One of the perks of living on a cruise ship is not having to find housing or pay rent, but for some, it comes with a price: small, spare living quarters.

That’s particularly true for lower-paid workers like waiters, bar servers, and those in customer-service roles, who are known as crew or staff members. Some of the 39 current and former cruise ship employees who spoke with Business Insider said they didn’t have much room to move in their cabins. (Most of those mentioned in this story requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from their former employer.)

Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess stateroom

A passenger cabin on Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess ship. Princess Cruises

“I was sharing a cabin with another hostess, so obviously we’d have to get ready at the same time, and it was not possible,” a former hostess for Costa Cruises said. “We’d have to take turns.”

Costa Cruises did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I couldn’t open up my arms without hitting something,” a former art-auction contractor who worked on a ship operated by Norwegian Cruise Line said. “It was so narrow.”

Norwegian Cruise Line did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Crew and staff members often have one roommate, though they sometimes have three. Their rooms are furnished simply, giving occupants some combination of a bed, desk, closet, a few shelves, and a small bathroom. Workers may also share a bathroom with the room next to theirs or use a communal bathroom with the rest of their floor-mates.

Norwegian Getaway crew bathroom, 2017
The bathroom in an employee cabin on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Getaway ship in 2017.
Anonymous contractor who has worked for Norwegian Cruise Line

Managers and those responsible for steering the ship, known as officers, get their own rooms, though they aren’t necessarily luxurious. In addition to extra space, they may have a few additional accessories, like a television or a refrigerator.

“Compared to some of the crew cabins, you had a nice cabin,” said a former inventory manager for Royal Caribbean Cruises.

But when you’re used to having a roommate, moving to a solo cabin can seem like a major upgrade….


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Cruise ship workers describe the tiny cabins they live in
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