Working on a ship is a tough environment. It has often been described as working in a floating high school . Before you send in your application, there are a few things that you should know. I’m assuming you already know we work nonstop, and get to travel the world, but do you know what the atmosphere is really like? Here are my ten recommendations of things to know before working on a cruise ship. Enjoy!
1. It’s not all fun and games
Different positions have different work requirements, but the majority of crew is going to be working a lot. You know what you’re signing up for, but it’s still a lot more work than you expect. Even though you might be only working 8 hour days, because of break schedules, it’s likely that these eight hours will be between 8AM and 11PM. We’ve got time off – but not as much as we’d like.
2. The fun and games make up for it
While we do work a lot, there are plenty of ways to unwind aboard the vessel. A friend of mine once said “a good day on here is worth about 20 bad days” and she’s absolutely right. For all the days you spend sick, frustrated, angry, and exhausted, an afternoon sliding down a mountain in Portugal will fix you right up. There’s plenty to do aboard the vessel too. The crew has a private bar – uniquely named “Crew Bar” where you can unwind with a cold beer, and warm-hearted friends.
3. We’re prepared
All crew aboard a cruise ship, in addition to their regular jobs, have additional emergency responsibilities. Some are members of the fire team, the medical team, special care teams, lifeboat evacuation teams, and other emergency services. We run lifeboat drills every week while passengers are in port. It’s here that we practice our specific responsibilities and run through mock scenarios; to make sure we’re the utmost prepared in the event of an actual emergency. No worries, you’re in safe hands.
4. We live in the 1990s
While most crew has a phone, iPod, laptop, or some form of technology aboard, we really don’t use them as often as our friends on land. Internet exists on the ship, but it’s unreliable, slow, and expensive. We save all of our social networking for ports of call, where we rate restaurants not by their food, but their WiFi connection. While aboard, most of the crew call each other on landlines, or talk in person. There’s no texting, Facebook messaging, snapchat, Instagram, or any of the other land-based comforts. If you don’t think you can live without a constant connection for six months, you best stay home.
5. Even the rules have rules
In order to ensure safety, security, and general well being, there are more rules than you can count. Eat here, wear this, say hello, don’t be late, not that elevator. It’s going to take you a long time to learn them all, and even when you think you have, there will be more. Try your best, keep a scholarly attitude, and you’ll have them down in no time – they exist for everyone’s benefit… well, at least most of them.
6. Love is in the air
I was once told that crew are here to get paid, get laid, and see the world. While there is definitely a hook-up culture aboard, many crew also enter relationships, and even maintain them despite different ship assignments, timezones, and contract lengths. Just beware of ship goggles.
7. Seniority is everything
When an employee stays with a company for multiple contracts, they will often start moving up the ladder one rung at a time. The seniority system affords few opportunities for qualified newbies to innovate in management positions, and has the opportunity to place inappropriate persons in positions of power. This – of course – is not unique to cruise ships. What this means for you, is if you’d like to make a difference, gain additional responsibilities and a sense of autonomy, then you’re going to have to stick it out for a few years.
8. We’re multicultural
The captain is Swedish, the food is Filipino, the language is English, the music is Spanish, and the ship is multicultural. Chances are you’re going to have friends from all continents. With many countries come many languages, and the opportunity to learn some new ones. What better way to practice a second, third, or forth language than by practicing it with a native speaker?
9. We gossip
With limited internet, there’s little to do. So, unfortunately, everyone is going to talk about everything. The best advice is to ignore the negative people, don’t talk bad about others, and just get on with your life. People are going to gossip about you, and the ones obsessed with invading your private moments aren’t worth your time. It doesn’t have to be all negative though. Use the enhanced social situation to network, learn, and make friends around the world.
10. It’s not for everyone
Life at sea is not for everyone – and that’s completely okay. It has nothing to do with your experience, qualifications, work ethic, or personality style; sometimes you’re just not going to enjoy it. If you get here and don’t enjoy it, try to at least stick it out for a few months. Ship life can take a bit of adjusting to, and once you do, it can be the experience of a lifetime.
If after reading all of that, ship life still interests you, check out my post on how to get a job on a ship.