Have you ever thought about working on a cruise ship? My Cruise Ship Life Mini Series gives you an inside look into what it’s like.
Welcome to part 3 of 4 of my Cruise Ship Life mini-series! If you missed part 1, click here to read all about what to expect on your first day onboard, what living in a cabin with a roommate is like, tipping and laundry strategies and more! If you missed part 2, click here for advice on what to pack for six months away from home.
The main reason I wanted to start working on a cruise ship was to get paid to travel. I had always wished that I spent a year traveling after college, but I’m also glad that I waited until I was in my later 20’s so I could fully immerse myself in the experience and appreciate it more than I would have. One thing you’ll find is that a lot of people that are employed on cruise ships from other countries aren’t there because they simply want to travel the world and experience new cultures. Many people are there to support their families because they couldn’t find jobs in their own countries or the exchange rate works out better for them because they’re working for an American country. I found it so interesting to discover what brought people to ship life in the first place.
Even though you have to work every single day when you’re on a cruise ship, there’s no shortage of time off to enjoy activities both on and off the ship. I had gone on two cruises before working on a cruise ship, and I actually feel like I missed out on so many of the activities that were going on while I was onboard. Luckily, if you’re living on the ship, your work schedule will rotate, and hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy many of the activities onboard and take advantage of deals in ports.
You’ll be surprised by how many people opt to stay on the ship rather than explore the ports, especially those who have been with the company for several years. If you’re able to get off the ship, take the opportunity. Whether you have the entire morning and afternoon off or just a few hours, make use of the time you have on land. There will be times when you’re exhausted and just want to sleep in, and that’s okay, but if your ship’s itinerary only calls for you to only visit a port a few times during your contract, be sure to take advantage of it. On the Elation, the itinerary only had us scheduled to go to Key West once during my entire six months, so when I had the morning and afternoon off, I took full advantage of this. Luckily, we stopped again twice due to weather, but if we hadn’t, that one time would have been my only opportunity to see Key West, which ended up being one of my favorite ports.
If you have relatively the same itinerary throughout your contract, you’ll start to feel a little like a local in the ports. You’ll learn your way around, make friends with the some of the locals and have your favorite spots to visit. Make sure you go out and adventure and have experiences rather than just trying to find free WiFi.
Go on excursions! I regret not going on more of them when I was working onboard. I did go on quite a few, like swimming with dolphins, riding horses on the beach and snorkeling with stingrays, but there are so many things I wish I would have made time for. Cruise ship employees receive discounts for excursions, and there are some departments that get a limited amount of free excursions, depending on the excursion. Sometimes, the HR department will also work with the excursions team to put together a special excursion exclusively for crew members.
Off the ship, there are some places that offer crew discounts. In Key West, my crew ID got me a discount on an all-day bike rental, and most of the museums were free. In Nassau, crew members got a discount for Atlantis. Take advantage of these deals!
Most people look forward to working on a ship because it gives them the opportunity to travel, but there are so many fun things you can do onboard as well. If you followed my Snapchat while I was living onboard the Elation, you know that I went to the shows often. If I was free when a show was going on, I would go because the cast was extremely talented, individually and especially as a group.
I became friends with the Playlist cast because they were all awesome, and being friends with them made me want to go to the shows even more. Dann and I would sit in the front row, and they would make faces at us and be silly onstage. They were incredible.
Beyond the Playlist shows, you can also visit the showband, see the solo guitarist, visit the piano bar and go to the comedy shows. Some ships have magic shows or even burlesque shows. There’s so much talent onboard, and it really means so much to them when you go out of your way to visit them and see them in action.
Also, when you start making friends in other departments, you can go visit them as well. I had a few friends in entertainment, and when I went to see the Playlist cast perform, if I didn’t sit in the front row, I would hang out by the stairs and watch the show while they worked. You could also visit the entertainment staff while they’re running karaoke (I always loved to sing a song or two after the crowd cleared out) or doing trivia (the one time my roommate and I participated, we did horrible).
There are also areas of the ship that are exclusively for crew members. The most popular one is usually crew bar. You can get discounted drinks (we’re talking $1.25 for a screwdriver, and they always have a drink special that’s just $2) and snacks, like chips and microwavable soups. You can also play PS4, board games, foosball and pool. When I was on the Sunshine, my friend, Carol, and I used to bring cards to crew bar and play a few rounds of whatever we felt like that day.
The HR department also hosts several crew events throughout the month. A few events that happened while I was onboard include karaoke night, blackjack and poker tournaments, Just Dance tournament (first place won by yours truly), open mic night, movie night, BINGO and so much more. They also usually have a big themed party about once every month. Those were always my favorite. I helped organize the Mardi Gras party, and the camp staff was usually in charge of decorating for the crew parties.
There’s a little something for everyone to do onboard, no matter what your reasoning is for wanting to work on a cruise ship. Whether you want to have a drink or two in crew bar, adventure in the ports or stay in your PJs for a movie night, you’re sure to find something you love about ship life.
What would you want to do if you lived on a cruise ship?