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Why Do People Hide Rubber Ducks on Cruise Ships (Cruise Ducks 101)

If you’ve cruised lately, you may have found a hidden little yellow gift somewhere on the cruise ship. In recent years, cruise passengers have taken to hiding little rubber ducks in various spots around the ships.

This fun game is entirely unofficial, but finding and hiding ducks on cruise ships can be a fun activity during your next cruise, especially for kids. It’s similar to Jeep ducks, another hide-and-seek activity with toy ducks.

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Why Do People Hide Rubber Ducks on Cruise Ships: Cruise Ducks 101

Rubber duck with black hat and a tag hanging

Why do people hide rubber ducks on cruise ships?

I’ve read various stories about who started this tradition and when it started. According to many reports, it was started by a 10-year-old girl named Abby in 2018.

However, other stories state that it started earlier on the Carnival Cruise Line. Regardless of its origins, this tradition has become even more popular since the cruise restart in 2021.

Cruise ducks can be found on almost every cruise line, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruise Line, and the Disney Cruise Line. There are also Facebook groups and other numerous social media groups dedicated specifically to cruising ducks.

That way, you can post when you find one of these cute rubber duckies, and the hider can see that they have been found. This is entirely optional, however.

Note that Disney Cruise line has recently discouraged hiding ducks.

If there’s a Facebook group specific to your cruise, you may also get some idea of what is being hidden. In addition, some people will post on the Cruising Ducks Original Group on Facebook.

Many cruise duck hiders often post photos of their flock before they are hidden. You may not want to send your kids on a scavenger hunt unless you know there is something to be found.

Once you find a duck, you have the option to decide what to do with it. Some people choose to keep them, while others rehide them.

If you are a frequent cruiser, it could be fun to take your found treasure on one of your upcoming cruises. You don’t have to supply a new tag – you can keep the original one.

Typically, the ducks will include a tag with information about who they are from, the name of the ship, and the date of sailing. Tags will also include a Facebook group or social media hashtag to use when posting online.

They also include the general rules of rehiding, which are generally, “Keep or hide, you decide. Only hide in public areas, no pools, hot tubs, or stores”.

pile of yellow rubber ducks with white sailor hats and tags hanging

What types of ducks should you hide?

The most common kind of cruise duck is a traditional rubber duck. I’ve also seen keychains, fabric ducks, refrigerator magnets, and crocheted ducks. Because it’s an unofficial activity, there are no real rules about what to give away. You’ll just add your own tag to whatever you choose to hide.

Where to get rubber ducks and tags?

There are so many places to get the ducks and cruise duck tags – you can even make the tags yourself. I found that Amazon offers a huge variety of choices, including some really cute sets that make everything so easy.

Wondering how many ducks to hide on a cruise ship? I’d start with 20. You want it to be a fun activity, not a chore.

Here are some ideas:

Duck Tag Cruise Kit: This is the kit I bought for my recent cruise on the Disney Wish. It includes 20 ducks with little sailor hats, 20 rubber bands, and 20 tags.

Duck Key Chains: If you are looking to hide something a little different, this set includes 20 keychains and 20 cruising duck tags.

Small Cruise Duck Set: Want to hide mini ducks? This set includes 40.

Passport Tags: If you already have the ducks and just need the tag, these passports are so cute.

Rubber duck wearing sailor hat in hand

Where to hide rubber ducks?

The widely accepted rules state that you shouldn’t hide them in gift shops, hot tubs, or pools, and stick with public areas. I’d probably avoid public restrooms, just to prevent the spread of germs.

Beyond that, you really have the flexibility to be as creative as possible. Because of the bright yellow color of the ducks, they do stick out if you leave them somewhere open.

I hid mine in public seating (usually above or below so they wouldn’t be obvious), around the edges of open doors, under a deck chair, behind trash cans, near statues, under tables, and in theaters.

On a recent cruise, I found one in the arcade. I’ve also seen them tucked near statues.

During this last cruise, I typically hid a few at a time and tried to do it when none of my fellow cruisers were watching. That way, it would be there for a little while for someone to find. I’d often return to the same spot a few minutes later and they were almost always gone.

Searching for rubber ducks? Where should you look?

If you are specifically looking for rubber ducks, you’ll want to look in these same places. Look down on the ground, behind tables, statues, and trash cans. Just be sure you are looking for a peek of bright yellow, although I’ve also found pink ducks.

Don’t be disruptive, or take anything down from the wall. While cruise ducks are an unofficial activity, the cruise lines would probably be more concerned about the activity if it resulted in something that could damage property or cause harm in any way.

Have you hidden or found rubber ducks on a cruise? What is your favorite place to look or to hide them?

Pile of yellow rubber ducks with white hats

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Tuesday 16th of January 2024

We were recently on Norwegian Breakaway, and we found a Unicorn Duck at the bar between Savor and Taste. Shortly after our find, someone found one hidden in a plant. Fun idea!


Friday 30th of December 2022

There is a dark side to this trend. Folks are now primarily doing this to monetize. It is getting to the point is becoming litter. People are bringing thousands onto cruise ships hoping people will click on their links. No telling how many of these rubber/plastic ducks also end up in the Ocean.


Sunday 23rd of April 2023

@Tom, Party Pooper! I highly doubt it is a significant pollution in the ocean. Take the tag off if it is to monetize, rehide. Duh!

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