Cruise Ducks: A How-To Guide for Hiders and Seekers

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Cruise Ducks have become a cruising trend on cruise ships over the past few years, sparking a playful hunt that fosters community and connection among cruisers. 

Rubber ducks on the deck of a cruise ship, cruising through tranquil waters.

The concept is simple. Passengers purchase rubber ducks, customize them with mini tags, and discreetly hide them in spots around the cruise ship. Fellow cruisers then try to locate the ducks, take pictures, and often re-hide them for the next person to experience the fun. 

Whether you’re new to the idea of Cruise Ducks or have questions about where to buy or hide them, we’ve got you covered in this ultimate cruise ship duck hunting guide.

Stick around!

What Is the Cruise Duck Phenomenon?

Rubber ducks adorning the deck of a cruise ship.

In case you’ve missed out on the cruise duck phenomenon, it’s pretty simple: Folks buy (or, if they’re creative, make) ducks, then hide them around the ship for others to find, enhancing the cruising experience.

Note: Jeep owners do the same thing and call it Jeep Ducking!

Sometimes, the ducks come with notes asking that their original owner be contacted or that, once found, a picture be posted in a specific Facebook group. In other cases, the ducks are decorated with the ship’s name and the sailing date, making them great souvenirs.

Whenever a duck is located, its finder must make a sometimes tough decision: Do they keep it for their collection or, after taking a picture and posting it wherever the tag asks, do they re-hide it for someone else to find?

I find it fascinating how such a small gesture can bring so much excitement to fellow cruisers. These adorable critters often come in various colors, designs, and sizes, making the hunt even more thrilling.

The main purpose of hiding and finding these ducks is to spread joy and foster a sense of community among passengers.

Cruise duck hunters often use a “passport” to keep track of their finds to add more fun to the game. This can be a booklet or even a dedicated smartphone app where you can log each duck’s distinctive characteristics, such as color and design.

Most come with a tag attached to help differentiate cruise ducks from rubber ducks. The tag typically contains the name of the person who placed the duck, along with some basic instructions on what to do when one is found.

Here’s a typical format for cruise duck tags:

  • Name: John Doe (you can use your real name or a nickname)
  • Date Hidden: November 27, 2023
  • Message: “Congratulations on finding me! Please take a photo with me and post it on social media using the hashtag #CruiseDuck. Feel free to re-hide me so someone else can share the fun!”
A rubber duck sitting on top of a cruise passport.

I’ve seen creative ways to hide these distractions on a cruise ship – tucked in plants, perched on balcony railings, or even nestled in elevator corners. 

That said, you must always prioritize the safety and cleanliness of the ship and its passengers. It’s crucial not to interfere with the ship’s property or operations while placing a cruise duck.

How Did Cruise Ducks Become a Sensation?

Rubber ducks with sunglasses on display in a store.

Although credit for the trend is given mainly to a 10-year-old girl named Abby, who hid about 50 ducks on the Carnival Breeze in the spring of 2018, references can be found to people playing hide-and-seek with the adorable plastic creatures as far back as 2015 on cruise vacations.

Abby’s adventure, however, seems to have kicked things into high gear and started a movement, the main purpose of which is simply to make other people smile.

It’s also been suggested that cruising ducks are a distant relative of the painted-rocks phenomenon, essentially a landlocked version of the same game.

Cruise ducks aren’t the only rubberized animals that find their way on board. While many different animals can be found, pigs are the second most popular variety, with flame-red devil ducks also showing strongly.

Types of Cruise Ducks: A Guide for Cruisers

A yellow rubber duck with the words ketchikan duck tour on it.

I have come across numerous themed ducks that make the entire experience more fun and engaging for cruise ship passengers. Let me share with you some of the most popular and creative variations that can be found on board a cruise ship.

Cruise ducks can be categorized into the following themes: 

  • Pirate
  • Christmas
  • Halloween
  • Easter
  • Origami ducks

Pirate-themed cruise ducks are a favorite among seafaring adventurers. Often adorned with eye patches, tiny pirate hats, and even miniature treasure maps, these delightful duckies bring an element of whimsy to any voyage.

A few pirate duck examples include:

  • Captain Quackbeard, complete with a felt beard
  • Buccaneer Duck, which sports a scarf and a gold earring
  • Pirate Parrot Duck, a clever twist with its parrot-inspired design

If you cruise during the holiday season, you might come across Christmas cruise ducks. These festive rubber ducks are often dressed up as Santa Claus, reindeer, or snowmen, and they can add a touch of holiday cheer to your journey. 

My personal favorites include:

  • Santa Duck, with a little red hat and a white beard
  • Reinduck, featuring antlers and a bright red nose
  • Snow Duck, a small snowman in duck form, complete with a top hat
cruise ducks holiday ship
Instagram: beachblondie707

For those looking to celebrate Halloween on a cruise, themed ducks can be found sporting various spooky disguises. 

These ducks may be available during October, and some examples are:

  • Dracula Duck, a vampire duck with a cape and fangs
  • Mummy Duck, wrapped in white gauze, like an ancient Egyptian
  • Witch Duck, often found in a green state, wearing a pointy hat

If you’re fortunate enough to enjoy an Easter cruise, watch for ducks dressed as bunnies or in other Easter-themed attire. Some of these adorable rubber ducks include:

  • Bunny Duc, donning bunny ears and a fluffy tail
  • Egg Painter Duck, featuring an artist’s palette and paintbrush
  • Spring Flower Duck, surrounded by colorful blossoms

Lastly, some enthusiasts enjoy creating origami ducks while on a cruise for a creative and artistic twist. Constructed from paper, these ducks are a beautiful, eco-friendly alternative to traditional rubber ducks.

Origami ducks come in various shapes and colors, each a small masterpiece. I have seen passengers leave behind their creations as tiny surprises for fellow cruisers to discover.

Where to Buy Cruise Ducks for Your Next Cruise

Rubber ducks enjoy swimming in a pool on a cruise ship.

When it comes to purchasing cruise ducks, people have different preferences and needs. Some like to decorate or hand paint each duck independently, while others (like me) would just buy a bulk order of them online for their next cruise.

As someone who spends too much time looking for the best cruise ducks, I can recommend and trust a few sources I have used.

Some popular online platforms which offer a variety of cruise ducks for sale are:

  • Amazon: A trusted and reliable marketplace with a vast collection of cruise ducks from various brands and price ranges.
  • Etsy: Here, one can find unique and handmade cruise ducks crafted by talented artists and small businesses.
  • eBay: For those who like to hunt for great deals or collectible items, eBay is the go-to place for buying cruise ducks.

I will say that I’ve used Amazon and Etsy the most.

Getting Quacky With Cruise Duck Tag Ideas

A duck tag is essential for bringing your cruise duck to life and sending it on its journey. The tag gives your ducky its backstory and instructions so that each finder can participate in the fun.

You have to be creative with the details when coming up with duck tags. On that account, here are some ideas to help you come up with fun tags:

  1. Pick a fun and quirky name like Captain Beaks, First Mate Feathers, or Quack Sparrow. Pirate-themed names are quite popular!
  2. Share as many details as possible. Examples: “Hatched in Honolulu,” “Aspires to win a belly flop context,” etc. 
  3. Next, you need to add a mini-bio. Examples: “This is my first cruise!” or “I’ve sailed 15 ships; collect me for your flock!” 
  4. This is the most fun step; giving wacky instructions! A couple of my favorites are “Take me on a spa day” and “Buy me a tiny paper umbrella drink”. For a romantic twist, you’ll want to go with something like “Take me on your next date” or “I’m looking for love; can you introduce me to other ducks?”. 
  5. For photos, ask to do fun poses like “Do the duck face with me!”
  6. You can add to the fun by offering a “Duck Finder’s Reward” for returning the duck. The reward can be anything from a drink to a gift mailed home. 

By getting clever with your cruise duck’s tag, you can really set their one-of-a-kind personality and give each finder excitement as they hunt for these hidden treasures. Let your imagination run wild!

The Community and Social Media Influence on Cruise Duck Tradition

A rubber duck sits on top of a wooden shelf.

Do you think this is just some silly little game played by children? Think again!

Numerous social media groups are devoted to cruising ducks, including the Cruising Ducks Facebook Page, which has over 230,000 members. 

The page is also a great resource, especially for those looking for templates for the “Passports” many use to tag their ducks.

With platforms like Facebook and Instagram, enthusiasts have found a resourceful way to connect and share their passion for these adorable ducks.

One of the most popular ways my fellow cruisers engage with each other is through Facebook groups. These groups provide a platform for members to post pictures of their latest duck finds, share stories of their adventures, and offer helpful information about the best spots to search for ducks aboard cruise ships.

New and seasoned cruise duck enthusiasts can join these groups, participate in discussions, or ask questions.

Moreover, the use of hashtags plays a significant role in connecting people on a global level. By using the hashtag #cruisingducks, members can quickly discover content related to cruise ducks, exchange experiences, and follow the journeys of these cute collectibles.

Cruise Duck Hashtags

In addition to the community-driven aspect of cruise ducks, the influence of social media has given rise to an elevated sense of purpose.

The act of hiding and finding cruise ducks has become more than a simple game. It has become a social cause, fostering an environment of kindness and happiness amongst passengers.

These factors contribute to the overall vitality of the cruise duck community on a personal and social level. The passion for cruise ducks spills over into social media, bringing enthusiasts together to celebrate their shared interests. 

Not Everyone Loves Cruise Ducks

A rubber duck sitting on a table next to a note.

Of course, as we all know, every party has that notorious pooper. Perhaps not surprisingly, given how big the whole cruising duck phenomenon has become, this particular party has attracted several varieties of complainers on Facebook.

Some have never seen a duck on board a ship yet are still inexplicably perturbed by the notion. “If I ever see one of these stupid ducks everyone is talking about,” posted one such curmudgeon to Facebook, “I’ll take it home, set it afire, and post a picture of that. Man, people are stupid.”

Others have gone so far as to suggest that rubber ducks should be banned aboard cruise ships, prompting one concerned traveler to ask Carnival Cruise Line’s Brand Ambassador, John Heald, if this would happen on its ships.

He not only assured his Facebook followers that the ducks were welcome on board (“Hide them. Find them. Have fun with them,” he wrote) but assured would-be hiders that “most” of the crew members knew not to throw them away if they came across them.

Where to Hide Cruise Ducks on a Ship?

A group of rubber ducks sitting on a wooden floor.

As a seasoned cruise duck enthusiast, I’ve picked up a few tricks for hiding ducks cleverly and creatively onboard a cruise ship.

Hiding your little rubber friends can be an enjoyable challenge and an engaging game of hide-and-seek for passengers.

  • Lounging areas: There are often chairs, tables, and cozy corners where passengers can relax. Tuck a duck beneath a cushion or chair, or place one atop a stack of magazines for a pleasant surprise.
  • Pool decks: Hide your duck near the pool’s edge, the steps leading into the water, or under a sun lounger. Be sure to avoid putting your duck directly in the water since it could end up lost or floating away.
  • Stairwells and elevators: Try hiding a duck on a stair’s ledge, resting on a handrail, or peeking out from behind an elevator door.
  • Buffets and dining rooms: Placing a duck atop a pile of napkins or nestled against the centerpiece on a dining table can be a delightful treat for those enjoying a meal. However, be mindful of food safety and avoid direct contact with food items.
  • Cabin hallways: A hallway corner table or a small decorative shelf can serve as a perfect hiding spot, especially if your duck can peek out just enough to catch the eye of a passing passenger.
  • In your stateroom: Those wanting to leave a surprise for the next passengers occupying their stateroom have even put a duck or two in the cabin’s safe.

That’s not to say everyone gets creative when placing their plastic friends. Some wind up in places like elevator corners or stairwells, looking for all the world as if they were dropped instead of hidden.

(Note: Always check with your cruise line to make sure cruise ducks are allowed. Disney Cruise Line recently started cracking down on passengers bringing cruise ducks onboard.)

Tips for Finding Cruise Ducks on Your Cruise

hidden cruise ducks

I’ve learned that finding cruise ducks can be a fun activity during a sailing. The key to finding them is knowing where to look and how to approach the search.

Here are some valuable tips for finding cruise ducks I’ve discovered.

  1. Check popular gathering spots on the ship: Ducks usually gather in specific areas on the cruise ship, such as the pools, garden areas, and open decks. These places tend to have water, plants, and a serene atmosphere that attracts ducks. Watch for them while walking around the ship and during your leisure time.
  2. Look during early morning or late afternoon hours: Ducks are most active during the early morning and late afternoon hours. Explore the ship during these times for a higher chance of spotting them.
  3. Talk to fellow cruisers and crew members: Don’t hesitate to ask fellow cruisers and crew members for tips on where to find cruise ducks. They can provide valuable insights and may know secret spots where the ducks hide.
  4. Be patient and observant: Finding cruise ducks requires patience and a keen eye. Don’t expect to find them immediately, but rather enjoy the process of exploring the ship and its surroundings. With a bit of perseverance, you are bound to spot at least one.

Whether sailing with family/friends or embarking on a solo journey, the simple yet captivating game of hiding and finding cruise ducks adds an extra layer of excitement to your sea voyage.

Why Participate in the Cruise Duck Tradition?

A rubber duck with a mask on it sits on a Cruise Ducks shelf.
  • Builds community: The cruise duck game is a fantastic way to engage with other passengers. It creates an instant topic of conversation and a playful community spirit onboard. As you hunt for or hide these adorable ducks, you’ll find yourself making new friends and sharing joyful moments.
  • Fun for all ages: Cruise ducks offer a universal appeal, making them perfect for families with children, couples, or solo travelers. It’s a wholesome activity that brings smiles to cruisers of all ages.
  • Memorable souvenirs: Each cruise duck you find becomes a cherished keepsake, a unique souvenir from your cruise. These little ducks often carry the essence of the voyage, whether through a special design, a message, or the story of how you found them.
  • Creative expression: For those who love arts and crafts, customizing your cruise ducks is a way to express creativity. From painting to accessorizing, these ducks become a canvas for your artistic ideas.
  • Stress relief: Engaging in a light-hearted activity like the cruise duck game can be a great stress reliever. It adds a playful twist to your cruise, allowing you to unwind and enjoy the simple pleasures of a treasure hunt.
  • Photo opportunities: Finding and hiding cruise ducks creates unique photo opportunities, adding fun and quirky moments to your vacation photos.

Join the Cruise Duck Movement

If you’re planning your next cruise, consider joining the cruise duck movement. It’s an easy, cost-effective way to add an extra dimension of fun to your journey. 

Share your duck finds on social media, connect with fellow cruisers in online communities, and become part of a growing global phenomenon that celebrates joy, community, and the spirit of adventure.

Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or a first-timer, cruise ducks offer a fun addition to your sailing, and even introverts can do it! Happy duck hunting!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the story behind the cruise duck?

The story of the cruise duck started a few years ago when family duo Ashley and Abby Davis bought 50 rubber ducks for a spring break cruise. They hid several each day and watched as people of all ages started to find the ducks with excitement and happiness on their faces.

What are the origins of cruise ducks?

Cruise ducks trace their origins back to the popular hobby of geocaching, where people hide small items or trinkets for others to find. This practice has evolved within the cruise community, where travelers began hiding rubber ducks around the ship for fellow passengers to discover.

How does one participate in the cruise duck tradition?

Hide the cruise duck around the ship or try to find them. To hide ducks, purchase a few rubber ducks and discreetly place them around the ship. To find ducks, watch for these little creatures in unexpected locations.

Where can I purchase cruise ducks and accessories?

Cruise ducks and related accessories can be purchased online through popular retailers like Amazon and Etsy and physical stores specializing in party and novelty items.

What are some popular cruise duck themes or designs?

Popular cruise duck themes and designs include nautical themes, pirates, mermaids, tropical designs, and holiday-themed ducks. Some enthusiasts even create ducks representing specific ports of call or the cruise ship’s name.

Guide to Cruise Ducks

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