|My best friend and I in Valencia|
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 woman 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 exaggerating. 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 narrowed down the possible dating pool considerably.
Now of course you can see dating people from the same department could be a curse in disguise. 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 other. 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. Do 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 it 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.
What to do when one of you leaves?
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 the 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 completely 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 then-boyfriend on board and we were in a long-distance relationship while he was still on board and after. And let me tell you, it SUCKED! So just be ready for a lot of pain and loneliness, but if it works, it is totally worth it. But just know what you want before one of you leaves.