I once wanted to work on a cruise ship; part of me still does. What’s not to like about working on board a ship; to get paid to see the world, with accommodation, food and drinks thrown in?
Well, there are quite a few things to think about if you are considering taking the leap into the world of hospitality and entertainment on the high seas.
On my just-completed cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas, I was mightily impressed with the crew, from the captain and the cruise director down to the lovely lady who took time to say hello while she was wiping down tables.
I won’t name names here, but I will when I fill in the survey that Royal Caribbean emails its passengers after their cruise finishes. Good work deserves recognition — especially when the crew play such a vital role in spreading what can be an infectious sense of joy around the ship.
But conversations with cruise staff on this trip and the other dozen I have taken in recent years has taught me that there is a lot of sacrifice behind the smiles:
+ Long separation from family and friends.
+ Long and erratic hours spread over a seven-day week for up to nine months at sea (some workers go without a break at all; others work 10 weeks on, 10 weeks off; others have four-month contracts).
+ No guarantee of work after your current contract expires.
+ Despite visiting exotic ports, some workers have no chance to actually see anything other than the inside of the ship.
+ Internet onboard can be prohibitively expensive — which is why you see crew members huddled around free wi-fi points in port.
+ Not a lot of privacy, with crew often sharing small cabins.
+ On some ships, women have reported facing sexual and other workplace harassment — a situation that is magnified by the fact that they live where they work and can’t escape the harasser. In fairness, companies have HR processes in place to deal with this.
+ Work can be routine, repetitious and mundane. (Although that’s also the case with many less glamorous jobs.)
But, of course, the job does have a lot of perks.
+ Many crew members do get the chance to visit the ports of call. And they get to meet people from around the world.
+ There are promotion opportunities for people who want to make a career out of it. Not everybody is 21 and doing it as a gap-year exercise while they sort out what they really want to do in life.
+ The long contracts come with long periods of leave, which suits many people.
+ There seems to be a genuine spirit of camaraderie onboard, and a multicultural vibe.
+ And, as one eastern European waitress who otherwise did not like her job noted: “At least I get to improve my English.”
Did I miss anything or get something wrong? Let me know!