Alarming Cruise Ship Facts That Are Sneakily Concealed From The Public

Alarming Cruise Ship Facts That Are Sneakily Concealed From The Public

From swimming pools and cocktails to shopping, casinos, and theatres, cruise ships are an entertainment hub. Pair these recreational activities with the prospect of touring a host of intriguing countries, and you’ve got the perfect vacation! But what if we told you that, underneath the activity of the upper deck, lies an underbelly of murky facts that cruise lines try to keep under wraps? Once you take a look at these bizarre, well-hidden truths about cruise ships, it might just alter your perception of cruises forever.

Ships Have A Morgue

While it wouldn’t cross most traveler’s minds, passing away on a cruise is a tragic yet entirely possible scenario. But what happens to the deceased’s body? Well, cruise ships have morgues, along with body bags, onboard just in case someone was to leave this world while sipping martinis at the pool deck — chilling.

Destination Tips / YouTube

Secret Codes

To convey highly confidential messages to one another, cruise ship staff members communicate with a catalog of code words. For example, “PVI” refers to a seasick passenger. Though the one you should probably listen close for is: “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie.” That means there’s a security threat, something nobody wants to hear on vacation!

Peter Greenberg / YouTube

Clothing Optional

Considering nude recreation is a multi-million dollar industry, it should come as no surprise that there are cruise ships out there catering to tourists who prefer to disrobe. Bare Necessities is just one of the cruise lines to provide a completely nude vacation experience to thousands of excited travelers annually. / YouTube

Dirty Coverups

Cruise lines pull out all the stops to boost their public image. But sometimes companies make a mistake so enormous it overshadows all their positive publicity efforts. That was the case for Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. in 2014 when they plead guilty to seven felony charges for the illegal dumping of oil-contaminated waste. The penalty — a jaw-dropping $40 million fine!

Seeker / YouTube

The Long Arm Of The Law

Some travelers aren’t aware that the moment the ship sets sail they’re immediately subject to maritime law. Subsequently, when the ship docks in other countries, everyone is subject to that nations’ laws. So inevitably, when someone does break the law, where do they go? Luckily, many ships have “brigs” downstairs equipped with cells to contain any wrongdoers.


They’re Incorporating AI Technology

Have you ever dreamed of having your own concierge to fulfill all your needs? Well, on some cruises, that’s a reality. Cruise line Carnival Corporation introduced the Ocean Medallion, a wearable disk that uses AI technology to enhance your vacation experience. In addition to providing keyless entry to your suite and acting as a digital wallet, the disk collects information and uses it to personalize your experience.

Cruise Critic / YouTube

They Aren’t Fans of Bananas

Before you ask for bananas on your next boating breakfast, take heed. While a seemingly innocent fruit, bananas are viewed with much disdain in the sailing world dating back to the 1700s. This was because the ethylene in bananas causes other nearby fruits and vegetables to rot. Either way, bringing bananas on your next cruise is a serious “no”!

VICE News / YouTube

Limiting Captain Candidates By Nationality

It’s fairly commonplace for cruise lines to hire captains of a specific nationality per historical tradition. For example, while Carnival captains are typically Italian, Royal Caribbean often opts for Scandanavian captains. These days, however, most cruise lines are modernizing their hiring practices and employing captains of all nationalities.

Peter Greenberg / YouTube

Only One Place For Man’s Best Friend

If you’re looking to spend quality time with your pooch while sailing the seven seas, you can make it happen, but with difficulty. Currently, only one cruise line permits furry passengers on board. To book a pet-friendly cruise, you’ll have to reach deep into your wallet. The cruise liner — Cunard’s Queen Mary — charges anywhere from an additional $500 to $1000 per dog.

Dog Cruise Singapore / YouTube

The Problem of Pirates

While most people think that pirates were bandits with wooden legs and eye patches that existed hundreds of years ago, they still very much exist today. In fact, Statistica estimates that there were 195 private attacks in 2020. While pirates typically don’t target cruise ships, such attacks are not unheard of — so stay vigilant!

Christopher Biggs / Getty Images

The Downside of Solo Travel

While one would think that a solo traveler would spend less on a cruise, that’s generally not the case. Oftentimes, single passengers end up paying the full price for rooms that usually cater to two occupants. There are, however, increasingly more cruises nowadays offering “studio” packages designed for the solo traveler.

Nick Delis / YouTube

Celebrity Godmother

Just like many new parents, cruise lines traditionally give their ships godmothers. Who exactly qualifies as a cruise ship godparent? Oftentimes, these godmothers are highly-respected celebrities! To name a few famous luxury liner god mamas, first, there’s Helen Mirren, godmother to the Ventura. Then, there’s Sophia Loren, who serves the role for several MSC ships!

Luca Teuchmann / Getty Images

How To Prevent Seasickness

To prevent seasickness, many cruise lines recommend eating plenty of green apples and eating a little ginger. If you’re prone to nausea, it’s also suggested to book a cabin near the middle of the vessel, where there’s a natural balance point on the ship. Hopefully, these tips will help you remain vomit-free!

Insider / YouTube

Who To Tip

Many cruise line employees rely on tips. Even if you go on a cruise where the employees are fairly compensated, it’s still expected that you tip for baggage handling and room service. You should, however, refrain from tipping captains and ship officers, as this can actually be viewed as an insult.

Horacio Villalobos / Getty Images

False Flags

While many people think that the flags cruise ships fly designates the ship’s country of origin, they are often mistaken. In fact, many ships are registered to countries where they have never docked at! This is largely done to avoid having to comply with U.S. labor and safety laws.

Horacio Villalobos / Getty Images

Asking For Blood

Because blood transfusions aren’t common practice on a cruise ship, many of the ship’s infirmaries don’t keep a ready stock of fluids on board. This means that if a patient is in dire need of a transfusion, the medical staff may call on passengers to make a selfless donation!

Peter Greenberg / YouTube

Big Brother

With so many passengers on board, cruise lines pull out all the stops to ensure everyone’s safety. That includes installing cameras in all public areas on the ship, from the dining halls to the pool deck. So regardless of the number of people out and about, there’s always someone keeping a watchful eye.

Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis / Getty Images

Cleanup On Aisle Six!

With the rocking of the ocean waves and so many passengers using the facilities at once, it should come as no surprise that cruise ship toilets back up more frequently than we would care to think. Of course, people flushing bizarre items down the toilet doesn’t help the situation! / YouTube

Huge Polluters

If you consider yourself a serious environmental activist, then a cruise may not be the ideal vacation for you. This is due to the monstrous carbon footprint that cruise ships leave during their operation. In fact, someone on a seven-day cruise produces the same amount of emissions as they would during 18 days on land!

Tullio Puglia / Getty Images

Not So Hygenic

Cruises are not the most hygienic vacations. Naturally, when thousands of people from all over the world come in such close contact, illnesses get passed around pretty quickly. In fact, a 2019 Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas voyage was a prime example after 475 passengers and crew members were infected with norovirus.

Picture Time / YouTube

Fresh Food Is A Luxury

While cruise ships are often lauded for their exquisite dining experiences, many cruise ships struggle to keep their food fresh, especially when they haven’t docked for quite some time. The result is an influx of food poisoning cases among passengers. So keep that in mind when you hit the buffet table.

Horacio Villalobos / Corbis / Getty Images

The Love Boat

While weddings are the pivotal celebration in many relationships, some couples want to avoid their steep costs — so they elope on cruise ships. Not only can they enjoy an intimate marriage at a romantic and exotic location, but they also end up paying far less for their ceremony. One captain recalled conducting vow renewals for six couples at once!

CruiseTipsTV / YouTube


Though booking sites may advertise cruises as all-inclusive, there are a number of undisclosed surcharges for amenities such as the internet, beverages, and excursions. Some believe that nearly a quarter of the industry’s profits are made from these hidden charges.

Crew Cabins

To be fair, crew members are forced to share tiny, windowless rooms at the bottom of the ship. Most of these cabins are so small that workers actually sleep in bunk beds just to leave enough space to get to the bathroom!

Don’t Trust Locked Doors

In order to avoid trapping passengers in the event of an onboard disaster, most of the doors on cruise ships don’t completely lock — including cabin doors. Keep that in mind the next time you decide to get a little more “comfortable” on a cruise ship getaway.

Staff Get Great Deals

While drinks can run passengers $10 to $12 each, crew members reportedly pay as little as $2 per drink. It’s no wonder, then, that nearly half the crew members on most ships are rumored to be drunk 24/7.

Labor Divide

On most cruise ships, client-facing roles are reserved solely for crew members hired from developed countries. The rest of the crew is relegated below deck, working long hours in the kitchens and other low-visibility areas of the ship for as little as $400/month.


Because you have so many people confined to one relatively small area, disease outbreaks are common. In fact, there were eight reported cases of norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships during the first three months of 2014 alone.

So Much Sewage

On average, a cruise ship will produce over 200,000 gallons of human waste during a week-long trip. Now, where does all that waste go? Into the ocean, of course! Just a few miles off the shore of some of your favorite beaches.

Negative Reviews Aren’t Worth It

Workers get paid very little in terms of salary and rely on the bonuses they receive as a result of customer feedback. So if a passenger leaves a negative review about a crew member, there’s a good chance they’ll lose their bonus.

Rarely Are There Refunds

While booking a cruise is a relatively low-stress process, most companies make requesting a refund incredibly difficult. Even in the face of catastrophe, cruise lines have been known to refuse to give refunds to their passengers.

Staff Play Pranks

When spending months at sea becomes tedious, crew members will often play pranks on passengers for fun. The most common prank is sending passengers on a wild goose chase for certain ship amenities–such as indoor pools, arcades, and bowling alleys–that don’t exist.

Cabin Crews Have An Unspoken Social Hierarchy

Though cabin crew are often isolated from the outside world, life below deck follows societal norms to an uncomfortable degree. As former cruise ship performer Danielle Gauer revealed to Cruise Law News in 2013, a ship’s staff maintain incredibly strict hierarchies. Basically, menial workers often sleep in the lowest decks. They and other low-ranking crew are also quietly dissuaded from fraternizing with officers.

Passengers Are Often Left Behind

If you’re itching to head to your next destination, you’ll probably get irritated with fellow passengers returning late to the ship. Ocean liner captains have little patience for this, too. In fact, due to scheduling conflicts and port rules, they often leave latecomers behind at rest stops. In 2016 the crew of one luxury vessel even set sail without two people whose children were still on board.

Passengers Frequently Disappear

Being at sea naturally makes it difficult for cruise passengers to slip away unnoticed. But that hasn’t stopped a large number of travelers from mysteriously disappearing over the years. From 1995 to 2011, a startling 165 people were reported missing from cruise ships. They include Rebecca Coriam, who vanished from Disney Wonder in 2011. So, be careful, then, if you’re ever on the top deck.

Falling Overboard Is Sort of Common

Boat decks may have plenty of safety features, but passengers still fall overboard every year. And the numbers are higher than you’d think. In 2015 alone, 26 people were lost at sea during cruises. Though some of these cases were apparently suicides, others were accidents likely triggered by alcohol consumption.

They Aren’t Accountable For Customer Deaths

While passenger mishaps are surprisingly common at sea, you can only claim a small amount of compensation from cruise companies. Thanks to the Death on High Seas Act, travel businesses are only legally required to cover passengers’ funeral costs and lost wages. Even more alarmingly, there’s no official record of cruise-related fatalities. All of this means corporations don’t really need to take any accountability.

There’s A Lot of Cheating Going On

Ever fantasized about a holiday fling? We won’t tell… And folks sailing the high seas are no different. A 2015 survey by Cruise found that four in five passengers, well, knocked boots on ship. But in a surprising twist, 20 percent of the people questioned also claimed to have cheated on their partners on board – often when their spouses were on the same trip. Scandalous!

STDs Are Rife

Even if passengers do get down and dirty in the cabins, cruise lines don’t usually cater to sexually active travelers. In fact, only 30 percent of ships are said to sell condoms on board. And the result? An alarming spread of STDs at sea. The epidemic is so great, in fact, that in 2014 the UK government urged cruisegoers to pack contraceptives before setting sail.

Leading Cause of Oceanic Pollution

Some ships can carry as many as 9,000 people, meaning they naturally accumulate plenty of sewage. Where does all that waste go? The sea, of course! The biggest vessels sometimes deposit over 200,000 gallons of sewage into the ocean each week. Naturally, that’s not good for marine life. And combined with the other chemicals ships produce, this makes them one of the seas’ leading polluters.

Staff Get Little To No Sleep

Working on a cruise liner certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. Besides the grueling 100-hour weeks, staff sometimes go for as long as ten months without a single day off. And they shouldn’t expect healthy sleep patterns, either. Bruns has claimed that he often had as little as four hours’ shuteye each night while on ship.

Alarming Regularity of Sexual Assaults 

The ocean can be a dangerous place – even if there are no pirates hovering around. But for female cruise passengers, the biggest threat can often be found on board. In 2016 39 sexual assaults were recorded on cruise ships. Even more disturbingly, in 2010 a ship’s captain was jailed for indecent acts on a 14-year-old traveler.

Decks Are More Polluted Than Most City Streets

Talking of pollution, cruise ships also release appalling amounts of pollutants into the air. An average liner’s exhaust is 100 times more toxic than a motor vehicle’s fumes – and much of this smog hangs around a ship’s upper deck. The worst part? According to research by conservation charity NABU, cruise passengers regularly breathe in air that’s more polluted than any found in city streets. Yikes.

Crew Passengers Relationships Are Forbidden

Although sexual activity between passengers is fairly common, the same can’t be said for interactions between staff members and travelers. As ex-cruise worker Brian David Bruns revealed in his 2015 book Cruise Confidential, fraternizing with passengers could have serious consequences for the crew. “Being caught means instant firing and being dropped off in whatever country the very next port is in,” he explained.