

7. Post to social media (optional)

It’s fun for people who hide cruising ducks to see that they’re found, and they may include an instruction to post a photo to a cruising duck facebook page or to use a hashtag #cruisingducks. However, posting a photo of your cruise duck isn’t mandatory.

Related: What to Pack for Your First Cruise (clothing & essentials)

What is the Story Behind Cruising Ducks?

Cruising-ducks

According to everything I have read, the popular cruising duck trend was started by a young girl named Abby Davis in March 2018. Abby and her father Ashley Davis, went on a 7 day Carnival cruise and brought 50 ducks to hide during their Caribbean cruise.

Their purpose was just to play a fun game and make people smile – and did they ever!

Since that time, they started the Facebook group, Cruising Ducks – Original Group, which now has over 180,000 members. According to Abby’s dad Ashley, they never thought the group would get this big and that this “kindness project” would catch on as it has.

Cruising Ducks Communities

There are several Facebook groups, including the Original Cruising Ducks group, where you can get ideas and be inspired, as well as ask all the cruising duck questions you could think of.

In cruise duck facebook groups, people will post photos of their cruise ducks, tags and passports as they get ready for their upcoming cruise.

Cruisers who’ve found ducks onboard cruises post their photos as well.

Related: Cruise Cabin Door Decorations: The Ultimate Guide for Cruisers

What To Do if You Find a Cruising Duck

Cruising Ducks found on cruise ship 6 x 4 (1)
Photo courtesy of Shannon Murphy

If you find a cruising duck on a cruise ship, it will usually have an instruction to “keep or hide, you decide” and a call to action asking you to post a photo within the Facebook group, if possible.

Some people decide to keep the cruising duck, while others may choose to hide it to pass on some fun to another cruise passenger or crew member.

You could even take the new found duck friend on your next cruise, and post about his voyage and how far he’s traveled.

Something to remember if you do embark on hiding ducks on your next cruise, is that you may never know who found your duck (although you might). Even so, your special duck probably brought a smile to someone and could mean more than you know.

“This group is a community kindness project”, says the admin message on Cruising Ducks Original Group.

Remember that not everyone has internet while cruising or social media (Facebook or Instagram).

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Where Can You Buy Cruising Ducks?

You can look for small rubber ducks at party stores and online. As cruising ducks have gained popularity, there are a few ready to go cruise ducks sets available as well.

Here are a few popular novelty cruise duck options on Amazon:

12 Pack Novelty Rubber Ducks

20 Cruise Ducks & Passport Tags (& rubber bands)

Carnival Cruising Duck Tags

Personalize Your Cruise Duck with Cruise Duck Tags

personalized tags on cruising ducks - vistaprint
Photo credit Cathy H. McHugh who ordered double sided “tags” on Vistaprint

You may want to personalize your cruising duck with your own cruise duck tags, passports or stickers.

If you join Cruising Ducks Original Group, you’ll actually be able to download tags and passports for your cruising ducks. Before you can do this, you do have to join the Facebook Group, but it’s free and a nice group of people who really just want to contribute to the fun.

You can find the free templates in the “files” section of the group. You can print the out on cardstock and even laminate them if you like

If you prefer, you can also make your own or find cruise duck stickers, tags and passports that you can order on Etsy, Zazzle, Vistaprint or on Amazon.

How to Create Your Own Cruising Ducks

crochet cruising ducks
Photo courtesy of Natali Sholes Young

There are ways to create your own ducks. For instance, some people crochet or knit their cruising ducks. I’m amazed at the talent of Natali Sholes Young and her daughter, who crocheted some their cruising ducks to give away!

Some Cruising Ducks have a Story

One thing that I noticed, and that frankly surprised me as I researched this trendy activity, is that many people shared ducks that had an extra special meaning.

Some ducks were tagged in memory of someone special who had a love of life, but has sadly passed on. Other people shared ducks that had a beautiful message for Autism awareness or another worthy cause.

Natali, a first time participant, kindly shared the story of her special ducks (seen above). Half of her ducks will be tagged for breast cancer awareness and the other half for Type 1 diabetes, since she is sailing during the months of awareness for these diseases and they are important to her.

She says “I’m here to spread awareness with a whole lot of fun and smiles!!”. Love it!!

My ducks are absolutely not in a row meme life well cruised

How to Attach the Tags on the Cruising Ducks

You can use colored rubber bands to attach the tags to the necks of the rubber ducks, twine or some curling ribbon.

I recently saw this idea posted in a Cruising Duck Facebook Group. This fun duck themed ribbon is great for tying duck tags or passports on to your cruise duck.

Recommended: Duck theme ribbon to tie tags (amazon link)

Cruising Ducks

There are so many cute rubber ducks that you can use if you’re bringing cruising ducks. You can even find some for holidays like Christmas, Easter and Halloween!. Here are a few favorites available now.

Pirate Ducks

Colorful Splat Pattern Ducks

Assorted Rubber Ducks

Easter Ducks

Halloween Ducks

Cruise Ducks Frequently Asked Questions

What size ducks should I order?

Most people seem to like the 2 inch size, although some buy bigger and some buy smaller. Do be careful with buying ducks that are very small as these could be a choking hazard for young children

Can cruising ducks not be ducks?

I can’t believe I wrote that, but you probably know what I mean. Rubber “duckies” come in different animal forms and creations.

It seems that there are various answers to this question, depending on which Cruise Duck Facebook Group you join.

Some say anything goes, after all it’s all in good fun. Others say ducks only. Personally, I don’t see an issue with having other similar novelty toys.

Will the cruise ship’s crew throw the ducks away?

Most cruise lines have made their crew aware of cruise ducks, and most crew members say they enjoy it. Early on, some reported that crew would throw away the ducks, but this doesn’t seem to be an issue now.

Crew may even enjoy the fun of receiving one from a guest. Some crew say they bring a couple home to their children when they finish their contract.

Carnival Cruise Line, where this trend is extremely popular has truly embraced it. John Heald, brand ambassador for Carnival has said that crew have been made aware of the cruising duck phenomenon and won’t be throwing away ducks.

Is there sample wording for my cruising duck tags?

Here are some ideas….

“ConQUACKtulations!”

“Oh what luck, you’ve found a duck. Keep or hide, you decide”

Don’t forget to let people know where your cruising duck came from, the ship and sail date and where they can share it/post it on social media should they want to (your cruise duck Facebook group of choice).

Many more ideas are posted with Cruising Duck Facebook communities, so definitely check the out.

If you prefer to order your tags ready made, here’s a cute one (on Amazon).

Where can I find more Cruising Duck pictures to get inspiration?

Cruising Ducks passport printable photo 6 x 4
Photo courtesy of Dee Spurkle Rementer (creator of this passport printable)

Here’s a list of some Facebook groups I found which will have posts from people sharing the ducks they’ve made and are ready to hide, and others who have found them and posted.

I’ve scrolled through a few and have seen so any great ideas for ducks and tags. If you like the passport printable shown in the above photo, Dee has kindly created a printable which is available in the Cruising Ducks – Original Group Facebook community.

Cruising Duck Facebook Groups

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There are a few Facebook Groups dedicated to the fun activity of hiding and finding ducks. They’re a place to connect with other cruisers, get ideas and see the ducks that are being prepared for upcoming cruises, as well as the photos posted of ducks that are found on board.

The nice thing about these groups is to be able to chat about cruising ducks and ask questions to other people who are really into this.

Check out the files section for resources like templates you can print out, and events where others in the group may be cruising with you. It’s similar to a cruise roll call.

Here are some groups to get you started:

  • Cruising Ducks – Original Group
  • Carnival Cruising Ducks
  • Cruising Ducks
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Ducks
  • Princess Cruising Ducks
  • Cruising Duck Hunters
  • Royal Caribbean Cruising Ducks
  • Celebrity Cruising Ducks

Video: Cruise Ducks Explained

Cruising Ducks Craze – Amazon Novelty Products

I couldn’t help but notice that beyond these adorable rubber ducks, there are tons of other stuff all dedicated in some way to Cruising Ducks. I’ve seen people posting duck socks, duck ties, and duck t-shirts.

Some have pretty cute sayings that I got a kick out of, including shirts that said “Duck, Duck, Cruise. If you played this game as a kid, you might find it amusing too. You can find a wide array of t-shirts and other duck related stuff on Amazon.

Recommended: This cruising duck shirt comes in a quite a few different colors and sizes: Cruising Ducks Novelty t-shirt (Amazon link)

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Recap: A Guide to Cruising Ducks: the Trend That Will Quack You Up

Cruising Ducks is a fun trend for cruise passengers that’s becoming more popular with every year! Whether you’re cruising on Carnival, Disney, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian or another cruise line, you’ll likely find some cruise ducks onboard.

The cruise ducks game is fun for families with kids and adults alike!

Have you found or hid any cruise ducks or will you be participating by hiding ducks on your next cruise?

Happy Cruising!

Ilana 

P.S. If you found this helpful, please don’t keep it to yourself ;-). Please share on Facebook or PIN to your favorite Pinterest board (share buttons at the top). Thanks so much!

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24 Comments

  1. October 19, 2019 / 3:52 pm

    I had no idea this was happening but I love the idea. I think everyone will want to pack some ducks for their next cruise.

    • October 20, 2019 / 1:04 am

      Hi Anne,

      I’m so glad you like the idea. I love the positivity of it too!

      Let me know how it goes if you try it :-).

      Ilana

  2. Jenna
    October 23, 2019 / 2:02 pm

    I have a collection of over 100 rubber ducks from HS and beyond, and we’re going on a Carnival Christmas Cruise (first timers!) This is PERFECT!!

    Wanted to note you need to update Abby’s address to LiBerty Tx (we don’t have a Liverty) πŸ™‚

    I love getting your emails, they’re helping me prep πŸ™‚

    • October 24, 2019 / 1:40 am

      Hi Jenna,

      So exciting!! I have heard amazing things about Carnival Christmas cruises. You’ll have a blast!

      Thanks also for catching my typo – fixing it now πŸ™‚

      I appreciate your very kind words and a super glad you’re enjoying my posts and emails!

      Ilana

  3. Rhonda Bennet
    February 6, 2020 / 12:26 pm

    Actually placing ducks on cruise-ships in nothing new. It was bsically started back in 2010 on a Royal Caribbean cruise when a group of women from Massapequa High School, N.Y, class of 74, placed over 250 ducks around the Freedom of the Seas as part of a scavenger hunt with clues supplied of the various locations where the ducks were hidden. One duck had a special note on it giving away a free cruise for two to the finder of the duck. That scavenger hunt continued on various cruises by this same group up to 2016 when the group stopped doing their yearly reunion on cruises. My mom was part of that group and kept the three ducks she located as keepsakes and mementos of those trips. Other high school reunion groups had heard about what MHS was doing and they started hiding their own ducks throughout the years.

    The power of social media is probably the cause of this recent explosion of the cruising duck phenomenon where now thousands upon thousands of people are now hiding ducks on cruise ships all over the world. With the promotion on Facebook by “Cruising Ducks”, they have taken this to a whole new level.

    People are becoming more creative with their ducks. Some even hand making crocheted ducks. It’s now become a fun thing to do with the kids prior to the family cruise and even more fun when the kids find the ducks while on the cruise.

    Will be interesting to see how long this game will continue. Carnival has embraced the game while some other cruise-lines go along with it. Personally I hope it continues to grow.

    I will be taking my next cruise in February 2021 and I will be bringing my ducks to hide. That’s for sure!!

    • February 12, 2020 / 4:14 am

      Wow Rhonda! I had no idea this Cruising Ducks phenomenon had such history! It’s definitely a fun and lighthearted, and as you mentioned, creative activity and I agree with your sentiments.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Ilana

    • Michael
      October 23, 2022 / 1:54 am

      We searched for ducks on a 2016 Royal cruise & hid ducks on a 2017 Carnival cruise . Definitely did not begin in 2018.

  4. Chris Kubosh
    April 15, 2020 / 5:00 pm

    We are cruising in May and i will be taking ducks to hide. Fun!

    • April 18, 2020 / 1:47 am

      That does sound like fun! Is your cruise still sailing? I’ve seen a few updates now

  5. Shantelle
    January 14, 2021 / 3:49 am

    Found my first duck Dec. 2019. I love the Facebook group, the positivity helped through 2020. We all look forward to cruising again. National Rubber Ducky day was yesterday, it’s held annually in order of Sesame Street Rubber Ducky, whose birthday is Jan. 13.

    • January 17, 2021 / 7:10 pm

      Thanks for sharing that Shantelle. I wish we were cruising this year so we could celebrate the special day on a cruise. Hopefully next year!

      Ilana

  6. June 2, 2021 / 9:23 pm

    I found one coming out of the theater one evening. New England and Canada cruise September of 2019. I thought some kid lost his toy. I picked it up looked at it and put it back in place. I was clueless about the game.

  7. David Mantle
    August 14, 2021 / 1:46 am

    Interesting article. I’ll be on the lookout for a duck on my next cruise.

    • August 18, 2021 / 7:00 pm

      Hi David,

      Let me know if you see any – I hear they’re making a comeback πŸ™‚

      Ilana

  8. Cheryl
    December 3, 2021 / 6:19 am

    Just found my first duck! I had no idea about this fabulous Duck Game! Such a great idea! I can’t wait till my next cruise so I can pass on the happiness that I found! 😁❀️🐀

    • December 6, 2021 / 3:55 pm

      How fun! I think this will be coming back, and as you said, definitely be bringing along and passing on some happiness.

  9. Daisy
    January 17, 2022 / 6:19 pm

    My mom is 75 this will be her first cruise. We are going on the Dream in April. Lost my husband in Oct 2021. This trip is my gift to my mom and myself, I would be celebrating our 40 th.aniversery. We will have a blast watching people look and find one for yourself. My grown daughter has collected them for her whole life.
    Thanks for a spark in our life.
    Daisy Robinson

    • January 19, 2022 / 6:03 pm

      Hi Daisy,

      I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like this cruise with you and your mom will be both fun and meaningful for you both. I hope you have an amazing time and these cruise ducks bring joy to you and others on your upcoming cruise.

      Ilana

  10. Debbie K.
    August 29, 2022 / 8:40 pm

    My adult daughter and I have been cruising since 2011 when I started selling cruises at the travel agency where I work. She found her first cruise duck on the Panorama November 2021, which was her 31st birthday cruise, after the 2020 30th birthday cruise was cancelled. She was curious, as we knew nothing about them. Neither of us facebook. On our Bermuda cruise May 2022, she found another one and was thrilled. She went on a cruise in July with a friend (her first cruise) and her friend found one! My daughter told her about them and they were both so excited. We are planning on taking ducks to hide on our next cruise. We are having fun shopping for them, so far we have bought mermaid and unicorn ducks, just deciding about tags or stickers. Will be on Carnival Celebration in April 2023 and will have fun just hiding them this time. Finding another one would be a bonus! Thank you for your info, it was definitely beneficial.

    • September 19, 2022 / 3:11 pm

      This is great! Thanks for sharing and have an amazing cruise!

      Ilana

  11. Lynne Shapiro aka 'Grandma Lynsey'
    May 10, 2023 / 6:01 pm

    I love this post! It’s ‘lightbulb time’!!

    The YMCA I belong to has a ‘Trunk or Treat’ the Saturday night before Halloween. Since my cruise starts 2 days later, Monday the day before Halloween, I’m going to order a BUNCH of ducks to give away to the kids and special needs young folks at the Y, and bring the rest onboard the cruise!!!

    FUTURE CRUISE:
    Navigator of the Seas October 2023
    PRIOR CRUISES:
    Cruise 1 Monarch of the Seas 01/30/06
    Cruise 2 Monarch of the Seas 01/22/07
    Cruise 3 Monarch of the Seas 01/28/08
    Cruise 4 Carnival Paradise 02-08-10

  12. June 1, 2023 / 7:16 pm

    Thank you for the great information. I’m going on my first Cruise for 7 days and this sounds. fun.

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