History has not been kind to cruise ship crew. Logs show that living quarters were cramped and comforts were almost non-existent. Cruise ship crews were just not considered important enough to be given decent accommodation.
Even on big cruise liners like the RMS Titanic, crew slept in large dimly-lit rooms, often dozens together stacked in bunk beds of three. Engineers, stokers, greasers and other similar crew were accommodated below decks, far away from passengers.
Often the accommodation was not climate controlled at all, with no ventilation to speak of. On warm days it would be hot and sweaty, while in the winter it could get pretty chilly. The cold metal bunks were topped with a thin mattress and bed sheet, and there was barely any space between two adjoining bunk beds. All shared a common bathroom.
Officers had a slightly more luxurious life. On the RMS Titanic, they were housed on the boat deck near the wheelhouse and had a promenade they could walk about on.
Crew below decks back in the day were susceptible to contagious diseases that spread very quickly due to the cramped quarters, shared toilets and bathing facilities.
Today, things have changed drastically. On most ships, no more than two crew members are accommodated in a single cabin, no matter their rank. The cabins are made as comfortable as possible while still economising on space.
Admittedly, cruise ship accommodation is still small and cannot be called luxurious by any measure. However, they are fitted with all the necessities required for a decent life at sea. Depending on the company, cabins might have a bunk bed or two single beds on either side of the room. Each bed has curtains that can be drawn across to shut out the light in case your roommate needs to get dressed for work at odd hours. There is a table where crew can keep handy items or use as a desk.
Most cruise ship crew cabins today have a telephone, television and are Wi-Fi accessible. If you are lucky, you might have a DVD player left behind by a previous crew member. The cabins also have plug points to charge mobile phones and laptops. Some have a porthole, affording the luxury of enjoying beautiful ocean views and natural light. These decks may be reserved for slightly higher ranking crew and officers.
Each crew member gets a cupboard. It may be small, but all you really need to carry are uniforms for the day and a few changes for when you are off duty. Each cabin is fitted with a mini fridge, which is shared by cabin mates. Typically, messy food such as gravies, cupcakes with cream, etc are not allowed in the cabin to avoid pests. Dry food such as cookies and water is permitted.
Every cabin has a bathroom and toilet which must be shared among roommates. You are provided with towels, hangers, air-conditioning and a full-length mirror. All cabins have life vests and smoke detectors as basic safety features.
Officers have the luxury of a cabin to themselves with an en-suite bathroom, and sometimes a porthole. Senior officers’ cabins can have separate living and bedroom, with a tub in the bathroom.
Cruise ship crew accommodation has changed completely since the beginning of the industry. As time goes by, companies strive to make their employees more comfortable and happy without compromising on space.