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“Crew Only” – two words that spark curiosity in every passenger. So what really goes on behind closed doors on your cruise ship? The good news is most cruise lines now offer special tours of the ship’s exclusive areas, from the crew’s gym to the all-important bridge. They are available at an extra fee but it’s worth it, especially if you get to meet the captain. But tours are limited and in high demand, so get in quick!

Here’s a look at what some of the best tours have to offer

Celebrity

The aptly named “See how it’s done tour” gives passengers a look behind the scenes at guest and crew areas. Go backstage to the theatre and watch the chefs busy at work in the main dining room galley. Visit the crew mess hall and find out once and for all whether they actually eat passenger leftovers. But the really good stuff is saved for the bridge, engine control room and officer offices.

NEED TO KNOW

Duration: 3 hours on sea days only
Cost: $150 per person
Restrictions: Guests must be aged 6 years and up
Book: Onboard at the Guest Relations Desk

Carnival

Find out what goes on “behind the fun” with a guided tour of Carnival’s onboard operations. Offered on every ship, the tour provides a sneak peek into those areas that are normally restricted, including backstage in the show lounge, the laundry room, crew galley, bridge and beyond. A highlight of this tour is meeting crew and officers, including the captain, chef de cuisine, chief engineer if you’re lucky. Plus guests are given commemorative keepsakes along the way like a cap, book and photos with the captain. It’s worth remembering that tours are only conducted on the last sea day of a cruise, so they are extremely limited.

NEED TO KNOW

Duration: 3.5 hours on cruises of 6 days or longer, 2 hours on shorter cruises
Cost: $95 per person
Restrictions: Limited to 16 people per tour, guests must aged 8 years and up.
Book: Onboard at the Shore Excursion Desk

Princess Cruises

It isn’t called “The Ultimate Ship Tour” for nothing! Available on most ships, the tour kicks off with a backstage look at the Princess Theatre where you meet the cast and production team and see the myriad of costumes and props. Then it’s onto the galley where you enjoy champagne and canapés as the executive chef explains how thousands of meals are prepared every day. You’re presented with a chef’s jacket before being whisked off to the engine control room, medical centre, print lab and other places. And for the finale, you’re taken up to the bridge, where you can meet the officers and captain, enjoy more refreshments and pose for a photo with the captain at the wheel.

NEED TO KNOW

Duration: 3 hours
Cost: $150 per person (includes framed photo with the captain)
Restrictions: One or two tours per cruise on a sea day, limited spaces
Book: Onboard at the Passenger Services Desk

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a Behind the Scenes Tour visiting the ship’s main galley, laundry room, backstage at the theatre, the Eco-Smart Cruising system, and the bridge. And because you’re guided by the officers in charge, this is your opportunity to find out anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the inner workings of a cruise ship. You also come away with a complimentary photo and map.

NEED TO KNOW

Duration: Approximately 2 hours
Cost: US$79
Restrictions: Spaces limited to 16 people per tour
Book: Onboard at the Reception Desk on the first day of your cruise

Cunard

Cunard offers just one "Behind The Scenes" tour per cruise, so you have to be quick to get a spot! Armed with your exclusive “All Area Access Pass”, you get a fascinating insight into the ship’s workings, with experts answering your burning questions about how the anchor works, where the waste goes, and how food is kept fresh. On the bridge, you’ll meet the captain and be presented with a goody bag and special pin.

NEED TO KNOW

Duration: 3 hours
Cost: $120 per person (subject to change)
Restrictions: Spaces limited to 16 people per tour, only available on cruises of 7 nights or longer.
Book: Onboard at the Tours Office