The global cruise industry is expected to rake in nearly $40 billion by the end of 2016, and with more than 11 million North American passengers this year alone, there's a massive behind-the-scenes operation that cruise ships live and breathe every single day, most of it going unnoticed by cruisers themselves. So we asked industry insiders to give us the nitty gritty on how these giant boats pull it all together.
1. The ships take a VERY long time to build.
2. Most major ships have a so-called Provisions Master.
This job title basically describes the person whose job it is to make the master grocery list for the ship. Their weekly list could literally outline thousands of pounds of potatoes, pasta, and enough dairy to feed a city. Major cruise lines often carry thousands of passengers at once for long periods of time, and the majority of food is picked up at the port of origin, so those lists are pretty extensive.
3. Big ships also employ at least one butcher.
It's not just captains, health staff, and janitorial on board — feeding thousands of people (affordably, because cruise margins can be pretty slim) requires as much in-house work as possible. The major ships all have at least one butcher on staff.
4. Cruise ships are going gender neutral.
In ye olden days, major ships were generally named after women. In these most modern times it's not uncommon for ships to have female, male, or even object names.
5. The color of those inflatable lifeboats is actually regulated.
Who knew? According to Expedia Cruise Ship Centers, Disney Cruise Line was the first cruise line to have yellow lifeboats, instead of the traditional regulation orange. Disney was granted special permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to paint the lifeboats yellow, to keep with the special color theming of the ship.
6. Major ships often have celeb god-parents.
No, we're not even kidding right now: Major ships are often appointed god-parents, much like babies have. Except since everything is bigger with cruise ships, the god-parents aren't just the best friends of the captains... they're actual celebs. Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's giant floating party, has Jane Seymour and Daisy Fuentes as god-mommas.
7. That cruise buffet has a short shelf life.
"According to CDC guidelines across the cruise industry, food can only be left out on a buffet for four hours before needing to be removed or discarded," explains Windstar Cruises Corporate Executive Chef Michael Sabourin. "Also, if it's in front of a guest, like on a buffet, it cannot be brought back into the kitchen and used again." Some cruise lines do encourage recycling though, and cruise staff are invited to feast on high end buffet leftovers.
8. It's not for everyone.
According to research, only about 24 percent of Americans have ever taken an ocean cruise.
9. It's a wonder they float at all.
Did you know the mega cruise ships have the same weight as about 8,000 warrior army tanks? That's pretty heavy, and doesn't even account for the super mega ships that exist today. So how do they float? Buoyancy.
10. They don't go very fast.
While it depends on which ship you're on, the average cruising speed of mega boats like the Allure of the Seas isn't very fast at 20 to 35 knots, or around 20 to 40 miles per hour.
11. Bigger isn't better.
Mega ships are certainly appealing for family-oriented travelers thanks to their many activities, pools, and recreation options (they're practically floating cities), but well-heeled travelers looking for extremely high-end amenities and attention often fare best on smaller, "boutique" cruise lines. These ships typically pack in no more than 400 guests at any given time and offer a high staff-to-guest ratio. There's also less hustle, bustle, and buffet competition. Think of it as heading to a small resort versus staying at a giant Las Vegas hotel.
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