• Cheers to 25 years: Celebrate with Us!
  • Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Log In
  • Find a Cruise
  • Deals
  • Excursions
  • More
You may also like
Dismiss
5 Ways to Go Behind the Scenes on a Cruise Ship
8 Best Cruise Ship Tours
Bridge Tour on Legend of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)

8 Best Cruise Ship Tours

8 Best Cruise Ship Tours
Bridge Tour on Legend of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Sue Bryant
Contributor
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter

If you've ever wondered what goes on below decks, cruise ship tours offer an interesting peek behind the curtain. For a fee, passengers can learn how everything works, see who's doing your laundry or washing your dishes, marvel at the logistics of feeding several thousand people and, on some ships, visit the bridge and learn about navigation.

It's important to be organized -- some cruise lines hold only one behind-the-scenes event per sailing, usually on a sea day, so they do tend to book up, despite the relatively high cost. If you want to register an interest, head for Guest Relations as soon as you board.

Note that these tours are not usually suitable for wheelchair users; you may be able to visit some of the areas but probably not all. What's more, the tour may not include the bridge, so check first if that's your main objective; in these times of heightened security, some lines have stopped all passenger visits to the bridge. Don't expect to hang out in the crew bar or see the crew cabins; some areas are sacred and crew privacy and peace need to be respected.

Here are our top picks for the most interesting cruise ship tours.

6 best Cruise Ship Tours

If you've ever wondered what goes on below decks, cruise ship tours offer an interesting peek behind the curtain. For a fee, passengers can learn how everything works, see who's doing your laundry or washing your dishes, marvel at the logistics of feeding several thousand people and, on some ships, visit the bridge and learn about navigation.

It's important to be organised -- some cruise lines hold only one behind-the-scenes event per sailing, usually on a sea day, so they do tend to get booked out, despite the relatively high cost. If you want to register an interest, head for Guest Relations as soon as you board.

Here are our top picks of the most interesting cruise ship tours for Brits. Note that these tours are not usually suitable for wheelchair users; you may be able to visit some of the areas but probably not all. What's more, the tour may not include the bridge so check first if that's your main objective; in these times of heightened security, some lines have stopped all passenger visits to the bridge. What's more, although you'll get a fascinating glimpse into the workings of a cruise ship, don't expect to hang out in the crew bar or see the crew cabins; some areas are sacred and crew privacy and peace need to be respected.


1. Ultimate Ship Tour

(Princess Cruises - US$150)

Princess Cruises offers, in our opinion, the best and most comprehensive behind-the-scenes tour. Although it' s expensive, at $150 per person, you do come away with several decent freebies and a lot of consideration has gone into planning the three-hour onboard 'excursion'. The tour starts backstage in the theatre, so you meet the production crew and some of the cast and see the costumes and dressing rooms. In the galley, there's a glass of Champagne with the chef, a canap e tasting and a tour of the storage and food preparation areas. Each guest gets a chef' s jacket as a going home present.

Then it's on to the engine room, the incinerator room -- where you'll meet the ship's environmental officer  -- and the print shop, where the daily programme is produced, with a set of personalised stationery for each guest. The tour also includes the photo lab, medical centre and the laundry, where you're given a bathrobe to take home.

Next, one of the best bits -- a trip to the uppermost deck to look inside the funnel and to get a bird's eye view over the decks. The tour finishes on the bridge to meet the captain and pose for a photo with him or her by the wheel. Each participant is given the photo and a certificate.

The Ultimate Ship Tour is offered on sea days, once or twice per cruise, and has to be booked via the Passenger Services Desk.


2. Inside Access

(Celebrity Cruises - US$150)

Celebrity Cruises offers Inside Access tours on each cruise, which are conducted in small groups and last three hours. You'll get to stroll down the 'I-95' -- the main corridor that runs the length of the ship, named after the main interstate highway of the U.S.'s east coast, because of its motorway-like quality. You'll see the laundry, the galley, the provisions area, the engine room and finally, the bridge, although this may be subject to change.


3. Behind the Scenes

(Cunard - US$120)

Cunard offers one Behind the Scenes tour per voyage, on cruises of longer than seven days, and it takes about three hours to show no more than 16 guests the workings of a Cunard Queen. You're issued with a cool 'access all areas' pass and are then whisked down to see the mooring deck, where you can marvel at the massive anchor winches, followed by a visit to the medical centre. You'll check out waste management too, inspect the engine control room with the chief engineer, and visit the food stores. Then it's off to the galley with the executive chef and backstage with the production staff. A stop-off for refreshments and canapes and a detailed visit to the bridge are also included, to meet the captain and navigational officers. The tour finishes with a take-home goody bag and commemorative pin. Our tip? Although all three Cunard Queens are impressive vessels, there's something special about getting behind the scenes on Queen Mary 2, given its global fame and enormous size.


The Boardwalk area on Harmony of the Seas

4. Behind the Royal Advantage All Access Tour

(Royal Caribbean International - USD$89)

Royal Caribbean treats its All Access Tour as an excursion, so you can pre-book it online, which is handy if it's something you've set your heart on. The tour is an extensive journey through the backstage areas of the ship, from the galley and the stores to the engine control room, the laundry and the 'I-95' crew corridor. There's also a bridge visit, subject to security levels, and a gift on completion of the tour.


5. Behind the Scenes

(P&O Cruises - £75)

P&O Cruises offers three-hour below decks tours of all its ships except Adonia. The tours are hosted by a senior crewmember, in groups of between eight and 16. The visit includes going down to the engine control room, through the galley and theatre and up to the bridge, where Champagne and canap es are served, hosted by the captain. The whole tour is accompanied by the ship' s photographer and participants get a gift at the end including a photo and a 'back of house' pin badge.

If you want to join a tour, register an interest at reception when you embark and you will be informed via a letter to your cabin what day and time to turn up.


6. The Big Reveal

(MSC Cruises - Lirica class: €22; Musica class: €39; Fantasia class: €45; Meraviglia class: €65)

Hats off to MSC for keeping its behind the scenes tours affordable. The Big Reveal is available on all MSC ships except Lirica (and remember, MSC Magnifica will be sailing out of Southampton all summer in 2018). You'll get to see backstage in the theatre , the laundry area provisions area and the galley. There's also a sneak peak at the Yacht Club, MSC's exclusive all-suites area, with a chance to chat to the butlers and the concierge there -- a smart move on the part of the cruise line to get passengers to trade up on their next cruise. Finally, there's a stop in one of the ship's speciality restaurants with a chance to meet the chef and try some of the food, with a chef' s apron as a souvenir.

The tour is available in five languages, and as well as the apron you'll get a discount on the cover charge for one of the specialty restaurants.


7. Behind the Scenes

(Norwegian Cruise Line - $79)

Members of Norwegian's loyalty club, Latitudes, who have reached Platinum level and above qualify for a free behind the scenes tour as one of their perks, but lesser mortals can pay $79 to join one. These tours operate once per cruise, so you need to get in fast. You'll see the galley and the stores, and visit the cold storage area, the butchery and the bakery. There's a talk about the ship's environmental systems, a walk along the 'I-95' and a look backstage at the theatre. Passengers are given a commemorative photo, although there' s no bridge visit.


8. Free tours

Saga: Saga offers free bridge visits, which are advertised in the daily programme on Saga Sapphire and Saga Pearl II. Occasionally, on long sea passages, there are free tours of the galley and stores as well.

Star Clippers: Star Clippers, which operates three square-rigged sailing ships, offers free galley tours on its cruises and, sometimes, there are opportunities to visit the engine room and the ship' s laundry, too. As for visiting the bridge -- apart from sailaway, or when tricky manoeuvres are taking place, all three Star Clippers ships have an open bridge policy, so you can knock on the door (the bridge is on the foredeck) and chat to the officer of the watch, look at the radar and examine the charts. More often than not, there' s a chance to steer the ship, too.

Updated January 08, 2020

How was this article?

Featured News

1
Princess Announces Fall Restart with Eight Cruise Ships in U.S.
5
MSC Cruises Announces Vaccination Protocols for U.S.-based Sailings
Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

We have updated the Cruise Critic Privacy and Cookie Statement effective on October 1, 2020. Please click here for more information.