Let me start this post by saying that I loved working on a cruise ship. It was such an amazing experience for me and think back to it with fondness every time. However, that is not to say that it was not hard, tiring, and overwhelming most days. So today I want to share with you some of the things most people do not want to tell you about working on board so you walk into it with open eyes.
You work extremely long days, weeks, and months
One of the most asked questions about cruise life is: When do you get off? The answer is never. Well, you do get your birthday off, but that it is. You work every day of the week for the length of your contract. You cannot imagine what it is like to work every day for six months until you have done it. In the beginning, it is not so bad because you still have energy. After a while, work just becomes part of the routine, but after a few months, you are exhausted and cannot wait to get home. You work between nine and eleven hours every day and the free time you have you try to spend some time with friends or explore the port. By the end of your contract, you just want to sleep though and leave the ship less often in favor of your bed. Working this much is great if you love your job, but it is definitely not for everyone.
You are stuck with the same people for months
Having colleagues you do not get along with is normal in all jobs. We cannot be best friends with everyone and nobody expects you to be. However, on the ship, this is taken to a completely different level. You might get lucky and the person you don't like disembarks the week after you arrive. More often than not though, you have to be together for almost the whole day for a few months. And that is not just at work. Since you already spend so much time with your colleagues and they are the ones that have a similar schedule than you, they are also the people you do to eat with, go ashore with, and spend time with in the crew bar. Therefore it means you are spending almost 24/7 with your team so if you do not get along it is not ideal. Of course, you might have an amazing team or find great friends outside of it, but be aware that if you are the type of person who needs space from others, this might not be ideal for you.
There are strict rules for everything
For the safety of the passengers and the crew, there are more rules and regulations on board than most other places I have visited. From what you can have in your cabin to where you can be is regulated in some way. You cannot go into the passenger area without a uniform. You have to be back onboard by a certain time before the passengers. Your alcohol level cannot be above a certain level. You cannot socialize with the security. There are about a million more some more serious than others. But the point is that every aspect of your life is controlled and regulated. You can only eat in a certain dining room, use certain facilities, and have certain privileges that come with your job. Any violation could lead to a warning or worst case immediate disembarkation.
You will miss so much going on ashore
Being onboard six months a year inevitably means you will not be home. Be prepared to miss everything from new movie releases over birthdays to graduations. There is no saying when you will be onboard and when not, it is most likely you will eventually miss out on something you regret. This is the main reason you will see mainly young people working onboard and they will leave once they want to settle down and start a normal life. For me, if I ever went back, this is something I would only do for a couple of years max after graduating to travel and make money, then leave the life behind. Make sure you can deal with missing much of life ashore while onboard.
There is no privacy onboard
This is one that can be a dealbreaker for many. If you are not in a manager position, you will be most likely be sharing a cabin with at least one other person. While you might be alone sometimes if you don't have equal schedules, there is always a chance your roommate comes back at any time. Since you party with the people you work, there is nothing they do not know, and ship crew are some of the most gossipy people I know. The whole ship knows who has slept with whom, who hate each other, and everything else worth talking about. It is sometimes scary how quickly information makes it around. The only way you can ever do something in private is to go ashore, and even then you have to make sure to avoid the places crew normally hang out. It is something that many people have a hard time adjusting to.
You make amazing friends you might never see again
The most frustrating thing about cruise ships is the way the staffing works. You get assigned to whichever ship needs you the most the moment you embark. You can always request a ship, but it depends on the company how much they take your wish into consideration. This means that most likely you will see completely different people during your different contracts. You make great friends with your colleague and once one of you disembarks you don't know if you will ever see them again. It is a very frustrating and sad thing, especially when you really click with someone. It is one of my biggest fears about going back to working onboard a cruise ship. I had such an amazing first contract with great people that the next one just wouldn't be the same without all of them.
Romantic relationships are hard
Whether you have someone onboard or at home, it is not easy to maintain it. Many crew members have the mentality that if your significant other is not onboard, they do not exist and therefore you are fair game. Also, the internet connection is shitty at best, so you will have a hard time talking and calling regularly. If you are together onboard, you have to work around different schedules, annoyed roommates, and so many more obstacles. It is not impossible, but it is hard. Further, only a few months can feel like years since by now you have basically moved in together and are so much closer than a couple who has been dating for the same amount of time on land. If you want to read more about this topic, check out my post on friendships and love onboard here.
Now that we have covered some of the not so glorious sides of working onboard a cruise ship, let me tell you that it is still one of my favorite jobs I have done. I enjoyed it, but many people go into it knowing only about being a passenger on a cruise ship which is very different than working. It is not all glamorous and luxury, but hard work. If you still think this might be something for you but not sure what you should do, here is a guide to all different positions. I also have a whole section dedicated to first contracts, which you can check out here.
I hope all this information helps you make a decision about working onboard a cruise ship with more information than I did back then. If you have any other tips or stories you would like to share, feel free to do so in the comments or on social media. I always love to hear from you.