- I’ve worked on cruise ships for six years, so I’m familiar with how the crew lives on board.
- Staffers typically live with a roommate in tiny cabins that have bunk beds and small closets.
- We usually eat at our own buffet and hang out after work at the crew bar.
Between the unlimited buffet, glamorous destinations, and entertainment around the clock, living on a cruise ship sounds luxurious, but there’s a whole other world below deck.
I’ve worked on cruise ships for six years, so I’m very familiar with how crew members eat, sleep, and live.
Here’s what it’s really like living on board, based on my experience:
Most crew cabins are tiny
Measuring around 120 square feet, crew cabins are typically tight and don’t have windows.
They’re commonly furnished with a set of bunk beds with privacy curtains, a
, a desk, a closet, and a TV with a side table.
Although every cabin is equipped with its own bathroom, it’s typically so tiny that you can brush your teeth, use the toilet, and shower at the same time.
Crew members in higher positions have better cabins
Based on my experience, managers and officers typically have cabins with a porthole and full-size bed, plus an additional fold-down bed for guests.
They also typically receive daily housekeeping while most crew members are responsible for cleaning their own cabins.
Most crew members have roommates
Roommates are typically assigned by division, but I’ve found it’s easy to move in with a friend if you’d like.
The bottom bunk is highly coveted in the crew world — roommates usually claim it as soon as the other ends their contract.
Cabins are divided into ‘neighborhoods’
There are crew cabins on several floors, from deck 00 — below sea level — to deck three, though the captain and bridge officers typically live adjacent to the bridge higher up.
The main crew corridor that runs up and down the entire ship is nicknamed the I-95, after the popular American highway. It’s always busy with foot traffic and tons of trolleys and carts, so we have to be attentive when walking through it.
Crew members have to sort their own trash
All of the ship’s trash winds up in the incinerator room, but there are a lot of categories to sort the garbage into.
Although housekeepers sort guest garbage, the crew is responsible for separating their trash into the correct bins.
We also typically do our own laundry
On larger ships, there are multiple crew laundry areas, which resemble laundromats.
But our uniforms can be dry cleaned at the formal laundry area for free.
Staff members often enjoy after-hour parties and events at the crew bar
After work, most of the staff hangs out at the crew bar, which is usually a covered outdoor area with a functioning bar and dance floor.
Events like bingo, karaoke, all-crew parties, and trivia happen almost daily.
There is a separate buffet for the crew
The crew mess is a buffet with set times for meals at different points throughout the day.
It typically features more international foods — like Filipino, Indian, and Caribbean cuisine — than the guest buffet to represent the hundreds of staffers from different countries.
The mess often offers special themes, like crepes with the captain or barbecue day, as well as late-night options like pizza and lasagna.
There are other places for the crew to hang out
Most ships have a crew café where they can order coffee and juice.
There are usually also computer, training, and game rooms. The game room has video-game consoles and popular arcade picks like foosball, air hockey, pool, and darts.
There’s also a dedicated front or back deck for the staff to enjoy the sunshine on lounge chairs. Some companies even offer a crew pool.
We also have a human-resources center for discussing needs regarding cabins, payroll, contracts, or crew life.