I have never dreamed about sweeping the seas and oceans. Three years ago I could not even imagine that I will work on cruise ship. But life is sometimes very unpredictable. Very often the life surprises us with something we could not even imagine. Job on a cruise ship was just a stroke of luck for me, but now already more than 2 years I work on a cruise vessel. How everything started for me, you can read here Working on a cruise ship. Real story.
Very often, when I come back to Russia and meet people, I see how people are surprised to hear about my current job. Some people admire my work experience, while others feel jealous or think about such profession very negatively. Quite often I hear in my direction something like this: “You are very lucky because you can travel a lot. We do not have the possibility to travel abroad even once a year”. No matter what kind of emotions people express about jobs on cruise ships, I more and more often realize that most people are not aware of such a profession.
To be honest, before I started my sea career, I also looked at work on cruise ship through rose-colored glasses. In reality, ship work proves to be something special or even abnormal. This kind of job can not be described as good or bad, it is just something different. It is a completely different world, and not every person can adapt to it. This kind of work environment is difficult to describe, and almost impossible to imagine. Let me describe some difficulties you are going to face if you choose to work on a cruise ship with no sea experience.
1. Work on cruise ship is based on sea contract.
You sign a working contract before you start working on a ship. The duration of your contract in most of the cruise companies depends on the place of your residence. Thus, most of the crew from European countries have to work for 4 or 6 months, while workers from Latin America or Asia spend on board 8-9 months. Do you feel the difference?
2. Work on cruise ship means long working hours.
The amount of working hours is between 8-12 hours a day. The hours are divided between different shifts: morning, lunch, dinner and night duty.
- Here is the example of working hours if you have only two shifts: 06.00-11.00 и 17.00-23.00.
- Here is an example of three-shift duties: 08.00 -11.00, 11.30-14.30 и 17.00-22.30.
Think for a moment, what can you manage to do during 1-2 hours break? Eat something, wash clothes and maybe have a short sleep.
3. Work on cruise ship means No day-off.
There are no day-off on a ship. It means you work 7 days per week for 6 months. Is it hard? Oh, yes, it is very difficult. When we work ashore, we are all looking forward to the weekends to have a good sleep, relax and do something we love. On the ship, there is nothing to wait. The next Saturday for you will be in 6 or even 8 months.
4. Work on cruise ship includes plenty of training.
Apart from a regular job, it is obligatory for every crew member to attend different kinds of training. Most of the training is connected with safety on board. What to do in case of fire? What to do if the ship starts to sink? How to evacuate people and provide first medical assistance?
You have to participate in all training and then write a test. If you pass, it means you know exactly what to do in case of emergency and can continue your career on a vessel. However, if your test result will not be good enough, you are considered not qualified for work on a ship and should leave the vessel.
5. Expensive Internet.
The Internet on the ship is not only expensive but also a very slow one. You should forget about YouTube movies and video calls with your friends and relatives.
The only possibility is to find free Wi-Fi in ports or some restaurants in the city. But there is also no guarantee that the Internet will be fast enough.
6. Risk of shipwreck and a big responsibility for a life of passengers.
Although most of the cruise ships are equipped with all necessary safety equipment to minimize the risk of shipwreck, the small risk always will be.
Every crew member has a safety card, where he can find his emergency duty and his exact role in case of emergency. Where should he go, what he must do, which people he is responsible for, etc. Safety on the ship is the main priority because the life of thousands of people depends on the knowledge and responsibility of each crew member.
7. Cabin inspection.
Normally, there are 2-4 workers are living in one cabin. The exceptions are crew members who have a high position in a company and wear shoulder straps. They live in a single cabin. Approximately once a week, there is a cabin inspection, where each crew member’s cabin is checked for cleanliness. If your cabin is not clean enough, plenty of garbage or you forgot to unplug the electronic device (safety issue) you will receive a rebuke and later will be sent home.
8. Work on cruise ship is similar to army service.
Even if you have never been in the army, you can surely imagine how strict is it there. Severe discipline, lack of freedom, everything is clear and well-organized. On the ship is exactly the same. Even the chain of command works similarly. The higher your position, the more straps you have. Workers without status must obey those with one strap. And in turn, those who have one shoulder strap are subordinated to ones with two.
9. Strict punishment system.
The ship has a precise punishment system. You are late, did not complete your task properly, received complaints from guests, was rude to your supervisor- all these are direct ways for a rebuke and extra working hours. You made the same misstep two more times, be ready to sign a letter of resignation and travel home at expenses. Goodbye, marine career.
10. The sea does not wait for anybody.
It is extremely important always be on time. If you get stuck in traffic and do not manage to come back to the ship at the right time, nobody is going to wait for you. The ship will travel to the next destination, and you will probably get a piece of paper with the location of your luggage. You will have to catch the ship at the next port or travel direct home. In both situations, you will have to pay all the expenses by yourself.
Punctuality at work is also extremely important. One minute of being late means you will not be able to accomplish your duty on time. And as I have already mentioned before, not being able to cope with the tasks leads directly to extra working hours and a bad reputation.
11. Critical lack of sleep.
Training, 10-hour working day, cabin cleaning, laundry takes most of the day. As a result, you only have about 10 hours of free time. Let’s say you spend about 1 hour on breakfast, lunch, and dinner altogether. The remained 9 hours, you have to divide between sleep, going outside and spending time with friends.
Surely, it is better for a body if after a hard long day you go directly to sleep. However, each person is a social being and without socializing you can just become crazy. At the same time, spending time in fresh air is also vital for our organism. Therefore, the only option is to alternate all needs.
As a result, I sleep for about 5 hours a day. Mostly it is 3 hours at night and two hours at lunchtime. At the beginning of my ship career, it was very difficult for me to get used to such a sleep mode. I constantly drank coffee, energy drinks but continued to fight with myself for not falling asleep at work. However, after about 1 month of work, the body adapted to such conditions and lack of sleep began to cause less discomfort.
12. Work on cruise ship is especially hard for ladies.
Every girl wants to have well-trimmed nails, healthy strong hair, smooth skin, etc. However, maintaining health and beauty requires plenty of time. How we already know the free time on a ship is a shortage. By the way, even if there was enough time for all necessary beauty treatments, it would not be so easy to organize them. How can you find a good cosmetologist, hairdresser or manicurist if every single day you are in a new city?
13. Where is the real home?
Think for a moment. Most of the crew members spend 8 months on board and only 2 at home. The seafarer sees his wife and kids only once a year, and even then only for a very short time. Then there is a question arises: Where is his home? Maybe the ship is actually a real home, while shore life is only some kind of vacation destination.
Even me, working only 6 months in a row, very often I realize, that I became closer to some colleagues than to some friends and relatives from my childhood. It is sad because the more you stay away from home the weaker is the connection between you and your motherland.
14. Parallel relationship.
To be alone on the ship is not morally easy. All your relatives are far away, and in case of a problem, there is no one to cry to. That is why parallel relationships and additional family is quite a usual thing on the ship. It means seafarer has one family ashore and another partner (or even wife/husband) onboard.
Moreover, some ashore wives do not mind that their husbands have other partners on the ship. They are happy, that their husbands work hard and earn enough money for a family.
15. Difficulties of cross-cultural communication.
There are plenty of different nationalities working on the same ship. For example, the cruise company I work for employs crew members from more than 50 countries. It means that 50 different cultures with various life-perception and views have to find a common language to work and live together in peace and harmony.
It is not always easy. Maybe you are a quiet person who prefers to spend time in silence with a nice book. Suddenly, you got a new cabin mate, who is a party guy and loves music. He goes late to sleep, and always disturbs you with loud music. Would you feel comfortable and remain always smiling and positive? Or maybe it is easier to kill him with a pillow (just joke).
16. “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”.
This famous quote by William Shakespeare perfectly describes life on the ship. Each crew member on the ship understands how important it is to maintain a friendly atmosphere and pay attention to what are you saying. Maybe if you tell something wrong and offend your colleague, he will not be able to deal with it and will just jump overboard. For sure nobody wants to be a part of this situation and feel guilty of the rest of life. Therefore, everyone smiles on the ship and tries to seem friendly. However, what a person thinks of you and speaks behind your back is another thing. You never know what is hidden under the mask of friendliness.
- With this post, I did not want to discourage you from working on the ship. My goal was only to expand your knowledge about sea work and help you to make the decision about future profession more conscious. If you start your career on a cruise ship, just do not expect an easy life. The possibility to travel around the world and see what other people are only dreaming about, have to be paid back by your hard work and enormous endurance. However, despite the difficulty of the profession, thousands of crew members come back to the ship and feel themselves at home. Despite plenty of tests on the mental ballast which job on the ship includes, the sea also gives the sailors something special and unique. Read about it in my next article (coming soon): Work on a cruise ship: what are the advantages?