If you are considering taking up cruise ship employment, then listen to advice from people who have actually done it. I worked onboard for 3 years and have heard a lot of people who don't know what it's like living onboard as they try to tell others about it and get the facts horribly wrong. Here is what it is really like.
The short answer: lots of eating, sleeping and partying with awesome people from around the world with some work in between.
The long answer: you will never understand what it is like to work onboard ships unless you do it, so keep reading and I will do my best to explain the basics. Some parents of present and future cruise ships employees may not like what they are about to read. To them, I say, oh well. This is reality.
It is a common misconception that ships only hire people from 3rd world countries. This couldn't be further from the truth. In actuality, they hire many people from around the world for a whole host of positions. A typical ship has crew represented by 60 countries.
One reason for this misunderstanding is that people who go on cruises only remember that the crew is "mostly Asian". Perhaps the waiters and housekeeping, yes. What they don't understand are the people they don't see day in and day out. They are the accountants, technicians, shore excursion staff and officers. They are almost always from western countries.
A few of the more common countries represented onboard include United States, United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Holland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Italy, India, Spain, Argentina, Chiel and Mexico.
Much of the western crew are aged 20 - 40 years old and older still for the career cruisers. In general they are free spirited and love adventure and in my experience they also love to drink. You see, this job is perfect for people who aren't bogged down with life's little happening on the mainland such as kids, mortgages, and responsibility.
First comes the work, yes, that crucial part of "working" onboard cruise ships. The hardest jobs with the most hours of duty include housekeeping, restaurant server & hostess, and the galley. These positions are often filled by people from countries such as the Philippines, India and Indonesia.
The better jobs with less work and higher pay often require a field of study or work experience. These positions include shore excursion sales, IT professionals, social hosts, fine jewelry sales, casino staff and more.
Any job you can imagine on land usually has a cruise ship equivalent. Experience helps but really anyone with a positive attitude and the right skill set can excel onboard cruise ships.
And finally, you have the performers, guest entertainers, musicians and dancers. These positions take a lot of practice to become professional at, but they also put in less hours while onboard.
This is a great way for new dancers fresh out of school to get their feet wet, or for more experienced headliners to perform there magic, juggling or singing, respectively. And let's not forget the musicians whose rock band just isn't quite making it to MTV. There is a job for them as well.
Ships typically pay you cash in hand at the end of every month. Pay for Westerners starts at $1500 - $4500 per month. And there are several positions that pay more than that.
Another misconception is that ships pay the crew horribly small salaries because when they take it home it is a lot. While it is somewhat true, also consider that crew live very well back home and they also want you to think that they make very little money at their job on ships so you feel sorry for them and tip them more. Hope I didn't spoil it for you cruise passengers, but the staff are working you just the same.
I personally knew of one cabin steward who had a picture of his nieces and nephews and told his passengers they were his children which he only saw every 10 months or less. Then he would rake in the tips from people who felt sorry for him. While not everyone does this, the point is that they make OK money even by US standards.
And take a look at what kind of watch your steward is wearing. It's not uncommon to see them with a Tissot or Tag Heuer. If they made as little as people think then the crew wouldn't be wearing a $600 watch.
Living on ships has a never-ending rotation of new crew showing up for another contract while the previous crew is leaving after theirs. Cruise ship jobs are great for social people who love catching up with old mates or meeting new ones.
Ahh the Debauchery...
Every ship has a crew bar and recreation area where crew can hang out and socialize. The crew bar sells $1 beers, cheap alcohol, soda, and snacks at the end of each night. When all the crew have finished the long day, they can talk, dance and laugh about the ridiculous requests of the cargo (passengers). The crew bar and cabin parties are where the most fun happens. As least I think that's the case. Generally I am too drunk to remember.
We also had crew only parties about once a month where the alcohol was free for everyone. This was the best night of the month and the next day was always a sloppy hungover mess for the crew. It is great seeing crew who work 10 hour days having that much fun. My personal favorite was the crew halloween party, now that was a crazy night out.
In no other career or lifestyle I know of is it acceptable to drink as much as people do on ships for that many nights in a row. Not even college can compare. For some reason, people like to drink on ships. Lots. Every night, too. And it's always a lot of fun. Now this is not to say that you have to drink but it is very easy to do as there are always new people onboard and the drinks are so cheap.
And yes, sometimes the drinking did cause people to get fired from cruise ships, but that is the price you pay for having so much fun.
While in Port, if you are not working, you can get off the ship and explore the terra firma. This is a great time to have lunch or go to the beach or a bar to bite the hair of the dog with the new friends you have made. As well, this is prime time to relax by yourself as the cruise ship lifestyle doesn't leave much in terms of privacy, one of the first rules you learn.
Hundreds of fun loving crew members + lots of cheap booze = gossip and unnecessary drama between crew. It's an unavoidable part of ship life, perpetuated by the copious amounts of booze we drink. Everyone seems to know everything about everyone else while rumors pass like bad sushio in rough seas.
What makes it all tolerable is knowing that your contract will finish in only a few months and it's then that you can go home, relax for a few weeks, and come back to do it all over again.
Cruise ship employment takes a certain type of person. Some crew only last a week before packing up while others make cruise ships into a career. If you're considering getting a job onboard then don't pay attention to the nay sayers who have never done it. Try it out for yourself and make your own opinions.
Recently, this article proudly received a complaint from a concerned mother. Please read her concerns about working on ships and let me know what you think!
cruise ship employment - Want to make the move to ship life? Here is the easiest way
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