Considering a cruising career?

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?

Vision of the Seas

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.)

Happy bartenders onboard Vision

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!

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