If you’re new to cruising (or even if you’re not) you might be wondering whether there are any cabins under the water line. You might be thinking you would like a window out into the ocean to get up close and personal with the marine life.
In general, this isn’t part of the cruising experience and the majority of cruise liners don’t have underwater cabins for guests, but let’s take a closer look at cruise ships below the waterline and find out whether you can book an underwater stateroom…
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Do Cruise Ships Have Rooms Under the Water?
The lower decks of cruise ships are generally not used for passenger cabins or for areas accessible to passengers. The crew of the ships will generally have their quarters below the waterline and you will also find store rooms, fan rooms, and other utility rooms on these levels.
In modern cruise ships, you will often find the engine room, water treatment (clean and dirty), air conditioning, fuel bunkers, water storage tanks, and lots of plumbing below the water line, along with a large percentage of crew cabins.
On most ships, Deck 2 is the first deck fully above the water line, it may be numbered differently, but generally, that’s the deck you get on and off at when you reach port. So getting a cruise ship underwater view room isn’t really possible.
The Blue Eye Lounge
One interesting exception to this design rule is the new Blue Eye lounge which has been included on the 180-passenger Ponant Explore class ships. This is the world’s first underwater communal lounge and it has been designed by the French architect and oceanographer Jacques Rougerie.
The Blue Eye lounge has been designed as a multi-sensory experience with huge windows, underwater cameras, and microphones outside to pipe in the sounds of the sea.
You can find this stunning feature on Le Lapérouse and Le Champlain, Le Bougainville, and Le Dumont-d’Urville. It looks amazing and must be the perfect place to pretend to be a Bond villain!
You can see more of Ponant’s underwater Blue Eye Lounge in this video:
The majority of cruise shops are far more mundane below the water line! Much of the space is given over to staff accommodation, who are often provided with fairly basic and cramped quarters shared with their crewmates.
The location below the water line means that they lack natural light and there are obviously no balconies. More senior staff are generally placed on higher levels.
For larger cruise ships it would be challenging to incorporate underwater viewing lounges. Not only would it be very expensive to build safely, but it would be very hard to maintain and keep a clear and scratch-free view. The high speeds travelled through deep water mean that there is also a limited chance of seeing much more than murky water.
Do Cruise Ships Have Cabins Below the Waterline?
The majority of ocean cruise ships do not have cabins below the water line. The space is used for storage and utility rooms and for staff accommodation. You do, however, find cabins below the water line on most river cruise ships.
As you can see from this photo, there are indeed some options for a cruise ship bedroom below the water, although the windows are just above the surface.
River cruises generally have fewer categories of cabins than their ocean-going counterparts and you do not get inside cabins on river cruises. What you do get is window only or ‘river view’ rooms’. These rooms are under the water line for the most part but will have a window higher up, above the water line, so that some natural light reaches your room.
These rooms are on the lower deck and the window will be at shoulder height (or higher) so you won’t get too much of a view and if you’re particularly short, you may even find that you have to stand on a chair to watch the world go by from your cabin.
Here’s what it looks like from the inside.
Of course, these windows are only just above the water line and will not open because if they did, you would get pretty wet! These rooms are the least expensive on the ship and are sometimes (unofficially) and humorously referred to as aquarium class.
How Many Decks Are Underwater on a Cruise Ship?
A cruise ship will generally have one or two decks underwater, depending on its overall size. On these decks, you will find all the areas that are inaccessible to passengers such as staff accommodation, air conditioning units, the engine room, laundry, and even a jail.
Cruise ships are enormous, but you might be surprised to learn that they actually don’t extend that far underwater. Usually no more than 30 feet (9.1 metres) of the ship sits under the water, this is only about 10% of the ship’s overall height.
The distance that a ship continues underwater is known as its draft. Naval architects appreciate that an excessive draft would limit the commercial viability of a cruise ship by limiting the number of ports it can use. This is why the draft of a cruise liner is so much smaller than large container ships or oil tankers.
Cruise ships look top heavy with very little of the ship underwater compared to that above. But the superstructure of the ship is very light, and all the heavy equipment, like engines, generators, etc, is at the bottom of the hull. This means that the ship is well-balanced and perfectly designed for cruising from port to port.
If you’ve ever wondered how cruise ships stay upright with only 10% of the ship underwater, then I suggest you read this next: How Do Cruise Ships Float And Not Tip Over?
Why Don’t Cruise Ships Have Underwater Windows?
You might think that it would be pretty cool to have windows under the water so that you can look at the fish during your cruise. But in reality, you wouldn’t see anything other than water for the vast majority of the time, so it would be disappointing.
Nothing swims that close to a cruise ship when it’s moving, and seawater isn’t always as clear as you’d hope.
In addition to this, glass can never be as strong as steel, so having a window underwater would be a weak spot that could be vulnerable in the case of an accident. There’s also the pressure of the water to consider, particularly in rough seas.
The window would also need cleaning regularly on the outside, which could be a tricky and expensive maintenance job. And eventually, it’s going to get scratched and not look so nice.
As you can see, there is a lot going on beneath the waves on a cruise ship. Whilst most of it is not really that exciting (and is not accessible to passengers), the underwater deck of a cruise ship contains a lot of the essential parts of the ship that work to make your cruise a success (including the crew!).
So, whilst you may have hoped to get a view of passing fish and dolphins, that is not really an option on most cruises.
If that is what you’re looking for, you could check out the Blue Eye lounge on the Ponant Explore class ships, which look very impressive. Or you could try aquarium class on a river cruise and keep an eye out for flying fish!
But, to be honest, a cabin higher above the water with a nice balcony is the preferred option for most people. That said, I do love an inside cabin!
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Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.