Cruise Ship Life Part 4 – Friendships and Love on Board

Dear Reader,
So by now you probably love the idea of working on board. You get to see all these amazing places all over the world and meet a bunch of cool people from around the world. But there is a catch! Since everybody is on board for the length of their contract, which started the day they embarked. Once the contract is over, everybody goes back to their home country and then to their next ship. So even if you meet someone the very first day and become best friends right away you only have one contract to build a close enough connection to last for maybe the rest of your life, because there is no guarantee that you will see each other again.

Friendships

You will notice on board that most people are friends with two groups of people. One is the people who work in their department, since they do the same job and spend a lot of their time together. The other are the people with the same nationality, because after a long day at work you might just want something familiar, and for many people english is not their native language, so after a long day, they just want to relax and feel at home. But let’s talk about the first group first.
The people in your department are the first ones you will meet on board. They will also be the ones you spend most of your time with, since you work so much. Plus most likely you will be living with one of them. You can see that it is not hard to start to form friendships with these people. The people in your department will be the ones to invite you out after you all closed for the night, or the ones you go out in port with since you know they are free. So you see how they would become close friends.
The second way to meet people is through your nationality. Now this one really depends on where you’re from and where the people on the ship are from. Most ships have a big group of Indonesians, Philippinos, Indians, Hondurians and people from the Balkans. So if you are from one of those places, chances are you will find a lot of “paysanos” and have an easy way in. Of course this depends on the company you work for, the itinerary you’re doing, the agencies, and some other factors. Most of the times it is safe to say that if you are from Northern or Wester Europe you will have a harder time making friends through this channel. TIP: tag along with your friends from work to stuff organised by their nationalities. Some events are strictly for that nationality, but many are open to all who want to come. You might feel a little left out at first, but the more time you spend with them, the more you will be accepted.
two girls in front of a tower
My best friend and I in Valencia
Now that you are friends with all of these people, but feel like it’s not enough, you can make friends with other people in the mess or the crew bar, but since everybody has the same strategy to find friends, the two above mentioned ways tend to be the most effective.
Once you have established your group of friends, you can start finding your best friend. Most of the time this will end up being your roommate. That’s how it happened for me. My to-be best friend came on board about three weeks after me, and ended up moving into my room. I was set on hating her, but ended up making one of my best friends in the whole world. Since she was the only one in her department and I was constantly changing mine, we were one of the only constants in each others shiplife, so we stuck together. She did include me in all the activities she did with her “paisanos”, so that was nice and since there was only like 5 of them, I made some really good friends.

Dating

Now let’s move on to the thing that really interests people: dating on board.
So the first thing people tell you, when you embark for the first time as a woman, is to be careful with the men. The men on board have a reputation of hitting on anything that moves. Literally every women I talked to in the first week warned me about the men. There are stories going around about men who are known to have wives and children at home and girlfriends on board. Or ones that have families back in their countries and are openly gay on board with boyfriends. So you see how this could be a scary thing to get into.
To be fair, even though the stories probably are true, it really depends on the kind of people you surround yourself with.
I was lucky enough to, from the first moment on, always be surrounded by amazing people. After a while you really get to know the people around you. As I said before, most people tend to only meet people from their department or their nationality. Therefore, that is also where relationships are forming. I tried that at the beginning, but ran into an unexpected problem. Most of the guys I was thinking were cute turned out to be gay. I am not even exagerating. In my first couple of weeks, I made so many guy friends, and at least 80% of them were gay. Not that that is an issue, but it narroved down the possible dating pool considetably.
Now of course you can see dating people from the same department could be a curse in desquise.  Imagine this scenario. You are dating this person, and you see them all the time at your workplace, then you do things together in your free time. In the evening, most likely, you will be squishing together on a tiny twin mattress. Basically you will be spending 24/7 together, which on one side is nice, but on the other hand you might get sick of each other. When you get in a fight you can’t avoid each others. You will meet at work (because you can’t have your boss schedule you on different shifts all the time), you will run into each other at the crew bar to meet up with your friends (who are the same since you work together), etc. You see where I’m going with this? Now if you work in different departments, the situation shifts a little. It may be harder to see each other, especially if you work very different hours, but at least you will appreciate the time spent together. And once in a while, you will get time off together, which is always nice.
How public you make your relationship is up to you. If you are the couple basically having sex in the crew bar, or the one where almost nobody knows you are together, that is completely up to you. Personally, I like when people know I am dating this person, but that is about it. They may see us together sometimes, and we are not hiding or anything, but we are not like the couple everybody talks about. Of course, depending on who you are and who you are dating, you may need to keep in quiet, but you will figure that one out when you get there.
The one big thing about relationships on board, that everybody HATES to talk about, is the end. Because in this life it is inevitable. Don’t get me wrong I am not talking about breakups here (although there are A LOT of those). I am talking about leaving. Unless both of you embarked on the same day and have the same length of contract, it is unlikely that you will disembark the same day. Not impossible, but not very likely. So here is the million dollar question: Do you want to start a long distance relationship with this person that you may only know a couple of months (if that long)? And this is not a normal long distance relationship, because you don’t know when (or if) you will see this person again, since neither of you has real control over your next contracts. You might also be from complete opposite ends of the world and have different cultural backgrounds (which on the ship doesn’t seem like a big deal, but will once you are on land). Plus don’t underestimate how hard long distance is, especially with one of you still on board. You will probably face time difference, which will most likely work against you, plus we all know what the internet connection on board is like. So the most you can hope for is a couple of texts a day, maybe a voice message. On top of that you SO (who is still on board) has the same hectic schedule as before (11 hours a day, 7 days a week), while you are now sitting at home by yourself and not really anything to do.
Now don’t read too much into this. I am not saying “don’t do it”. I am just telling you all the facts most people are too afraid to think about. Actually I meet my current boyfriend on board and we are in a long distance relationship at this moment, since he is still there. And let me tell you, it SUCKS! So just be ready for a lot of pain and loneliness, but for us in the end it will be worth it (even though we aren’t quite sure what the end is yet).
So there you have a short insight on friendships and relationships on board a cruise ship. If you missed it, in Part 1 and Part 2, you can read all about embarking for the first time and the first week on board. Part 3 is all about ports. If you are wondering what it is like to live with a roommate and how to do it the best way, you can find them in Part 5. Also here are some answers to many people ask, which you might have been wondering as well. Lastly, if you need some ideas about what to do in ports, read my port guide here.
Hope there help you get an idea of what the real deal is like. Write to me about your experiences. I would love to heat them in the comments or on social media.
Kisses,
Juli

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