Before You Set Sail, Learn these Surprising Cruise Ship Facts

Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 cruise ship


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Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 cruise ship

Learn the Ropes

Cruise ships are a hugely popular travel and vacation choice, with 20.4 million passengers worldwide taking cruises in 2022. But even if you’ve been on a cruise before, chances are you’re not aware of everything that goes on behind the scenes. These eye-opening facts might have you seeing cruise ships differently the next time you step aboard. 

Related: 24 Tips and Tricks for Smooth Sailing on Your Next Cruise

Royal Caribbean
Cruise Ship Room

Some Retirees Live on Cruise Ships

The cruise ship life is so appealing to some people that they opt to live on cruise ships full-time once they retire. Cruise ship retirement will cost you, though, with cruise lines like Storylines charging anywhere from $352,000 to buy a 172-square foot condo to $3.2 million for a 1,690-square-foot residence purchase.

Related: Is Cruising a Cheaper Way to Retire?

OCEAN Princess OceanMedallion

Staff Know More About You Than You Think

Cruise ships collect data on their customers, including the purchases you make while on board. For example, Carnival’s Princess ships use their wearable Ocean medallion devices to track your behavior. You can even make purchases with the device, and Carnival uses that data to suggest other purchase options that might interest you. 

Related: Travel the World in 155 Days on This Luxurious Cruise Ship


Most Ships Have Jails

Wondering how ships deal with unruly guests? Out-of-control travelers might find themselves locked up at sea. Most cruise ships are equipped with a jail. Guests who behave badly may be put under cabin arrest, meaning they can’t leave their cabins for a certain number of days. And if that doesn’t work, most cruise ships have a jail for more serious circumstances.

Cooler lockers in the Vancouver General Hospital morgue
Cooler lockers in the Vancouver General Hospital morgue by Vancouver Coastal Health (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ships Also Have Morgues

Most of the largest ships are also equipped with morgues. If someone dies on a cruise, the morgue can hold their body until the end of the trip or until the ship reaches a port. These morgues are on the lowest deck of the ship, so you won’t see it during your trip. 

Related: The Worst Cruise Ship Horror Stories

AA medal
AA medal by Jonn Leffmann (CC BY)

You Can Attend an AA Meeting on a Cruise

Alcohol is plentiful on cruise ships, making for a setting that’s tricky for recovering alcoholics to navigate. You might see a meeting for “Friends of Bill W.” on the ship’s agenda. Bill W., also known as William Wilson, founded Alcoholics Anonymous. These on-board AA meetings provide support during the cruise, so guests can maintain their recovery while enjoying their vacation.

Royal Caribbean Oasis
Gary Hershorn / Getty

Building a Cruise Ship Is a Tremendous Investment

Building a cruise ship requires some big bucks. Modern cruise ships start at $550 million on the low end, while the more expensive ships can cost over $1 billion to build. The luxury Royal Caribbean Oasis class vessels cost $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion each.

Related: The Most Luxurious Cruise Ships at Sea

Wonder of the Seas Royal Caribbean

Modern Cruise Ships Dwarf the Titanic

When the Titanic took to the seas in 1912, it was renowned for its massive size. Things have changed a bit since then, with modern cruise ships averaging 20% longer than the Titanic. They’re also twice as tall. The Wonder of the Seas, currently the largest cruise ship in the world, is five times larger than the Titanic. As modern cruise ships have gotten larger, they’ve mostly grown in height and width, not length, which allows them to still dock at older ports that haven’t been expanded.

Seri Toktik / Wikimedia Commons

Cruise Ships Produce Tons of Waste

Cruise ships aren’t exactly great for the environment. In the United States, cruise ships can dump treated waste into the ocean when they’re within 3.5 miles of shore. When ships are further out in the ocean, they can dump untreated, raw sewage. Cruise ships are responsible for dumping more than a billion gallons of sewage into the ocean each year.

Cruise Kitchen
Cruise Kitchen by Gary Bembridge (CC BY)

Cruise Ship Kitchens Use Massive Amounts of Food

Massive cruise ship kitchens need to prepare thousands of plates every day, so they stock up with huge amounts of food. A ship with 3,500 passengers will go through 600 pounds of butter each day, as well as 250,000 eggs per week. The ship will also use 170,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables during each cruise. 

Related: The Craziest Cruise Ship Amenities

Silversea Silver Whisper Cruise Ship - Kitchen Galley
Silversea Silver Whisper Cruise Ship - Kitchen Galley by Gary Bembridge (CC BY)

Kitchens Prepare Food Around the Clock

Much of the food that guests eat is freshly made. Cruise ship kitchens bake bread onboard, often three times a day. The movement of the ship, the air temperature, and moisture make baking bread extra tricky. Kitchens also hand-make ice cream daily to ensure that it’s fresh and available.

milk pouring into glass
Alter_photo / istockphoto

Cruise Ships Once Carried Cows

Before the days of refrigeration, getting fresh milk on a cruise ship was tricky — so ships brought cows along for the trip. Britannia, an early cruise ship, brought a cow on its 14-day transatlantic crossing in 1840. The cow kept passengers supplied with milk.

Monarch of the Seas
Monarch of the Seas by Mike Burton (CC BY-ND)

The First Female Cruise Ship Captain Took Command in 2007

In 2007, Karin Stahre-Janson became captain of Monarch of the Seas, and she became the first woman in the cruise ship industry to captain a major ship. Captain Stahre-Janson had worked in cargo shipping for nine years before joining Royal Caribbean in 1997. She worked her way up, starting off as first officer on Viking Serenade and Nordic Empress, later becoming chief officer and staff captain.

The Britannia
James D. Morgan / Getty

One Cruise Ship Holds an Entire Art Collection

The Britannia, Britain’s largest cruise ship, also holds Britain’s largest floating art collection. The multi-million-dollar collection consists of more than 8,000 art pieces that were chosen to enhance the ship’s interior designs, creating the feel of being in a luxury hotel.

Hurricane Katrina Aftermath
Steven Clevenger / Getty

Cruise Ships Played an Important Role After Hurricane Katrina

After Hurricane Katrina caused devastation in 2005, Federal officials chartered three cruise ships to house refugees. Carnival Cruise Lines’ Ecstasy, Sensation, and Holiday were pulled from use, which meant that some travelers had to reschedule their trips. Instead, the ships were docked and housed 7,000 people who were displaced by the hurricane.

Cruise Ship Construction

Some Ships Aren’t Quite Finished When They Set Sail

Sometimes cruise ship construction hits snags and delays. Rather than delaying the ship’s maiden voyage date, some ships head out to sea before they’re completely finished. In these instances, cruise lines bring workers along for the trip, and they might block off staterooms to house those workers. Workers often complete jobs like restaurant building or finishing cabins during the trip.