If cruise ships seem like the ultimate way to vacation, then we may want to take a moment and think about the people who make it happen. Cruise ship workers live in a confined space, under strict rules, enforced by managers watching every move through CCTV cameras. Workers generally don’t get a single day off for months at a time, and they can be fired for no reason and left at the nearest port.

It’s no wonder, then, that alcohol, drugs, rampant sex, and a party-hard lifestyle is the way almost all cruise ship workers live. During the day the workers devote their attention to the passengers, kissing butt and cleaning floors and serving drinks. When their shift ends, however, is when the crew really let loose. It’s not uncommon for a cruise line worker to average three or four hours of sleep per night, and to spend the rest of the time drinking and partying in the crew quarters.

But wait, there’s more! Cruise line workers have a ton of secrets to share, they’re just not allowed to. Thankfully the internet exists and with it anonymous forums such as Reddit. Cruise ship workers spill the beans on what really goes on aboard the ship. From soap opera-level drama to serious alcoholism, to the onboard morgue for all the dead passengers, here are 20 behind-the-scenes secrets cruise ship workers can’t tell you!

20 The Passenger Cabins At The Front Are Not The Best

If you, a trusting passenger, book a room at the front of the boat, you’ll be in for a bouncy ride. You’ll feel even the smallest swells, as the room is constantly going up and down, up and down. If you start to feel a little queasy, you can take comfort in the fact that many other passengers in this room have done the same, and more. These front cabins have been covered from top to bottom in passenger vomit, many times over. The crews are constantly cleaning them, but if you were to shine a blacklight on the upholstery, you wouldn’t like what you see.

19 Crew Food Is Not Appetizing

While you’re enjoying the prime rib in one of the elegant dining halls, the crew is belowdecks, trying to swallow some yellow slop with something chewy floating in it. Crew food is gross. The kitchen staff spends all their time and resources cooking for passengers, and they whip together “stuff” for the rest of the crew as an afterthought. Sometimes the crew doesn’t get fed on time and need to wait hours until they can eat. There’s a reason that the next item on this list is so common amongst the crew…

18 The Crew Eats Passenger Leftovers

With crew food being so unpalatable, most crew members will descend upon the leftover buffet food like vultures, once it’s been cleared into the back rooms. The crew from all over the ship will casually wander into the kitchen to gorge on leftover roast beef, pizza, pasta, and whatever else they can get their hands on. Employee contracts state the ship will feed the crew three times a day, unfortunately, it doesn’t state that the food will be edible. Thankfully the passengers can’t eat all that food! The next time you’re on a cruise and you’re debating getting a third helping, just remember that you could help feed your room attendant if you don’t.

17 Crew Romances Abound

It should come as no surprise that when a few hundred young, adventurous men and women are jammed into close quarters with each other for extended periods of time, they’re going to get it on. According to multiple sources, workers on cruise ships hook up so frequently that most people end up having several relationships with different people, even if they’re in a committed relationship back on shore! Issues such as STD and unexpected pregnancy plague cruise ship crews, not to mention the never-ending drama that this lifestyle causes.

16 Cruise Ships Are Full Of Drama

With all that partying, eating, and romancing going on, soap-opera-level drama is bound to follow. The intrigues, petty politics, and gossip among cruise ship crews are epic. Friendships are made and broken, fights break out, love and sex end in betrayal and bitter tears. It would be the perfect plot for a Hollywood movie if it wasn’t so painfully real. While the staff seems so down-to-earth and professional when you’re dealing with them, underneath the surface they’re boiling with anxiety about that guy they started dating from the engineering room, who might possibly be sleeping with that spin class instructor…

15 There Are Crew Mafias

Most cruise ship employees are from the Philippines or India. They are cheaper and work with fewer complaints than Americans, although the ship will always staff some American, Canadian, or British faces for the passengers to see. This international mix of staff results in people from various backgrounds banding together. The crews call them “mafias”. The Indian Mafia, for instance, will only hang out with each other and will monopolize all the soft drinks on board, selling cans of Coke to other ethnicities at high markups. This actually happened on one cruise ship. Beware the crew mob.

14 The Crew Depends On Tips

Cruise ship workers don’t get paid much, especially those from developing countries. They work very long hours and some of them perform demeaning and hard work. Passenger tips are a huge supplement to their income, and many workers depend on them to support their families back home. If you develop a reputation as a good tipper among the staff, you can bet that your trip will suddenly get better. Guess who’s getting served first, or getting little chocolates left on their bed every morning, or getting a drink discount? That’s right, you are!

13 These Sailors Enjoy Like Sailors

Technically cruise ship workers are “sailors.” They’re waiters and cleaners and yoga instructors. But they work on a boat at sea, and they certainly live like sailors. Drinking copious amounts of alcohol is such a common occurrence among staff that it’s done almost casually. Drinks are dirt cheap at the staff bar below decks: crew pay about $1.25 for a cocktail and even less for a beer. Bottles of rum and wine are stashed in crew quarters after every shore leave, making the cruise ship the largest floating bar in the world.

12 Crew Party Hard

Wayne and Garth have nothing on cruise ship workers when it comes to partying. With all that cheap booze available and nothing to do on downtimes, crew party like there’s no tomorrow. They sleep four hours on average, sometimes less, and often go to work with a hangover. The veterans have become so proficient at doing their job in a stupor that passengers won’t even notice. Tylenol sales are big business on board a cruise ship and are usually controlled by one of the crew mafias.

11 Managers Can Be Unkind Towards The Crew

Cruise ship management is notoriously abusive. Managers are often promoted from among the crew to lord it over their colleagues. They’re given separate private quarters and the power to discipline and report crew members. Senior managers are roomed aboard every liner from head office, to oversee the operation. They watch everything on cameras, and staff can be fired at will and left at a port in some foreign country. Once in international waters, most labor laws don’t apply, and no matter how badly managers mistreat their staff, there are always hundreds of more people applying to work on the ship.

10 There’s A Morgue On Board

Most cruise liners have a morgue on board. It’s not for the managers, but for all those elderly passengers who are bound to pass away while on the cruise. The median age of cruise ship passengers is 68, and many board with oxygen tanks and wheelchairs. Death on board a cruise ship is so common that crew will often take bets on who will drop as they watch passengers board! When a death does happen, the body is stored in the onboard morgue, and kept chilled, until the ship finishes the cruise and returns to its home port.

9 There’s Also A Jail On Board

If the morgue sounds chilling, then imagine being locked up while still alive! For those who misbehave, assault others, steal, or generally act criminal, the ship has a jail on board. While at sea you are in international waters and the Captain and his designated officers are the authorities. Security can legally arrest someone and imprison them on board until they reach a port and the police can take them away. It’s not only passengers who can be jailed: often crew is thrown behind bars for incidents such as theft or assault.

8 The Law Of The High Seas Applies

When you’re out at sea in international waters, the laws of the high seas apply. These laws were established by international agreements. Basically, they state that the Captain and his/her officers are the authorities on board the vessel, and they have the power to arrest, marry, bury and divest anyone under their authority. This makes cruise line workers a little like pirates, what with all the boozing and looting.

7 Crews Know Where To Go When In Port

If you want the best deals on food and excursions when you reach a port, follow the crew. Everyone on board looks forward to the port calls because they’re allowed off the boat. They visit these ports over and over again and have learned where all the best spots are. Whether its good, cheap food or the quietest beaches or even where to go shopping, simply wait around until the crew disembarks and follow them. They’ll be itching to go have a blast on shore, and they’ll take you to the right places.

6 Sick Crew Get Quarantined

Sometimes the crew’s shore excursions cause them to catch something exotic. If a crew member falls sick, they are immediately quarantined in a special section below decks (sometimes eerily close to the morgue). During quarantine, they’re checked regularly by the ships doctor, and once they’re cleared they can go back to work. If they’re not cleared before the next port visit, they are often dropped off, fired, and left to their own devices. Most experienced ship’s crew won’t tell anyone when they’re sick as it can often end badly for them. They usually can’t tell when they’re sick anyway, with all those hangovers.

5 Port Days Are Fun Days

So long as they’re not sick, in jail, or dead, the crew can expect to have some fun every few days whenever the ship makes a port call. Just as passengers can leave and roam around on land while the ship is in port, so too can the staff. They look forward to these port visits the way children look forward to Santa visiting. It’s a release from the insanity of onboard living, as well as some much-deserved time off, away from annoying passengers and rude managers. For the cleaners and engineers who work mainly below decks, it’s also a great chance to get some vitamin D!

4 Pirate-Attack Training Is Fun

Every cruise liner trains its crews to repel pirate attacks using water cannons. Pirates are a real danger in certain parts of the world and often approach cruise ships in fast zodiacs, hoping to board, rob the passengers, and make off with as many valuables as possible. The crew train for this before passengers board. They blast water cannons at target boats, practice running around the ship and jokingly yelling “Action Stations” to each other while red-faced managers try to maintain some sense of seriousness. There is at least one attempted pirate attack on a cruise ship every year.

3 The Crew Don’t Care About The Passengers

It’s painful to realize that to the staff aboard a cruise ship, you’re just another face they’ll forget. They see thousands of people come and go, and most passengers are somewhat alike. They are paid to care for you, to be extremely helpful, and to smile a lot. Deep down they’re just waiting to go below decks to drink, or for the next port call. They generally don’t really care about you. If you go out of your way to tip them or help them out, or if you have an extra cute kid with you, you’ll stand out. Otherwise, you’re just another passenger.

2 They Live A Double Life

When a new crew member joins the ship, they are often shy and unsure of where they fit in among their new friends. By the time they leave their first cruise, they are a completely different person. They have probably had several romances, developed a questionable drinking habit, and gained a nickname that nobody back home would understand. They often go home on their month off and act normal, telling their significant other that it’s “just like any job, but on a boat.” If they’re partner or parents saw what they were really like when on board the cruise ship, they wouldn’t even recognize them.

1 Crew Sometimes Date Passengers

Having any type of relationship with a passenger is a big no-no in the industry. If caught, employees will be instantly fired and dropped off at the nearest port. This doesn’t stop people from striking up temporary romances with attractive passengers. Often times this happens when a passenger manages to make their way into the crew bar and joins the non-stop partying going on. If a passenger is cool enough, the crew might invite them along. Sometimes the lure of money is what gets passenger and crew together. In all cases, the crew needs to be extremely careful, because a permanent shore leave awaits those who get caught!