10 Hidden Features on Cruise Ships You Had No Idea Existed
Whether you're a seasoned salty sailor or a newbie to cruise life, chances are you don't know all the hidden features—from secret pools to a cruise ship morgue—found on ships
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The secrets on board
If you’re lucky enough to be hitting the high seas on a cruise, it might look a little different than the last time you set sail, as there are some things you won’t be able to do on cruises anymore as the industry resets post-pandemic and works toward a more eco-friendly future. Whether you’re a cruise newbie or a veteran sailor, after a week or so on a ship you might think you know it pretty well. The thing is, most cruise ships are so massive and complicated that it’s likely guests will never be able to know all the secrets cruise lines won’t tell you.
To get the scoop, we asked cruise industry experts about the hidden features on cruise ships that you’ll want to know about if you’re on one of the best all-inclusive cruises. From crew quarters to the cruise ship morgue (yep, there is one!) to secret storage solutions, these are the hidden features on cruise ships that most guests never knew existed. (Psst … learn these cruise ship code words and you’ll really be in the know.)
Many people don’t know that the walls of your cruise ship cabin are magnetic, which is why magnetic hooks should be at the top of your cruise packing list. You can use them to hang up your clothes, bags or any papers the cruise line might give you. If you have a lot of people in your room, you can even hang up a shower curtain to create some privacy. Hanging clutter also keeps your room cleaner, which allows your steward to tidy up more easily!
Ever wonder where celebrities and other VIPs stay when on a cruise? Some cruise ships have ultra luxe suites, often hiding in plain sight. The brand-new Disney Wish, for example, offers the Wish Tower suite, hidden away in the funnel toward the front of the ship on the top decks. The two-floor, four-bedroom Moana-themed suite is nearly 2,000 square feet. It even has its own private elevator that’s accessible from the 10th and 11th floors—it’s also hidden, naturally. Find out all the Disney Cruise tips you’ll want to know before booking your stateroom.
A pull-down bunk bed
When traveling with kids, many families opt to stay in the same cabin to save money—smart! And don’t worry, you won’t be tripping over that extra bed during the day. Many cruise lines, including Disney Cruise Lines, have built in an extra bed so cleverly, you would never notice it unless you were looking for it: a bunk bed that’s tucked away into the ceiling of your cabin. When needed, the cabin steward sets it up for you while you’re out at dinner, then the next morning they hide it again when they make up your room. Speaking of secrets, learn all the insider tips about Disney’s private island.
A kids-only entrance to the kids club
On the Disney Wish, eagle-eyed observers may notice a small, round fanciful gate in the Grand Hall atrium—designed in the same Gothic, Baroque and French Rococo style as the rest of the railings, it’s easy to miss. Anyone traveling with children will soon learn that behind the door is a kids-only slide that’s an entrance to the kids club. Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, a cast member stationed at the top of the slide will check your kids into the club for safety. This is just one of the magical touches that makes DCL one of the best family cruises.
This certainly isn’t a hidden benefit, but cruise ships are legally required to have a morgue on board. “Most large ships have a designated morgue in case of any deaths. The bodies are held here until the ship next reaches a suitable port,” says Flavio Serreti, a former cruise ship reservations manager. “Death is more common than you would think, due to the demographics of [some] cruises consisting mainly of elderly people.” It’s best to be prepared, especially during these times. Here’s exactly what happens if you get sick on a cruise.
Serreti says that many cruise ships have hidden pools and bars for crew members because they aren’t allowed to socialize with guests when they’re not working. In fact, there can be decks and decks just for accommodating and entertaining crew members, that paying guests will never see.
Access to the bow
Travel agent Lois Barbour points out that although on some ships the bow area is restricted, others, including Princess Cruises, have a hidden door that allows access to the front of the ship! Sneak out there with your honey and “get a spectacular view when sailing way from port and when sailing into port,” Barbour says. If your ship doesn’t allow bow access, most cruise ship TV programming includes a bow cam, so you can watch the waves break over the prow from the comfort of your bed. Discover all the best cruises for couples.
Our experts outlined two hidden benefits to choosing your cabin: more cabin space, and access to a bigger bathroom. “One insider tip for booking a room with extra space is looking for ‘hump rooms,’ where the curve of the ship means the balconies are larger, but they sell in the same category (and for the same price) as other balcony rooms,” says Barbour. “These are the most desirable cabins for experienced cruisers.”
Jeremy Camosse, owner of cruise accessories company Cruise On and the author of Cruise Hacks, has a tip for those who like to take their time getting ready. “Your cruise cabin bathroom is tiny,” he says. But if you book a cabin near the gym, you can “use the luxurious gym bathroom for more room and comfort.” You don’t have to clean on your vacation, but being super messy is one of the things polite people never do on cruises.
One of the most difficult parts about going on a cruise is finding a place to store all your clothes and toiletries in your tiny room. Cabin designers know this is an issue and often add extra storage behind a mirror, under the bed or in an ottoman. You can even find USB charging ports behind your cruise cabin television. Ask your cabin steward for a tour of your room if you can’t find any extra storage. While you’re at it, ask them for a robe too, says Camosse. Keeping warm is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick on a cruise.
The chance to save on your next cruise
If you’re loving your current cruise, it might be time to start thinking about your next one. David Smith, marketing director for The Cruise Line, recommends looking into booking your next cruise even before you’ve finished your current one. “Generally, most cruise ships will have a sales agent office somewhere on the ship, normally located close to the front desk,” he says. “[Using] the sales agent is a great way to confirm your next sailing for a lower price—there are some fantastic discounts to be had, many of which won’t be available when you return home.” We all love a bargain, especially when it’s on a vacation. Even better, with all the world and two hemispheres on offer from a cruise ship, here’s the best cruise for every month of the year.
Additional reporting by Anne Fritz.