There is little doubt that cruises are a unique vacation experience. Spending your days relaxing on deck, enjoying ocean views, or taking excursions when at port are among the many benefits of cruises, as long as you don’t get seasick!
While these floating resorts are full of fun experiences, they are also hosts to several fascinating secrets and tricks of the trade. From the staff-only pool to law enforcement on deck, here are 42 secrets about cruise ships.
Some staff lead double lives
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and the same goes for cruise ships. Since crew members are often contracted anywhere from 4 to 10 months out of the year, working and living at sea becomes the norm. While some crew members are honest with their coworkers about their personal lives back home, others lead separate lives at port and at sea, as their two worlds rarely collide.
For safety reasons, most doors don’t lock
Due to cruise ship safety standards, most door locks simply don’t work on cruise ships. While this may seem like a safety issue or invasion of privacy, the reasoning is pretty sound. In case of a fire, ship collision, or other emergency, the crew has to be able to evacuate all passengers as quickly as possible. Having few working locks ensures no one gets left behind.
Waste disposal is a bit gross
Have you ever considered what happens to the waste from a cruise ship? Well, once you flush, it doesn’t go too far!
While at port, cruise ship sewage systems have holding tanks that can be emptied at the docks. When out on the water, however, your human waste is dumped into the ocean. While it sounds pretty bad, before disposal, all waste must be processed through several wastewater treatments, and the ship must be a minimum of 12 miles from any coast.
It turns out that cruise ships are actually pretty detrimental to the environment! They run off a type of fuel called bunker fuel which has an enormous amount of sulfur – 5x more than what you’d find in standard gas. And while most fuels have some kind of impact on the planet, this one is particularly damaging because it releases so much extra pollution into the air.
It is mainly used because it’s much cheaper than other fuels. Cruise ships have started installing filters in order to reduce emissions, but making the switch to a clean fuel source would be more effective.
Reviews are important
Crew members on cruise ships are required to make sure everyone is happy or they will not be paid well.
The way they get good bonuses is if people leave them reviews, but if they receive some bad words about them they might lose it all. Crew members rely on those bonuses, much like a waitress or waiter would rely on their tips. The good news is if the crew gets good reviews, then they’ll receive a very nice bonus for their work.
It doesn’t pay well
Many may think that being a part of the staff on a cruise ship is glamorous work, but it doesn’t seem so when you look behind the scenes. About 3/4ths of the crew members come from non-developed countries and they’re not always given jobs where they interact with passengers face to face.
Instead, these crew members will be working below deck in sometimes dangerous conditions and for very basic pay. However, cruise ships do not work on land where they would be subject to the same employment laws as other industries.
They keep their hands to themselves
Even though one may believe that being aboard a ship will give them more of an opportunity to sleep with members of the crew, it would do nothing but prove otherwise. The sailors are watched carefully and aren’t allowed intimate relations with passengers.
Staff members aren’t allowed to be intimate with passengers. They’re not allowed to sleep in the same bed as them either – even if they consented beforehand. This rule is in place because people could accuse crew members of wrongdoing.
Partying is easy for the crew
When the cruise crew comes to a party, they always make sure to bring the fun. Why? It’s because everything they drink is cheaper than what passengers would buy.
A passenger typically spends between $11 to $20 for one drink, but crew members are able to buy drinks for a discounted price. So, if you’re looking for something fun and inexpensive to do after work – look no further than your own company!
Crew members become very familiar
While the crew isn’t permitted to be intimate with passengers, there is no rule against them getting together with each other. Numerous accounts suggest that these relationships are quite common; particularly for those who drink their dollar drinks at night (and more than one).
One thing that many crew members can expect when sailing the seven seas is to find themselves falling for a fellow staffer. There is one understanding that most crew members are aware of, and that’s how temporary these relationships tend to be. When crews hook up, they know it won’t last past this trip – or at least they try to remind themselves of it often enough.
Stick to the law
Although you might sail in international waters often, this does not mean that you can act without consequence. At times, if you do not conduct yourself properly, you will find yourself incarcerated aboard the ship.
Make sure to be on your best behavior while traveling so that you do not end up spending time in the brig (the maritime term for jail) where punishments are harsh.
For the worst cases
People may die when they’re on vacation, even if they’re on a cruise. Cruises often attract an elderly population, and so more of them are likely to die than someone younger traveling for pleasure – so there’s always a morgue onboard.
One crew member of one cruise ship said they’ve seen an estimated three deaths per month on average.
Hit and miss medical care
You might expect to receive excellent medical care when on a cruise ship, but don’t bank on it. Cruise line doctors are not regulated as they would be if ashore, so it’s really a gamble on who you may end up seeing.
It is common practice for cruise ships to hire doctors with credentials from countries that have less strict regulations. This means they are often independent contractors which can’t be sued if any forms of medical malpractice were committed aboard the ship. Usually, the medical care facilities themselves will not even meet the higher standards required in other places, too.
The crew gets their drinks for a reduced price at the bar, making it easy to drink lots of alcohol because there are seldom many activities going on.
This leads to many of the crew feeling tipsy most of the time, and it’s super easy for them to get away with it. Some cruise liners claim they subject their staff to random testing, but in reality that is rarely done and the crew drink more than you know.
You’re likely to get sick
For diseases to spread they often need two things, people living in close quarters and unsanitary conditions. However, the crowded environment on a cruise means that these conditions are easily met.
One virus that has been spreading rapidly lately is the Norovirus. In 2014, there were 8 different outbreaks affecting many passengers per ship in just a short period of time- for example, 100+ passengers every time.
Smile, you’re being watched
Security on cruise ships is stringent and tight-knit to ensure safety for all passengers. Cameras are ubiquitous throughout the ship – excluding one’s room.
In case of emergencies, the footage is there to replay it for officials to find out what went wrong. It’s not too much different from filming someone in a store–except that no one vacations at those stores.
Fighting off pirates
People often believe pirates are an antiquated phenomenon, but they’re still present in many regions. Cruise ship employees need to be well-trained in dealing with these bandits so they can take appropriate precautions when necessary.
It is unusual for a cruise ship to be attacked by pirates, but this does happen. One such incident happened in 2005 when a long-range acoustic device was used against would-be attackers.
They run a tight ship
One of the major problems for cruise ship kitchens is how much food they need to purchase. They are always buying just enough, not too little or too much; which can lead to wasted supplies and disappointing passenger counts when the time comes.
In fact, it’s thought that the people who order the food for cruise ships can get to within a two-meal margin for the entire week. This is impressive when you consider how difficult it would be for many restaurants on land to make such an accurate prediction.
The hidden costs
A cruise will cost you significantly more than what the brochure advertises. You pay for food, drink, and entertainment – every single thing on board is charged separately which adds up quickly if you don’t know how to budget properly.
Passengers may be charged fees for things like boat rides to the mainland, drinks at dinner, or even if they use the internet. If you’ve got a good deal on a cruise, make sure to read all of the fine print before signing up – because hidden fees are inevitable with these deals.
Using tax loopholes
Even though the surcharges can get pricey, when you look at everything together a cruise is surprisingly affordable. Tickets are reasonably priced and this may be because some cruises take advantage of tax loopholes to keep their prices low. Liners often incorporate themselves overseas so they don’t need to abide by American taxation laws.
This provision allows shipping companies incorporated abroad to operate in the United States, which has led some people to call for its closure. Cruise ships benefit from the protection of our coast guard and utilize all major ports on a regular basis.
It is extremely likely that someone will go overboard on a cruise. Given all of the bars and parties, there are some folks who just want to let loose during their cruise vacation. Folks are even encouraged to throw things from the ship over the edge because there’s just so much room for them!
Cruise ships are large, so it takes a while to turn them around when they’re docked. A lot of people throw things off the ship because sometimes what goes out, also comes back in.
If you fall out
If you see someone falling overboard from a boat, you are taught to throw anything around them within reach in order to form an easier way for other boats and vessels nearby to find them. What about when it’s you who falls overboard? You might misstep or trip over the edge of the railing and end up plunging into the water below – there are still some things that could help save your life if this were to happen while out at sea.
When you’re wearing a hat on deck, make sure to wear it properly so it can be seen easily. Linking arms with those around you can raise the temperature of your body in the water, which will allow you to live for longer periods of time.
Sneaking in your drinks
A cruise ship’s bar may charge a lot for drinks, but there are ways to avoid these outrageous prices. One way is sneaking in your own alcohol – it just might take an expert hand at deception to do so without alerting the guards. Another way of saving money would be filling up bladders with liquor and hiding them away so they don’t show up on airport scanners.
One way of sneaking alcohol onto the cruise ship is to fill empty mouthwash bottles with your favorite drink. Use food coloring so it looks like you are only carrying mouthwash.
You can’t back out
One issue many people come across when they book a cruise is that it can be difficult to get a refund. In some cases, there are no refunds allowed less than 120 days before departure. Additionally, some ticket holders might need to pay for hotel rooms and other such excursions even though they won’t participate in them.
Some companies even consider changing the name on a ticket to be a cancellation. What does this mean? Well, at least now you know that if you want to book a cruise and truly commit to it – just don’t back out, or else you’ll end up paying for it no matter what happens.
American crew members
If you’ve taken a cruise, then you will know that the employees aboard a ship come from all over the world. In fact, there are always various nationalities employed on board at any given time; but it would seem (among employees) that American citizens do not make good crewmembers.
It has been hypothesized that Americans are unwilling to put in the same level of work as other crew members. Tourists who take up part-time jobs may only need to work 40 hours per week while other people may need to do this full time for months at a time.
Pranking the passengers
With little to do for entertainment, the crew needs some form of amusement – and they sometimes find it in playing tricks on passengers. It may seem cruel at times, but they need something to put a smile on their faces – and if an innocent passenger gets pranked once or twice along the way then all the better.
One cruise worker claims that pranking passengers is a fun pastime, and even offers an example of the kinds of mischief they would get up to. They said one time they were telling their coworker they were meeting at the bowling alley this evening – but there was no such thing!
Although passengers on cruise ships have luxurious quarters to stay in, the same cannot be said for the crew. Passengers’ rooms may be expansive and plush, but this usually doesn’t apply to those who work as part of the boat’s staff.
The crew usually has much smaller living quarters than the passengers. They also might not have any room of their own, with bunk beds being very common in all rooms they reside in. Even though they work many hours every day, there is little sleep to be had.
All-inclusive is a myth
There are many types of surcharges that vary depending on the place you’re visiting. There may be one for every person who eats at a special restaurant, and it could reach $10 or more. For drinks like coffee or soda, these may cost extra if they aren’t included in your total bill (though this can vary).
Then there are the excursions and resorts which charge you for every penny spent. There may be many hidden expenses on a cruise, but it can still end up being cheaper than taking an ordinary vacation since all your needs will be catered to – food, drinks, and even entertainment.
With so many people onboard, it is almost impossible for crew members to have a conversation without someone overhearing. They’ve had to come up with secret codes to communicate by in order to avoid mass panic from spreading across the spacecraft.
If you hear a crew member say 30-30, then it usually means they need to find something – such as vomit or other things – when they are cleaning up. If they say Alpha, it means there is an emergency (such as a heart attack) and if they say Bravo, then they need assistance with fighting the fire. If you hear them say, Oscar, then someone has gone overboard and we are getting ready for a rescue mission.
A genie in a bottle
Have you ever dreamed of rubbing a magic lamp and finding the world’s most generous genie? Cruise ships offer the next best thing to this fantasy, so long as you have money for it. Most cruise boats come equipped with genies that cater to your every whim- becoming your personal butler.
For VIP customers, the possibilities seem endless. These genies can get you almost anything on the ship – if it’s possible! They’ll bring food straight to your room or even decorate however you’d like!
The secret pool
If you’ve ever attempted to use the pool on a cruise ship, then you know that it can get crowded quickly. But there are ways around this issue; befriending the crew members might grant access to an exclusive area of the boat – such as the private pool just for staff members.
It’s much quieter than the main pool and typically found in the staff’s quarters, so you’ll have to charm or impress them for a chance to go there. It could just happen that one day when you show up, someone will let you swim in the hot tub too.
The quiet zone
One downside to taking a cruise is that it can sometimes feel like there is no way out, but don’t worry! There are various spaces aboard the ship that you could use for solitude. One of these places would be the secret swimming pool – which requires magical manipulation to gain access. Alternatively, one may want to find solace away from crowds in other places on board.
Adults can enjoy the peace and quiet of this section on board a plane, all they need to do is request directions from one of the flight attendants.
Although they are surrounded by water all the time, a fire can happen at any moment on a cruise ship. The bigger the boat is, the higher chance there is for it to catch on fire – which can be seen as both an upside and downside of living on one because it does provide them with entertainment, but also has its downsides in that it could result in injury or death.
In the past 15 years, there have been well over 78 fires reported on cruise ships. These vessels require an immense amount of energy to operate, and yet their electricity often has trouble working together with water.
Piling on the pounds
It’s not a big deal, but almost everyone on a cruise will gain some weight by the end. The whole point of going on a cruise in the first place is to ensure that you have an enjoyable experience, and this includes eating well and lounging around.
That inactivity often leads to people gaining weight, and after a week-long cruise, passengers usually weigh about 5 to 10 pounds more than they did when they first set sail. Gyms are available on board which may tempt some passengers enough to go for a run or other exercise – burning off those extra calories fast.
You might not stop
Some can’t wait to get off the ship and explore an exciting, new destination while on a cruise. But unfortunately, not every port is accessible during this time so they will have to remain onboard until they reach it – if they reach it at all.
This is often a decision left up to the captain in an effort to protect all passengers. While some parts of your journey may be scheduled, they may also change last minute.
Leaving you behind
Even if your cruise stops to visit a port, drama can still unfold. Cruise ships are not obligated to wait for you if you fail to return on time and end up missing your departure date. This is written in the agreement – and by failing to depart at the arranged time, you risk being left behind.
Whenever you find yourself stopping at an unfamiliar place on a cruise ship, try to avoid straying too far from the port. In addition, make sure you carry your passport and documentation with you when getting off of the boat so that if there is any delay or confusion about where to go next for international customs procedures, you won’t be left behind.
Although the workers on cruise ships will always try to ensure the safest trips for their customers, it can happen that people just go missing. There are those who fall overboard or get left behind at ports but also some passengers who disappear without a trace.
In the span of twenty years, there have been over two hundred people who were found either gone or dead after disappearing during a cruise vacation. Some examples of how they could’ve disappeared are being kidnapped or committing suicide while on board.
Wherever there are people, there will always be some among them who want to break the rules. It’s the same on a cruise ship, and the brig gets used more often than you might think. Usually, most people on a cruise are here for enjoyment- but others see it as an opportunity to commit some petty crimes like theft.
Staff members aboard cruise ships are taught how to deal with such difficult situations. But sometimes it’s just not enough and crimes include assault and bomb scares that stretch the staff to their limits.
Gambling on board
Spent too much at the casino? Don’t worry! A lot of cruises have casinos onboard, but before you play you need to take a look at which gambling laws are enforced while in international waters. Depending on which coast is nearby, you could be limited with how much you can spend or even what type of games are available.
Cruising at times can make gambling an uphill battle. In fact, the odds on any given hand could change from three to two all the way up to six to five during a game of blackjack which makes it difficult for players who often are eager for one last good luck charm. Gambling isn’t always about winning anything, but when you’re trying your luck on a boat – well chances are slim anyways.
Worse than flying
Though we may know that flying leaves a large carbon footprint, it has been proven time and time again that taking a cruise ship can be even worse. This outdated form of transportation is harmful to the environment and all those who depend on it.
A cruise ship releases up to 7x the amount of carbon emissions per person than when someone flies. It’s not just harming everyone on Earth, but also those who spend time on board since they are being exposed to these pollutants.
Every cruise is different
Cruise companies try to differentiate themselves from each other by offering unique amenities such as complimentary coffee, internet access, and upgraded bedding at no additional cost. When so many people want this type of vacation, it’s important for these companies to stand out for their customers.
This means that every cruise line will have something different to offer you, so if you do the same type of voyage with two competitors then your experience can be vastly different. Some cruises are successful because of what they offer while others are successful because of how they make people feel onboard.
Keeping a log
Sometimes, the crew on a cruise cannot say what they want to about the guests. After all, they’re trying their best to give the guest an enjoyable time so that they can receive a good review and earn a higher bonus at the end of this sailing voyage.
Rough seas are scary
Cruise ships are designed to withstand violent storms and high waves, but they don’t make the journey pleasant for anyone onboard.
Ships designed for cruising trips are often shaky and cause much nausea among those unaccustomed to finding their sea legs. This happens because there is so much stuff on the ship and it moves around unpredictably when cruising through rough seas.
Captains aren’t perfect
Captains of ships are responsible for each person who sets foot on their boat, just like the captains of planes are. A lot is at stake with every decision they make because they have many lives in their hands – and it all depends on them whether or not those people live or die. A captain needs to be an experienced sailor if he wants to ensure his passengers’ safety- but mistakes do happen from time to time.
Unfortunately, if the captain makes a mistake then it could mean disaster for all of those involved. Sometimes an error could lead to loss of life and it would be up to the captain whether or not they want to go down with their ship.