Cruise Ship Staff Reveal Dark Secrets About Working Aboard

Cruising on a luxury ship and interacting with new faces from around the world is an absolute dream. Who wouldn’t want to spend their days visiting new places and eating delicious cuisine? However, the reality of working on those ships isn’t quite as glamorous as it seems.

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People that work on cruise ships tend to make it look fancy and satisfying. Some lead a different life on the ship, unknown to their family and friends. Like Vegas, what happens on the ship stays on the ship. But trust us to reveal some of their secrets!

Getting Hit by a Hurricane

A hurricane is terrifying for people offshore, especially those who live near water. Imagine what it would be like living on the water when a hurricane actually hits. This natural disaster is unavoidable, even though people on board can get an emergency notice when a hurricane is about to hit.

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A cruise ship from Galveston, Texas, once made a journey right when Hurricane Harvey was about to hit. The 20,000 people onboard became stuck in the devastating storm. It was scarier because their port got stormed, and they couldn’t get clearance to head back to land.

There Are No Days Off

If you must attend to other things or take a day off each week, you shouldn’t consider even working on a cruise ship. Cruise ship workers literally have zero days off when they are on a contract. Sometimes, they work nonstop for months or almost a year!

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When a contract ends, workers get a couple of months off before they resume their jobs. Although while working, they don’t work nonstop during the day because there are shifts among workers. Each person eventually has a few hours to cool off and relax each day.

The Food Isn’t as Nice as You Think

Actually, the food on cruise ships is quite great as you think. Cruise ship workers do not eat the same luxury food that the guests eat. They are very limited in what they are able to eat, and these meals are usually weird and undesirable.

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The kitchen staff is lucky because they can eat leftover buffets at the end of their shift. The kitchen crew works with what they have, but that doesn’t seem to be much. The privileged workers are managers and officers who can order from what the passengers get.

The Nonstop Weird Requests

You travel and work on international waters to serve unknown people who might get drunk while partying, which makes it likely that you encounter sides of people you’ve never experienced. Everybody has their “thing” and being drunk on vacation is sure to bring out the ‘‘thing.’’

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Cruise workers are responsible for meeting all the needs of the passengers while on the ship. A cruise ship worker said she was once asked to make ‘‘adult’’ towel animals for a couple. That is probably mild compared to all kinds of odd fetishes people onboard may have.

No Intimacy with Passengers

Anyone hoping to get a job on a cruise ship to make some sort of connection abroad will most likely be disappointed. A worker must never hook up with a guest. Cruise workers are barred from getting close to guests, and anyone caught will be fired for sure.

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Workers are told not to have a tete-a-tete or any close interaction with guests. Cruise workers obviously will have to talk to guests, but they must always be professional in their dealings. The crew usually steers clear of guests’ rooms to avoid getting into trouble.

Officers are Royalty

Not all workers on a cruise ship eat regular meals or even need to scavenge. Depending on your rank, you might actually get to eat whatever you want. A former cruise ship worker said that officers often get to eat what the passengers have.

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Also, unlike crew members, high-ranking officers can order from the passengers’ food at any time they want. They don’t have to wait until the end of the day like the rest of the staff to get a share of the late-night buffet. That seems like a desirable job on the ship!

You Could be Stranded

Besides making money, most cruise workers apply for the job so they can explore foreign lands, see exotic locations, and meet people from all over the world. But if you explore after docking at a port, you’d better make sure to return before the scheduled departure time.

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If something were to happen to prevent you from making it back in time, don’t think the ship will be waiting for you. So, make sure to set multiple alarms on your phone if you don’t want to get stranded on an island or somewhere worse.

Did You Know Ships Have Morgues?

It shouldn’t come as a shock that about 200 people pass away on cruise ships each year. So, a system definitely needs to be put in place to keep the bodies until the ship returns. Every cruise ship has a morgue. We bet knowing this doesn’t feel good.

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Usually, most of the morgues are small and are made to occupy about five bodies, but some ships may have larger morgues. Cruise ships that specifically cater to senior citizens tend to have larger morgues. A former cruise employee said older demographics die on the ship ‘‘pretty regularly.’’

There Are Small-Sized Cabins

The thought of working on a luxury cruise liner gives you a bright idea of what the living condition would be like. You obviously don’t get the same accommodations as paying passengers, but crew quarters are uncomfortable for anyone to live in for a long period of time.

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Some officers have private rooms above water, but most of the crew are not so lucky. Crew members usually stay on the lower deck, which is basically underwater. The rooms are dormitory styled, and sometimes you can touch all four walls while standing in the center of the room.

There Is a Strict ‘No Refunds’ Policy

People have to deal with health issues that affect virtually everything they do. Buying insurance when booking a cruise is a highly recommended option. It’s just that the insurance required when traveling across borders is ridiculously expensive, so a lot of people do not purchase it.

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It isn’t smart to want to go without it though. A passenger without insurance can lose all of their booking fees if they become too sick to go on their cruise. It is understandably upsetting not to get refunds due to serious illness or even death!

The War Against Pirates

Most of us have only seen pirates in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” or other movies. The waterways are still unguarded today, so pirates do try to seize ships and boats. Usually, pirates don’t target cruise liners because of the large number of people on board.

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That doesn’t mean large ships don’t get targeted. Cruise lines ensure cruise workers are trained to protect themselves and the guests in case of a pirate attack. They are trained to use giant water cannons whose blasts are powerful enough to take out a small pirate boat.

Pulling Pranks on the Guests

Living and working at sea every day all year can become an extremely boring routine for cruise workers with hardly a break for fun. To feel alive, cruise ship workers like to pull some jovial pranks on passengers. Pulling pranks on guests? Are they serious? Well, yes.

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One cruise worker said they would talk loud enough to be heard by passengers about meeting in the bowling alley. The ship didn’t have one, but it is an attempt to make them think there is one on board. The passengers could end up mentioning it in the comment cards.

Cruise Devices Can be Damaging

Some cruise ships are made with long-range acoustic devices as part of the protection system put in place. This device makes an extremely loud noise that causes pain and can even permanently damage the ear. It is generally considered a good way to ward off any incoming threats.

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The long-range acoustic device was used in 2005 by a cruise ship targeted by pirates off the coast of Africa. The cruise workers were able to see them coming in time and acted quickly. Luckily, they were able to successfully deter the attack by the pirates.

Say ‘No’ to Alcohol

Most cruise ships have a bar that only serves the crew, and they sell alcohol for much cheaper than what the customers pay. A specialty drink on a cruise ship can be sold to guests for $20, while crew members can get similar drinks for less than $5.

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Staff can’t drink on the clock, and they are not allowed to get drunk. According to a former cruise ship worker, they are told never to get drunk, but some senior employees don’t pay attention and will have ‘‘four or five drinks.’’ What can you say? They’re the seniors, right?

The Waves vs. the Ship

Royal Caribbean boasts some of the largest luxury cruise ships ever. But despite the size, their ship was snapped into two like a twig by waves. That should make you nervous. The waves in the ocean are so strong and can literally destroy anything in their path.

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The ship was headed to Florida from the Northeast coast of the United States but was forced to turn around due to the storm. The storm resulted in waves as big as 30 feet that crashed into the boat. The damages pictured revealed the collapsed ceiling and the table and chairs scattered.

There Are Squads and Cliques

Working on a cruise ship can make people form a group and clique up. Cliques are typically formed according to what countries the crew members are from. Since cruise ships travel across many countries and sometimes across continents, there are employees from different parts of the world.

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The groups tend to have names and things they are known for. According to a cruise ship worker, the ‘‘Filipino Mafia” is known for bringing in booze. This is a thing because the bars generally close before 2 a.m., and some workers like to party ’til dawn.

Rescue Caught on Camera

On most Royal Caribbean cruise ships, there are over 1,200 surveillance cameras. This seems like a lot, but some say it isn’t enough. There are people on board who may go overboard, so there is a demand for a technology that can detect this.

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This may have helped detect the 22-year-old boy who spent five hours in the water before he was rescued. He could have drowned if his screams weren’t heard by another man sitting out on his balcony. The ship stopped, and the rescue was sent out to save him.

The Unfortunate Incident at Bonaire

This is about a 24-year-old Mexican lady, Ariana Morales de Florencio, who went missing when the Royal Caribbean cruise ship she worked on left the port on the island of Bonaire. She was left behind when she didn’t make it back in time.

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Video footage showed the lady getting off the ship, but she wasn’t seen returning back to the ship. Her family created a social media campaign to raise awareness, the island authorities were informed, and they questioned the locals and posted signs to find her.

There’s No Such Thing as Privacy

If you are a private person or someone who cherishes their alone time, then working on a cruise ship isn’t for you. Everyone on the ship knows everyone else’s business, and anyone who is watching you can do that easily. There are also surveillance cameras everywhere.

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Of course, there are exceptions in private living quarters, bathrooms and toilets. As unsettling as the presence of cameras everywhere else may be, it is absolutely necessary for the safety of everyone on board. Also, in the case of emergencies, the cameras help to shed light on what happened.

The Parties Are Always Pumped Up!

Partying is the biggest allure of a good cruise ship. The passengers know this, and no one on vacation hesitates to have a good time. Employees on cruise ships definitely don’t want to miss the party. They want to dance, drink and let loose sometimes, too.

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In fact, cruise workers love to party just as much as passengers do. Sometimes even more so. But there is a huge difference: While the passengers are getting lit under the stars, the crew members are mostly stuck drinking in their windowless basements.

There is No Escape

When something extremely bad happens on a cruise ship, everyone on board has to deal with it. There is literally no escape. This was the case in 2015 for passengers and crew members of the Carnival Ecstasy. A couple unfortunately watched closely as an electrician accidentally died in an elevator.

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The couple narrated their experience and described it as nothing less than the stuff in horror movies. It is hard to imagine how terrifying it was being stuck in the same place with someone losing his life. Crew members onboard worked hard to keep passengers away from the scene.

You Could Fall Off the Ship

Going overboard on a cruise ship isn’t an uncommon incident. It happens more often than we think. In 2015, a 22-year-old American man fell from a ship. He survived, though, which is pretty insane because a fall as high as that could have killed anyone on the spot.

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Not only did this man survive the fall, but he also hung on in the open water for about five hours before he was rescued. He was fortunate to be found by some passengers who threw lifesavers to him. He miraculously survived the experience without a broken neck.

Don’t Expect Internet Connection

When cruising, you are obviously in the middle of nowhere and far from telecommunication masts. So, no social media or Netflix. Using the internet is stressful and expensive when you are at sea. The only time you will get a fair shot is when you are docked in a port.

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If you can’t be without a Wi-Fi connection for months, then working on a cruise ship is not for you. Wi-Fi is ridiculously expensive, so you just have to get familiar with using internet cafes instead. On some luxury cruise ships, crew members are lucky to have an internet lounge.

There Are No Personal Rooms

Rooms for crew members usually have small bunk beds and little to no floor space. Ideally, we all need room to breathe and move around freely without our toes being stepped on by someone else around us. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.

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On some cruise ships, the rooms for crew members are like dormitories, so 11 people can stay in the same room. So, unless you are an officer, there is no guarantee that you will have much space to yourself. Most cruise workers will tell you it is worth it, though.

Having an Intimate Work Relationship Is Inevitable

While the rulebook prohibits hooking up with a guest, crew member relationships are inevitable. You are living with the same people in tight quarters for most of the year, so you will naturally bond with them. You are likely to hook up with at least one.

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The romance between crew members is unlike a typical relationship on land. Even if things get sour, you can hardly get away from your ‘‘partner’’ because you work, eat, and play together. Also, forget about keeping it a secret because everyone sees what is happening on board.

It Can Get Nasty Quickly

Emergencies happen, but in the middle of the ocean, things can get nasty so fast. When things go wrong on a ship, there is no easy way to curb it, and the people on board can’t escape, either. The best case is if nothing breaks down throughout the journey.

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In 2013, a Carnival cruise lost power after the engine room caught fire. The ship was left stranded in the Gulf of Mexico, and amidst this, the sewage got filled up, and dirty liquid was released into the ship. Passengers camped out in tents to escape the stench.

The Big Virus Outbreak

When a disease breaks out on a cruise ship, it spreads faster because passengers can’t do much to avoid getting sick when they are basically trapped together in the same space. This happened when 100 passengers on a Carnival Cruise ship contracted Norovirus, a foodborne illness.

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Unfortunately, the passengers happened to get sick on their first day of a 10-day cruise. Norovirus has flu-like symptoms, and its outbreaks on cruise ships are actually pretty common. In a single year, the virus outbreak was reported four times on four different ships.

Americans Can’t be Cruise Workers?

This is a constantly talked-about topic in the cruise industry. Why do cruise lines avoid hiring Americans? Americans are used to working the standard Monday through Friday schedule and taking the weekends off. So, compared to the rest of the world, Americans work for a shorter frame.

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People in the cruise industry work more than 40 hours a week and don’t take weekends off. Getting a day off in your contract is considered lucky. Americans are fond of quitting when they work on cruise ships, so hiring managers do not necessarily want to employ them.

Cruise Ships Aren’t for Environmentally Conscious People

No one on a tropical cruise vacation would ever think they are hurting a thing or endangering anyone. But in reality, cruise ships touring the water have an adverse effect on the environment. Cruise ships can do some serious damage by polluting the air with heavy smoke.

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In a day, one cruise ship pollutes the air as much as 1 million cars. It shouldn’t come as a shock considering the size of most cruise ships. Cruise companies are aware of how much they pollute the air, but they haven’t done much to manage the situation.

Tips are Even Worth More

Cruise workers are part of the hospitality industry. Like their counterparts, crew members depend largely on tips from guests to maximize their income. Most cruise lines even have a mandatory gratuity added to customers’ bills and then split fairly among employees.

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Out there in the middle of the sea, no one gets to go grocery shopping as often as they do on land. A cruise worker doesn’t have any living expenses while on board. They can actually save tips as they come.

Customers Are Always Right

If you have gone on a cruise, then you know comment cards are used largely by passengers. They aren’t just there as formalities as most guests would think. For crew members, whatever goes in those comment cards can have a serious effect on their lives.

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Reviews on these cards are taken so seriously that they can influence an employee’s paycheck. Regular positive comments about a worker can get them a raise or bonus, and a single negative comment can automatically get a worker’s contract terminated. You have to be sincere with your reviews!

What It’s Like Beating a Rogue Wave

If you saw the word “rogue” and assumed it means something is out of control, then yes, you are totally right! Rogue waves are waves that come literally out of nowhere. They are fast and furious and are a pirate’s worst nightmare. You don’t want to see it for real.

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Rogue waves are also called ‘‘freak’’ or ‘‘monster’’ waves. That doesn’t sound nice, does it? They are called these because of how insanely large and random they are. Rogue waves over the years have torn even extremely large ships apart. Experienced cruise workers hope never to see one.

Does the Crew Keep Secrets?

Working in the hospitality industry isn’t exactly a walk in the park. You constantly have to deal with people from different backgrounds. It is different strokes for different folks, really. Working on a cruise ship is barely different from working in a resort or hotel on land.

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Hospitality workers live to serve the needs of others, but this doesn’t come with a robust paycheck. Unfortunately, in return for grueling hours, they get pretty low hourly pay. Working on a cruise ship is by far the most demanding, and the workers don’t earn the most.

The Front of the Ship is Bumpy

Being in the front of a cruise ship seems like a good idea, but it is not. Riding in a ship can be really bumpy depending on the state of the water. Booking a room in the front means, you are definitely in for a bumpy ride.

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The room will constantly feel like it is moving, and anyone who gets seasick will have a lot on their plate. The cleaners are constantly cleaning the front room, which is also disturbing. Also, the view of the room’s furniture when you shine a blacklight isn’t nice.

There Can be Tons of Drama

A cruise is a long trip with many people and virtually all activities happening on board, so obviously, there will be lots of drama. People are partying, dating, and becoming best friends. It starts to get political, the gossip won’t stop, and relationships are formed and broken with everything between.

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On the outside, crew members may seem like they have their lives together and are strictly professionals. That is clearly not true because some can literally feel the cameras staring at them. In reality, most of them walk around with anxiety and work with lots of tension.

You Might Not Have a Nice Boss

Cruise ship management is especially known for being mean. Managers and officers on board are given separate private quarters, which shows just how high up they are. The managers and officers onboard also have the absolute power to discipline workers. Some happen to be power-driven all the time.

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The managers are the ones behind the cameras. If a crew member is seen acting up, they will be left at a port with a single order from a manager. But clearly, no matter how bad the managers are, people never stop applying to work on the ships.

There Are Jails on These Ships

You read that right. Cruise ships have jails, too! Passengers are not expected to be saints. Anyone who breaks the law or does anything that threatens other people on board can be ‘‘arrested.’’ The captain and officers have the authority to put anyone in jail.

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The arrest isn’t illegal. They can keep a person in the ship’s jail until the ship reaches the port, where they are handed over to the police. Crew workers can also be thrown behind bars. If you are working on a cruise ship, you really shouldn’t make a mistake.

The Most Anticipated Moment of the Ride

Something every crew member looks forward to the most is docking at a port. Whenever the ship makes a port call, the crew knows they will have some fun. Just like guests are free to leave to roam around the area, crew members can also leave.

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After working nonstop for days and sometimes months, it is the perfect opportunity to rest while further exploring unknown places. On the bright side, it is a chance to get some time away from annoying passengers, mean managers, and all the drama happening on the ship.

Crew Members Are Not Your Friends

When you spend time traveling with people, you see them day and night, you might assume you have a bond, but that’s you. You are just another person that has come and will go. Staff is getting paid to care, so they smile every time because they have to.

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The truth is that most workers are waiting to go below the deck where they can relax and play. As a guest, what makes you stand out is when you tip them, but other than that, you may be nothing but another face in the crowd.

The Law Has No Boundary

People often assume that when they are in international waters, they are immune from any type of legal matter. The laws are, however, still binding and can be enforced with the application of ‘‘maritime law.’’ In America, this is enforced by the Coast Guard.

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In 2016, Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagace were caught attempting to smuggle about 200 pounds of illegal substances on a Princess cruise ship. Using maritime law, the women were caught and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The narcotics found were estimated to be worth $16 million.

Cruise Ships Have War Rooms

The concept of having ‘‘war rooms’’ on a cruise ship isn’t strange. These vessels are subject to pirates and other potential enemy attacks while they cannot get immediate support from the police or military. These emergencies are fairly rare, but they do happen. So, what is in a war room?

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Technically, a war room is a place where government officials or the like get together to discuss plans regarding the safety of a certain group of people. In a cruise ship, a war room is used by officers to devise a strategy in the case of a pirate attack.

The Missing Worker from Disney Cruise

In 2011, a young British woman named Rebecca Coriam, who worked on the Disney Wonder cruise ship, vanished into thin air. At the time of her disappearance, the ship was somewhere off the coast of Mexico. It is logical to assume someone on the cruise knows about her sudden disappearance.

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Since there were cameras everywhere, video footage recovered from the ship reveals Rebecca talking on the phone just before she was no longer seen on the ship. According to reports, she seemed to be in distress, and to date, no one has seen or heard from her.

Ships Can Be Flooded

This is quite unexpected considering the fact that boats and ships are expected to float above the water. Well, cruise ships are not immune to flooding despite how big they are. Extreme harsh weather is a major factor that leads to a cruise ship being flooded by water.

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A flooding case happened in 2018 when the Carnival Dream experienced a flood that affected 50 staterooms after a water line broke. The passengers would have been completely enraged, also leaving the Cruise company with lots of damages to repair and customers to pacify.

You’ll be Isolated from the World

Considering the high cost of Wi-Fi and how it is mostly impossible to make phone calls while on the waters, cruise workers tend to give up on communicating with the outside world. There is also barely enough free time to try getting on the internet. This sometimes lasts for months.

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They lose touch with family, friends, and the outside world in general. With no access to information, they live without any knowledge of what is going on in the world until they return to shore. They are literally isolated.

Language on Cruise Ships Is in Codes

Traveling on international waters and sometimes across continents means you will come across foreigners. Cruise workers must take an extensive language course to learn how to read, write and speak a new language(s). You may have to get conversant with a new language because of foreigners on board.

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So, it is not just new languages, but also body cues and codes to communicate with other crew members. This is to let you handle situations without letting passengers know what’s going on. An example is ‘‘Code Alpha’’ which means a medical emergency.

It Is OK Not to Know

Having a bunch of emergencies come up on board is terrifyingly not uncommon to cruise crew workers. Sometimes, a fire could break out in the engine room, but with immediate response by members of the crew, passengers will have no idea it ever happened.

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It is generally a cruise ship policy to only alert passengers of fire if it is necessary for their safety. So long as the crew members curb the fire, it is not news. Passengers could be having the best time of their life while an engine burns below deck.

Not Everyone Leaves the Ship

Cruise workers’ schedules are planned out, and everyone’s shift is well-detailed. It is a common scenario to be unlucky and be assigned to duty when the ship docks at the port. There is no exception, so you must be physically present throughout your whole shift.

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It is strictly against the rule to get off the ship if you are on a shift. A cruise worker cannot even try, but it is being made impossible. How is that? While on a shift, identification documents and passports are in the hands of the captain.

The Unexpected Can Happen

One of the most amazing things about cruise ships is that they have made provision for everything you could ever need while onboard. As perfect as they seem, there could be a malfunction that makes a basic necessity stop working while in the middle of the ocean.

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This happened on a Carnival cruise ship in 2013 when the elevators and toilets just stopped working. Damn, right? This happened midway through the weeklong cruise, so it must have been a nightmare for the passengers and crew members. You can only imagine how they survived it.

An Overboard Miracle After an Accidental Slip

When people get on a floating device like a kayak, yacht, or cruise ship, it is a common risk to fall overboard. It is scary considering how people lose their lives or are left with a permanent injury when this happens. You have got to be careful!

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A cruise ship worker on a Norwegian cruise line was unfortunate to find himself overboard after an accidental slip. Luckily for him, he survived the fall, but it must have been really devastating because a different cruise ship rescued him 22 hours later.

It’s Best to be Loaded with Money

This is a warning: Keep your financial wits about you! As a passenger on a cruise line, you will probably spend a lot more than you anticipated. There are a lot of hidden costs when you embark. You need your expenses well planned for.

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From the ridiculously expensive Wi-Fi to bottles of wine, most passengers have no idea just how much they will be spending. You also could go on an excursion each time the ship docks at a port, and that means more places to shop and things to pay for.

The Worst Form of Denial

It is clear that the work schedule for cruise ship crew is crazily demanding, and they still handle it just fine. However, they are human and must answer the call of nature. Everyone needs a bathroom break, and it could be very pressing regardless of what you are doing.

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However, it’s said that crew members can be denied a break to use the restroom during busy periods on the ship. This is totally unfair in any case. It is worse because it often forces them to do the unthinkable. Gross! Something needs to be done about this.