Interviews with cruise ship employees who enjoy gourmet food and world travel while working.
Please note: The author is a freelance journalist and has put everything he knows about working on cruise ships into this article; he has no further information. If you want to work on a cruise ship, do not contact this website. Instead, contact the Human Resources department of the cruise company you'd like to work for. Frugalfun.com will not respond to requests for more information about this.
Wouldn't it be fun to travel around the world, eat all the gourmet food you want, and get paid for it? Cruise ship employees get to do just that. A typical cruise ship has hundreds of employees- and not just sailors, dining room staff and cabin stewards. Cruise lines also hire fitness instructors, photographers, florists, tour coordinators, shop keepers, entertainers and stage crew, hairdressers, ice and fruit carvers, medical staff, front desk clerks, kitchen crew, money exchange tellers, children's activity supervisors, casino and bar staff, baggage handlers, even locksmiths, plumbers, and electricians…in short, the range of skills they need is enough to populate a small city. And that means there's a good chance that you could find a berth.
Is cruise life for you? If you can put up with long work hours and being away from home for months at a time, working a cruise ship is a way to see dozens of new lands, meet lots of interesting people, and be part of a close-knit community on board. I interviewed workers on several cruise ships to get a flavor of what life is really like for them. Since these interviews were not set up or approved by the cruise companies, the staff's names and the names of the ships and cruise lines are deliberately left out. Some of the interviews were more in depth than others, in part because of language barriers, and in part because some people are naturally talkative and others are not.
SHOP KEEPER, India. What it's like: Works 4 hours on port days (the stores are closed in port) and 8-1/2 hours on sea days. Gets to explore extensively in port. Advice: "It's really fun, forget about the land life, have your own good life. It's more fun than doing work, we have a good time here." Length of employment: 13 months. Favorite destination: Caribbean islands.
FITNESS INSTRUCTOR, England. What it's like: "I teach aerobics, yoga, and, stretching. I'm also a personal trainer in the gym." working 12 hours a day, with 1-1/2 to 2 days off per cruise for sightseeing. Background: "I've worked in fitness for a long time and then I worked for an airline as cabin crew. It seemed a way to tie in both of the things I've done. I love travel." Advice: "Don't have any expectations. Be mature. You could just never imagine how it feels to live here. It's very intense, a very small community. You don't have a private life. But the food is fantastic." Length of employment: six months. Favorite destinations: Australia and Singapore.
DECK BOY, Philippines. What it's like: "I assist the guests, arrange the chairs, take order for drinks, give towels and blankets. I start at 6 a.m. usually we end at 7 p.m., but if there are parties, 9 p.m.. But we have two hours of break. Motivation: I can see the world for free, I can support my parents [he sends most of his paycheck back home]. If I'm lucky, I will save my money and go into the hotel business for the future. Length of employment: 1-1/2 years. Favorite destination: Sweden.
PORT LECTURER, United States. What it's like: Works 8-14 hours a day, informing passengers about the sightseeing, activities, culture, and history of each port and points of scenic interest as the boat passes them. Gives lectures, staffs a desk to answer individual questions, and assists passengers at disembarkation. "I spent every penny I had on travel since I was 18, on my first trip to Europe." Advice/Motivation: " I think knowing the history [of a port of call] is essential to really enjoy it, to understand why it is the way it is. I like looking for relationships between the different ports, anything to enhance their day. I was surprised at the number of people who don't even know what country they're going to. I really feel like I can make a difference to an individual." Length of employment: 10 years.
MUSICIAN, Hungary. What it's like: Playing music in the house band for one of the boat's several lounges, six hours per evening. Motivation: much better pay than working as a musician in his home country. Length of employment: 4 years. Favorite destination: Rome.
PHOTOGRAPHER, South Africa. What it's like: Take, develop, mount, and sell pictures of passengers as they embark and disembark, as they attend formal dinners, and at other "picture moments" during the cruise. Work day ranges from 6 to 18 hours. Advice: Go for it. You see the world! It's a young person's job. Ships are the best way to travel. It grows you up." Length of employment: 1 year. Favorite destinations: Hawaii, Mediterranean
HEAD DINING ROOM STEWARD, Indonesia. What it's like: Rotate with other head stewards to supervise sections of the main dining room, midnight buffet, room service, gift orders, and flowers, 10-12 hours per day. Motivation: "When I was a little boy, I had a dream that I'd like to see the world without spending any money." Advice: "Be willing to work hard and want to see the world. If you work in the casino, the ships, or in the cast, you don't have to spend so many hours. The hardest jobs are dining room, kitchen, bar, housekeeping, sailors. Length of employment: 6 years. Favorite destination: "The Baltic, because almost every day we visit a different country. It's really interesting."
CHILDREN'S ACTIVITY SUPERVISOR, United States. What it's like: Plan and lead activities for children and teens. " Some days you can work 14 hours and other days you've got the majority of the day off. You work maybe an hour or two in the evening. We rotate the schedule with the cruise director and the assistant cruise director; someone always has to be on the boat. But you work every single day. I work four months and then a month off; it's kind of like getting my weekends all at once." Motivation: "Everything was very routine in my life, I needed some adventure, I needed to feel young, and I needed a positive atmosphere. I used to work at a nursing home. It's so different-everybody wants to be here. It was a really good change for me."
So there you have it. No matter what your skill set, chances are good you can find a berth aboard one of these ships.
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