What a Cruise Ship Engine Room Looks Like

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Whether you are curious about a cruise ship’s engine or simply want to avoid the cabins surrounding this noisy area, an engine room can be an interesting place.

We outline what is contained in the cruise ship engine room, what it does, and how much noise and vibration is generated in this area.

Where Is the Engine Room Located on a Cruise Ship?

On newer cruise ships, engine rooms are found on the aft of the ship and on the lower decks. They are not fully at the back but closer to mid-ship.

Regardless of the ship’s size and type of engine, engines are extremely loud. Engineers compensate for this fact by incorporating sound reduction features and technology to keep the room well insulated, so it is less noisy for guests.

Insulation, in this case, provides a dual purpose. It reduces noise and keeps the heat generated by a fully operating engine from coming out on adjacent decks. On a cruise ship, this is very important, where comfort is one of the cruise line’s top priorities.

How Noisy Is the Engine?

The decibel range for the engine of a standard cruise ship exceeds 173 decibels. This is extremely loud and within a range that can damage hearing in seconds. Thanks to proper insulation and sound-reducing features, it won’t sound that loud.

If you are in the engine room while the engine is running, it will still be very loud regardless of what noise-reducing technology is used. To put it in perspective, those who enter the room are required to wear hearing protection. Otherwise, they can experience hearing damage.

However, guests don’t have to be concerned if their cabins are in this area. The noise level will not damage your hearing because the surrounding cabins are well insulated. However, you may still be able to hear the noise and experience vibrations through the walls and floors.

As mentioned, the engine does make vibrations while it operates. They can be felt in the surrounding areas, including cabins that are adjacent to them. It may cause coat hangers to rattle or other items in the cabin to shift, which may disturb your rest.

How Big Is the Engine?

Modern cruise ships have more than one engine. The largest ships, like the Oasis class from Royal Caribbean, contain six engines. Other ships – like the Carnival Splendor of Carnival Cruise Line – may only be just four, depending on the size of the ship, its age, and the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean Oasis-class Cruise Ships
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean

The engine room itself is expansive and covers several decks. Space is needed not only for the massive engines, but for fuel tanks, generators, the engine workshop, and the control room.

How Does Heat Escape from the Engine Room?

The heat from the engines is removed by a series of heat exchangers. This is found on the exhaust path proceeding the turbocharger on the way to the scrubber. Exhaust gas reaches a temperature of 663°F yet is continuously cooled using heat extraction until it reaches 86°F when it comes out of the funnel.

The engines are fuel- and heat-efficient. The recovered heat is used for numerous services, including desalination of saltwater to fresh water and fuel heating (if heavy fuel oil is used). Fresh water can be produced by reverse osmosis to supplement an evaporator.

Where Is Fuel Stored?

Fuel is usually stored in double-bottom tanks. They are distributed across the length of the cruise ship with ballast tanks. The only fuel tanks located in an engine room are service and settling tanks.

Cruise Ship Engine
Photo Credit: Ihor Koptilin / Shutterstock

What Are the Cabins in this Location Like?

Most people shy away from this area due to the noise. However, there are other reasons why these cabins are less desirable besides the fact that they are noisy.

Cabins near the engine room may be:

  • Smaller than average cabins
  • Not contain windows
  • Receive engine noise
  • Be prone to vibrations, most notably while docking

These rooms tend to be cramped and small. They are also not priority rooms within the ship’s design. Booking this room may mean you will experience vibrations and noise from the engine. You may hear the crew as they go back and forth to the engine room throughout the day and night. 

These cabins are in the lower deck and in the middle of the ship. They tend to be windowless and dark. Rooms located in the center of a ship generally don’t contain the luxury of windows, so it may make people feel claustrophobic.

Are There Any Advantages?

Some people argue that most people don’t spend much time in a cabin – they are too busy exploring the cruise ship. There is plenty to do onboard, and if you enjoy the social scene, you may not spend much time inside the cabin other than to sleep.

The main reason people select an inside cabin on a lower deck is that they are less expensive. Most people book a cruise to have an experience – not to sleep. Additionally, what most people don’t know is that if you book a cabin near the engine room, you may have the option to upgrade.

An option to upgrade doesn’t necessarily mean that more money will be required. It does mean that if a better cabin is available or is vacant, as in the case of last-minute cancellations, you may be upgraded for free. However, this is not guaranteed.

The engine room truly is the heart of the ship. It is where crankshafts, pistons, and hammers rotate to make the ship move forward. The chief engineer and crew work 24/7 to ensure the entire ship operates smoothly. It permits luxuries onboard like electricity, plumbing, and air conditioning to function.

Aside from housing generators and engines, pumps and heat exchangers are located here to cool the engine and stabilize motors and fins, in addition to the bow thruster system. Since equipment depends on electricity, modern ships contain backup generators on the outside of the main engine room in the event of a fire.

Read Also: Future Fuel – What Is an LNG-Powered Cruise Ship?

Generators power all the vital functions to run a ship, like emergency lights, communications, and navigation systems. If the generator fails, then there are also backup batteries that can be used for short periods of time.

All this machinery is overseen by the Engine Control Room, which contains lights, screens, alarms, and switches where every piece of equipment can be monitored to ensure the cruise ship runs smoothly.

Haiyan Ma
Haiyan Ma
I absolutely love cruising with my favorite ports of call being in the Caribbean. As a former crew member for Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line I can continue my passion by sharing my experiences with readers. Find out more about us here.


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