Being a member of staff on a cruise ship seems like a dream job to many. The thought of being on a luxury ship in sunny weather for months on end seems too good to be true. The possibilities for travel and to meet new and interesting people is very enticing.
However, the reality is very different. Firstly, staff members are away from home for long stretches of time, so the job is not for those with strong family responsibilities. The pay is good considering that most day-to-day expenses are taken care of, but it only really mounts up if tips are good.
Staff lives in close quarters with each other and there is little privacy. The hours are long and demanding and days off are rare. However, the competition for jobs is fierce. Employees are often qualified with college degrees in order to stand the best chance of employment.
For the captain of a cruise ship, the demands are even greater. They need to be qualified in maritime law and engineering, as well as being prepared to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong and be an ever-present lynchpin of the ship. They need stamina and diplomacy just as much as the staff, as well as an ability to meet new people, thousands each month.
25 Cruise Ship Workers: Earplugs – They Have to Share Rooms
There is a hierarchy amongst cruise ship workers, with staff who work with customers being afforded more perks onboard than the crew who are more behind the scenes.
The crew will share dormitory-style bedrooms with one bathroom and the staff will get double rooms with a bathroom between two. This means you are in the lap of fate when it comes to your dorm fellow, and if they are prone to a bit of snoring, earplugs could come in very handy.
24 Cruise Ship Workers: Stamina – They Work Long Shifts for Months on End
Crew members are typically on six, or nine-month contracts, and this may be without a day off. Some crew work every day but get some time to themselves on each day, which balances out. If staff get a day off, it will be a welcome break in a long contract away from family and friends.
Shifts for staff are long, typically starting early and ending late with a few hours in the middle to get some sleep. If they are afforded a day or a few hours while in port, they may choose to sleep rather than explore due to sheer exhaustion.
23 Cruise Ship Workers: Swimwear – They Have Their Own Pool
There will be a deck on board where staff and crew can let their hair down and relax without worrying about being seen by passengers. This deck will have a bar, sometimes with subsidized or free drinks, and a pool.
This is a haven of relaxation among a ship full of passengers, to whom the staff must be nice and friendly at all times. In their own time, they can relax at the pool and talk freely, or simply catch some rays on the sunbeds.
22 Cruise Ship Workers: Tablet or Cell Phone to Keep in Touch with Loved Ones
Being away from home for extended periods is testing, and many crew members say this is the hardest aspect of ship life. There is a postage service that arrives once a week, but for more immediate access to loved ones, an electronic advice is preferable.
Some cruise lines allow staff free access to the Internet, so they can email and Skype their families. Others have Internet cafes for staff to use and keep in touch. One cruise line even gives staff access to a tablet each, so they will not struggle to maintain contact with home.
21 Cruise Ship Workers: Passport – You Get to Visit Some of the Ports
If your shift allows and the ship is in port, some lucky staff and crew get to have a couple of hours at the destinations that make cruising so much fun. They can hop off between breakfast and supper and see the sights and be back in time to continue their evening work.
Regular cruise workers say that this was the highlight of their cruising career. No matter how hard the lifestyle is, being able to sail around the world and visit places they had longed to see, made it all worthwhile.
20 Cruise Ship Workers: Language Skills – Crew and Passengers Can be From Multiple Countries
Staff on a cruise ship can be from as many as 70 different countries, and while you may not work with or encounter all of them, you will be expected to converse with passengers from different countries.
English is the language spoken on board by staff, and announcements are given in English on many cruise lines. However, cruise lines owned by foreign countries may expect staff to be fluent in the mother language and English, and as it is so competitive to get a job on board, extra languages will be beneficial and extremely useful.
19 Cruise Ship Workers: Plenty of Comfortable Shoes – Most Cruise Lines don’t Provide Them
Staff and crew walk a lot of miles around an enormous cruise ship. Whether it be bar work, restaurant service or cleaning, there is a lot of ships to cover.
Most cruise ships will provide staff with uniforms, but no shoes, so staff have to be prepared in advance. The top priority is the comfort, and staff says that multiple pairs are preferable as shoes get worn out quickly with all the mileage they get put through. Shoes that don’t slip on wet decks is pretty important as well.
18 Cruise Ship Workers: Seasickness Medication – Just in Case!
While on board ship, the sea can get choppy, and if you are working, you will not be given time off every time you feel seasick. The staff takes medication, just like passengers and there is a doctor on board in case they run out.
If they have a contagious illness like flu, they are quarantined in their rooms and food is brought to them, as they are not allowed contact with the outside world. The spread of illness is taken very seriously on a ship, as bugs can pass so easily, so cruise lines take no chances.
17 Cruise Ship Workers: Ability to Get on with People – Crew Rotate In and Out All the Time
Meeting new people is an occupational hazard of working on a cruise ship. If you struggle to get on with people, it may not be the career for you. Not only will you be meeting and interacting with new guests each week or fortnight, but staff rotates in and out all the time.
When one contract period ends, a group of staff may leave the ship to be immediately replaced by another group. If you are working closely with people who are new, you will have to slot in and get on with them and work with them right away, over and over.
16 Cruise Ship Workers: A Strong Constitution – Staff Parties Have Free Alcohol
Cruise lines will feed and water their staff, which is a massive perk of the job. It means that money earned is truly yours and there are no worries about paying for day to day living expenses.
However, the downside of this is that some cruise lines give their staff free alcohol in the staff bar, and most lines have staff parties where booze is free. These can be regular and raucous, so staff members need to have a strong constitution to endure them and to keep smiling the next day.
15 Cruise Ship Workers: A happy, Confident Demeanour – You are on Show and Expected to be Cheerful
When staff is on the ship and there are passengers nearby, you are there to serve them. The passengers expect to be able to stop and chat or ask a question the whole time a staff member is in uniform with a name badge on.
There is no break from the happy, smiling staff member, you have to be on show all the time. Whatever is going on behind the scenes, you need a lot of confidence and natural cheerfulness to keep going at this level for the whole shift.
14 Cruise Ship Workers: Be Prepared for a Great Career after Cruising, They are Believed to Make Great Employees
If you have survived a few seasons on a cruise ship and done relatively well, you will have a wealth of experience to offer a new employer.
Not only have cruise staff demonstrated exceptional people skills and flexibility, but they have also shown they can work hard under difficult circumstances. Employment agencies recognize this and within the industry, they like to recruit former cruise ship staff because of this. It is up to the employee to seek out an opportunity and sell themselves as a result of the experience they have gained.
13 Cruise Ship Workers: Ability to Get on with People and Work in a Team
Your crewmates will be your constant companions for months on end. They need to support each other during problems both personal and professional. It is important to work as a team and to get on with each other, on the surface at least.
Staff report that nationalities gravitate together and form ‘mafias’ from the same country. One cruise worker said that each mafia had the role of providing the other mafias with a particular product. If you wanted good food, you knew where to go and similarly if it was cheap liquor you were after there was a mafia in charge of that too!
12 Cruise Ship Workers: Conflict Resolution – You are on the Spot to Deal with Passenger Conflicts
After a day of drinking the free all-inclusive alcohol, guests can get rowdy and confrontational. Staff needs to be on hand to direct proceedings, particularly if things look as if they are getting heated. Having a calm demeanor and an ability to discreetly resolve problems, is a must for some staff.
Cruise staff says that the majority of the passengers are fine, but those that stand out are the ones who are permanently drinking or in the restaurants. A drink is generally the catalyst for most major incidents.
11 Cruise Ship Workers: Tolerance of Stress, it’s Long Hours Away from Family and Friends in Close Quarters
Cruise staff says that they often feel as if they are ‘owned’ by the cruise lines. They have their days dictated to them, when they eat, sleep, work, what they wear. It is a repetitive cycle that goes on for months with little rest and time to fully relax.
Staff suffer from homesickness at times and miss their loved ones but because the jobs are hard to get and the pay is good if the tips roll in, staff tolerate the conditions.
10 Captain: Compassion – Many People Come to You with Problems
If someone is struggling with a particular issue, it may be the captain rather than any onboard pastor that guests will come to.
One young girl was a first-time cruiser, and she was suddenly panicked by the enormity of the ship and the safety issues before it set sail. Kindly staff reassured her and then took her up to the bridge to meet the captain, whose soothing tones and practical knowledge eased the situation and the young girl went on to enjoy a fabulous holiday.
9 Captain: Confetti – Captains can Perform Marriage Ceremonies
Cruise weddings have become increasingly popular, especially on the adults-only voyages. A wedding at sea will be performed by the captain, while those in port will be conducted by a local official.
If you are planning a wedding at sea, you need to pick the cruise line carefully, as legal restrictions prevent some captains from performing the ceremony, dependent on the ship’s port of registration. If the captain is unavailable, his deputy is also qualified to officiate according to PO Cruises.
8 Captain: Diplomacy – Conflict Resolution is Part of the Job
Conflicts amongst staff will occur on a ship where people are living in such close quarters for long periods of time. If a situation between two colleagues gets to a disciplinary stage, the captain will be called to step in and offer his advice.
Thorough knowledge of rules and regulations is essential for the captain, who is informed of every bit of news on the ship, from a guest falling overboard to a chicken being burnt in the kitchen. He has to decide when and how to intercede in an ever-changing village of staff and guests.
7 Captain: PR Skills – To Quickly Deal with Negative Press in Case of an Incident
If something happens on a ship, loss of cargo, engine failure, the death of a member of staff or passenger, or even a lapse in health and safety standards, it is the captain on whom the responsibility falls to act.
According to Sokanu, the captain is the primary contact in the next port to sort out any issues and deal with any negative media comments if the word has gotten out. He needs to be ahead of the game and have answers to difficult questions at a moment’s notice.
6 Captain: An Open Mind – Innovation is Key to Success on a Cruise Ship
A cruise ship captain is meeting thousands of new people each week. He is dealing with staff from several nationalities. He needs to have an open mind and be amenable to changing plans for the good of the guests.
While safety is of paramount importance, he needs to find new ways to keep things running smoothly at all times. Keeping up with other cruise line innovations, and the latest technology is vital for the success of the captain’s career, according to Bizfluent.
5 Captain: Crisis Management in the Event of a Major Issue
Every time a ship comes into port, a captain has to do a risk assessment with his staff, according to Cruiseline. A captain is permanently on the lookout for potential situations that could put the ship and passengers in danger.
He will have a drill and a set of code commands to carry out if any threatening situation occurs. This includes attacks from pirates, the death of a passenger or major issues with the ship. Technology grows and with that so do the checklists that the captain has to carry out. He will be prepared for anything.
4 Captain: Intelligence, College Degrees, and Other Maritime Qualifications are Preferred
According to Wikihow, it takes years of service and dedication to become a cruise ship captain. Most have college degrees and years of experience at sea before they will be considered for the role.
They are in charge of the safety of hundreds of people and can be called upon to fathom out sudden changes in weather, speed, direction and to avert danger. Being on the ball and having a sharp intelligent mind are prerequisites for every cruise ship captain.
3 Captain: Health and Safety and Maritime Law Knowledge
Most cruise ship captains find the fastest way to their dream job is through a Maritime Academy. Here you learn everything from maritime law to engineering and navigation.
Being in charge of the safety of such a large vessel means you have to be a hot shot at health and safety. No stone can be left unturned, and a captain will regularly ‘walk the ship’ to do a spot check and point out any discrepancies. Having an in-depth knowledge of the latest requirements in health and safety keeps a ship running smoothly and averts unnecessary risk.
2 Captain: Great Time Management – Guests Don’t Want to Get Into/Out of Port Late
A captain is responsible for getting the ship to and from each port. If one of the engines is running slow and it looks as if the ship won’t dock on time, the captain has to work out a strategy for increasing the ship’s speed.
If a passenger is running late from an excursion and the ship leaves port late, he needs to find a way to ensure that the next destination is successfully reached on time. He must be focused on timing always, and have secondary plans if timing goes awry.
1 Captain: Ability to Socialize – Guests Like the Captain to be Visible
The captain is the most important member of staff on a ship, and guests like to see and be seen with him. According to Beyond Ships2, a large part of the captain’s job is to mingle with guests and give them tours of the bridge or be available for photo opportunities.
The captain will meet thousands of new people each month, so has to have a quick wit and be at ease with new people and be prepared to answer numerous questions.