Cruise: Experts reveal the truth about water on board – do you drink it?

Travellers seeking an all-inclusive holiday may turn to a cruise ship for a trip that encompasses a variety of destinations along with a wide selection of food, drinks, and entertainment. While a huge chunk of the trip may be spent enjoying cocktails from the on board bar, one beverage you’ll be drinking a tonne of is the water. However, most travellers don’t think twice about where it all comes from.


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Cruise ships spend long-stints at sea travelling from destination to destination.

Unlike hotels on land, the ships don’t have the same static pipes connecting them to a clean water supply.

However, ex-cruise ship staff have revealed not only where the water comes from, but also just how clean it actually is.

The revelation appeared in a Reddit forum, where various ex-cruise staff members were weighing in to share behind the scenes artefacts.

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While ship’s don’t have direct access to a clean water supply, they do spend all day every day floating on one of the hugest bodies of water in the world, so it seems only natural they utilise it.

It turns out, many cruise ships convert the ocean water into water onboard, saving both weight and space.

An ex-cruise worker explained: “To be clear, cruise ships can convert sea water into fresh water. They do this with a desalination plant, either using multi effect distillation or reverse osmosis. The ship I worked on had an MEF or MSF plant as the primary system (it’s been a few years since I left) and the RO plant as a backup.”

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Even more shocking, though, is how clean this water is.

Another worker stated: “They recycle the water. Engineers say that the water they create on board is actually better quality than bottled or tap water due to the filtration system they have.

“They also have desalination plant on board so they can actually just use sea water.”

This may come as a surprise to passengers who are often wary about filling up from the tap, however doing so is usually safe.

However, filtering water independently can be a costly process, and with cruise lines pulling out all the stops elsewhere, this could be one cost they like to cut.


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Speaking with, ex-cruise worker and author of “Cruise a la carte” Brian David Bruns, revealed there are other ways of getting water on board – though it can have a brutal consequence.

“I do know that it’s true ships can purify seawater but I also know it’s expensive and they won’t do anything that’s expensive if they can do it cheap,” he said.

“And buying fresh water from land is cheap. I know at least one waitress who suffered a bad skin condition likely due to the water (though nobody knew for sure).

“She was ordered by the doctor to not shower for three days.

“Considering she was doing 12+ hours daily of labor, sweaty and elbow-deep in food waste, this was a major problem. “

Water on cruise ships has been in the news recently, after a Carnival Cruise ship docked in Florida was seen spewing grey water into the ocean.

A spokesperson for the cruise line assured that the water was harmless, saying “no sewage” was emitted in the leak.

Instead the water came from the drainage of the ship’s ballast systems which help stabilise the ship for navigational purposes.

Mr Bruns explains that water is something staff receive intense training about to ensure it is never contaminated with other items.

He said: “The separation of waste is something we are trained hard on as waiters.

“You can see the portable waiter stations on modern ships (a folding stand, an oval tray atop, with a couple bins on it) those bins are designated for food waste and other.

“The food waste is ground up and jettisoned where it’s legal to do so.

“ It’s a huge pain in the butt to separate bits and pieces of things like wood or bones or solids of such nature from food waste.

“I guess I wouldn’t mind (being an environmentally-minded lad) but knowing the cruise lines don’t hold their own, despite making their employees do so, is annoying. “

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