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10 Hidden Features on Cruise Ships


Modern-day cruise ships are essentially floating cities that offer a multitude of features and amenities for guests to enjoy. 

While some are well-known, such as the pools, restaurants, and theater productions, there are some hidden features that add a touch of uniqueness to these engineering marvels. From secluded lounges to interactive art experiences and even theme parties, there's much more to cruise ships than meets the eye at first glance. 

Here are 10 hidden features on cruise ships that you may have not known about. 

Some areas are off-limits to passengers


While crew members can't galavant around the ship like other guests, they do have their own facilities, including a crew bar, fitness center, and mess hall.

Typically, the newer the ship, the better the amenities. Icon of the Seas, for instance, has an entire neighborhood dedicated just to the crew members. On Deck 1, you'll find the gym, while Deck 2 is home to the crew Windjammer, Java Cafe, store, and barber shop. There's even a crew nightclub and karaoke lounge on Deck 3, as well as another crew bar and outdoor patio on Deck 7. 

While it's not rare to see crew of certain statuses eating in specialty restaurants or utilizing the passenger gym, you shouldn't expect to be able to peek inside the crew area, even if you purchase an All-Access Tour.  

Read more: Life working on a cruise ship: Day in a life of a cruise ship crew member

Pullman beds

NCL viva

Did you know that cruise ship cabins do not come equipped with double queen beds like standard hotel rooms? Instead, they typically feature a single bed that can be separated into two twins to accommodate up to two guests. But what happens if you have more than two guests? Enter the pullman bed

Although some cabins may include a couch that's able to convert into a sofa bed, many are equipped with pullman beds, particularly those designed to accommodate four guests. Pullman beds fold down from the ceiling or wall of a stateroom, allowing more people to sleep in one stateroom without taking up more of the limited floor space. 

The design of some ships allows for the beds to be hidden in the ceilings, whereas others have the extra beds jetting out from the wall. If you don't want to risk the chance of having an annoying bed protruding from the wall, ensure that you do your research ahead of time, so you can book a cabin with a maximum occupancy of two. 

Read more: Best cruise ship cabins for your family

Magnetic walls 


Speaking of staterooms, the majority of cruise cabins have magnetic walls, which allow you to bring magnetic clips from help to help keep everything more organized. Clip magnets can hold things like papers, including your shore excursion tickets and daily schedule, whereas strong hooks can be used to hang hats, lanyards, small purses, and jackets. 

Some cruisers have even used hooks and a shower curtain to create a makeshift room divider. This could be useful for kids napping on one half of the room, or if you're traveling with a late riser who doesn't want to be awoken by your movements. 

While magnets can help increase the functionality of your cabin, you can also utilize the walls to add a touch of personalization to the room. For instance, you can arrange destination-themed magnets above the bed or get creative with magnetic poetry on your stateroom door— the options are just about endless!

Read more: Top 25 cruise cabin hacks to improve your stateroom's functionality

Future cruise benefits

NextCruise office

To avoid the post-cruise blues, consider booking your next sailing while onboard your current one. Not only will this give you something to look forward to before stepping foot on land, but it'll usually save you some money, whether that's a reduced deposit or extra onboard credit. 

Plus, you're able to transfer the booking to your trusted travel agent within 30 days, so you don't have to sacrifice their services. In fact, I've made onboard bookings before and received onboard extra from both the cruise line and my agent! 

Depending on which cruise line you're sailing with, you don't even have to decide on a specific sailing at that moment. Instead, you can make a deposit for a placeholder reservation, which will allow you time to return home and double (and triple) check your schedules and possibly itineraries before making any rushed decisions. 

Read more: Guide to Disney Cruise onboard booking discount

Theme nights

Disney pirate night

From Disney Cruise Line's infamous Pirate Night to Norwegian's Glow Party, cruise lines are known for their themed nights onboard. Themes, however, are subject to change, and it is unlikely that you will be provided a list of every theme by the cruise line. To be prepared, you will have to research what themes were present on previous sailings. The best way to do this is to look up an old Facebook group or daily schedule. 

Of course, you don't have to dress accordingly to participate in the fun. Plus, all themed events are included in the cost of your cruise fare, so you do not have to worry about shelling out extra cash to attend a lido deck party underneath the stars. 

That being said, it's much more fun to pull out your best '80s attire or purchase a new outfit for Western Night, and you cannot forget about formal night, which is when guests are encouraged to dress their best. 

Specialty dining deals

Jaimes Italian

While there's so much delicious food included in the cost of your cruise, you may want to try one of the specialty restaurants onboard. These venues are usually more akin to what you'd find on land, versus large dining rooms and buffets. 

Plus, each restaurant tends to focus on one cuisine or cooking style. For instance, your ship may have a steakhouse onboard, as well as restaurants that serve Italian, teppanyaki, and fresh seafood. Unfortunately, specialty restaurants often come with a hefty price tag, particularly when traveling with a large group. It may not make much sense to spend $50 per person at the steakhouse when the Main Dining Room offers inclusive three-course meals. 

Thankfully, you can save some money by opting to dine at a specialty venue during lunch, rather than dinner. While this means filling up on a larger meal during the day, you'll be able to free up your evening for more time by the pool or additional onboard activities, such as trivia, game shoes, theater productions, and more. 

Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean's specialty steakhouse, usually costs around $65 per dinner if purchased onboard; however, if you choose to dine there for lunch, your cover charge will be around $30. 

Read more: 16 tips to not waste money on your first cruise

Interactive art installations

DCL Fantasy

Many cruise ships, particularly newer ones, have interactive art installations onboard. Onboard Symphony of the Seas, for instance, you'll find Sound Shell on Deck 6 near the Schooner Bar. This piece of artwork is an interactive LED sculpture that activates when guests step inside. It offers an immersive experience that combines both audio and visual elements. 

Similarly, much of the art onboard Disney Fantasy moves either when passengers walk past or stand in front of it. Oftentimes, one piece will have a few different reactions, so you should plan on visiting each more than once to get the full experience. Norwegian Viva also has an impressive 52-foot-long piece that was created by contemporary British digital artist Dominic Harris. 

While interactive art cannot be found on all ships, it is worth it to do a little research ahead of time to see if there are any installations that you should make a note of visiting. 

Read more: 12 hidden details that can be found onboard Disney Fantasy

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings


When you're onboard, pay special attention to the daily schedule. If you see something called "Friends of Bill W.," that's simply another term for an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. The phrase helps members maintain anonymity, as non-members likely won't know its actual meaning. 

Since AA members usually attend meetings weekly, or sometimes even daily, cruise lines will provide a meeting space to those who would like to meet during their sailing. 

It's a great service that's offered, especially since so many cruise activities are centered around drinking. By having a space to meet and talk, those in AA can better process their emotions, so they, too, can have a fantastic time onboard. 

Cruise lines have secret code words for onboard emergencies


If you've been on a cruise before, you may have heard something along the lines of, "Alpha, Alpha, Alpha" or "Bravo, Bravo, Bravo." These terms were created by cruise lines to discreetly inform crew members of ongoing situations without worrying passengers. 

On Royal Caribbean ships, "Alpha, Alpha, Alpha" means that there's been a medical emergency. It's usually followed by a specific location and deck, so the crew knows where to go. "Alpha Team, Alpha Team, Alpha Team" on Carnival ships means something entirely different, as it's the code for a fire emergency onboard. 

While crew-only areas may pique your interest, there are other areas that you won't want to see, such as the morgue


Per federal regulations, cruise lines must carry body bags onboard each voyage. Unfortunately, there are news headlines of a passenger passing away while on a cruise. Most recently, for instance, a guest onboard Royal Caribbean's Ultimate World Cruise died. 

Cruise lines deploy crisis management teams in the unfortunate event of a death on board who help assist the deceased guest's friends and/or family in navigating the logistics of returning the body to their country for a proper burial. 

Morgues are often located on the lowest decks of a ship, far away from passenger areas. Generally, it's just a simple stainless steel refrigerated room with individual compartments.  

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