9 Things I Never Knew About Cruises Until I Ran the Worlds Largest Ship

At a time when travelers are sensation more precious than ever about “ authentic experiences, ” the luxury cruise industry is doubling down on the actual opposite: completely manufactured fun. Top the pack is Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited. , whose mega-ships are locations unto themselves: Its  restaurants, internet casinos, Broadway-caliber musicals, silent disco events, skating rinks, karaoke, dance night clubs, and escape-the-room experiences are this kind of strong lures, some guests don’ t even bother to look upward where the ship is docking.  

So when the cruise line invited myself to join the  ranks as short-term director of its largest ship, — that is as big as five s— I understood I was signing up for the most manic 7 days of my life.  

As sail director, my primarily responsibility had been seeing to the happiness of six, 322 passengers and 2, 200-plus crew. Over the course of a week, I had the hands in every department, from deliver activities and entertainment to on-ship revenue, making sure that everyone and every thing worked in, well, harmony. Through stocking the world’ s greatest buffet and staving off gastrointestinal  disasters to  hosting celebrity visitors, everything is 10  times crazier when you’ re mayor of the city that’ s floating in the center of the sea.  

There Is  Key Cruise Code Language

Illustration: Zohar  Lazar

It’ t crucial for the staff to have program code words so that passengers don’ big t get freaked out if some thing goes wrong. A “ 30-30” means the crew is wondering maintenance to clean up a mess; 3 times during my stint I called in  a “ PVI” (public throwing up incident). An “ Alpha” is really a medical emergency, a “ Bravo” is a fire, and “ Kilo” is a request for all personnel in order to report to their emergency posts, which usually happens in the event of, say, a necessary expulsion. Be wary of “ Echo, ” which is called if the ship is beginning to drift, or “ Oscar, ” which means someone’ s gone crazy. A crew member told me he’ s had  only four or five “ Oscars” in 10 years of hanging around.

Drunk Guests Can' t Outsmart the On-Board Bartenders

Illustration: Zohar  Lazar

If you thought those all-you-can-drink beverage packages were directly linked to drunk debauchery at sea, reconsider. Only eight to 10  % of passengers purchase unlimited liquor packages— Royal Caribbean’ s visitors are largely family travelers— and people who do are carefully supervised. Every single alcoholic beverage is poured using a jigger. Intoxicated passengers can have their own SeaPasses (onboard credit cards) briefly disabled, barring them from becoming served at any of the ship’ h bars. As for the most popular alcoholic beverage purchased on board? It’ s a cinnamon fireball shot.

Based on Ivan De La Rosa, the particular ship’ s senior doctor, the largest issue involving alcohol is once the ship is docked in Cozumel, Mexico. Mix an afternoon of unregulated drinking on land at Señ or Frogs with tropical temperature and a few glasses of Mexican tap water, plus you’ ve got yourself a assured “ PVI. ”

Cruise Staffers Regularly Engage in Subliminal Messaging

The first thing visitors likely see in their cabins is really a gleeful jingle about hand-washing looping on their television screen. It’ t catchy as a Katy Perry song  and meant to steer you toward  Purel pumps around the ship, every carefully positioned at high-traffic junctions (think entrances to the main eating halls and theaters) by mature staff. Along with the emcees’ banter in particular group events— “ Have you cleaned your hands 50 times today? There are! ” — the jingle is usually part of the crew’ s unwavering work to stave off a potential Norovirus break out.  

But sterilization is just one aim of the  regular subliminal messaging. Special promotions across the ship encourage passengers to spread when certain areas become overloaded, and moving guests around the deliver subtly encourages them to diversify (and increase) their onboard spending. In the event that casino revenue is low, for example, senior management might host the raffle or karaoke event on the far side of the slots to operate a vehicle foot traffic and encourage people to linger (or better yet, play) a while. Activities managers will even movie their daily newscast about on-ship events with Starbucks iced espressos in hand, as a quiet reminder that will passengers can get their venti latte fix on Deck Six. Sometimes, these veiled announcements are targeted at boosting the ship’ s main point here.

There Is a Cruise Ship Burn off Book 

Dru Pavlov, veteran cruise movie director and my mentor during this  Royal Caribbean stint, keeps the hallowed book of stupid responses and questions; passed down from one cruise trip director to the next as a right associated with passage, it makes great vamping materials for event emcees.  

The book Pavlov bequeathed to me included such doozies because: “ Where’ s the elevator to get to the front of the ship? ”   Others include “ May be the toilet water drinkable? ” plus “ How long does it take the team to get home every night? ” My personal favorite contribution came three days directly into my tenure, when a passenger ended me to complain that the lady could no longer find her log cabin. The ship had been parked in reverse, she claimed.

Every Cruise Guests Basically Eat exactly the same Things

Illustration: Zohar  Lazar

Freezers on board are the size of New York  studio apartments— and stocking all of them is an art form. Before each sailing, the supply team receives enough ingredients for 20 various dining venues, plus servings  for that 2, 000-member crew. (The overall cost, including such other consumables as paper towels, is about $800, 1000. ) Overestimate  the order, as well as the voyage becomes less-profitable (and wasteful); underestimate, and you’ ll danger a riot over coconut shrimp.  

Luckily, passengers’ eating habits are fairly  predictable. At the average week-long cruise, Royal Carribbean estimates its guests will be eighty percent American, consuming around a few, 000 bottles of wine, 7, 000 lbs of chicken breast, and almost 100, 500 eggs.  

When more than 80 percent of the visitors are American, the crew purchases extra ketchup. When the percentage associated with Chinese passengers increases, they increase the supply of sliced fruit, sea food, and rice. Latin Americans eat more red meat and Coronas (which also requires additional limes). Plus family-prone Spring Break cruises need three times as many chicken nuggets. The thing that never changes no matter who may be on board? Toilet paper. Around nine, 600 rolls are used each week.    

Every Deliver Has an " Outbreak Prevention Strategy, " With a Hair Trigger

Example: Zohar  Lazar

Nothing is  scarier to cruisers  than a Norovirus outbreak — which deliver doctor De La Rosa states is almost always caused by a passenger that has brought the illness aboard, rather than bad sanitary conditions on the ship.

The U. S. Wellness Department requires that every ship sustain a detailed OPP, or Outbreak Avoidance Plan. On, regular sanitary problems are called “ OPP1, ” and they also get ratcheted up to “ OPP2” when there’ s a “ 6 in 6, ” or even six passengers reported ill within six hours. (You’ ll understand OPP2 is in full gear once the crew gets less subliminal regarding its “ wash your hands” messaging. ) 

When the incidence rate escalates and the scenario reaches OPP3, guests lose the opportunity to handle their own food. The entire team, from the ice dancers to the coordinated swimmers, is recruited to the buffets to help serve, and all restaurants plus guestroom linens are put in reddish colored biohazard bags and obsessively washed in a special facility on property.

If you want to avoid Norovirus like, well, the plague, avoid short sailings, says  figure skater and veteran crew member Bob Mabee. “ Those trips are generally the least-expensive, attracting both old passengers, who are prone to getting ill, and the young booze cruisers, who seem to forget about hygiene. ”  

As for the  most  common  diagnoses  at sea? They  consist of upper respiratory infections, bruised your bones, and the odd Viagra mishap. UTIs are also frequent, thanks to frisky newly-weds on their honeymoon, and prescribing antibiotics can be furry when passengers are committed to their own all-you-can-drink packages.

Team Members Are Trained to Deal with Handsy Passengers …

Illustration: Zohar  Lazar

Sleeping with a passenger will get a person “ chicken or beef, ” as Pavlov puts it— “ That’ s what a flight worker asks you when you’ lso are put on the first flight home. ”  

The zero-tolerance policy seems to be an industry-wide standard— at Royal Caribbean, there’ t even staff training on how to defuse an escalating situation. More often than not, it’ s a vacationing guest seeking to seduce a crew member. “ Whenever I take photos with individuals, I always give a thumbs up, ” records Pavlov.   “ My fingers are visible, so no one can state any inappropriate behavior. ” Along with cameras covering virtually every nook plus cranny of the ship, it’ m be easier to rob a financial institution than take a bite of a few forbidden fruit. (Though some crew users still use Grindr or Tinder  to get a sense of who’ t on board. )

… but the Staff Quarters Are a Legitimate Love Boat 

Along with 2, 200 crew, the employees quarters are a village unto by themselves, with cabins, bars, a mess corridor, shop, and gym set throughout decks 0, 1, 2, a few, and 12. (Most services are usually set off a second-deck corridor called “ I-95. ” )

Among the crew, dating is not merely allowed but tacitly encouraged— these people live onboard through the entirety of the contract without days off, often  10 months a year.   They will have  their own calendar of every day events that range from karaoke periods to poker games and language classes. And since Wi-Fi is usually pricey, romance is very much analog.

Coupling up on the particular ship is like dating in canine years: Things move about 7 times faster. Several crew users recounted instances when they put in a demand to share a cabin with their brand new boyfriend after only a month associated with dating, or dropped the “ I love you” bomb within the 1st week of meeting someone. Plus since relationships often end as soon as one person leaves the ship, sail couples tend to become “ lifers. ” (Almost everyone I fulfilled in upper management met their particular spouse onboard. ) 

The Ship Has Genies, plus they Can Perform Magic 

Even though bargain-basement discounts draw plenty of tourists to big-ship cruising, procuring Regal Caribbean’ s VIP status may offer a true luxury experience. The easiest way to obtain it is by booking into the Royal Suites Superstar Class ; the company’ h crè me de la crè me offering includes 10 advanced apartments  on with privileged entry to pleb-free parts of the ship plus butler-style service from a coterie associated with “ Royal Genies. ”

The Genies are conditioned to cater to your every whim, using limited resources at sea, this could require real creativity. Daniel, among the genies, once had a couple request their suite to be filled with bouquets. Unable to secure real bouquets, he previously the pastry team bake lots of petal-shaped cookies and scattered all of them around the room. And when one household got locked out of a peak-season December sailing, genie Andrei amazed them with an early Christmas by designing their suite and putting covered presents under a makeshift tree.

“ The hardest action to take is host a celebrity on board, ” says  Andrei, who has served the slew of A-listers and their own families, including Kelsey Grammer, Adam Sandler, and Seth Rogen. To give all of them privacy amid thousands of cruisers, he admits that, “ We usher them directly into shows after the lights go darkish, and we grab them to leave a few minutes before the show is done. ”  

No matter how you gain your VIP status— or when you’ ve earned it in all— my time on board demonstrated that the crew will always bend more than backwards to make sure you leave pleased. Want to thank them? Tipping is excellent, but comment cards that clearly name standout crew members create more of a difference. Your praise will get noted on their permanent record, makes them such onboard perks since free Wi-Fi, and helps safe promotions down the road.