Hey! I'm Spencer, and I just got back from my seventh cruise. I've seen and learned a lot of really cool behind-the-scenes secrets while traveling the world on these ships, so I wanted to share some of the most interesting ones with you here, including some tips that may be helpful for your own future adventures. Enjoy!

1.First of all, yes, most cruise ships have both a jail and a morgue on board. These were the only areas of the ship where I wasn't allowed to visit (trust me, I asked multiple times) because they're strictly off limits unless you find them the old-fashioned way...by getting arrested or dying. I didn't want to take those chances, but I did find out that shorter cruises tend to see a LOT more action in the jails (aka "the brig"). Guests typically treat shorter sailings as more of a party by taking advantage of unlimited drink packages, and more alcohol = more fights on board, so needing a jail totally makes sense.

2.The higher you are on a ship, the more movement you'll feel, so if you're someone who tends to get motion sickness then you should definitely book your room on the lowest floor possible (just not in the morgue). I've personally never had an issue with motion sickness on a cruise, but I'll occasionally see passengers with at-sea patches behind their ears for help. Contrary to what you might think, though, you'll probably get the best night's sleep of your life on a cruise. Yes, there's a ~very~ slight rocking, but it'll feel sort of like you're a baby again who's being lulled to sleep in a cradle. Just trust me on this one.

3.But I promise that you probably won't even have to worry about getting seasick. I got a private tour of the ship's control room, and I learned that they do a lottttt to combat any movement from the waves. For example, ships try to hit waves at a 45-degree angle because that's apparently the most effective way to help break them up and cut down on the extra motion. Ships also have stabilizers that can extend outwardly (picture, like, wings on an airplane), which help to keep things super, super stable.

4.Before you book a cruise, you should know that they're sort of like buying a car: you can negotiate! Basically, the price you see online should almost never be the price you pay (though they often offer great discounts that you should absolutely check out!). Instead, it's best to call and book your trip with an actual person (i.e. someone who works for the cruise line, a travel agent, etc.). For example, travel agents are usually free, and they can get you a ton of bonus perks and huge discounts on rooms for a fraction of the original price.

5.And if you ever want a "free" cruise then you should definitely hit up the casinos on board. It's super common to get extra perks on future sailings (like free Wi-Fi, drink packages, or even entire trips altogether) if you're someone who gambles a lot. Basically, each bet is tied to your personal cruise card (i.e. your room key) every time you play the slots or put money down at a table game. Your total winnings are tracked on that card, and you'll earn points based on the amount you spend. The more you gamble, the more likely you are to get offered those extra perks.

6.The cool thing about cruises – especially for people who are ages 18 through 20 – is that they can sort of make their own laws while at sea. This is known as Maritime Law. For example, gambling at the casino is only allowed once the ship is at least 12 miles from land, but that also means they can lower the age limit from 21 to 18 while in international waters. The legal drinking age on most cruise ships is also 18, not 21.

7.There are themed cruises for pretty much anything you could ever imagine – for example, Royal Caribbean offers an immersive Star Trek cruise, and Norwegian is even offering a 2,300-person nude cruise next year – but on "regular" cruises there are certain SFW guidelines that guests (and staff!) need to adhere to. For instance, it's forbidden for staff to hook up with guests on board. Doing so would result in a pretty quick termination of their employment contract. Also, there are thousandsssss of security cameras on board, so, like, good luck trying to get away with it.

8.Speaking of hooking up on board, there was so much "swinging" happening between couples that a lot of cruise lines had to create training programs for the staff. Basically, decorating cabin doors is a pretty common thing for elite cruisers (as pictured below), and the secret symbol for swingers is an upside-down pineapple. As a result, a lot of couples would decorate their doors with upside-down pineapples to let other guests know that they're open for fun. According to the high-up staff member I talked to, employees on their previous ship were instructed to report any pineapple decorations found on board.

9.You have to remember that these ships are basically floating cities, so they have everything you could ever want. Like, I've been on ships with a freaking ice skating rink before, and my recent Carnival sailing had an 18-hole mini golf course on the top deck. Also, itineraries are left outside each guest's stateroom every morning, and they list alllll the activities you can do (or not do!) that day. Want to try your luck at bingo? Have at it. Always wanted to go to an art auction? They've got those too. Want to prove your sports, movie, history, Harry Potter, Friends, or just general knowledge at dozens of trivia events? Be their guest! I promise that you'll never be bored on a cruise.

10.Keep in mind that items on cruise ships are definitely more expensive than what you'd normally pay on land. The spa and salon on my last sailing, for example, charged $175 for a 75-minute Swedish massage and $99 for a "red carpet blowout." If that's somehow in your budget then have at it, but if you want heavily discounted prices then you should book those treatments on days when the ship is at port – this is when most passengers will be off the vessel, so a lot of cruise lines offer discounted treatments to help fill up those time slots and prevent people from hitting up the spas on land. Again, though, you can typically negotiate for certain spa perks when booking!

11.The more you cruise with a specific line, the more perks you'll get (like free room upgrades, priority access, unlimited internet, and on-board casino credit). These loyalty programs are based on the number of days you sail with each line, so, for example, everyone on their first Carnival cruise is in the Blue tier, then they reach Red status on their second sailing, and once they hit 25 days on board they'll reach the Gold tier. Platinum is achieved after 75 total days of sailing, and Diamond status is for people who've sailed for at least 200 days. I met so many Diamond members that my jaw kind of dropped – like, these people LOVE cruises and go on several a year. It isn't just a vacation for them; it's a full-on hobby.

12.Another way to save money is by booking your shore excursions through third-party vendors. Booking through the ship is definitely the most expensive route, but it's also the safest because you'll never have to worry about the ship leaving without you. Ships have strict docking schedules to follow on port days, so they ~will~ leave without you if you aren't back in time. Otherwise, you're in charge of making it to the next port of call on your own, so good luck. If you have a short port day and are only docked for a few hours then I'd suggest booking through the ship so you don't risk getting left behind.

13.You should know that there are some banned items you simply can't bring on a cruise. Before boarding, you'll quickly go through security, sort of like a relaxed version of TSA at the airport. The whole process typically only takes a few minutes. Depending on the cruise line, you're usually allowed to bring up to 12 cans of non-alcoholic beverages (my friend brought a six-pack of ginger ale in case she felt seasick, and those made it through just fine. I also saw a bunch of Diet Coke-obsessed people with whole cases, and those made it through too). Candles, hot plates, and the obvious knives, guns, fireworks, etc. are all banned as well.

14.Also, don't even try to sneak alcohol on board because you'll definitely get caught. Each ship is different, but for the most part you're only allowed one unopened bottle of wine or champagne in your carry-on. If you buy spirits while at port then you'll have to check them when you get back on the ship, and they'll be returned when you disembark. After all, most cruises only become profitable after adding up their total alcohol sales and casino winnings (I guess it helps that Carnival's 27 ships, for example, sell over 14,000 margaritas each day). For reference, a standard cocktail on my last trip was about $13, and the unlimited drink packages were about $60 a day.

15.Cruise ships obviously make tons (and I mean that literally, not figuratively) of food every single sailing. After all, the average ship holds about 3,000 guests and 1,000 crew members. An employee who I spoke with said Carnival serves about 30,000 burgers every single day, and they'll make over 1.3 million pounds of French fries each year. There are free sit-down restaurants and buffets on board, but there are also specialty dining options that guests can pay for, like hibachi and steak houses. My family always sticks with the free dining options, and I think non-cruisers will be shocked by how good the food actually is, but the best part is that you can order several appetizers, entrées, and desserts per person, so, like, you'll never leave hungry.

16.If you're worried about potentially having bad weather on your cruise then, well, think again. Yes, there's obviously a lot to do inside, but a lot of ships also have retractable roofs on their top decks. So, if it's ever too cold, rainy, or windy then they can usually cover the entire lido deck (i.e. where most of the pools, jacuzzis, and lounge chairs are), which means you can relax "outside" even in the terrible weather. A lot of ships also offer indoor pools and adults-only sections, so, like, you'll totally be set no matter what.

17.It's tradition for every ship to have a celebrity godmother or godfather who christens the boat before the inaugural launch, and those celebs are typically rewarded with free cruises for life (!) on that specific vessel. For example, Oprah Winfrey is the godmother of a Holland America ship, and even Audrey Hepburn was the godmother of a Princess ship. Carnival only has two godfathers, and they're fittingly both for their Italian-themed cruises: Jay Leno and now Jonathan Bennett. Christening the ship used to entail smashing a bottle of champagne against its hull, but the night before my cruise I got to watch Jonathan Bennett pour a bottle of champagne over the ship's bell to toast its safe travels instead.

18.One of the most unique parts about cruising is that you'll typically find a cool towel animal waiting for you after returning to your cabin every night. The housekeeping staff are all trained in towel folding, so after dinner you'll have a new animal sitting on your bed or, in my case, hanging from the ceiling. A lot of ships even host towel-folding classes during sailings so guests can learn how to make the animals themselves, and how-to books are also available in the bookstore. I found out that Carnival's housekeeping team makes about 15 million towel animals every single year, which, holy crap.

19.And finally, the most important thing you should know about cruises is that there are several self-serve ice cream machines on board, and they're all completely free (and unlike McDonald's, these machines are always working!). If you're like me and deserve a sweet treat after dinner – or, let's face it, after or even before breakfast – then you understand how big this is. After all, you're on vacation, so you should be eating as much ice cream and frozen yogurt as you can get your hands on.

That's it! If you have any other cruise travel tips that have worked for you, please feel free to share them in the comments. Thanks!

2024-05-15T14:52:47Z dg43tfdfdgfd