11 Wild Ways Cruise Ships Are Way Crazier Than You Think

For as common as taking a cruise is, it’s actually pretty crazy. 

Where else do you take what’s essentially a skyscraper on its side, drop 5,000 people onto it, and sail it around hundreds miles… all to do it again just days later? But that’s just the start.

I’ve got some things that I’d bet you haven’t thought about that prove cruise ships are way crazier than you could ever think.

A Floating Las Vegas Hotel… That Moves

Wonder of the Seas docking at CocoCay

When it comes to the craziness of cruise ships, I’ve got to start basic — that’s with the wild size of a modern ship.

I will never forget the feeling I got the first time I saw the first cruise ship I ever sailed — Mariner of the Seas — more than a decade ago. I couldn’t believe it sitting in port, and the crazy thing is that the ship is actually kind of small compared to what’s sailing today. 

Take Wonder of the Seas. It’s the second-largest cruise ship on the planet and has nearly 2,900 staterooms. At full occupancy, it carries 7,100 passengers and 2,200 crew members. For comparison, The Mirage in Las Vegas has only about 200 more hotel rooms.

It’s literally not an exaggeration to say you are taking a skyscraper — or more accurately given everything onboard — a Vegas hotel, laying it over, and then sailing it around the world.

The Ship Never Stops Sailing

Speaking of sailing, before I ever took my first cruise, I had the idea that a ship would return at the end of one cruise, let everyone off, resupply, take on new passengers, and then sail out again the next day.

Yes, that was naïve.

Since cruise ships don’t make money unless they are carrying passengers, they don’t take breaks unless it’s absolutely required such as a mechanical issue or a refurbishment. Otherwise, it’s crazy to think about, but ships are sailing 24/7. No matter the time of year, holidays, or anything else, the cruises never stop.

Of course, that means the crew works their tails off around the clock, so definitely give them a break when you can.

Workers From Dozens of Countries, All Working Together

Speaking of crew, one crazy thing applies to them, and no it’s not just the long hours they work. In a previous life, I had to manage a small staff at my job. It was always tough trying to keep everyone focused and working together. Frankly, managing people was harder than any of the actual real work I ever had to do.

On cruise ships you might have noticed that there are crew members from literally around the world. The Philippines, China, India, all over Europe, South America and anywhere else you can imagine. Literally thousands of staff with different languages, cultures, and views all have to come together with the single goal of giving you a good vacation.

I can think of no other place on the planet where so many people from so many backgrounds all work together in such close proximity. And yet, it somehow seems to work and many people rave that the service they get on a cruise is the best they’ve gotten anywhere.

Practically Everything Is Custom-made

All across the ship are custom-made designs — like this atrium aboard Discovery Princess — that take on a level of craftmanship seen few others places.

If you remodel your home, you no doubt head to Home Depot and pick up what you need. What’s crazy about building a cruise ship is that practically everything around the ship is going to be custom made. Yes, things like pool loungers and furniture around the ship may be able to be purchased — albeit in mass quantities — and placed right on the ship.

But the actual hardware of the ship? Everything from bars to carpet to railings to tile to light fixtures are all a custom job. Take a look at all the custom glass that goes into making a solarium, or the design and shape of the pools.

Apart from maybe another ship in the same class, the measurements, design, and style of no two ships is the same. And there’s rarely a square corner like you’d see in a house as everything has to follow the shape of the ship itself.

Next time you are on a cruise ship, just consider the insane amount of work it takes to build out everything passengers get to enjoy.

There Are Lots of Spots You’ll Never See

I can’t be alone in that whenever I walk by an open door that leads into crew only areas… I have to look. It’s like pulling back the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.

What’s crazy is that there are areas of the ship that you will never get to see. As a passenger, it can feel like you have the run of the ship. In fact, there are lots of places you won’t ever visit including the spots where thousands of crew members live, eat, and relax.

There are some tours of the backstage areas that I’ve been on. If you get the chance, they are fascinating, including backstage in the theater, the engine room, where the waste and greywater from the ship is processed, and yes, even the bridge where the crew steers the ship.

But it’s crazy to realize how much of the ship you actually don’t get to see.

Everything Is Watched by Cameras

Along those same lines, of what you see and don’t see, well, you can assume that the ship sees everything. It’s actually a law that cruise ships be equipped with cameras and you can expect them to cover any public area.

Where there won’t be cameras is in private spots like your cabin or in bathrooms around the ship. Outside of there, including in hallways just outside your door, the pool, restaurants, elevators and anywhere else, there will be a camera somewhere.

Now, is anyone watching? I don’t know that someone sits in a room all day monitoring, but I have been on the bridge of a ship and seen camera feeds. And if there is an incident, security can go back and take a look at what happened.

The Fare Disparity Can Be Wild for the Same Cruise

You can sail from an interior cabin all the way to a fancy suite. However, the price difference between the two can be jaw-dropping in some cases.

In my job in covering cruises, there are some definite perks including getting the chance to tour all the fancy suites that most people don’t get a chance to see. Let me tell you, they are nice. And they have a price tag to match.

What’s wild to me is the massive disparity in fares there is between these rooms and the lowest-priced cabins on the ship. True, your cabin is a big part of your cruise and these days they often come with perks like drink packages, VIP check-in, and even exclusive areas of the ship.

But the shows? The restaurants? The ports of call? They are all the same. The vast majority of your experience outside the cabin will be the same whether you sail in an interior room or a suite that costs 10 times as much. Yet for some people, that extra money is worth it. Me? I’ll save the money unless someone else is paying.

Everything a City Needs Is Onboard 

Anything you find in a city is also on a cruise ship, like this water treatment area that passengers never see.

It’s said that a cruise ship is like a city at sea. That’s not an exaggeration. And I’m not talking about just the fact that there are a lot of people onboard.

While most people are on a cruise ship the max of a week, everything that a population of that size could need is on the ship. Of course, you likely know there are medical facilities. But there are also things like a spot to hold unruly or criminal passengers. There’s even a procedure and spot to hold a body in case someone dies on the ship.

In your room, there may be a daily planner or a note from the captain about an update to the trip, which was created and printed thousands of times onboard. There are laundry facilities. Wastewater treatment, electricity generation, recycling and trash sorting, all the backbones of a city’s infrastructure are on a ship too.

As long as it has fuel and food, the ship can take care of just about everything else.

How a Massive Vessel Stays So Stable at Sea

If you know someone that won’t cruise because they are worried about seasickness, then tell them that there are cruise ships with pool tables.

They are actually fairly common onboard. It’s crazy to think that these massive ships that stick up 20 decks above the ocean can be stable enough that you can play a game of pool onboard, but that’s the case.

Now, I’m not a shipbuilder but something about a mix of the engineering, size, and technology onboard means that most of the time you don’t even realize you’re on the ocean. As well, many ships have a stabilizer fin that juts out under the water like a wing to help smooth the ride.

That’s not to say you won’t ever feel the ocean, but it’s likely a lot less than you think.

Moving a Hotel From New York to Pittsburgh Overnight?

With the ability to travel upwards of 25 mph, that means overnight the ship could cover a distance roughly equal from New York to Pittsburgh.

I’ve talked a bit about the ship itself, but without a doubt the wildest thing I can imagine is something that may not sound that impressive at first glance.

If you’re driving in a car, then going 25 miles per hour sounds painfully slow. But that’s how fast cruise ships can sail, and to me that’s ridiculously impressive. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s a building with the ability to move 300 miles overnight. It’s the equivalent of a hotel being in New York one night and then being in Pittsburgh the next morning.

For an idea of that speed, the speed limit in many neighborhoods is 25 or 30 miles per hours. So the next time you see a car pass in front of your house, imagine an entire cruise ship moving by at the same speed.

Pricing to Reach Occupancy Over 100%

Imagine having 2,000 cabins on a ship that sails 52 cruises a year and a fleet of 25 ships. And picture you work for the cruise line with the job to make sure that the ship sails full and at the highest prices possible to maximize revenue.

Of course, that’s not just one person’s job. Lots of people are working on the problem. But the fact that you can get anywhere close to that given all the variables just boggles the mind. Head to any cruise website and you’ll see that prices for the same cruise vary widely depending on time of year.

And then when you dig into the cruise line financials, you see that average occupancy comes in at more than 100%. That means there are at least two passengers for every cabin and some rooms sail with three or more.

That doesn’t mean every cruise sails completely full, but on average, the cruise lines are able to get it right. Given the complexity of that task, it’s crazy to think about.

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