June 24, 2024

What It’s Like to Live on a Cruise Ship Full Time, From the Employee + Photos

Between the endless buffet, glamorous destinations, and entertainment around the clock, living on a cruise ship sounds luxurious, but there is a whole other world below deck.

I have worked on cruise ships for over six years, so I am very familiar with how crew members eat, sleep and live.

This is what it’s really like to live on board, based on my experience.

Most crew cabins are tiny

Crew cabin on a white and blue cruise ship with door, desk and cabinet

The average cabin is about 120 square feet.

Erica DePascale

Measuring about 120 square feet, crew cabins are typically tight and windowless.

a small closet with clothes hanging and life jackets on top next to a photo of a mini fridge with a tv above it

We have closet space and a small fridge.

Erica DePascale

They are usually furnished with a set of bunk beds with privacy curtains, a mini-fridge, a desk, a closet, and a television with a side table.

The crew bathroom on a cruise ship, which is very small with a toilet, sink, and shower

The bathrooms are extremely small.

Erica DePascale

Although each cabin is equipped with its own bathroom, it is usually so tiny that you can brush your teeth, use the toilet, and shower at the same time.

A small room on a cruise ship showing the entrance to a bathroom, bunk beds, a desk and a door

The rooms come with some furniture.

Erica DePascale

Staff in higher positions have better cabins

Based on what I’ve seen, managers and officers usually have cabins with a cabin and a full size bed, plus an extra rollaway bed for guests.

They usually receive daily housekeeping and most of the crew are responsible for cleaning their own cabins.

Most staff have roommates

A crew cabin on board the cruise ship with bunk beds, a small closet and white walls

Most cabins have bunk beds.

Erica DePascale

Roommates are usually assigned by department, but I found that it’s easy to move in with a friend if you want.

The bottom bunk is very popular in the crew world – usually roommates claim it as soon as the other person ends their contract.

Cabins are divided into ‘neighbourhoods’

crew members sitting in a long beige hallway and chatting

Crew trails are named after famous routes and places.

Erica DePascale

Crew cabins are on several floors, from deck 00 – below sea level – to deck three, although the captain and bridge officers usually live near the bridge higher up.

The crew’s main route up and down the entire ship is called I-95, after the famous US highway. It’s always busy with foot traffic and tons of trolleys and carts, so we have to be careful when walking through.

Staff must sort their own rubbish

All the ship’s rubbish ends up in the incinerator room, but there are many categories for sorting the rubbish.

While housekeepers sort guest garbage, the staff is responsible for separating their trash into the correct bins.

We usually do our own laundry too

On larger ships, there are multiple crew wash areas, which are similar to laundromats.

But our uniforms can be dried at the formal laundry area free of charge.

Staff members often enjoy parties and after hours events at the staff bar

Cruise ship employees posing for a photo in a room

There are crew activities almost every day.

Erica DePascale

After work, most of the team hangs out at the team bar, which is usually an outdoor covered area with an executive bar and dance floor.

Events like bingo, karaoke, all-team parties, and trivia happen almost daily.

There is a separate buffet for the staff

The staff mess is a buffet with set times for meals at various points throughout the day.

There are usually more international foods – such as Filipino, Indian and Caribbean cuisine – than the guest buffet to represent the hundreds of staff members from different countries.

The mess often offers themed specials, like crepes with captain’s day or barbecue, as well as late night options like pizza and lasagna.

There are other places where the crew can hang out

Most ships have a crew cafe where they can order coffee and juice.

There are also usually computer, training and game rooms. The game room has video game consoles and popular arcade picks such as foosball, air hockey, pool and darts.

There is also a dedicated front or rear deck for the crew to enjoy the sunshine on lounge chairs. Some companies even offer a crewed pool.

We also have a human resources center to discuss cabin, payroll, contract or staff life needs.

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