It shouldn’t come as a surprise that cruise ships move like a hotel tower sways and flexes.
Unlike a stationary building, however, a vessel will periodically exhibit creaks and rattles as a result. These can either be annoying or embraced as part of the sailing experience.
To be sure, modern cruise ships are quite stable and typically do not pitch, roll or yaw too uncomfortably. However, even the slightest motion can cause the structure to make some noise. To many, this is part of the ship’s unique personality and is cherished.
It’s also indicative of how the ship was constructed and what finish hardware was installed.
The steel superstructure is engineered to flex to a degree, but the paneling and fixtures that infill might be a bit stiffer and prone to friction and vibration sounds. If a steel frame contorts any, the wall material in between must give way too, but the material it’s composed of will produce any number of different noises. Plastics, for instance, do not respond to pressure the same way metals do.
Thus, you may find yourself lying in bed trying to fall asleep only to hear wall panels snap, crackle and pop. The best ship builds will take this into account and provide more gaps for expansion and contraction at seams and miters.
Such sounds are rare enough. More common are rattles from loose hardware. Even a slight ship vibration or shutter might cause sliding closet doors to rattle or an entry door to creak at its latch.
As a side note, cabin location is something also to consider for what noises may occur nearby: A stateroom just below the pool deck or above the show lounge, for example, is likely to hear more from the activities therein.
Any of this is more likely to be a problem for light sleepers, though they can become annoying even to a heavy sleeper like me from time to time.
The solution in many cases is to call up maintenance and ask for a quick tightening of any screws or bolts. However, sometimes the hardware is just poorly designed to begin with and there is nothing to be fixed.
Then, towels are your friend. Believe it or not, simply placing a small face or hand towel between sliding doors or in the jam of an entry door can be just enough to put pressure against the rattling offender and silence it. It’s a homegrown trick I’ve used on many a cruise.
As for any moans coming from paneling, there’s little that can be done, though sometimes applying outward pressure with your own hands massages the creaks out.
Generally, there really is nothing to be concerned about. Ships do make some noise, but newer ones tend to be better than older ones. Just like an older car might make itself heard more than one fresh off the lot, ships can be the same.
These sounds give vessels character. It reminds you that they are alive riding the waves. Of course, there is also comfort in knowing there are some means to quiet them down if you wish as well. And if all else fails, there are always earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.
I say: Embrace the ship sounds—for a time at least and then employ a towel.