Cruise Ship Documentaries You Should Watch

Cruise ship documentaries are a great way to get an insider’s peek into life on these luxury vessels. Tune in here to find out how.

Cruise ship documentaries have become increasingly popular over the years as the golden age of movies and TV has settled in. From Up the Yangtze to Back to the Titanic, these films cover a wide view of how cruise ships have fared on the open seas over time. Many cruise ship documentaries are now streaming on mainstream TV channels such as Peacock, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video.

Cruise Ship Documentaries Worth Watching

While it’s tricky to pin down a list of the top five in this category, as they all have something to offer, the following are our top picks. 

1. Back to the Titanic

Popularized in pop culture by the famous movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the Titanic – the ship that infamously went down on its maiden voyage from England to the US – has shown up throughout numerous books, movies, and documentaries. One documentary released in 2020, Back to the Titanic, produced by a National Geographic/Disney partnership, chronicles the first manned dives to the ship’s remnants in 15 years.

The film explores the findings of a team of oceanographic experts who captured the ship’s rate of decay. It’s a highly informative, exciting, and adventurous foray into a subject that has captivated audiences for decades. 

2. Up the Yangtze

A 2008 Sundance Official Selection documentary, this film is set onboard a riverboat cruise ship sailing the Yangtze River in Hubei, China before the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

It focuses on the lives of two crew members. One character, Cindy Yu Shui, is from a poor family who acclimatizes to the consumer economy – all with a foil effect as contrasted with her family, who is displaced from their rural life and moves to larger cities.

The other character, “Jerry” Chen Bo Yu, is from a more prosperous family and tries to establish himself and earn more money as an entertainer onboard the ship. This highly-acclaimed film won Best Documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival and is available on Amazon Prime Video.

3. The Secret Life of the Cruise

This 2018 documentary, available on Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, and many other streaming channels, is about the MSC Seaside, one of the largest cruise ships in history. They call the ship “a floating city on the sea.”

The documentary gives you an insider’s view of how the ship works from the bottom up – how it’s powered, the innumerable jobs the staff all have to do simultaneously, and the guests’ experience day in and day out. Highly recommended. 

4. Billion Pound Cruise Ship

This popular documentary is a mini-series on Channel 4 in the UK. The show goes behind the scenes on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas cruise ship, which at the time, was the world’s largest!

There are three episodes, with the first originally airing in October 2020. The series shows passengers enjoying all that the massive oasis-class ship has on offer and how the crew keeps it all running smoothly.

5. Mighty Cruise Ships

Aired on Discovery Channel in Canada in 2014, 2017, and 2019, this documentary is divided into episodes, each focusing on a single cruise ship in minute detail. With superb behind-the-scenes footage, Mighty Cruise Ships features such ships as the Celebrity Solstice, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, and many more.

Among the ship companies it covers are Viking and Azamara, as well as a couple others. It’s a fascinating and scrutinous look at what really goes on aboard these mighty ships that will surely incentivize passengers to plan a trip!


There are many ways to spend your leisure time and a nearly endless list of movies and TV shows to watch as they are in their golden age. If you’re heading on a cruise ship soon or are just fascinated by the inner machinations and goings-on that occur onboard, we suggest it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy one or two of these cruise ship documentaries.

Read Also: What is the Average Capacity of a Cruise Ship?

We’ve provided a healthy mix of the old and the new here and go from romantic to disastrous to mysterious and other thematic elements in between. This list of top picks isn’t exhaustive, and we encourage you to do your own research to find out more about documentaries that suit your particular interests and curiosities. 

All in all, this is a great place to start, and we hope it provides you with some quality entertainment. Check out more of our blog posts as well – they’re a gold mine of information about everything cruise ship-related.

Emrys Thakkar
Emrys Thakkar
The founder of Cruise Hive which was established in 2008 as one of the earliest cruise blogs in the industry. Emrys has been reporting on the latest cruise industry news since the site first launched. Expert insights and tips featured on a number of publications including The Express, Business Insider, and more. Worked for Carnival Cruise Line for 8 years and is well and truly dedicated to cruising! Has also been on a number of cruises so can offer an insight into the industry that many will not be able to do. What's even more impressive is that Emrys has traveled the world by visiting more than 34 countries, lived in China for 8 years, and cruised the Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Asia, and Europe. Find out more about us here.


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