Crew Cabins

The accommodation… Definitely the most popular topic when people discover that I live at sea 😉

Just a few examples...

“But…. Do you live on the ship?” 

“Do you have the same cabin as a passenger?”

“Do you live next to the engines?”

“Do you have to share with other people?”

“What does your cabin look like?”

goofy disney question marks

I won’t share all the questions but I receive a looooot of interest about my cabin! In general, crew areas arouse a lot of curiosity because they are not visible. Passengers don’t see them and can’t visit them.

So let's clarify a little bit.

Yes, I do live on the ship. All crew members live on the ship.

No, I do not use a helicopter every morning and every evening to drop me to work on the ship and to take me back to the nearest port so I can sleep at the hotel.

Nope, we don’t use the lifeboats neither…

(I swear several passengers seriously thought that this was my daily routine).

No, we do not use passenger cabins. We have crew cabins located in crew areas only.

We can exceptionally use passenger cabins when we join the ship and we shadow our colleague. Meaning that we are an additional resource and we don’t have an allocated cabin. Therefore, the compagny assigns a passenger cabin for us, temporarily.

No, we don’t live next to the engines. However, some of us can be really close to them.

The engines are located on the 2 first decks. It depends on the company, but they are usually called Deck 1 & 2, or C & B.
Most of crew cabins are located on the 2 next decks above them. Above the machinery and under the passengers’ areas.
All cruise lines have a different deck plan. So I won’t try to give you all the names, otherwise, I will definitely lose you during my explanation.
A large part of the crew lives on the deck just under the waterline. The rest of the crew lives on the deck just above the waterline and will share this deck with the Staff and Officers.

A few Officers will also live on upper decks (Forward and Aft), next to passengers’ cabins, and are, most of the time, Senior Officers. 
Once again, it depends on the cruise liner and mostly on the ship itself.
Let me show you on a map just after, that might be better 😉

No, I do not share my cabin with other people. However, most of the crew must share.

As I explained in a different post, cruise ships have a ranking system among the crew members: crew, staff and officers (and we even have differences within each of these groups).
The crew has to share the cabins (and the bathrooms). They might share with 1 other roommate (if they’re lucky) but will most of the time share with 2,3,4 people (sometimes more!). And each shared cabin might also share a bathroom with another shared cabin… Not ideal at all.

The staff will usually share the cabin. They will only be 2 in each staff cabin and won’t share the bathroom with another cabin.

Most of officers won’t share their cabin and will have a personal bathroom as well. Depending on your rank, your cabin size will change. You might have a porthole (nice waterview every morning!), a sofa-bed, a table with a few chairs, etc. 
Senior officers will have big cabins and the highest ranking officers will get a suite.

As HR Manager, I have been a 2.5-stripe officer and a 3-stripe officer.
As a 2.5-stripe officer, I had my cabin on the deck just above the waterline.
As a 3-stripe officer, I had a bigger cabin just under the bridge.

I told you that accommodation is a hot topic for the passengers, who are quite curious about it. And this is also a burning matter for the crew as well ! Getting a better cabin could be a quest for many crew members….. Even if we work 10-14 hours a day and we are sooo tired that we go back to our cabin just to sleep… But for some crew members, a porthole, a bigger tv, a sofa, etc. is very important to them. No judgement. Everyone is different and the concept of comfort is obviously different as well.

Deck Plan

So let me show you quickly where the crew lives.

On the below picture, you can see that the plan doesn’t show any deck under the Deck 4. These decks are under the waterline. Usually, the cruise lines don’t show the decks under the waterline and don’t show the crew areas on their plans neither for safety reasons.

As I explained before, most of the crew will leave on, what it’s called on this plan, Decks 3 & 4. Close to the waterline.

cruise ship deck plan

Show me a crew cabin!!!

So, now…. What does it look like?! That’s what you want to know, right?! Come on, don’t lie to me.

First, let’s talk about law and conventions. (Wooohooo! Could you feel the fun!?)

Cruise liners don’t design crew cabins the way they want. They must respect the MLC 2006: Maritime Labour Convention, signed by governments, cruise liners, unions, in 2006 (with a recent amendment in 2016).

I won’t give you the details of course, just an overview. Cruise liners must respect a minimum size for each cabin, security, protection from weather and sea, furnitures (like…a bed! A fridge, a safe, etc.), insulation from heat, cold and noise, and many many other things!
Usually, the cabins don’t really change between the cruise lines as they all must respect the requirements. And with them… Layout options are limited…

So let me show you a few pictures so you can realize where we live everyday 😉

crew cabin cruise ship
crew cabin cruise ship

These 2 photos show you a crew cabin. Very small. 2 to 4 single beds. A desk or just a table. A very limited storage.

Not ideal, right?! Unfortunately, thousands of people live in these cabins, everyday, for several months.

officer cabin cruise ship
officer cabin cruise ship

These 2 photos are officers’ cabins. They are bigger (the size depends on your rank). Double bed, desk, table and chairs, cupboard.

As I explained before, some cabins can also have a sofa or a sofa-bed.

A little extra: the bathroom!

Just a little plus I guess! The bathroom. Definitely not the same bathroom as you can find in a castle but…. Efficient 😉

bathroom officer cabin
bathroom officer cabin

Another thing to know about the crew cabins. They are assigned to crew members for the lengh of their contract. They are still company’s property and do not belong to the crew members who live there.

Therefore, inspectors (designated officers) can visit the cabin anytime they suspect the crew members don’t respect the area. 
By law, the Captain must also run a weekly cabin inspection and asks his/her Officers to visit all crew cabins and report any dysfunction and any forbidden item (broken glass, light not working, fruits in the fridge, dirty bathroom, etc.).
Any dysfunction will be fixed. For any prohibited item found, discipline will be given to the crew member.

I hope this post answered a few questions and gave you an overview of what we find after a very long and hard day at work.

This is not a very big room and intimacy/privacy is obviously compromised when you share the cabin with other people.
Not easy neither to move along… There is not much room and it’s quickly filled with the suitcases, uniforms, personal items, etc.

This is a big problem for the seafarers but not much we can really do about it. If the cruise liners decide to build bigger crew cabins, they will need to build bigger ships or sacrifice other areas or even passengers’ cabins. Thereby, a loss of profits. And these could have consequences of wages or recruitments.

Indeed, we don’t want that so seamen accept these conditions. This is part of our life and there is a lot of benefits to this way of life.
Don’t worry, cruise ships are huge! So you can always find a space with no one around and be alone with your thought. You observe the sunset, without any people around you, alone with the sound of the waves. Believe me, this is an amazing feeling 😉


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The author is a cruise ship officer and loves travelling around the world. He started the expatriation adventure in 2016. He is passionate about learning new cultures, about local food & beer. *Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my current employer or my previous employers*

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