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Cruising 101, Part 3: Behind the Scenes on the Ship

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

This blog series is for travelers who are beginners to cruising.

Cruising 101 Part 3: Behind the Scenes on a Ship

When you book a cruise, you are asked if you want to pay your gratuities in advance or have it billed to you when you clear your account on disembarkation day. Why is there tipping? Read on and see who are the folks who are making your cruise nice:

Your luggage is delivered to your stateroom at the start of the cruise

How does a Cruise Ship Sail? Since a cruise ship is essentially a full-service floating resort, it can take as many as 1400 people to make your vacation an awesome experience. (First thing to remember: it's always a ship, never a boat!) The captain: in charge of the ship and is the ultimate authority, usually has attended a maritime academy and/or graduate school and is licensed/certified and has to have many years of experience working the way up the ladder, through 3rd, 2nd and 1st mate positions, staff captain/chief mate and taking umpteen exams. This journey can take at least 10 years.

There is a opening and closing show for each cruise

The officers: are usually dressed in the white uniforms or in their dress blacks in the evening. This category includes the engineers, radio officers, oil people and plumbers (not maintenance).

Dining: there is a head chef, and staff (baker, sous chef, etc) and a head waiter and staff. For the wait staff, there may be intermediary positions. This staff works in the dining room and at the buffets. Along side of these are the bartenders, who work at the various bars throughout the ship. Bartenders earn their tips when you purchase a drink.

Norwegian Breakaway

Maintenance and housekeeping: these important people keep our staterooms looking pretty and working properly, from fixing the toilet to cleaning up after the poor people who may get sick (for various reasons...) The Cruise Director: Clubs, casinos, theaters, shows, movies on deck, ugly Christmas sweater night. Where do you find out about all of that and who arranges for it? Your friendly cruise director, of course. The cruise director supervises the entertainment staff, hosts events and makes those famous announcements.

There is staff for each activity

Customer Service: Service desks such as excursions, customer service, the photo area, and your friendly booking agent (there are discounts if you book your next cruise right then and there) will operate with business hours, (except for the photo and spa). Kids Activities: the children's counselors/youth activities directors. Kids' areas are usually divided into 4 areas: infants/toddlers/pre-school elementary age (somewhere around ages 5-9 or 10) middle school (10 or 11-13) and teens, high school age. Drinking and gambling age may be 21, although the late night clubs may admit age 18 and older.

Camp Ocean, Carnival Magic

Personal services: fitness trainers, spa specialists, stylists in the salon, nutritionists. It depends on the services that the ship offers. The larger the ship, the more varied the services.

There are fitness rooms and spas on all cruise lines

Salespersons: In addition to selling you another cruise, you have the staff in the stores, the special sales like art exhibits and wine tastings, the photo staff, jewelry, etc.

Other Facts to Know:

* The staff and personnel work long hours. The crew (housekeeping, wait staff) will bunk in shared quarters on Deck 1 or below. Staff (entertainment, supervisors) may or may not share quarters and may be on Decks 2 and/or 3.

The towel art is very popular on all cruise lines

* Your traditional officers (including the cruise director, chef and maybe the assistants) may have staterooms where the passengers are: Decks 4, 5, 6 or higher. Of course, the captain has a nice stateroom, perhaps a suite. Everyone, regardless of rank, works 10-14 hours but they do get breaks and they get to go ashore when in port. * The wait staff works hard: they work the buffets, afternoon tea and meals in the dining rooms and they come ashore with you on the private island days.

* Your room might be serviced twice a day (making up the room when you leave in the morning and turn-down service in the evening, complete with a towel animal), plus there is room service. * In the morning, around 5AM or 6AM, someone is literally swabbing the deck, lounge chairs are being readied and the pool has already been serviced. * The fitness center usually opens up early and yoga or spin classes may start as early as 6AM. * Many, many positions were not mentioned: the dressed up characters/actors, the sound, light and camera crew, life guards (although signs are posted about swimming at your own risk), security and who knows, there may be a person who is responsible for running the movies on the Lido Deck, not to mention the in-house closed circuit TV channels.

The Disney Princesses on the Fantasy ship

* Hopefully, you will enjoy your experience more when you encounter the hard working staff on your trip. Smile back when they greet you and be nice to them!

Happy Travels!

Other Articles in This Series:


Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

All text and photos copyright Marcia Crayton All Rights Reserved 2023

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