7 Cruise Ship Features You Didn’t Know Existed

cruise ship features queen mary 2 propeller
The spare propellers on Queen Mary 2 double as artwork. - Photo by Flickr/John Thompson

In many ways, cruise ships are like small, independent cities. While food and supplies are brought on board at the embarkation port, cruise ships also come equipped with plenty of surprising features hidden below deck. Most cruisers know there are doctor’s offices on board for when passengers get sick, but it’s less commonly known that cruise ships come with other staples of a small city like jails, “roads”, and even a local newspaper. Here are the places (and things) most passengers will never see.

1. The Brig

brig prison jail cell cruise ship exist
Photo by sakhorn/Shutterstock

Many times when a passenger gets into trouble on a cruise ship, they just get a stern talking to. If it’s a more serious offense (or they are belligerent or drunk), they will be confined to their cabin with a security guard posted outside the door so they can’t leave. There’s a special place, however, for those who commit serious crimes at sea — the ship’s jail, or “brig” in nautical terms. These steel rooms are located on one of the bottom decks of the vessel, usually near the security office. And if you end up down there, you won’t be staying there for the duration of the cruise. Instead, you’ll be forcibly removed from the ship in the next port and turned over to the local authorities. At the risk of stating the obvious, you’ll have to find your own way back home at your own expense,  (once you make things right with the local authorities, of course).


2. The Morgue

morgue cruise ship secret space existed
Photo by Fer Gregory/Shutterstock

Since ships are like mini cities, it would make sense that sometimes there are deaths onboard, just as there are in any normal city. Don’t be alarmed — the vast majority of the time cruise deaths are from natural causes like heart attacks. While these are rare, there have to be accommodations onboard for when this happens. There are usually only a handful of these refrigerated compartments, and the number depends on the passenger capacity of the ship. You don’t have to worry about accidentally coming across it, because this area is on crew-only lower decks.

Bonus Fact: When not in use as a morgue, this area sometimes doubles as cold storage for things like flowers and other items. Don’t worry, they don’t use it for food.


3. Spare Propellers

queen mary 2 cunard spare propellers cruise
Photo by Flickr/John Thompson

Not every cruise ship carries spare propellers, but you might be surprised to know that some do! Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 comes to mind, as the line actually decided to double the spares as gigantic art pieces and display them in public. According to the ship’s Chief Engineer, Brian Watling in an interview with Beyond Ships, “The most notable spare parts on the ship are the spare propeller blades, stored on the open deck just in front of the superstructure on Deck 7. We can take the blades off while the ship is still in the water. We do not actually need to be in a dry dock to do that. We have an organized plan for doing that. We wouldn't do it at sea — it would be in port — so you would have a big crane to lift [the spare blades] off. Because they are stainless steel and very shiny, it was decided to put them up there and use them as a bit of art work as much as anything else." It’s relieving to know that they don’t replace them while the ship is sailing out at sea, but we still have questions as to how they can be replaced underwater at all!


4. The Woodshop

cruise ship woodshop carpenter wood shop
Photo by luckyraccoon/Shutterstock

If the leg comes loose on a chair or the varnish has started to wear off on a table, most cruise lines don’t often just replace it. There’s actually a woodshop onboard with carpenters who spend their day fixing, replacing, and updating things around the ship. It’s not just furniture (or wood), either. Ship carpenters have many talents and can replace broken tile, worn carpeting, and refurbish sections of the railing that have become too worn down from the harsh ocean elements as well as soft goods like draperies and fabric on chairs.


5. The Print Shop

cruise ship print shop printing press newsletter daily
Photo by zefart/Shutterstock

Ever wondered where the daily newsletter left in your cabin each night comes from? You might think that they’re printed in advance and loaded onto the ship during turnaround (embarkation) day. If this was the case, though, missed ports due to bad weather or other alterations to the schedule wouldn’t be possible on the newsletter, rendering it confusing and inaccurate. Each cruise ship actually has its own print shop, where all of the daily planners, news updates, flyers, and other notes are produced.


6. I-95 Artery

cruise ship artery i-95 crew existed
Photo by Cruise Hive

Down below the public decks, every cruise ship has a main artery that runs forward to aft to allow crew members easy access to different areas. Over time, this artery came to be called “I-95,” named after the famous interstate that runs the length of the east coast in the United States and ends in Miami, the cruise capital of the world. I-95 probably looks like you would imagine it — a long hallway with various doors and storage spaces on either side that lead to all sorts of places. It’s an efficient design feature that’s always bustling with quick-moving crew and staff members.


7. The OB and Crew Bar

ob crew bar mess cruise ship existed
Photo by Cruise Hive

Most modern ships have a nightclub for passengers to enjoy in the evenings, but what does the staff and crew do in their off time? The answer is simple for the majority of the time: the OB and crew bar. “OB” means officer’s bar, which is for officers as well as cruise, entertainment, and spa staff, while the crew bar is for everyone else that works on the ship. Drinks are significantly cheaper down in these bars than what passengers pay, and they have their own activities and music in the evening so that staff and crew can unwind during their off time.


Bonus: Folding Machines

This machine isn’t necessarily a surprising thing that cruise ships have onboard, but it’s still neat to see in action. Your bath towels and sheets don’t just press and fold themselves!


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Which of these features surprised you the most?

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