Working on a Cruise Ship

Time off in Port

By Jeremy Head

Can you work for a cruise company and see the world? The answer is yes – but to ensure you get to see the sights when you’ve docked in port you need to choose the right job and the right cruise too.

Cruising is booming! In the last 12 months, 15 million people went on cruise holidays worldwide and the sector continues to grow at around 8% every year. There are over 20 new cruise ships on the order books of the major cruise lines and they will all need crewing. So if you’re looking for a job that involves travel, cruising could be ideal. Cruise lines employ people with all sorts of skills from traditional crew positions to retail, entertainment and hospitality. There’s no such thing as a free ride of course – it’s hard work and shifts can be long – but choose the right kind of job on board and the right cruise destinations and you really can see the world and get paid to do it.

Choose the right job
Certain jobs on board a cruise ship really kick in to gear when the ship is in port and the passengers out of the way. Any job relating to ship maintenance, cleaning and cooking will tend to limit your opportunity to get off the boat yourself. Work in the entertainment team who tend to perform in the evenings, or in the ship’s casino which will typically be closed in port – because it often has to be by law – and you’re already far more likely to be able to go see the sights and scenery. Be a little wary of working in the shore excursions team. This may sound like you’ll see lots of the sights, but you’ll probably find you spend much of your time looking after the needs of passengers whilst on-shore, with little opportunity to really experience the place yourself.

Choose the right itinerary
Some cruise itineraries feature big chunks of time at sea. There’s not much to see except waves and the horizon on ‘at sea’ days. It makes sense once you get yourself employed by a cruise line to try to get work on cruises that make frequent stops at interesting places. For culture creatures, cruises to the Mediterranean are a good place to start- with sites like Rome, the pyramids, and Istanbul often featuring on these itineraries along with exciting metropolises like Barcelona, Milan and Monte Carlo. If you’re more into natural scenery consider cruises in Scandinavia where the stunning valleys and lakes of the fjords provide the most spectacular of backdrops.

Balance your expectations and be organised
Let’s face it, you’re on board first and foremost to do a job – so whatever time you do get to explore the grand bazaar in Istanbul or the pyramids will be quite limited. But you will get to tick a lot of places off on your bucket list. And your outgoings will be really limited. All your food and accommodation costs are taken care of, so you should be saving good amounts of money. So make the most of the opportunities when you get them. Plan ahead to maximise the time you do get in port and switch out of ‘scrimp-and-save’ mode. Hire that taxi and driver to cut down on time spent travelling from ship to cultural site and hire a local guide to help you jump queues and show you the best sights with minimum fuss.

Share the experience
If you do work on cruise ships, you’ll end up spending long periods away from home and from family and friends. And that’s something you need to take into account. Some cruise companies offer great cruise deals for friends and relatives of crew members though. So you can enjoy at least some of the amazing sights with loved ones along for the ride. It’s not unusual for couples to work together on board the same cruise ship too and it’s possible to request this is if you’re both applying for jobs with the same cruise company.

Image courtesy Port of San Diego

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