Fun. Relaxing. All-inclusive. These are typical words people think of when they think about cruising. But how does everything on board get done? Today I’m going to take you behind the scenes to see the secret life of the cruise ship!
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At the end of October 2023, I went on a cruise with a group of girlfriends. As a frequent cruiser, I’ve always been curious about how things work behind the scenes. When I saw that our ship (Freedom of the Seas) offered a backstage tour, I immediately signed up!
The Secret Life of the Cruise Ship
Fast Facts: As one of the world’s largest cruise ships, the Freedom of the Seas can carry up to 4,635 guests and 1,365 crew. Our tour took us to the bridge, engine control room, galley, laundry room, and more!
On a cruise ship, food preparation is a 24/7 endeavor. Between breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and room service, the Freedom of the Seas prepares approximately 20,000 meals daily.
We saw the areas where they store produce, seafood, and meat and learned that all of the ingredients for a day are brought into a smaller holding fridge each morning. The chef tailors the amount of each product based on the passenger profile for each trip. For instance, when a lot of kids are on board they plan for more pizza, burgers, and fries.
A tour favorite was a visit to the bakery where watched the nifty machine (shown in the left center of photo) quickly punch out 36 rolls at a time, ready for baking.
We were impressed with how spotlessly clean everything was! All areas had very well-organized, assembly line-like procedures in place, from food prep to running completed dishes out to the dining room.
The massive on-board laundry services not only the nearly 2,000 guest cabins but crew cabins, uniforms, restaurant linens, pool towels, and more. As we made our way to the laundry, which is below the water line, we were immediately impacted by how hot and claustrophobic it felt!
We learned laundry is tagged when it comes in so that they’ll know what stateroom/crew cabin to return things to upon completion.
The group below was in awful good spirits given how hot and isolated the laundry room was. The crew shown here is prepping a sheet for the large ironing device (shown below). The iron also folds the sheets so they can be stacked nicely according to size.
As someone who is typically pretty eco-conscious, I’m not sure why I never really thought about cruise ship sanitation. Fortunately, they recycle a large percentage of the ship’s waste.
While food waste is pulverized and released to sea, aluminum, plastics, cardboard, and glass products are recycled. When enough has accumulated, Royal Caribbean pulverizes glass and puts it into sacks to save space.
Bridge & Engine Control Room
A trip to the bridge is a highlight of any cruise ship tour! Enjoy spectacular views and marvel at the tiny controls that operate these huge ships. Access to the bridge and engine control room is so sensitive that you’ll be accompanied by multiple security guards during this portion of the tour.
While the bridge is flashy, the engine control room is arguably the most important area of the ship. All of the ship’s critical systems are monitored here.
Good to Know
What do you think? Does an All-Access tour interest you? If you are considering it, a few good things to know include:
- All-Access Tours are typically hosted on at-sea days.
- Closed-toe shoes are a MUST so be sure to pack a pair. We had several people on our tour turned away because they did not have proper footwear.
- Shorts and skirts are also a no-no so make sure you pack some sort of pants.
- Bring your cell phone for photos but leave your purse/bag in your cabin.
- The tour takes about 2 hours and you will be on your feet the entire time.
If you want to learn more about how cruise ships operate, check out The Secret Life of the Cruise, filmed in 2018. You’ll cruise along on the 5,000-passenger MSC Seaside in this slightly over an hour-long documentary. Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and Peacock.
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