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Cruise Ship Employment

Travel Forums General Talk Cruise Ship Employment

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1. Posted by Megan29 (Budding Member 6 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Hey Everyone,

I have been recently tossing the idea around about working on a cruise line. When I was younger it was considered my "dream job", then I fell out of it and now I think I am back on the bandwagon. Although I have read a lot of bad things and a lot of good things, I am curious to hear some real life experiences. I have heard a lot of "not getting any time off" - which I think cant be completely true. I understand you work long hours more than 5 days a week, but they do have to give you time off sometime. Does any one know what this would be? Example: work 2 weeks get a certain number of days off? Also, I am wondering about being able to get off the ship at ports. I am travel-hungry and consider this job a way of saving money to pay off my student loans and hopefully see the world. I have experience at hotels as front desk and a tourism and events diplomas. Ideally, I would like to be in Shore Excursions, but I have heard this is a promote from within position, does anyone know if this is true? If I were unable to secure this position I would apply for Guest Services as I know I am already qualified for this. Are you able to have time off in ports if you are in Guest Services?

I feel that people are all over the spectrum in terms of cruise ship employment. Although I am keen to try it, I want to know as much of the bad stuff as possible first!! Even one 6 month contract, cant be too bad right?

Any information would be helpful!!

Thanks =)

2. Posted by Andyf (Moderator 925 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!


I've never worked on cruise ships but travelled on plenty and talk to the crews a bit...

The best gig for time off to see the ports seems to be working in the shops aboard ship, as they usually have to be closed while in port. From what I can see these are often concessions run by other companies, wages can be low as it's tied to sales.

A friend's daughter works in the beauty salon / hairdressing, think she's on P&O ships - as the salon is down below she seldom sees much daylight!

I gather that, yes, they do give you time off sometime, but not DAYS off. They seem to offer, say, 9 month contracts meaning you work every day those 9 months and your "weekends" are those three months of the year back home. 9 months seems common for Asian crew, and they often sign up for a further contract sooner than the 3 months gap. Crewmembers from western countries seem to have shorter contracts, eg 6 months.

It appears to have its pros and cons. Hard work, long hours, often difficult conditions (shouty managers / restrictions on you), get to "see the world" - some of it only on the 3rd visit!, perks like free shore excursions by being the 2nd leader for the group.

A quick google of "cruise ship jobs" makes interesting viewing. First one I clicked said "1200 people have applied for the job". A lot quoted languages they wanted - are you a linguist?

3. Posted by CheersT (Inactive 2578 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

My experience is from a long time ago so the details are immaterial at this point, but I made enough money that 1 month on-board equalled about 2 - 3 months of high-end backpacking so for a young, single guy and travel addict it worked out very well... 4 - 6 one month cruises and I could travel for an entire year. Great deal.

I was a safety/first aid guy, lifeguard and handled off-ship excursions for all manner of water activities like SCUBA, etc.

Having multiple skills is a huge advantage to being considered for hire - they receive a zillion just-out-of-school resumes from naive kids that immediately get trashed - they need mature, experienced, on-the-ball people with good social skills. The basics in another few languages is crucial... previous travel experience helps too.

It's not something I could ever do long term - too boring with all those bloody cruise passengers - but for a bit it was a GREAT party and decent money.

That said, since you're already worrying about time off (ain't going to happen) and "seeing the world" (again, ain't going to happen from the ship) then I can't imagine you being happy with the life.

Good luck.


PS I haven't kept up with it, but surely there must be discussion forums now that cater specifically to cruise ship employees, no?

4. Posted by Megan29 (Budding Member 6 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Terry - I did try to find a cruise specific website forum but came up empty handed.

Andy - I am obviously fluent in English, as well I am proficient in Brazilian Portuguese and rudimentary Spanish, which I know can aid me greatly in securing a position onboard.

I really am keen on doing the Shore Excursion bit, but I seldom find postings for it. I have applied to a few jobs through a recruitment agency but have yet to hear anything. And as Terry mentioned I am most worried about the time off bit. I understand and can accept hard work, I work two jobs now and barely ever get days off, but surely, they must give you a day off here and there!

5. Posted by CheersT (Inactive 2578 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Honestly Megan, I don't see how cruise ship work fits your prerequisites.... there are lots of other ways to make money out there...


Really surprised in this day and age there aren't discussion forums for cruise ship employees... maybe the risk of saying stuff that'll get you fired is simply too great...

6. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3891 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

My best friend worked on one for 3 years in the Caribbean, in various retail establishments on board. She managed to save quite a bit of money and loved the ports that the ship stopped in, but said she was exhausted all the time. Contracts were for 8 months and she didn't get a day off in that time, but did get time off when the ship was in port, so a few hours here and there I suppose. Hours are very long and you'll be sharing a tiny cabin with someone else, unless you're crew and lucky enough to get your own. Overall she enjoyed the experience though and made some lasting friendships but it wasn't realistic to do it long -term because of the hours.

7. Posted by Megan29 (Budding Member 6 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for the insight bex76. Sounds like maybe, I dont want to do this haha I guess I need to find another way to travel and work, or win the lottery!!

8. Posted by CheersT (Inactive 2578 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!


Good luck.


9. Posted by Hevding (First Time Poster 1 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

I used to work for a 3rd party Company on Disney Cruise Line, contract lengths vary for roles but the average is about 6 months and the only departments that got days off were Spa and Entertainment. Apart from those 2 it's 7 days a week, 14 hours a day, it is exhausting and your emotions are up and down all the time you will love it and you will hate it but I would do it again every single time.

The experience of seeing so many places in such a short time is worth it, even if you only do one contract.

Wage wise, I started on 1/6th of the UK national minimum wage and ended up on $300/week which isn't that bad when you consider food and accommodation is paid for, I could easily save $200 per week.

Also another thing to consider is the costs you incur before you even set foot on a ship, every company differs but I had to pay around $2-3k for equipment, visas, medicals, uniforms and travel.

I can tell you some companies treat their staff appalling and some very well (for cruise lines)!

10. Posted by MissBrenda (Budding Member 6 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Hi Megan,

I just got back from working a half contract on board a cruise ship and what bex76 says is completely true.

I worked Guest Relations (Guest Services) and though you are able to save money (salary isn't great but isn't bad either so saving is entirely possible if that's your goal) but you work 10-12 hr days, 7 days a week, for 6 months straight. Consider that you are standing all day, and handling complaints and queries and follow ups with various departments, it can be thoroughly exhausting. I had many years experience in hotels and front desk and it still didn't seem to prepare me for the sheer volume of guests lining up with questions and complaints (some of the most ridiculous kinds lol) With Guest Relations, you don't get much time off. You do get to see ports, but for few hours at a time, so you are always getting snapshot quality outings, meaning you are hurrying out to see the port and rushing back to do the evening portion of your shift. Some ports you will never even see, especially on days when new guests are embarking, so I never ever got to see Rome and never would have, no matter how much I would want to. Time off to see ports varies entirely on your shift schedule so some days I had 3 hours for break (don't forget you may want to eat in that time frame) and sometimes I could get up to 6 hours off (very rare). Other days, you work the afternoon shift, so forget about getting off the ship unless you wake up early and even then, you might not get off since you have to give priority to guests who want to head to shore and mornings are when everyone wants to get off to explore.

Internet is not free on board so it can be pricey if you are addicted with staying in touch back home or just surfing the net in your free time (and forget about using skype, downloading or streaming on board). So you can possibly end up wasting time on shore contacting family and friends back home from internet cafes instead of sightseeing. Of course, after doing the same rounds to the same cities and seeing certain ports many times, this option becomes an easy choice.

All in all, you either love it or hate it. I was somewhere in the middle. Now that I'm back home, I long to be back out there in the world, but on my own terms and at my leisure. So depending on what kind of job you have back home, you might be better off just saving at home and taking off afterwards. Yet at the same time, I got to see places that I might never have decided to see on my own time and agenda.