The Promises and Realities of Life on a Cruise Ship - too cool 2 be true

The Promises and Realities of Life on a Cruise Ship

The all-in-one cruise ship holiday is perfect for millions of people. After a long year of work, no one wants to spend their extra time planning travel itineraries. Instead, they want to sit back, relax, and enjoy some quality time – preferably on a tropical island. That’s why cruises are great. With one ticket, you’ve got all your food, accommodation, and activities planned out.

However, they might not be the food, accommodation, or activities you expected. Oftentimes, there’s quite a big difference between the picture you saw on a website and the reality of life on a cruise. For some, that leads to anger which ruins their holiday. To avoid that, it can be helpful to look at (and get comfortable with) the realities of cruising the open seas. Let’s take a look. 

Dining Room Promises

Although the star rating system (one-star, two-star, three-star, etc.) sounds like an objective measure of quality, it’s not always the same. A five-star meal from a renowned chef in Paris is not the same as a five-star meal from a local chef in Kansas.

When we think of a five-star cruise, we assume everything will be five stars. The walls will be glittering with gold, the room as spacious as the sea, and the dining hall filled with delicacies served by elegant waitstaff. That’s the picture the brochure shows.

Dining Room Realities

However, that’s not always the case. The reality is there’s a lot missing from the pretty picture promised in the brochure. Think less of a giant ballroom filled with elegant chandeliers and more of a cramped hall that reminds you of a high-school cafeteria.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can still enjoy a wide variety of food while sitting with friends and family. However, the lines are long, the lights are bright, and they might not have your favorite delicacy.

Titanic Promises

The 1997 film Titanic was a massive hit. Despite a high production cost, it made a (excuse the pun) boatload of money. One of the most iconic scenes in that 3-hour tale of love and loss was when Jack and Rose were on the bow of the ship.

Audiences loved the romance of it all – the wind blowing through Rose’s hair as she stared out at the endless sea. That’s why a lot of modern-day cruisers try to recreate the scene on their own.

Titanic Realities

However, it doesn’t always work out well. Movies and reality are two separate things. It doesn’t matter if the chemistry of the two partners is as strong as that of Jack and Rose, the scene rarely ends up looking as good.

Just take a look above. The woman seems to be in her happy place, but the wind and clouds seem to be a bit angry. Plus, the loud music and partying patrons at the bar probably killed the romantic mood.

Tour Promises

Although the ship’s amenities are important, no one wants to spend all their time lounging by the pool on the ship. The true highlight of any cruise is when it pulls up to a dock and you can hop off to explore a tropical island or lounge on the beach.  

Advertisers know that – which is why they fill the brochures and websites with pictures of paradise beaches and delicious cocktails. It’s true that you can experience that … to some degree.

Tour Realities

First off, cruise ships are massive. That means they can’t float down a small river to a secluded beach. Instead, they need a big open port to dock at. Also, you’re only docked for a few hours, so there’s a time limit on how far you can go.

For many, that’s fine – they just want a cocktail, a beach chair, and an ocean view. If you’re traveling with family and want to explore a bit, just make sure there are enough activities nearby.

Celebrity Encounters 

Cruise ships provide an all-in-one experience. Food, tours, and entertainment are all provided. Sometimes that entertainment involves celebrity guests. When that’s the case, they get the true VIP treatment – separate lounge areas, recreation areas, and cabins.

Twitter / @ship_probs

They perform on a nightly basis and then spend their days enjoying the ocean views. Some celebs like to mix and mingle, but many others stay to themselves. After their contract is up, they get off at the next port and go about their luxury lives.

Employee Discounts

Some employers love to give incentives to increase the productivity of their employees. If you’re an employee of a cruise company, then those incentives can range from food discounts to discounts on an entire cruise. After working 12 hours a day every day of the week, that sounds like paradise.


Sometimes the discounts can be hugely significant. For example, imagine taking your entire family on a cruise for as little as $15 a day – that’s not out of the ordinary!

Sinking Boats

Hundreds of millions of people are familiar with the story of the Titanic ship sinking into the ocean. For quite a few of them, it probably cut off their desire to go out on the ocean at all. That’s understandable, especially when you consider all the storms out there. 


However, if you chat with long-term employees, they rarely bat an eyelid at tropical storms. It turns out they don’t present much of a threat to massive cruise ships equipped with stabilizers.

Boat Besties

Travel often brings people together. Cruise ship travel is no different. Spending days or weeks on a boat among strangers is a great way to make new friends. Life on the open ocean gets lonely if you don’t have a solid crew.

Instagram / @sgmundi

Cruise ship employees are going through a similar experience together. They all work long hours, live in cramped quarters, and deal with complaining guests. After hours they can meet up, air their grievances, and laugh it off before the next day.

The Weather – Expectations

The climate is a key factor in any excursion, regardless of whether it’s a summer escape or a skiing trip. It is significantly more important on a cruise, where you go through the vast majority of the day outside. Regardless of how incredible the ships are, and how extraordinary the company, in the end, everything comes down to the climate. Terrible weather really can ruin your dream cruise. 

A cruise is close to worthless without good weather. After all, a clear blue sky and the warmth of the sun are treats for the mind and body.

The Weather – Reality

If a storm moves in when you’re on a cruise, you can’t really tap out. There’s no spot to run since you’re stuck on a moving boat. So, you’re compelled to remain inside, either inside your room, the packed common zones, or the miserable casino. 

We don’t know which alternative is better, but we do know that we’d be praying for the weather to clear up the whole time. Even meteorologists admit their ability to predict weather patterns is limited. So praying is often a cruise ship passenger’s only option! 

The Entertainment – Expectations

We’re guaranteed many attractions and excitements on the boat. In the evenings, after supper, there should be live music, magic shows, comedy, and all sorts of other theatrics. This image, for instance, shows a Rascal Flatts show on a ship with an elated crowd and an exuberant atmosphere. 

While this image is absolutely real, only the most luxurious (and expensive) cruise ships can afford to bring A-list artists on board. Let’s set our expectations right.

The Entertainment – Reality

Reality check: the live show presumably will not be from a famous performer but a striving singer who couldn’t book a gig elsewhere. It’s best not to rely on the live show to be the most awesome aspect of the cruise. Those passengers who do are in for a harsh surprise. 

More often than not, the “professional” entertainment is provided by a novice artist, and at times, it’s actually karaoke. Before booking a cruise, it’s a good idea to check what truly lies behind the advertised “live show.”

FML Dinner Edition

With 3,000 guests onboard a cruise ship at one time, there are plenty of hungry mouths to feed at least three times a day. Keeping the customer happy means keeping their bellies full, but the staff gets their own tummy rumblings too!

Twitter / @ship_probs

Snacking all day and then gorging some more is part of the magic of vacation. But it certainly sounds tough to go to the back of the line when food is finally in sight! Patience is a virtue, or so they say.

The Pool – Expectations

Most people have imagined themselves lying by the poolside on a cruise ship, calmly reading a book and appreciating the calming sound of the waves and the delicate breeze rustling your hair. 

That is the way they sell this experience, yet tragically, ‘serene’ is the last word you could use to portray the reality of cruise ship pools. You may want a calm day by the pool, but so does every other traveler. 

The Pool – Reality

The pool on a ship may be awesome and surpass our expectations, but it also may be far too small to accommodate the crowd. Our main issue isn’t with the pool but with different travelers on the ship. The sooner you understand you share the ship with others, the better. 

Did you think each one of those individuals from the boarding line would mysteriously vanish the following day? They all need to appreciate the best features the ship has to offer, and the pools are high on the list.

Romantic Dates – Expectations

There’s nothing more charming than watching the sun sink over the horizon on a warm night with the person you love, isn’t that so? This scene is common in romantic films and novels, however, don’t go searching for this idea of a whimsical date on a cruise ship. 

We’ve already revealed that you won’t find a private moment on a cruise as the public areas are always packed. Sadly, the only way you could witness the sunset with your partner without being jostled by other passengers trying to take selfies is if you had a decent view from your room. 

Romantic Dates – Reality

Tracking down a private spot on the deck where you could have a peaceful moment with the person you love is almost unattainable. However, not all expectations are lost – cruise ships regularly offer an assortment of couple’s activities. 

Romantic activities abound, but privacy? Not a chance. Instead, you could take a couple’s class like the one shown in the picture above. Don’t have to stress over booking a spot ahead of time because couple’s classes are rarely completely reserved. 

What Time Is It?

If you’ve ever lived in a dark room without windows, then you know what Einstein found out all those years ago – time is relative. Without the sun to wake you up at 6 am or let you know it’s nighttime at 7 pm, time gets a bit tricky. 

Twitter / @ship_probs

As you can see from the tweet above, cruise employees know this first-hand. When you spend most of your time below deck in windowless rooms, it can be hard to keep track of the time. Is it 1 pm or 4 am?

Age Group Promises

Cruises are often sold as idyllic getaways where young people can sit by the pool, sip on colorful cocktails, and dance the night away. The image people have in their heads is a little like the picture below – younger people drinking, smiling, and flirting.

Countless movies have portrayed this fantasy and the advertising industry does a great job propping it up as well. Although this might be the case on some cruises, it’s certainly not the norm on all of them.

Age Group Realities

It’s true that there are special cruises that specifically cater to a younger demographic. Those are perfect for the Hollywood fantasy described above. However, if you were to choose a cruise at random, it’s more likely that the passengers would be in their 60s rather than their 20s.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being in your 60s, but if your idea is to party it up with other rambunctious 20-year-olds, then you’re in for a surprise. That surprise can be great if you’re looking for a low-key holiday.

The Casino – Expectations

Regardless of which cruise we’re going on, we expect a casino that could match the best in Vegas. The pool may have been a mistake, and the live show was a failure, but the casino never fails. 

We dressed to the nines, primed up our stomachs for an evening of drinking, filled our wallets with cash, and headed out to the casino. All the while, we’re envisioning the Bellagio or the MGM. 

The Casino – Reality

The rooms are a lot more modest than anticipated because of the restricted space on the ship. The rooms, the lounge areas, and the common zones occupy the vast majority of the space inside the boat, so very little is left for the casino. 

This image shows the dismal reality. Given that they have such a small space to work with, the “casino” is often little more than a few slot machines in a dim room. On the plus side, at least it might encourage people to reconsider gambling their savings away. 

Beach Promises

Cruises and beaches go together like peanut butter and jelly (or jam if that’s your, well, jam). After the stress of working most of the year, cruise ship passengers dream of lounging on a tropical beach with a mixed drink in hand, watching as the waves go in and out.

People hope to find that paradise experience near one of the ports on the cruise. However, it’s hard to get when the ship only stops for a few hours and everyone else is getting off as well.

Beach Realities

Although the words “secluded beach” and “cruise ship” are linked in the public imagination, they rarely go together in the real world. That’s because cruise ships are full of people and when they stop all those people rush to the beach.

Sure, you can head further away to try and find a nice little patch of quiet. However, it’s rare that you’ll be entirely away from the noise. If you came for a party, then that’s no problem at all – just join in with the fun.

The Cruise Ship – Expectations

Cruise ships have elegant names, usually incorporating words like queen, princess, or anything that has to do with royalty. We anticipate that the ship should be nothing short of sublime, lavish, and enormous. However, there’s a trick to this aspect of the ships – the more elegant the name, the less regal the ship often ends up being. 

Indeed, grand, luxurious, and regal is how they generally look in those glossy brochures and promotions. Take this ship, for instance. It looks pretty amazing, we must concede. 

The Cruise Ship – Reality

Not all cruise ships look as glitzy as the brochure suggests. They’re normally not as large, and they don’t always get to park on colorful seashores with the sunlight glinting perfectly off the white deck. 

Once more, this relies a great deal upon the ship you’ve picked. However, it’s a general rule that they rarely maintain the unique shine and shimmer they once had. Some of them look old and corroded while the photograph in the ad was most likely taken when the boat was new.

Cruise Ship Schedules

Although working on a cruise ship can be a great way to meet other people your age and travel around the world, it would be naive to assume that the work is easy. Oftentimes, the shifts are long and the days off are short.


That’s fine if you don’t mind working 12-hour days nearly every day of the week. For some workers, this is perfect – it allows them to keep expenses low and savings high. However, it requires you to be comfortable only sleeping five or so hours a night.

Stolen Identities

Despite having so little closet space, workers do manage to misplace their clothing sometimes. It should be obvious where things are stored, but maybe that tiny little name tag is harder to keep track of!

Twitter / @ship_probs

Whether it was a windy week or an alcohol-infused month, Jess seems to have lost one too many badges. Kylie is a really popular name right now, though!

Oysters and Mussels and Clams, Oh My

Stomach bugs are not really a crowd favorite in the best of times, but what about when everyone is trapped at sea? No fun, not even a little!


Given the bulk prepared for thousands of hungry guests, a stomach illness can spread through the whole ship in just a day! Needless to say, an entire ship of vomiting, pooping guests in a rage are no picnic for employees to please. They might be afflicted, as well!

Something’s Fishy

So with all that free food, workers must be gaining weight like crazy! Hard to limit oneself at the buffet, right?

Instagram / @coffee.scrubs.scope

Not so fast, they say. The food workers eat can get seriously weird! While not forced to actually eat weird leftovers from people’s plates, the employee dining is not quite as nice as the VIP paying cruisers.

Depending on what’s actually available, tons of white rice and sardines might be on the menu. And it might be all the time!

My Brain Will Not Go On

Apparently, customers like to ask many of the same questions cruise after cruise. It gets predictable, but one inquiry seems like it’s officially past the exportation date. No, none of the workers know Jack or Rose!

Paramount Pictures?

Yes, more than two decades have passed since Titanic came out in theaters, but it’s time to move on! As most people do know, it was never real anyway. These are totally fictional characters!

Off to the Slammer

While passengers probably spend the majority of their time in restaurants, clubs, and pools onboard a luxury cruise, there are a few things beneath the deck that ensures it all runs smoothly. What giant vessel at sea would be complete without its own morgue and jail?

Paramount Pictures

Indeed, most ships do have these features. They are ready for anything, and that is sadly often necessary. Employees report dealing with an average of one death per cruise! Not so fun fact: Most guests are over retirement age. Who would have guessed?

Motion Sickness – Expectations

Travel sickness is a genuine possibility, though they generally neglect to mention it in the cruise commercials. It doesn’t happen to everybody, but it’s much more common than many people realize. Those stepping onto a ship for the first time often have a rude awakening waiting for them. 

When we’re on dry land, it’s easier to do something about nausea when it strikes. If it’s the motion of the ocean getting a passenger sick, there’s much less they can do to remedy the situation. It’s not like anyone can ask the ship to stop rocking! 

Motion Sickness – Reality

Some people are more sensitive to the endless rocking motion and are more inclined to experience seasickness. In the most severe cases, medication doesn’t work, and the poor passenger experiences headaches and nausea throughout the entirety of the cruise. 

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but everybody is susceptible to seasickness. We’ve even heard about voyages in which so many people suffered from seasickness that they had to abort the journey. 

The Ship’s Bathroom – Expectations

When thinking about a restroom on a luxurious cruise ship, this is the picture that will enter most people’s minds. We fantasize about being surrounded by windows overlooking the sea, in a bright room, ideally featuring a private hot tub to relax in. 

Despite the power of our fantasies, few cruise ship bathrooms resemble this one. For this level of luxury, a passenger needs to be prepared to pay for the most expensive room on the most expensive cruise ship. However, we still think the bathroom should be presentable.

Tour Promises

Tours are the highlights of the cruise. Sure, the giant boat with all its amenities is fantastic, but exploring a beautiful tropical island is much better! Cruise ships generally stop for a few hours at each port to let the passengers join a tour.

These tours can involve anything from a swim in a crystal clear ocean to a climb up a majestic mountain. At least that’s what the ads tell you. However, not everything is the same as the picture.

Tour Realities

Not to say that some tours aren’t great, but most of them are a far cry from what’s promised in the advertising. First off, it takes a while to get to the beach or mountain itself. Usually, the traveling is done in overcrowded buses with the same people who might have annoyed you on the ship.

Once you get to the vineyard or mountain or rustic village, the wine, climb, or scenery can be ruined by low-quality wine or dozens of people rushing up to sell you souvenirs.

The Ship’s Bathroom – Reality

Most passengers find their bathroom to be uncomfortably small. They’re lucky if they get a tiny portal window, but the view is the least of their problems. It’s difficult to do everything you need to do in such a cramped space, and for couples, there’s no hope of being able to take showers together.  

We can fantasize about having a hot tub, a sink each, and a fantastic view of the ocean. However, if we wish to make that dream a reality, we’ll have to save up the big bucks in order to secure the most deluxe cruise ship room ever designed.

Boarding the Cruise Ship – Expectations

Hollywood motion pictures consistently make everything look so charming, including the most unimpressive of occasions, such as getting onto a plane or a boat. They cut out the part where we need to stand in interminably long queues, go through tedious check-in procedures, and trust that nothing will go wrong. 

So we plan for the huge day, we pack our best garments, and we head out early because we can hardly wait to begin our excursion. 

Boarding the Cruise Ship – Reality

On many occasions, boarding happens inside a terminal. Sometimes it does occur under a brilliant, radiant sky. However, that makes it imperative to pack sunscreen in your tote since you’ll be out in the blazing sun for some time. 

Boarding luxurious cruise ships isn’t what we envisioned it would be. In our creative minds, we never imagined cruise ships could offer such a bland boarding experience.

James Bond Style

External hard drives are may seem unnecessary to most of us, but what about the chronic sea adventurers? It seems that the concept of value changes a lot when one spends the year just floating around!


Wi-Fi does exist, but it costs a lot! Without a staff discount, this amenity threatens to eat up all the lifestyle savings cruise workers would otherwise enjoy. The solution: Pre-loaded hard drives chock full o’ movies and tunes! Problem solved.

The Activities – Expectations

Cruise ships frequently offer a lot of activities on board to keep you constantly entertained. If you’re the sort of individual who gets bored of spending hours by the pool simply lounging around and sitting idle, stress not. Cruise ships guarantee an assortment of adventures like water skiing, cinemas, and even indoor skydiving.

You most likely didn’t have the foggiest idea about this, yet cruises are a competitive business, and most ships offer similar activities, tours, and facilities. This puts them under a lot of pressure to come up with unique ideas. 

The Activities – Reality

Onboard activities can be very costly and they are often booked out instantly. This makes it essential for passengers to plan ahead and book the things they want to try. Otherwise, there’s little else to do but take part in the less popular activities, like watermelon carving. 

Carving fruit creatures doesn’t sound as invigorating as surfing or indoor skydiving? Even when a passenger books the exercises ahead of time, they usually still need to stand in line, and that is hardly an ideal way to spend a trip.

The Luxurious Hot Tubs – Expectations

When seeing cruise ship flyers, what catches us, in particular, are the pools and the extravagant hot tubs. We envision unwinding in the hot tub without anyone else around, with a decent book in one hand and a cocktail in the other. Obviously, we’d then need to take the ideal picture to post on social media and make our followers jealous.

In any case, the perfect picture does not involve us sitting in a tepid hot tub with a gathering of sweaty, drunk strangers.

The Luxurious Hot Tubs – Reality

The only way you’d enjoy a cruise ship hot tub in peace is if you had one in your room. Just like the pool, you can guarantee that the hot tub will be consistently packed. 

In the morning, it will be filled by older folks who are often the first to rise. When they’re ready to move on, the families will take over, and then before long, the party crew will be out in full force. Cruise ship hot tubs never get a break.

The Cruise Ship Spa – Expectations

Nothing says “getaway” like a relaxing spa. We travel to unwind, loosen up, abandon our difficulties, and leave work stress behind. There’s no greater method to unwind than a decadent spa day and a soothing massage that leaves you invigorated and revived. 

The ambiance in the spa alone is enough to put a person in vacation mode. We feel the cruise ship spa ought to be as luxurious as a five-star hotel. Given the nature of this list, however, we’re doubtful as to what we’ll actually find. 

The Cruise Ship Spa – Reality

This spa doesn’t look like a calming place. In fact, it looks like the opposite. It seems like it would make us considerably tenser. Those lounges look like they’re made of stone. 

In addition to the questionable ambiance, the spa often doesn’t get the ventilation it really needs, making the rooms muggy and tacky from all the steam and treatments. After a big day of the cruise activities, it’s the last spot you’d want to be.

Crappy Times

Many might expect a power outage is no fun onboard a cruise, but the chaos is worse than it sounds. Much, much worse.

Twitter / @ship_probs

A lack of electricity quickly means overflowing toilets and increasing temperatures in tiny insulated rooms! Passengers may be forced to sleep on deck, and the special stabilizers that help the ship cruise smoothly are offline. Toilets sloshing around a hot ship swaying from side to side? No thank you, captain!

The Gifts – Expectations

Bringing keepsakes back for our loved ones when we travel abroad has become a social tradition, and it’s now viewed as impolite not to do as such. More often than not, these keepsakes are cheap, useless trinkets that end up gathering dust. 

While on vacation, we hope to return with a bag twice as full as the one we took. There’s something delightful about hunting around, hoping to track down mysterious local shops with classy, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind items with which to wow our loved ones. This photo shows exactly the kind of store we’re talking about. 

The Gifts – Reality

As it turns out, the gift stores most people find on their cruise leave a lot to be desired. What they tend to find are cheap clothing stands on the street, with tacky shirts and shabby dresses that never get worn again once the cruise is over. More often than not, the ship carries you to worn-out tourist traps that all sell similar, overpriced items. 

As much as we disdain these shops, we can’t return home empty-handed, thus we purchase those pricey shirts and feel bitter about it. At least it supports the local economy, right? 

Ocean Tours – Expectations

Maybe the greatest benefit of a cruise is the opportunity to be out in the midst of the ocean where we may be able to catch a brief look at its mystical untamed life. While there are no guarantees, we’re trusting that if we invest sufficient time on deck, we may see sharks, dolphins, and other ocean animals that we don’t frequently encounter. 

It probably isn’t the fundamental reason why individuals go on cruises, yet recognizing the staggering diversity of marine life is certainly a reward. Then there’s the tantalizing promise of being able to swim with dolphins. Do cruises really deliver on such encounters with ocean creatures? 

Ocean Tours – Reality

If a passenger is hoping to see fascinating fish on their trip, they will likely be in for a whole lot of disappointment. Odds are they will not see dolphins perform their mesmerizing acrobatics. Indeed, they are highly unlikely to experience any novel encounters. From high up on the deck of a cruise ship, a person has little hope of being in the right place at the right time to witness a sea creature breaking the surface. 

What passengers do get to witness is miles and miles of endless ocean, with nothing to break the monotony. Of course, this is amazing in its own way, but after days of seeing no land and no animals, it’s easy to get a little stir-crazy. Again, going on cruises is absolutely not what we anticipate that it should be. However, we must say, the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. 

Pirates – Expectations

Let’s face it, we have sympathy for pirates thanks to watching films like Pirates of the Caribbean, and this puts a rather glorious image in our minds when we think of what we may encounter on the high seas. After all, who wouldn’t want to meet Jack Sparrow?

This was one of Johnny Depp’s greatest roles, and he is a major reason why the film franchise was so successful. Because of this film, we think of pirates as the beguiling, entertaining, and somewhat insane characters we saw on the big screen. In short, we romanticize them.

Pirates – Reality

In reality, pirates are nothing like Jack Sparrow. They certainly do exist, but pirate life is far bleaker than the film depicts. They don’t have impressive ships, they don’t have sassy parrot friends, and they don’t go out on thrilling adventures seeking buried treasure. 

Real pirates are individuals searching for ships to loot. Though they are dangerous, and definitely not welcome on a cruise ship, they’re often drawn to the lifestyle out of desperation. All in all, there’s nothing romantic about it. 

But Why is the Rum Gone?

During downtime, naps are not always the first choice. Watching guests enjoy their own vacations make partying even more appealing! Who can really be a bystander when there’s dancing and rum all around, all the time?

Instagram / @yoliver17

Employees say they party hard, and there are Instagram accounts to prove it! To get around alcohol limits, it is common to add blue food coloring to vodka and put it in a mouthwash bottle. Pirate tactics, very impressive!

The Beverages – Expectations

A holiday isn’t complete without your favorite drink in your hand. Whether you’re into mojitos or virgin cocktails, you likely have a specific picture of what the beverages ought to resemble on a cruise ship; they ought to be served in tall glasses, gorgeously embellished, with a spot of lemon and a long straw.

Some should even be served in a coconut, right? Similar to the food, we anticipate free drinks and an enormous assortment of invigorating beverages to try, and we hope to be able to try new and exciting options every day. 

The Beverages – Reality

In truth, the beverages aren’t as impressive as we anticipate. The assortment is always more modest than what we expect, and elaborate mixed drinks aren’t on the menu. On most cruise ships, you get your beverages from a self-service bar, and you wind up drinking them on plastic seats. The image below offers all the proof you need. 

Did somebody say daytime drinking? As a rule, cruise ship bars don’t work day in and day out, so you may only be given the option of ordering cocktails in the evening.

The Wildest Confessions From Cruise Ship Workers

Everyone needs a little luxury at sea sometimes. And as it turns out, cruisin’ is the solution for around 20 million people a year! In such a bustling industry, a qualified fleet of workers definitely needs to run it all. What do these folks actually do though, behind the scenes?


As part of the hospitality industry, cruise ship employees are paid to make vacationers as happy as possible. But what are their days — and nights — really like out on the choppy seas, year round?

Sunbathe or Nap?

Although some cruise ship realities are unpleasant, others are downright perfect. Case in point: the tweet below. Imagine the only problem you have is choosing between a sunbathing session on a beautiful beach or an afternoon nap in a hammock. Sounds like paradise.

Twitter / @ship_probs

That enviable choice is something that cruise ship employees and passengers get to deal with on their trips. Sure it’s not every day, but when those days happen they’re extra special. We vote for soaking in the sun and then taking a nap.

Poor Unfortunate Souls

While most of us are smart enough to stay away from the ledge between life and the stormy abyss, there are a variety of people sober and intoxicated who like to live on the edge. Or even jump off the ledge!

Paramount Pictures

When this does occur, the cruise staff spend hours trying to determine where they have fallen off the ship. Often, it is impossible to find them. The sea can be harsh, as well as this job sometimes!

Say My Name

There are different levels of travel out there, and cruises are no different. Ultra-luxury ships exist, of course. And for workers, the perks are definitely better onboard these special vessels. Is it all extra fun and games, though?


Indeed, it is not. Increased ticket prices mean increased perks for the guests, first and foremost. This includes being greeted personally and trying to remember 800 names can be close to impossible. Special personalized service is key for tips, of course!

Collecting That Booty

First and foremost, what are these smiling faces actually paid? As it turns out, most positions offer an hourly wage. Altogether, it might add up to $1,200-$2,500 a month. But wait, the benefits!

Paramount Pictures?

While most people have to subtract obvious living expenses from that salary stub, the cruise ship itself is an amazing perk. No housing, no car payments, no food costs, and no laundry are part of this lifestyle.

Some workers even report free dry cleaning and housekeeping! Alcohol tends to be expensive onboard, however. More about that soon, mates!

Sharing is Caring

And what about the lodging, captain? MTV Cribs never took a look at this lifestyle, did they? Let’s take a peek below deck!

Instagram / @taylorjstanger

Basic workers might have free digs, but living quarters are often shared. And sadly, that doesn’t mean double the space! Shared cabins are tiny, cramped, and hardly private. Three workers use the same room, and dating can be awkward. Think about it!

King of the Cruise

For the lucky few, single rooms do exist! Still, tiny is the operative word. Barely larger than the size of the mattress itself, officers get to enjoy this private heaven most of the time.

Glassdoor UK

Apparently, this means a lot to the cruise ship working ladies. Just a bit of privacy makes a big difference in love life outcomes, and most people can probably understand why!

King of the Seas

A major perk of any travel job is certainly the travel! In a globalized world, people have bigger bucket lists than ever. But oh, the expenses!

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Working on a cruise ship means that the stops in foreign ports are constant. Passengers get to stroll around and see new islands, and so do workers from time to time!

Anyone with the travel bug will get a lot of that out of their system in this industry, fast. They might even find a brand new appreciation for home sweet home! Funny how that works, sometimes. 

Forever Young

Cruise ship cabins often operate like wild college dorms, and that seems fun at first. After all, there’s very little to do onboard besides pursue women and drink! But years of this lifestyle do take their toll, as long term workers explain.

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Too much smoking and drinking combined with long, grueling hours ages human beings. Yes, even on sunny cruises. Something to keep in mind for newbies in the industry, perhaps!

The Ship’s Crew – Expectations

We expect the luxurious ship’s crew to be similarly dignified and accommodating. Their sole reason, to us, is to serve the passengers, and we like to think they make the most of their job. 

Most of us assume it must be pretty enjoyable work – they get to appreciate the tours, see the wonderful views, explore different countries, and get paid instead of forking out cash like the passengers. What’s not to love? 

The Ship’s Crew – Reality

We’ve revealed how minuscule the passenger rooms can be, so it should come as no surprise that the crew’s living quarters are even tinier. They don’t get lavish rooms, and on top of this, they’re usually housed deep down in the belly of the boat.

Cruise ship crews work nonstop, so they don’t have the opportunity to appreciate the facilities and activities. While passengers lounge by the pool and complain about small inconveniences, they’re serving drinks, scrubbing floors, and keeping the massive ship and all its facilities running.

The Tender – Expectations

If you’ve been on a cruise previously, you may know that the ship can’t always dock at a port when it makes a stop. When this is the case, travelers are moved to shore in little groups by a tender (a smaller boat that is connected to the ship). 

In our creative minds, this tender would be a small, classy speed boat that takes a handful of travelers to shore at a time. We imagine something like the image above, or perhaps a boat out of Baywatch or a James Bond film. 

The Tender – Reality

The truth is, as you’ve probably come to expect by now, far less glamorous. Riding in the tender looks nothing like a scene out of Baywatch. Instead, you’re crammed into an ugly little boat with around 50 other passengers. Obviously, the boat ride is short, so it isn’t cooled. Your only option is to open one of the small windows. Instead of being greeted with a gentle sea breeze, however, you’ll likely be hit with salt spray. 

The tender is usually packed full of people, and everyone boards haphazardly and hastily, so you may wind up sitting next to strangers. With that said, don’t get your expectations up if you’re planning on booking a cruise!

Bubble Bubble, Toil and Trouble

For those sensitive to seasickness, no need to apply to this job. Frankly, even the shower experience could be nauseating!

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Sounds like it could be a bit of an adventure, for the right candidate. Rocky seas, shampoo, please! Shower time is usually a way to soap up and clear off all those suds, but a little creativity might be necessary on the rougher days.

Way Too Much TMI

Sadly, a big part of the job seems to be catching lovers in the act. Not in their rooms, of course. Public places seem to be just as popular with drunk, crazy vacationers!


For the workers, it’s a little bit awkward to intervene. Nobody likes to stop a good love story, but the pool? Under tables and in lifeboats? Things have a time and place, people!

Everyone may be floating in international waters, but there are still some basic rules of decency. Try it, and find out the hard way!

Risky Business

Cruise ship workers report that they get hit on all the time by guests. It sounds like a great way to meet a cabin partner!


Well, maybe just one time. As soon as this is discovered, the cruise company fires the offending employee! Dropped off at the next island, frisky workers will be abandoned without immediate pay to return home. In summary, this is a big no-no!

Blame it on the A-A-A-A-A-Alcohol

Some companies have noticed the crazy amounts of rum going on, employee-wise. As a result, the rules in the industry have been changing. Sad times, for the party animals on the crew!

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Zero alcohol policies are being enforced more and more, and some ships refuse to serve medical and engine employees at all. With a growing specialty in the legal field for cruise ship lawsuits, this should come as no surprise. The times, they are a-changin’!

Angry Customers

It may sound surprising, but there are quite a lot of angry passengers at sea. Some passengers expect to be catered to and pampered to every minute of every day of their cruise. When this doesn’t happen, they get angry.


That anger is usually directed at cruise ship staff. They have to deal with getting yelled at, getting spat on, and occasionally getting a fist (or an apple) thrown at them. Working onboard requires some thick skin and the ability to brush off unhappy customers. 

The Bedrooms – Expectations

If you’ve never been on a cruise, you likely envision the rooms as being as lavish as a five-star hotel. You anticipate a luxurious room with top-of-the-line facilities and an amazing sea view. 

Obviously, the rooms vary from one cruise ship to another, and some are more extravagant than others. It depends on the ship and the cost of the room. Still, we expected a certain degree of luxury. It is a cruise after all.  

The Bedrooms – Reality

As indicated by some exceptionally baffled cruise passengers, the rooms may be much more modest than anticipated. Cruise ships look enormous outwardly, and they are, but they also house hundreds of passengers, which implies that not all rooms can be as large as the passenger might like. 

Many rooms don’t even have ocean views. However, they do offer pictures of beaches and ocean waves, which is just as good, right?

99 Problems But a Ship Ain’t One

People always have their complaints, but cruise ship workers say they get some silly feedback. Whether passengers are mad at how loud the ocean actually is, or demand that the boat stays longer at a port just for them out of thousands of guests, the staff have a lot to deal with.


In America, the customer is always right. Does that still apply out at sea? Guests would say yes, of course!