Working in the cruise industry means we hear every single question under the sun…some totally legit and interesting, and some just ridiculous!
Whilst I know ‘cruise’ is a bit of a dirty word at the moment, I thought you would enjoy this post anyway, to learn a little about life on a ship, and also, for the much-needed giggles! Read on and let me know your favourite!
Do the crew stay on board overnight?
This one always makes me laugh…and seriously, it’s asked more times that you would think! I’m not sure where guests think they would stay…or how they’d get there…or get back?!
Can crew get off the ship?
Yes! They are not prisoners and are actively encouraged to leave the ship as often as possible. However, some roles make it challenging to get much time off whilst in port, especially if they do split shifts (which most do) and therefore they get a few hours in the afternoon off…if the ship is in a dock that you can walk from, then happy days, but if it’s a taxi ride to get to the town, they generally won’t bother and will enjoy a nap instead. Crew also have to be back on board at least 30-60 minutes before guests do.
Positions such as boutique staff, casino staff and entertainers generally get the best deal here as they are not required to work whilst the ship is in port, so can make the most of their free time to go explore.
Oh, and there is the issue of In Port Manning (IPM). This is a rota system where every crew member, excluding a few senior officers, have to stay on board, usually once every 4 port days. This is to ensure that there is always the required minimum number of crew on the ship, should there be an incident in port.
What happens if you miss the ship?
You freak out! Haha! This is the reason crew have to be back on board earlier than the guests. I have to admit, I’ve nearly done it myself…I was in Cozumel on RCL’s Navigator of the Seas, hosting a corporate group, and I decided to do a private tour to go see the stingrays. It was an amazing excursion, but on the way back, the boat broke down… we had to wait for another boat to come and help us out, and we arrived at the pier 30 minutes after the ship was due to have left. Luckily for me, the tender operations were taking longer than expected and the ship was delayed, so I made it onto the last tender back, but I’ve never done my own excursion since then!
What would actually happen is that the port agent would help you (crew or guest) rejoin the ship at the next port, but you’d hope it was in the same country, or that you have your passport on you, otherwise you have to get an emergency one sorted, and you’ll be hit with the cost to get back to the ship…and that’s if you’re not fired!
Do the crew have a bar?
Yes. Every ship has a crew recreation area, although some are better than others. The larger ships have a huge “back deck” for crew to have a discounted drink and dance, or play board games, karaoke or XBox etc, but even the smaller ones will have a games room of some sort and an area to drink and dance/socialise. They all have a shop or area to buy snacks and essential toiletries too.
How many hours do crew work?
Well, this depends on their role. Ships are still bound by legal working hours and crew have to clock in and out for their shifts to ensure they’re not working longer than they should be. That said, most positions don’t have a day off whilst they’re on board, they will work their hours every single day and then enjoy the extended break in between contracts.
How long is a contract?
This also varies between positions and also between cruise lines. Generally speaking, housekeeping staff will work 6-8 month contracts and have a couple of months off in between. Bar staff usually do 6 month contracts, with 2 months off. Vocalists/entertainers are the same, although on some larger ships their contracts can be up to 9 months including rehearsals before they board. Senior Officers usually do 4 months on, 2 months off and Captains vary but around 6 weeks on, 6 weeks off.
What do you want to do as a real job?
Ah, my heart breaks for them whenever I hear this one! The entertainers on board have trained for years, gone through hundreds of auditions, spent hundreds of hours rehearsing and honing their skills to bring the incredible production shows to the guests. It is absolutely a career, and an incredibly challenging one at that. Please don’t ever ask them this!
What are crew areas like?
Again, this is very specific not only to the cruise line, but also to the ship. Crew areas are generally not a priority to be updated, so an older ship will probably have dated crew areas, but they are always meticulously clean.
As mentioned before, every ship has some type of recreation room which will have games – jenga is always a favourite! Some will have karaoke, there is usually a DJ set-up or speakers to connect to and band equipment.
They usually have their own pool and deck area for relaxing and enjoying the sun and there are internet facilities, ie computers, for them to use. Internet is still charged on most cruise lines, but they get chargeable cards to purchase it.
Can the Owner’s Suite only be booked by the cruise owner?
No! An ‘Owner’s Suite’ means a suite fit for the head of a household. It will have a separate bedroom, bathroom and walk-in robe and adjoining living area. Generally, this is the highest level of suite you can book on a ship, and they will be absolutely stunning – with the price tag to match!
Photo credit: Silverseas
Who steers the ship when the captain is hosting dinner?
Haha, this one always makes me laugh. The Captain has a whole navigation team, usually split into 2 teams to work shifts. He does not need to be at the wheel 24/7..even the captain needs to sleep! The Staff Captain is actually second in command, so should anything happen to the Captain, he/she would step up.
Does the Captain really have to ‘go down’ with the ship?
As the Master of the vessel, the Captain is in charge of everything on board, so yes, they should be the last to leave the ship, or ‘go down’ with it.
Are there enough lifeboats for everyone on board?
Yes, and more than enough life jackets too, to accommodate guests who can’t get to their cabin to pick up theirs, and just head straight to the muster station. The tenders can be deceptive, I’ve watched many a guest look at them and discuss how there isn’t enough, or they’re not big enough… I can assure you they are!
Do crew sleep in regular cabins?
The crew have their own cabins, usually in the lower decks of the ship. They will most often share, with the exclusion of head of departments and senior officers. It depends on the cruise line as to how many people they may have to share with. They are generally bunk beds, so think of a Uni dorm room, with a shared bathroom. They’re pretty small and basic, but crew make them homely with photos and a few personal items. They all have TVs and the beds have curtains for privacy from room-mates.
What do crew do in their time off?
Whatever they like! They have access to a gym, plus the pool/deck they can relax in (in crew area). There is the rec room and many spend time doing hobbies like drawing, playing guitar, craft or just watching movies! They are also encouraged to get off the ship where possible too.
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I know we’re not getting into port but are the shore excursions cancelled too?
Yes, this was actually asked one time…you have to laugh!
How can I tell if I’m port or starboard?
Ok, this is a very common one. Port is ‘left’, I think of it as having the same number of letters, and Starboard is ‘right’. So, if you stand facing the front of the ship, you have Starboard to the right of you and Port to the left of you.
Where do the crew eat?
There are generally 2 types of ‘mess’ on a ship, the crew mess and the officer’s mess. They are basically canteens, the crew grab a tray, and then help-themselves to the buffet-style food. The menu changes daily and will include a variety of salads, meats, curries, rice, chips etc. A variety of soft drinks are on offer and the crew clear the tables themselves.
Do the crew move ships after each cruise?
The crew will work their full contract on one ship and then go on vacation before joining the next ship. Usually, they will rotate between ships, but they can request to stay with one, and some cruise lines have ‘home’ ships, where the same crew team will stay with one specific ship.
Whilst we’re all about health at the moment, check out my post,
Do you have chores on the ship?
Not as such, but they are expected to keep their cabins clean, linen washed and always be presentable for their shifts, so they do their own laundry. There are regular cabin inspections, so no chance for laziness!
Do you have to be able to swim to work on a cruise ship?
Well, technically no, but you will have to complete an STCW (Standards of Training and Certification for Watchkeepers) course before you are allowed to work on any commercial ship, which includes fire fighting, sea rescue and all drill procedures on board, so you may find it challenging to complete this if you can’t swim.
Is there a lift to get to the front of the ship?
You’d be amazed how often guests ask this one too! It could be a good invention though…
I hope this gave you a bit of an insight and also a chuckle!
Thank you to Stephen Hardy for his suggestion for this blog post, I always love getting blog ideas from readers, so please let me know if there’s something you’d like me to write about and I’ll do my best!
Thanks for taking the time to read, please share and comment below if you’ve enjoyed it 🙂
See you next time,
Wendy A x
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