Rocking the Boat: Cruise Ship Staff & Their Secrets

Cruising around the world aboard a luxury ship and mingling with people from all over the globe may sound like an absolute dream. After all, who doesn’t want to spend their days eating exotic cuisine and exploring foreign lands? But actually, working on one of those ships isn’t quite as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be.

People that work on cruise ships lead lives that may shock the general public. Some cruise workers even lead secret double lives, unbeknownst to their loved ones back on land. It’s sort of like Las Vegas in a way, what happens on the ship stays on the ship! That is of course, until now.

You Will Have Zero Days Off

If you’re someone who looks forward to having a day off every week, working on a cruise ship might not be the best fit for you. Why? Well, cruise ship workers literally have no days off when they’re on contract. They work for stints of about 9 months at a time, and they will work every single day straight through their contract.

When their contracts are up, they enjoy a couple of months off before heading back to the ship. Although they don’t get days off, they don’t work all day every day. Workers rotate shifts, so each person will have a few hours of downtime every day.

Stuck at Sea in a Hurricane

Hurricanes can be absolutely terrifying when you live near the water, but what about actually being in the water when a hurricane strikes? You would think that this would be something that could be avoided, due to the fact that you have a couple of days of notice when a hurricane is supposed to land. However, cruise liners decided to make the journey from Gavelston, Texas…right when Hurricane Harvey was about to strike.

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This decision led to twenty thousand people being stuck unable ut in the ocean, in the middle of the devastating storm. The port they initially left ended up closing due to floods, and they were to get clearance to head back to land. Scary!

Get Ready for Weird Guest Requests

Mix being on international waters with heavy drinking, and people who are in party mode, and you end up with some pretty strange requests from customers. Every individual has their “thing,” and when people are drinking and on vacation, they’re more likely to try and explore those things. Just ask one cruise ship worker who told USA Today that she was asked to make “adult” towel animals for one couple on her cruise ship.

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She told the couple, “Sorry, I cannot give you that.” That request is mild compared to what one may expect to hear out on the sea. After all, people with all kinds of odd fetishes may be on board when you’re working!

The Food is Pretty Terrible

Crew members not only have to deal with tight and uncomfortable living quarters, but they are also very limited in what they are able to eat. Cruise line workers are not eating the same luxury food items that the guests are eating unless they are particularly lucky and able to eat the leftovers from buffets at the end of their shift. Unlucky employees, who don’t get leftovers, end up eating weird and undesirable food – like goat foot stew (yes, we’re serious.) Kitchen staff in the crew kitchen try to work with what they have, but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be much!

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But depending on your rank, you might be eating like royalty onboard the ship. One former cruise ship employee told Cruisemates that officers often get to eat what the passengers have. And unlike crew members, high-ranking officers can order the passenger food any time of day, rather than waiting until the last fifteen minutes of the late-night buffet like the rest of the staff.

Crazy 30 Ft Waves Batter Royal Caribbean Ship

Royal Caribbean Cruise ships are no tiny boats. In fact, Royal Caribbean boasts having some of the largest luxury cruise ships on the market. So, when we tell you that one of their ships was snapped like a twig by waves, it should make you just a little bit nervous! The ship was headed to Florida from the Northeast coast when it was forced to turn around, due to a severe storm. & flatgreg

The storm resulted in waves as big as 30 feet crashing into the sides of the boat! An onboard musician took videos during the storm in which you are able to see the water outside reaching up the deck-level luxury cabins! Photographs of the damage done reveal tables and chairs in disarray and a collapsed ceiling.

You Will Get Stranded in Another Country

Docking in ports and exploring foreign lands is the main reason that anyone signs up for a job on a cruise ship. After all, traveling to exotic locations and meeting people from all over the world is an absolute dream! But if you go exploring at a port, you’d better make sure to return before your scheduled departure time! But if you don’t, the ship will wait for you to make sure you get back okay, right? Wrong.

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The ship will definitely leave without you if you’re even a minute late. Make sure to set multiple alarms on your phone if you don’t want to get stranded on an island somewhere!

Crew Cabins can be Very Iffy

When you imagine sailing the world on a luxury cruise liner, you might have an elevated idea of what the living situation would be like. But if you’re working on said cruise liner, you don’t quite get the same accommodations that paying guests do. In fact, some of the crew quarters can be pretty awful. Although some staff members, including officers, have private rooms above water, most of the crew is not so lucky.

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One employee from Royal Caribbean stated that living situations were “tight.” “You stay on the lower deck, so you’re always underwater. There are no windows in the room.” The employee said that he could touch all four walls if he were standing in the center of his room, and that it worked out to be “a total of about 10 square feet.” In other cases, crew members are cramped in to dormitory-style rooms, with around 10 other crew members. In any case, the living situation doesn’t sound like it’s very comfortable at all!


Everyone knows that partying is the main component of a good cruise, but this doesn’t just apply to guests. Employees on cruise ships like to let loose and relax sometimes, too. In fact, cruise workers typically tend to party just as much, if not more, than passengers.

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But, while the passengers are getting loaded under the stars on top of the deck, crew members are stuck drinking in their windowless crew bars.

No Refunds for Sick Guests?

Purchasing insurance when booking a cruise is an option that is very much encouraged. However, the insurance required when traveling internationally is ridiculously expensive, which leads a lot of people to travel without it, which isn’t very smart. If passengers don’t choose insurance, they can lose all of their booking fees if they become too sick to go on their cruise.

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Passengers are understandably upset about the fact they are unable to get refunds due to serious illness, or even death! This is what happened to one couple from Canada who booked a cruise with Oceania Cruises.

Arrrgh, Matey, Ye’ Won’t Be Stealing our Booty Today

Pirate attacks may sound like something straight out of the history books, but they are actually still pretty common today. Typically, Pirates tend to avoid targeting cruise liners, because of the insane amount of people on board, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. Because of this, cruise lines train their employees to protect themselves and the guests in case of a pirate attack. Cruise workers are trained to use giant water cannons in the case pirates attempt to overcome the ship. Since the cruise ships are so large, the blasts are powerful enough to take out a small pirate boat.

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Other ships are built with Long Range Acoustic Devices in place, which crew members can use to ward off pirates. In fact, this is exactly what happened in 2005, when a cruise ship was targeted by pirates off the coast of Africa. The crew had to act quickly, and luckily, ended up successfully deterring the attack.

Pulling Pranks on the Passengers

Being and working at sea every day for most of the year can get pretty old, pretty quickly. To liven things up, cruise ship workers pull some light-hearted pranks on passengers. What do we mean? Well, we’ll tell you…

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According to one anonymous cruise worker who was interviewed by Metal Floss, “A favorite was, while in a passenger area, to say to another crew member, loud enough to be heard by passengers, ‘Meet you in the bowling alley tonight!’ Of course, there wasn’t actually a bowling alley on board. Then, we’d wait for the comment cards to come in.” It seems like crew members are good at keeping themselves occupied on board!

Fraternizing with Guests is Strictly Prohibited

If you’re thinking about getting a job on a cruise ship to chase some international tail, you may want to think twice before filling out your job application. Cruise workers are barred from hooking up with guests, and doing so is one of the quickest methods to get yourself tossed overboard (just kidding, but still – you’d be fired).


According to one anonymous cruise worker, staff are discouraged from having any type of one-on-one interactions with guests. Of course, the exception to this is anything of a professional nature. Still though, crew try and steer clear of guest’s rooms to avoid getting into trouble.

Sailing Around the World

Crew members on cruise ships tend to party just as hard, if not harder, than guests! Most cruise ships include a bar that only serves the crew, and drinks are much cheaper for them then they  are for customers! A specialty drink on a cruise ship can run guests up to $15, while crew members can get similar drinks for less than $2. No wonder they’re drinking so much!


Technically, workers aren’t really supposed to be drinking, but that rule is apparently one that’s made to be broken. According to one former cruise ship worker that talked to Trend-Chaser, “Everyone is told they’re not allowed to actually get drunk, but then you go drinking with your HR person and she has four or five drinks.” Talk about sending mixed messages to the employees!

Orange is the New Orange Life Vest

Apparently, working on a cruise ship can take you right back to the good old days of high school, when everyone “cliqued up” and flocked together in groups. On cruise ships, this typically happens according to what country workers are from. Cruise ships are staffed with an international base of employees, with workers from all four corners of the world.


Each cruise ship “clique” has a name and something they are known for. According to one worker, an example of this is the “Filipino Mafia,” who are known for their ability to score booze after hours. This is quite the commodity on cruise ships because crew bars generally close no later than 2 am, and workers like to party into the wee hours of the morning. Does this remind anyone of a certain Netflix original set in a women’s prison?

Rescue Caught on Camera

Sure, there are over 1200 cameras on most Royal Caribbean cruise ships, but some say that just isn’t enough. Some people are adamant that there needs to be some type of technology that can detect when someone goes overboard.

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This may have ensured that the 22-year-old didn’t have to spend nearly 5 hours in the water before he was rescued. Luckily, the man was heard by another man who happened to be sitting with his daughter out on his balcony when he heard the man’s screams for help. Once the ship was stopped and the rescue was underway, passengers started filming and caught the whole scene on camera.

Cruise Ship Worker Disappears from Bonaire

If you aren’t on time getting back to the ship when you’re at a port, the ship will leave without you. This is exactly what happened with 24-year-old Adriana Morales de Florencio of Mexico went missing, when the Royal Caribbean cruise ship she worked on left port on the island of Bonaire.

Video footage captured the young woman walking off of the ship to explore the island, but she never made it back onto the ship. Her family members created a social media campaign to raise awareness about her disappearance, and authorities questioned locals and posted signs.

The Helms Have Eyes

If you happen to be a private person who really values their alone time, working on a cruise ship might not be for you. Why? Aside from what we’ve told you about everyone knowing everyone else’s business, there are also cameras everywhere, that record literally everything you do at every moment of the day…with a couple of exceptions, of course.

While this all may sound pretty unsettling, it’s actually for your safety. In the case of emergencies, the cameras are there to be able to shine a light on what happened. But don’t worry, there aren’t any cameras in the private living quarters or bathrooms!

Trapped in a Nightmare

When something horrifying happens on a cruise ship, you can’t do much to escape it, which means you may very well get stuck in something that seems like a living nightmare. This was the case back in 2015, for passengers and employees of the Carnival Ecstasy. One unfortunate couple, in particular, got up close and personal with the scene; an electrician’s terrible, accidental death in an elevator. News

The couple that walked in on this scene described it as nothing less than the stuff of horror movies. Crew members worked like crazy to keep passengers away from the scene, in one of the ship’s onboard restaurants.

Bodies on Board

About 200 people pass away on cruise ships every year. When someone dies, there needs to be a system in place to store the bodies. Enter, the cruise ship morgue. Yes, you read that right: there are morgues on cruise ships.

Typically, most of the onboard morgues are very small, fitting only up to about five bodies. Some ships may include larger morgues, especially if the ship specifically caters to senior citizens. One former cruise employee said that “since the line was for older demographics, we had people die on the ship pretty regularly.”

Falling Head over Helms

Going overboard on a cruise ship sounds like something that only happens in the movies, or once in a blue moon. But it does happen, just like it did to a 22-year old American man in 2015. The fact that this man survived the fall alone is pretty insane, as the fall from a ship that big is enough to snap almost anyone’s neck on the spot. Miami

The man not only survived the fall but continued to hang on for around five hours in the open water, before being rescued. Luckily for this guy, some passengers spotted him in the water and began throwing him lifesavers. The man miraculously survived the experience with his neck intact.


“Netflix and chill” isn’t exactly a possibility when working aboard a cruise ship. In fact, finding any kind of internet at all can be a seriously daunting (and very expensive) task when you’re at sea. Basically, the only time you’ve got a shot of checking your Facebook is when you’re docked in a port.

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So, if you find the idea of being without Wi-Fi for days at a time to be terrifying, working on a cruise ship probably isn’t for you. In fact, Wi-Fi is so ridiculously expensive that pretty much anyone who works on a ship gets familiar with using internet cafes. On some luxury cruise ships, crew members are provided with a staff internet lounge.

Say Goodbye to Personal Space

“Stay in your lane, dude!” Ah, personal space in five words. We all need a little room to breathe sometimes, and we definitely need room to move around without our toes being stepped on by someone else around us. Unfortunately, this kind of thing is super common in cruise ship crew living areas. Rooms for crew members often consist of uber-small bunk beds and little to no floor space.

On some cruise ships, the rooms are situated in a “dorm” style, where up to eleven people can stay in the same room. On others, rooms only fit 2-4 employees. But whatever the case is, unless you’re an officer, we can pretty much guarantee that you wouldn’t have too much space to yourself! However, most people that work on a cruise ship will tell you that it’s worth it for the rest of the benefits of being on the crew.

What is Actually Common?

Okay, so you can’t hook up with the guests, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hook up at all! Crew member relationships are extremely common aboard cruise ships. Just imagine being around the same people in tight quarters for most of the year – hookups are inevitable! One cruise ship worker that spoke to Trend-Chaser said that hookups among employees are very common.

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And romance between crew members is unlike any typical relationship that would happen on land. Why? Well, considering that the crew live together, work together, eat together, and play together, it’s pretty hard to get away from your significant other if things get sour. And you can forget about keeping your relationship a secret, as everyone knows everything that is happening on board!

Emergencies can Get Downright Disgusting

Cases of flu and food poisoning spreading rapidly among unfortunate cruise guests is a notorious cruise ship horror story, but it didn’t get to be that way by accident. Emergencies do happen, and when something goes wrong on a ship and you’re in the middle of the ocean – things can get pretty bad.


Just ask Carnival Cruise, who, in 2013, lost power after there was a fire within the engine room. Passengers aboard the ship got stuck in the Gulf of Mexico, and the sewage started to get backed up. The nasty liquid got so full that it started overflowing all around the ship, and smelled so bad that some areas were labeled as toxic, and passengers camped out in tents in an effort to escape the hideous stench. Yuck!

Cruise Workers Lead Double Lives

Being at sea for the majority of the year can take its toll on relationships back home, and that’s exactly what happens for a ton of those working on cruise ships. It’s all too common for a cruise worker to be married to someone back on land, and have an entire romantic relationship with someone else while they’re on board.


For some, working on a cruise ship is a way to be themselves, as is the case for some gay cruise workers who are still very much “in the closet” back home, but fully out and open when they’re at work.

Norovirus Outbreaks

When sickness strikes on a cruise ship, it can be absolutely devastating. This is because it has the tendency to travel super quickly, and passengers can’t do much to avoid getting sick, because they’re basically trapped in a small space with the virus. This is what happened when 100 passengers on a Carnival Cruise ship developed Norovirus – a foodborne illness that causes flu-like symptoms.

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The passengers just happened to get sick on their very first day of a ten-day cruise. Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships are actually fairly common, and happened four times on four different ships over a single year alone!

Hiring Americans is Not Common Practice

This is actually a pretty big topic among those in the cruise industry. A lot of the time, cruise lines try to avoid hiring Americans. But, why? Well, Americans are spoiled in the sense that we’re used to 40-hour workweeks, which isn’t the case with much of the rest of the world. Americans are also used to working the standard Monday through Friday schedule and taking their weekends off.


But working on a cruise is nothing like a standard American workweek. Hours can very much exceed 40 hours, and you can forget about taking an entire weekend off. Most of the time, you’d be lucky to get a single day off for your entire contract. The rate of Americans quitting their cruise ship employment is very high, so most hiring managers try to avoid it altogether.

There Are Eyes on You at All Times

Yes, this does sound incredibly creepy, but being watched on a cruise ship is crucial for your safety and the safety of everyone else on board. There are cameras almost everywhere on the ship, with the exception of your private cabins (and restrooms, of course.) Although emergencies on cruises are fairly rare, they do happen, and video footage can ultimately help save a life if the situation requires.


Occasionally, something will happen, like a crew member or passenger going missing. Most recently, this happened when 20-year-old Aaron Hough went missing from Harmony of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship. Aaron went missing on Christmas Day of 2018, while on a cruise in the Caribbean. Video footage showed him last entering an area of the fifth deck before he went missing and was presumed to have fallen overboard.

If You’re on a Diet, You’re in the Right Place

Cruise lines are notorious for having incredible food – but for the guests, not the employees. On the contrary, employee food on cruise lines is known for being pretty terrible. Cruise line food is likened to that of a high school cafeteria. One former cruise line employee said that they were often fed undesirable, weird food like goat foot stew. Gross! But if you’re looking to drop some pounds, working on a cruise line might just do the trick! & cafeTashkent

One employee told Mental Floss that she, “would lose about 10 to 12 pounds per contract.” Bravo! But, we’re sorry you had to eat goat foot stew to do so. We’re also sorry if you just so happen to like goat foot stew. Rock on!

Romantic Relationships are a Definite No-No

Romantic relations between passengers and employees are strictly forbidden, and probably for good reason. These types of rules are in place to protect both the employees and the cruise line from any legal issues. This is probably the strictest rule among cruise line workers, and also the most surefire way to get booted if you choose to ignore it.

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So, if your plan is to get hired on a cruise ship because you’re looking for the love boat, you may want to reconsider! Although they are strictly forbidden, they do happen very occasionally. But all crew members know that doing this pretty much means kissing your job goodbye if you get caught.

Cruise Ship’s Wreak Havoc on the Environment

We know the last thing anyone wants to think about when they’re packing up to go on a tropical cruise vacation is their decision’s effect on the environment. But cruise ships can do some serious damage, as far as air pollution is concerned.

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One cruise ship alone can produce an equal amount of air pollution in a single day to one million cars! Even though cruise companies are fully aware of the damage the ships do to the air, they haven’t done much to control the pollution. Apparently, the people in charge of the ships keep claiming that they will do something different, but no one is following through. What a shame!

The Tips Can Be Amazing

As with many jobs in the hospitality industry, cruise ship workers depend largely on tips to maximize their paychecks. Introverts may not make the same kind of money that outgoing, people-loving people have the ability to make when working for a cruise line. Fortunately for introverts, most cruise lines have a mandatory gratuity, which is automatically added to a customer’s bill and then split fairly among employees.  And since there are little to no living expenses when you’re on board, you can save that money very easily!

One cruise worker who spoke to Nomadic Matt said that it’s a common misconception that cruise members don’t make enough money. According to him, base pay combined with the crazy number of tips you get makes for a pretty fat paycheck! And since cruise workers barely pay for living expenses, you’d get to save up a ton of money while you’re at sea!

Your Opinion Matters…if You’re a Passenger

Most people who have been on a cruise are fully aware of the existence of comment cards. If you’ve cruised as a passenger, you may think they’re just a technicality, and you probably care very little about them. But as a crew member, those comment cards can actually have a serious impact on your life aboard the ship.


Reviews on comment cards are taken so seriously that they can influence an employee’s paycheck.  Positive feedback can lead to bonuses and raises, while negative feedback can ultimately lead to an employee’s termination if they’re bad enough. Yikes! We will make sure to leave positive reviews for great service on cruise ships!

Dodging the Illusive Rogue Wave

Rogue waves are waves that seem to come literally out of nowhere, quickly and with fury. Rogue waves are the stuff pirate’s nightmares are made of. These waves can also be known as “freak” or “monster” waves, because of how insanely large and random they are. Rogue waves have been known to tear even the largest of ships apart.

Some people speculate that a large percentage of ships that just “disappear” at sea have actually fallen victim to a rogue wave. The ocean may be absolutely beautiful, but it is just as dangerous as it is spectacular. There is no way to know for sure if these boats were taken by massive rogue waves, but it’s a solid theory!

What the Crew Doesn’t Want You to Know

Although being on a cruise ship is slightly different than working in a resort on land, it’s still in the same realm of the hospitality industry – and working in hospitality is far from being a walk in the park.

Hospitality workers spend their days serving the needs of others, often in exchange for pretty low hourly pay and long, grueling hours. Working on a cruise ship is no exception, so it should come as no surprise that the crew’s days aren’t all “rainbows and unicorns.” Read on to get all of the dirty details of the secret lives of cruise ship crew members.

Being in Front Isn’t Always the Best

If you think being in the front of the boat is a good thing, think again. Booking a room in the front of the boat ensures you’ll be in for a bumpy ride.

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The room will feel like it’s constantly moving and will probably make you feel a little seasick. The crew is constantly cleaning the front rooms, but be sure that if you were to shine a blacklight on the room’s furniture, it wouldn’t be a nice view.

Drama Drama Drama

With all the partying and romancing happening on board, there’s obviously a fair share of drama. There are ship politics, gossip, and games and they’re everywhere. Friendships are made, ruined, and everything in between.

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You would think Netflix would have already come out with a reality show based on the ship crew’s lives. Yes, the crew may seem like they have their lives together and are strictly professional, but deep down, they’re riddled with anxiety and tension.

Sticking Together

Hiring employees from India and the Philippines has become very popular in the cruise ship world. Since there are ship employees from all around the world, they tend to stick together.

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The crew calls them “mafias.” They only hand out with each other and take care of each other, selling treats to other groups at high markups.

Management is Mean

Cruise ship management is known for being mean. What usually ends up happening is that managers are given separate private quarters and the power to discipline.


The managers watch everything on cameras, and if a staff member acts up, they will be left at a port. No joke. No matter how badly managers mistreat their staff, there are always more people applying to work on the ship.

Behind Bars

For those who break the law, steal, or generally act criminal, the ship has a jail. The captain and his officers have the authority to put you behind bars while on board.


They can legally arrest someone until the ship reaches port and the police can take them away. Guess what? The crew is thrown behind bars themselves sometimes too!

Fun Days

Whenever the ship makes a port call, the crew knows they’re in for some fun. When passengers leave to roam around, the staff can too. They wait for these days like no other.


The crew is finally allowed to rest, after working tirelessly for days on end. It’s also a chance for them to get some time away from annoying passengers, rude managers, and all the drama on board.

The Crew Doesn’t Care

Though you may think you’ve created a bond with the staff, you’re just another person that’s come in and out of their life. They’re paid to care, but behind that huge smile, they’re just waiting for you to leave.

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More precisely, they’re waiting to go below the decks for the next drama. If you tip them, you may stand out…but other than that, you’re just another face in a crowd of passengers.

The Law is Still Very Real

It’s actually pretty common for people to equate being on international waters with complete freedom from any type of legal matters. But laws are still very real, and they can be enforced. How? With the help of “maritime law,” which around the United States, is enforced by the Coast Guard.

Maritime law is exactly how Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagace were caught when they attempted to smuggle about 200 pounds of illegal substances back with them on a Princess Cruise ship, in 2016. The two women were caught and are now facing up to twenty years in prison. The narcotics were worth an estimated $16 million and were found in the women’s suitcases.

The Ships Have a War Room

A “War Room” on a cruise ship might sound a little funny, but if you think about it, it actually makes perfect sense. After all, cruise ships can be targeted by pirates and other possible enemies. Although these types of emergencies on cruise ships are fairly rare, they do happen. So, what is a war room?

A war room is a place where people, typically government officials or the like, get together to discuss plans regarding the safety of a certain group of people. So, the war room on a cruise ship may be used by officers in the case of a pirate attack. Officers could gather in the war room to plan out an escape and defense strategy.

Crew Member goes Missing from Disney Cruise

Most everyone who goes on a cruise does so to have a good time and relax. However, there are also bad people in the world, and these people can use cruises to harm others. This may have been the case in 2011 when a young British woman named Rebecca Coriam was working on the Disney Wonder cruise ship. The ship was somewhere off the coast of Mexico when she seemed to just vanish into thin air.

Video footage pulled from the ship reveals Rebecca talking on the phone just before her disappearance. According to reports, she appeared to be in distress. Rebecca was never seen or heard from again.

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