Whether you have taken a dozen cruises or never stepped foot on a gangway, you may be surprised by some of the secrets hidden onboard. Some of these secrets are places you’re not allowed to visit; others are policies the cruise lines don’t typically share. Read on and let us know what surprised you:
1. There’s a whole other world you can’t see.
Yep, you’re really only seeing half of your cruise ship. Many of the things that you have access to on a cruise ship — a cabin, dining hall, bars, sun decks, gyms — have separate versions on a lower deck for the crew to use. These areas are off-limits to guests.
2. There is a morgue. (Really.)
Most large ships have a designated morgue in case a passenger passes away during a sailing. They also have body bags and, if death occurs, they’re prepared to hold a body —or bodies — there until the ship reaches a port large enough for arrangements to be made to return the deceased home. While the cruise lines don’t really like to discuss the issue, deaths at sea are most common on lines that carry a large percentage of elderly passengers.
Related: Confessions of a Cruise Ship Doctor
Always be kind to your cruise ship waiter … he might not get a day off! (Photo: Thinkstock)
3. Crew members don’t just work hard — they often work every day.
Many crew members work seven days a week during the time they’re onboard, and for more hours a day than the typical American works. They then get a few shifts off. The result? They’re traveling around the world, but they don’t often get time to see the ports.
4. Crew members live onboard, but not year round.
Cruise lines hire officers and crew for typical four- to six-month stints, depending on the position. Then they go home, and come back onboard – or get on another ship – after a two- to three-month break.
5. The crew may know a lot about you. Like, really a lot.
Surprised when a crew member knows your name right away, or how you take your tea? Don’t be. On luxury ships, the cruise lines collect information about your likes and dislikes and store it in a central database. Then, if you return on a later sailing, that information is shared with the crew along with your photo. If it’s your first sailing, your cabin steward will still get your photo and be told you’re a first-time passenger.
Turns out, cruise ships are actually operated on autopilot for a portion of the day. (Photo: Thinkstock)
6. The captain doesn’t really stand behind a wheel all day.
Cruise ships can operate under the command of a computer — on autopilot — for a portion of the day, except when entering and exiting ports and during inclement weather.
7. The crew may party harder than the passengers.
Below the decks where passengers live, the crew bars may stay open later — and serve revelers more alcohol per person — than in the passenger areas. Depending on the ship, the average age could be lower, but even if it isn’t, chances are the celebrations are more intense. While some types of crew members, officers, and other employees — such as captains and stage-show headliners — are allowed to have a drink in the same bars passengers visit, most must imbibe in the off-limits areas. Remember the old adage: work hard and play harder? They certainly do!
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