Pros & Cons of Working On A Cruise Ship
Having worked on cruise ships myself for the last two years, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of what I consider the pros and cons to the cruise ship lifestyle. Hopefully these will help you gauge exactly what is involved in this work and what it takes to be a part of the crew.
When you think of a cruise ship – you think of relaxing in the sun, visiting new places and enjoying yourself. Very few people will be thinking about the hard work it takes to make a cruise successful and enjoyable for its passengers.
If you are thinking about working on a cruise ship, it is worth considering both the pros and cons before going ahead and looking for a job. The cruise ship life can be hard work but also very rewarding.
Pros Of Working On A Cruise Ship
You Get To See The World For Free – You get paid to travel! You get to see the world and explore for free. You’ll also meet and work with people from all over the world. In 3 contracts I was able to see most of South America, Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Alaska and the west coast of the USA and Hawaii.
Money, Money, Money – You can make good money working on a cruise ship. For many Nationalities, your salary is tax free and often much more than what you would make back in your home country. For example, if you are from the Philippines and you decided to work on a cruise ship doing the lowest level job you could get; the likelihood is you would be making more than you would in your home country. After a couple of years, you could have even made your way up the ranks and be earning even more! However, if you are a Westerner, you may find the pay is low, depending on the job you do. Of course though, there are other advantages that make the money better than it would be if you happen to get a lower level job.
Everything Is Paid For – Everything is paid for while you are on-board. There is no need to pay for rent, food or any bills (unless of course you are tied to something on land).
You Can Save All Your Money – This means, even if the pay is slightly lower than you had envisioned, you can save a ton! You aren’t having to spend any of it on typical life bills like renting. You are also busy most of the time, so less time to spend let alone think about spending it.
Opportunity To Try Different Jobs – You have the ability to improve your job on a cruise ship and move up to a higher paying one. There are opportunities to cross train in different departments and try new things.
Your Privileges – Depending on your position, rank and possibly ship, you may be allowed in passenger areas that other crew members are not allowed. You may also get to dine in the passenger restaurants, use the gym, watch some entertainment, shop or just simply to walk around guest areas. This is definitely a great thing to have to break up the monotony of being a crew member.
Crew activities – There is normally one smoking bar and one non-smoking bar for crew, this will of course depend on the ship you go to though. Sometimes there will be parties thrown for crew in guest areas and locked off to guests. All sorts of special events are held for crew as well, including bingo, football, table tennis and pool tournaments and more.
Friendships – As a crew member you become part of a close community and you make many many friends. This is definitely one of the best parts of the job.
Love & Relationships – As well as friendships you may find that you even find the love of your life. I met my girlfriend on a cruise ship, so romance can definitely bloom. Of course it isn’t a guarantee and many relationships don’t last longer than the contract.
Time Off – Once you are done with your contract which can be from 4 – 9 months long (and even longer depending position and extensions), you will get to have a couple of months off. It is unpaid but you should have saved plenty to cover this. Sometimes you can get called back sooner, but it is up to you if want to do that.
Job Security – It is very difficult to lose a cruise ship job unless you’re a complete idiot. Some people work on cruise ships their entire lives while others, like myself, prefer to use it as a stop off between other things.
Other Benefits – Other benefits include, free laundry, crew discounts on spas and guest shops. Discounts for family members to come aboard. Free plane ticket to get to ship and home depending on position.
Cons Of Working On A Cruise Ship
And now we get to the bad things!
The Working Hours – Depending on your job, you can expect to work between 9-14 hours a day (with breaks). You’re more likely to work longer hours on sea days and embarkation day. You also work 7 days a week which might feel a bit much at times! It can be very hard work as well depending on the size of cruise ship you end up on. A smaller one may feel more relaxed and easier to cope with, whereas a larger ship maybe more chaotic and busy.
Long Contract – The long working hours aren’t helped by the fact you have a long contract usually between 4-10 months (again, and even longer depending position and extensions). If you decide to bail early you will have to pay for your flight home.
No Full Day Off – You don’t get a full day off on the ship, you will most likely work every day. Unless you are medically cleared not to work.
Sea Sickness – Sea sickness can be a problem but usually you get used to it. Sometimes the ship can be rocky and you feel fine, other times it’s only a little bit and you feel sick. However there are ways to help prevent sea sickness on-board. Sea sickness pills are readily available for crew and guests. If you are suffering really badly from sea sickness, you also have the option to get a shot or to wear a special wristband.
Cabin Size – More than likely you will be sharing a cabin, if you are lucky like me, you will be in a “flip flop” cabin which meant I had my own private space but I had to share the bathroom. Whether you are in a bunk bed room or a flip flop room, you won’t have much space. You can get a bigger room depending on the position you do, however you spend very little time in it anyway, so you might as well not care.
Privacy – There is not much privacy as a crew member. You will most likely share a room with someone else and they may not be considerate or thoughtful while you’re sleeping and they are getting ready for their shift. Your room mate will probably be from a different country as well which may make communication difficult too.
Rules – Rules can feel suffocating at times, particularly as you are living by them everyday. There are rules for dress code, when you eat, where you a socialize, alcohol limit, when you get to enjoy time off and the list goes on. If you don’t follow the rules it can lead to warnings and contract termination.
Training & Boat Drills – Attending training and boat drills are mandatory. You may have to attend when you are off duty. It can be especially annoying when they are directly in the middle of your break.
Food Quality – Food in the crew mess can be pretty bad, they have a very small budget to feed over 1000 crew. Depending on position once again, you may be able to eat in the guest areas.
Slow & Expensive Internet – Internet on-board is extremely expensive and slow, most crew members will purchase a sim card to use when the ship is close to land or to use in port. You won’t be able to use the sim card in your cabin though, it’s unlikely for you to get signal unless you have a port hole.
Home sickness – Being so far away from home for 6 months can be difficult for some people particularly those in a relationship and with children. I wouldn’t recommend it in those situations. It isn’t always the easiest to make contact to home either.
Guests – You may find guests difficult to deal with but this is usually an issue with most service jobs. Cruise ship guests are one of a kind though and can be very demanding, of course there are nice guests too. Just stay relaxed and easy going if you can.
Chlorinated Water – Water on the ship can be bad. One of the ships I was on had very badly chlorinated water, it would make some crew members come out in rashes. You also notice that crew who have been working on ships for a long time have started to lose their hair and have bald patches. I believe this is due to the water. Some girls purchase bottled water to wash their hair with.
Cabin Fever – Being in such a confined space for a while can make you quite cranky. The lack of space and privacy may cause you to go a bit insane after a while.
Eye Sight – Since working on ships my eyesight has deteriorated. This is due to working in such a closed environment for long periods of time.
Maintenance Issues– If your A/C breaks in your cabin, you will have to wait a while for it to be fixed, this can make it extremely difficult to sleep. That goes for other problems as well like your toilet not flushing or your cabin door running out of battery.
Free Time Feels Rushed – Even though you do get time off and get to visit the local area this can often feel rushed and dictated by when you need to be back.
I hope that this list hasn’t put you off! Despite all the negatives that come with cruise ship life, I really enjoyed my time doing it otherwise I wouldn’t have done 3 contracts in 2 years!
The positives are also totally worth the negatives and the experience alone will teach you so much about yourself and others.
I think you will find this type of job easier to do if you are easy going and can roll with the punches. If that isn’t your personality, this type of job may just force you into being more relaxed or send you stir crazy.
The choice is yours! Let me know if you have any questions below and I will be happy to answer them.