What to expect once onboard
Once onboard you will be very busy for the entire first week or two. You will be asked to attend numerous mandatory training sessions and since you will be unfamiliar with the ship and the work environment as a whole, it will take you long time to achieve everything, including finding your cabin or the crew mess This is why, it is a good idea to start your trip to the ship rested and try to get as much sleep as possible on the flights prior to signing on.
When you sign on, you most likely will be given an uniform and asked to report on duty right away. Usually there is a “buddy” who will familiarize you with your emergency instructions and important things like where is your room, where you can eat, walk you around the guest and crew areas, etc. You will not have much time for anything, but sleep in your free time, so don’t plan on going out for the first few days at least. You will have to plan ahead things like your trainings, meetings, your laundry, to be able to be on time and get enough rest and avoid stress. While it is important to find balance between work and pleasure, be prepared to have more of the first at the beginning, until you get familiar and accustomed to your new environment.
As you get settled, you will find out that crew members have a lot of fun onboard. It is up to you to make your work as stress free as possible, but also make time for yourself to maintain a good health. On bigger ships there are usually special people who take care of the crew activities onboard, but even if this is not the case, crew members always find the time to recognize someone’s birthday, independence day, anniversaries, religious holidays, etc. Most ships have a small open deck or a bar dedicated to the crew, as well as a gym, game and computer rooms, table tennis and even small pools or a jacuzzi. You will be invited to gatherings in your friends’ rooms or to all crew parties. There are tours offered specifically to the crew, shuttles organized in the different ports to the shopping centers, special crew appreciation dinners, Karaoke or Crew talent shows. There are sports events where you can be part of a team competing against other crew members or guests. As I mentioned before there is a gym and bikes for rent. In short, you will have a good time if you have the right attitude.
You will be allowed to form a relationship with another crew member, however fratinizing with guests is not allowed.
Food and Accommodation
Most ships have several Messes for the crew and depending on your rank and privileges, you may be allowed to guest restaurants as well. The food is usually good enough, but after a while you will feel the need to go out and have an occasional lunch in a local restaurant as well.
As far as accommodation goes, some cruise lines have already eliminated the 3 and 4 birth cabins, you will share maximum with another crew member, or depending on your position have a single room. Some of the newest ships actually have a single room for every one, but you may share a bathroom with another crew member. You will have to be considerate towards the needs of your room mate (s) and if smoking is allowed in the rooms, obtain their permission before lighting a cigarette inside.
This is probably the most important bit of information for everyone who is interested in working on a cruise ship. While the salaries widely very between employees on the same position within the same company , this is more so the case between the different cruise lines. The pay is usually pretty competitive in the cruise industry, however still, make sure you are aware of your exact pay before you sign your contract. A lot of times you may be subject to taxes, allotment, etc, make sure you are familiar with your pay structure before you agree to join a ship. The hiring agent should be able to give you the exact information on this subject.
Lots of people worry if ships are safe and what type of accidents they may encounter. Right off the bet I have to say that the modern cruise ships are built with lots of safety features and they are durable and age well. Of course, just like with everything in life where humans are involved, mistakes can happen and accidents can occur. Mostly they are related to crew members not getting proper rest or taking short cuts in doing something that requires attention to detail and a protective gear. No one can afford to be careless on ships, all crew look after each other and no compromise should be made when safety is concerned.
Despite the fact that I have seen some misfortunate and tragic situations while onboard, I have to say that ships are probably the safest means of transportation and one of the most secure working environments.
I intend this to be a living document, so I will update it with any incoming questions and information. I hope the above details helped you make up your mind whether or not to work on a cruise ship and if you have decided that this is a good idea, I wish you the best of luck and even envy you that you will experience it all with fresh eyes…:-)
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