Cruise ships are floating cities with so many moving parts; hotel operations, food, engine room, navigation, entertainment, and more. Most of the time, you only see what they want you to see; the operations are carefully hidden on the ship, only accessible by unmarked non-descript doors. In fact, there are whole levels of the ship dedicated to functions that passengers never see. Ever wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes on a cruise ship? Then you should check out Carnival’s “Behind the Fun” tour. It’s a peek behind the curtain and makes you realize how mammoth a cruise ship operation really is.
Update Feb 2023: Behind the Fun is back!!
Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald announced they’ll be resuming Behind the Fun tours in the coming months. The tours were discontinued in response to the pandemic and this will be the the first time they’ve offered Behind the Fun in three years.
Here are the dates the Behind the Fun will resume broken down by ship:
- Carnival Breeze – April 1st
- Carnival Celebration – March 6th
- Carnival Conquest – April 1st
- Carnival Dream – March 6th
- Carnival Elation – April 1st
- Carnival Freedom – April 1st
- Carnival Glory – April 1st
- Carnival Horizon – April 1st
- Carnival Legend – April 1st
- Carnival Liberty – April 1st
- Carnival Luminosa: March 6th
- Carnival Magic – April 1st
- Carnival Mardi Gras – April 1st
- Carnival Miracle – March 6th
- Carnival Panorama – March 6th
- Carnival Paradise – April 1st
- Carnival Pride – April 1st
- Carnival Radiance – April 1st
- Carnival Spirit – March 6th
- Carnival Splendor – March 6th
- Carnival Sunrise – March 6th
- Carnival Sunshine – April 1st
- Carnival Valor – March 6th
- Carnival Vista – March 6th
What do you do on the Behind the Fun tour?
The “Behind the Fun” tour takes you to various off-limit areas of the ship. The tour usually takes place in the morning on the last sea day of a cruise. For cruises that are 6 days or more, the tour is about 3.5 hours. For shorter cruises, it lasts about 2 hours.
The agenda will vary per ship, but on the tour you’ll typically visit:
- Main Galley
- Back Stage
- Crew Lounge
- Crew Gym & Laundry
- Main Laundry
- Crew Mess / Staff Mess
- Learning Resources Center
- Marshaling Area
- Environmental Room
- Engine Control Room
My Behind the Fun tour experience
I did the Behind the Fun Tour on my last cruise on the Carnival Horizon (see the live cruise blog here). We booked the activity the minute we got on the ship, and the tickets were in our stateroom the night before. The tour started at 8 am on the last sea day of the cruise.
We met at the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, where our guide explained what we’d be doing for the trip and the security precautions. We had a security guard with us the whole time, and they used a metal detector to make sure we didn’t have any phones or cameras with us (they held them until the end of the tour).
I didn’t eat at the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse on my cruise, so I was glad to get to go in and see it. The decor is beautiful, and I could see it being great for an intimate dinner or celebratory occasion.
The chef took us through how they prepare everything to order and how it’s different from the main dining room. He gave us a handy tip on how to figure out how well your steak is cooked based on your hand.
How do you prepare dinner for thousands of guests each night? It seems like a chef’s worst nightmare, but they have it down to a science. We met several of the galley chefs and learned all the certifications and programs they go through to become a head chef on the ship.
The galley itself is impressive. Sparkling, clean, stainless steel as far as the eye can see; neat freaks would be in heaven. Everything in the galley is huge, from the ovens to the gigantic mixers. The scale of the operation is so impressive. Just seeing the hundreds of plates laid out getting ready for service blew my mind.
Staff Dining Room
After winding down some stairs, we ended up in an eating area. It was surreal because it felt like we were in the Lido Buffet, but that couldn’t be since we were many floors too low for that. It turns out we were in the staff’s dining hall, which has the same decor and furniture as the Lido Buffet. Most of the staff gets their food from here, and it’s different from what guests onboard get. While they have many staples like sandwiches and salads, they have a rotating selection of local cuisine because they have so many different nationalities.
I-95 is what everyone calls the main hallway on the crew deck of the ship. It’s the only place on the ship where you can see front to back with no interruptions (the hallways on the passenger decks curve and stagger, so it makes it feel cozier). Seeing this, you realize how massive the ship really is. All of the ship’s main crew activities occur along this corridor, and it’s always bustling with traffic.
Each week, when it returns to homeport, the ship fills up with all it needs for the next cruise. While the ship’s storerooms always have some extra food and drink to be safe, for the most part, they’re bringing in all new supplies for the next sailing.
How much do they go through? You’d be amazed. In one week, the Carnival Horizon goes through:
- 14,000 – 16,000 pounds of chicken
- 54,000 eggs
- 45,000 potatoes
- 27,000 cans of soda
- 12,000 boxes of cereal
No wonder your clothes don’t fit when you try to get off the ship.
One thing that’s always annoyed me about Carnival Lido area is that there are no trash cans. You have to leave your mess on a table, and someone will come by to clean it up. It drives me insane. One of the reasons behind this method is that the staff carefully sorts the trash into different categories. The waste can either be recycled, returned to sea, burnt off, or disposed of in port.
The crew’s bar where they can hang out is surprisingly small, considering that there are almost 1,500 crew members on this ship. The bar has a pool table, foosball, and cozy tables and chairs. I thought it’d be really packed in there, but the tour guide said that there were rarely too many people at once because of staggered schedules and long shifts.
Doing laundry for 4,000+ guests AND the crew is a monumental task. We saw the massive washers and dryers they use for the sheets and towels. The most impressive were the giant machines that can automatically fold sheets within seconds; I’d kill to have one of those at home.
Big LCD TV’s and displays covered all the walls of this stark white room, with constant beeping and flashing. It resembled something you’d see in a sci-fi movie. One interesting thing I learned is that the ship’s engines are actually electric, not diesel. The diesel is just used to make electricity. The whole ship could run on a nuclear reactor if they wanted to (not that it’s safe, just that gas really isn’t needed).
Here we learned about how people’s contracts work and how they live on board. So we wouldn’t intrude on anyone’s privacy, we saw video footage of their cabins instead of seeing them in person.
The bridge was probably the most underwhelming part for me. The bridge itself is vast, spanning the whole width of the ship with beautiful panoramic views of the ocean. The room itself, though, felt so empty. Besides a few chairs and a console or two, it was a ton of empty space. At all times, a crew member is in the center of the windows, visually inspecting the ship’s path and looking for obstacles.
At this point, we got to ask the Captain a few questions. He was gracious, but you could tell he felt like it was an obligation. He was probably also exhausted as this was one of the last cruises before the COVID shut down, and he had to personally change what ports we were going to, aggravating some passengers.
Liquid Lounge Theater Tour
We got to meet with one of the dancers backstage of the Liquid Lounge theater. It turned out it was her last night on board; she’d be retiring from being a cruise performer after 14 years the next day. She explained how the dancers and singers perform as entire companies and usually switch off all at once at the end of a contract. They train in Carnival’s Miami headquarters and then come on board to practice with the old staff for a week before trading off. That night, we saw the new performers try their first show onboard (spoiler alert: it did not go well).
Guy’s Pig & Anchor Brewhouse
For our last stop, we visited Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse / Brewhouse. The brewmaster on board took us through making the beer and the specific brews they have on board. It was an impressive operation. This brewmaster used to work for a major brewery in Florida, who now products the Carnival line of beers that you can buy at stores. He jumped at the opportunity to work on board when the old brewmaster went to launch the Carnival Panorama.
Unfortunately, we did the Brewery Tour on the first day of the cruise (read more here), so this was pretty much a repeat of what we saw then, just fewer details. The guy loves beer and brewing, though, and it’s fun to hear him talk about it. We got to sample a few of the brews he made onboard as well.
Who can go on the tour?
Any guests over 8 can go on the Behind the Fun tour. You have to wear closed-toed shoes and need to be able to walk up several flights of stairs as you use the staff stairwells at some point. You cannot bring any cell phones, cameras, or recording devices with you. They have a security guard with you the entire time, and they’ll use a hand-held metal detector to check you before the tour begins. They’ll hold any cell phone or camera you have and give it back to you at the end.
While the age limit is officially 8 and up, because of the pace and type of information, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone younger than 16; it’s just not as action-packed as they may want.
How to sign up for the Behind the Fun tour?
The only way to go on a Behind the Fun tour is to visit the “Carnival Adventures” desk when you’re on board. These tours are small, with only around 16 people per group. They only run one or two on a cruise, so they fill up fast. On my last cruise on the Horizon, we went to the excursions desk as soon as we got on board at 12 pm, and there were already 10 spots taken, which is almost 2/3 full. That cruise, they ended up running two groups.
How much does the Behind the Fun tour cost?
The cost can vary between $55 and $95 depending on the ship and sailing. On my last cruise on the Carnival Horizon, the price was $95 per person.
What did the tour include?
- Access to off-limit areas of the ship
- A Carnival Tote Bag
- A Carnival Hat
- Carnival lanyard
- Drinks/Samples at Guy’s Pig and Anchor Brewery (other ships may have a drink at the Red Frog Pub or other venue).
- Complimentary group commemorative photo
Is the Behind the Fun tour worth it?
The Behind the Fun tour gives you a unique perspective on many operations of a cruise ship. If you love learning the inner workings of a cruise ship and how everything works, it’s a really interesting experience. It’s a small intimate tour where you’re encouraged to ask questions and make it interactive, so each tour can be different. That being said, it’s not entirely action-packed, so as I mentioned before, although children 8 and up can attend, they might not find it as interesting as a teen or an adult.
One thing that made it seem less special is that many aspects of this tour, like the galley tour and behind the scenes at the theater, used to be free and part of the daily schedule. Since then, Carnival has stopped the free tours and now only lets you access those areas with this excursion.
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