What are the living conditions like aboard a cruise ship at sea?

While it is true that accommodations are sometimes cramped, especially on smaller vessels, and you'll be sharing your cabin with little or no privacy, most find the experience similar to their first year in college dorm, but without the homework. Generally, staff positions have their own dining room and can access guest areas like swimming pools, gyms, recreation areas, etc.

What are some of the places a person may get to see as an employee aboard one of the larger cruise lines?

The ports of call and sheer number of destinations reached by cruise lines today offer cruise employees an unparalleled opportunity for travel. For instance, last year a Princess Cruises cruise ship traveled from Acapulco, through the Panama Canal, around the Caribbean, across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. After that, it headed down to North Africa, around the British Isles, through the Baltic Sea, and back across the Atlantic to New York.

Today, cruise ships are sailing all over the world, so you have the opportunity to visit a number of exciting destinations.

How much time do you spend off the ship?

The amount of time you spend off the ship depends on three main factors.

  1. The contract you hold with your employer
  2. The amount of time your ship allows passengers to visit ports.
  3. Your position on the cruise ship. Crew members working in departments and positions that are slow or closed when a ship is in port, generally have more free time in each port.

When your ship stops at ports most crew members are allowed (and in most cases encouraged) to get off the ship and explore. Generally, crew members are allowed to be out in port until one hour prior to departure (of course, unless they are on duty).

If hired, will the cruise line buy my uniforms?

It depends on the cruise line. Some companies will pay for crew member's uniforms and some will require their crew members to purchase their own uniforms. Almost all of the cruise lines require their crew members to purchase their own shoes that are in accordance with uniform regulations. Make sure you determine what the company policy is on uniforms prior to accepting a position.

Are crew members allowed to use guest amenities?

 Most of the cruise lines will allow their crew to use guest amenities on their time off. However, passengers always take priority when using the pool, gym etc. Most cruises will also offer their crew a mess or recreation area/ dining hall and in some cases a crew bar where drinks are sold considerable less than in passenger's bars.

What happens if I decide to break my contract?

If you decide that cruise life is not for you and break your contract you will have to pay for all costs to get yourself home.

It is actually preferred by the cruiseship companies for you to do multiple contracts. The companies invest time andmoney for your training, uniforms, lodging and transportation. These companiesare looking for long term employees.

What if I become really sick or get injured on the ship?

While you are working for the cruise line whether it be onboard or off you are covered by them medically. If you are at sea and become ill, you may see the nurse and/or doctor for free in the ship's medical facilities. If you become so ill or injured that you are no longer able to finish your contract, you will disembark and absorb the costs of ongoing treatment yourself (often covered by your health insurance). It is always best to inquire about the medical coverage you will receive prior to accepting a contract.

If the company you are going to work for does not offer a comprehensive health insurance policy, you may want to keep (or get) your own health insurance policy or take out a traveler's insurance policy through a private company.

What kind of training regarding safety and emergency protocol will I receive?

Crew members will be required to attend a safety course following embarkation on the ship. Instruction on lifeboat/raft safety, fire drills and understanding of fire safe and watertight doors will be taught. You will encounter routine emergency drills throughout your employment on the ship.

What happens if somehow I miss the ship when I am at port?

This is never a good idea and could result in a demotion or loss of job. Most companies require their crew to be on-board an hour prior to departure. Pay close attention to the sailing schedule and keep an eye on time. If you do however, for some good reason miss the ship your cruise line's agents will help you find the ship and board again. However, there may be some expense to you.

Can I apply for a specific ship with a cruise line?

The best course of action is to apply to the various cruise companies of your choice. After you have made a strong impression on the company and they indicate they would like for you to work for them, politely request a ship you would like to work on.

Can I work on the same cruise ship as my spouse or friend?

Yes, this may be possible. However, you don't want to make a whole bunch of requests before you are hired. We recommend that you and your spouse/friend each apply to the same set of companies. But you should each apply separately and then during to the mid to later stages of the interview process, you should let your recruiter/human resources representative know that your spouse/friend is also interested in working on the same ship. If a position is available that he/she is qualified for, many companies will try to make things work out.

Please note that companies are more likely to accommodate married couples, but often they can help arrange it so you can work with a friend as well.

Can I live with my spouse on the ship?

Yes, this is usually possible. It will be important to let the company know that you are on the ship with your husband/wife prior to making room assignments so the company has plenty of time to plan accordingly.

How can I remain in contact with my world at home?

Many cruise ships do offer internet connections for laptop computers and also have a computer lounge for those without computers (however there may be a fee for both of these options). If the cost is more than you want to pay, it is common for crew members to visit one of the many internet cafes that are in each of the ports of call.

You may keep in touch with people from back home through e-mail, cellular phones, phone cards and mail. Mail goes to the company agents in various ports and is delivered to ships when they dock there and distributed on board. The internet offers many ways to stay connected with the world when you are away. Online banking, shopping and correspondence can keep your life up and running.

I have never been at sea for very long, what happens if I get seasick?

Most cruise ships are large and seasickness is usually not a problem. There is some generic over the counter medicine that can help you with seasickness. Most people find that getting some fresh air on a deck that is in the middle of the ship and lower will be a little less rocky. Additionally, many find that their seasickness goes away after their body has had some time to adapt.

What are the destinations for cruise ships and can employees choose a destination?

Cruise lines offer destinations worldwide, but the biggest demand for the Chinese crew members are in Asian countries like Japan, China and South Korea. Most of the cruise lines do not offer a choice for new hire employees,  after one or two contracts employees get some choice of ships and destination.

Will I always work on the same ship?

Assignments are based on many factors, and priority is given to business need. You might be transferred to another ship as necessary.

Do I have free time?

You will work 7 days a week and more than 10-hour days, but when you are off duty you are free to visit the ports of call. Leisure time varies between shipboard positions and cruise lines.