Okay, okay, the pay is great and so are the travel opportunities but what is it really like living onboard a cruise ship?
Life onboard a cruise ship, or ship of any kind is different than any living experience you're likely to have had on land. Because of maritime laws, regulations and a history of powerful traditions, life at sea has regulations and routines that must be followed. Positions and hierarchy onboard a cruise ship are taken seriously, which typically translates into a social and living environment ruled by protocols and fairly strict rules. The captain, naturally, is the highest-ranking officer onboard and persons in more subordinate roles usually are well aware of the higher-ranking officers to whom they report. It isn't all regime and military like administrations, but ship employees usually account work environments different from those they've experienced on land and report it as one that closely mirrors a naval model. As it turns out, many people enjoy the structure and organization of life on a cruise ship and while in the beginning it takes some getting used to, it often translates into a work environment where people thrive.
Life on a Cruise Ship
Perhaps the biggest and most obvious difference is that you are living at sea, instead of on land. This lends to a myriad of lifestyle differences, including differences in weather. Even in calm environments, the ocean can be unpredictable. Storms at sea are somewhat legendary and high winds and rough waters come with the territory. Passengers onboard (staff included) are always safe onboard the ship, but for some people, storms at sea and other oceanic factors go unconsidered. For others, salty air in their face, open seas, even in rough weather, sounds like an adventurer's dream come true and are part of the positives they look forward to when considering life on a cruise ship. Needless to say, it can be an exciting and exhilarating way of life.
Cruise Staff Living Conditions and Quarters
It's true, the living conditions for employees on a cruise ship, especially smaller ships, can be cramped. Most often employees share a small room with one or two other people. On large cruise ships these living spaces are similar to a standard passenger cabin but again, these spaces are shared and particularly small. Some higher-ranking officers have single cabins and married couples can apply to live together, however these circumstances are few and far between. Potential employees must also consider the length of time they will be living in a room such as this, which can often be for several months at a time. Cruise line employees usually room in areas away from the passenger cabins. They are typically grouped together, by department and in some cases, even nationality. This creates friendships and tight nit relationships among employees of the same department and ‘team' atmospheres are often used to describe the social nature among employees.
Perhaps the largest factor when it comes to being comfortable with the living environment on a cruise ship is simply adjusting. As is anything new, it can be difficult at first, but most people are able to acclimate to these living environments fairly quickly and don't consider them an area of stress or discontent.
Work Schedules and Personal Space
The schedule of a cruise ship employee is another area that requires some adjusting. Because you live at your place of work and because of the nature of the work, most employees are required to perform some work responsibilities each day. Some days require more work than others and each schedule varies depending on the position. For Cruise Staff employees, and other positions that interact with guests, it can begin to feel like they are on staff 24-hours a day. This is because most companies require their staff to wear company shirts or uniforms and nametags even when they are off duty. This means being stopped to answer questions, give directions and most certainly means having an approachable and sunny disposition at all times whether it be on or off shift.
People who want to avoid the feeling of always being "on", usually find themselves avoiding public places during their hours off and can typically find a niche onboard where they can escape the demands of work for a few hours and enjoy some time alone. All of this usually just takes the time to adjust to the difference. Because the ship provides all the laundry, cooking and cleaning, employees don't have to worry about mundane daily tasks during their time off, and can use those hours for personal or social time. Most ships have employee-only dining halls, lounges and bars, so there are venues specifically designed for employees where they can enjoy being around their peers. Also, while a ship is at port there are usually lots of fun activities to take part in, off the ship. All of these factors help with the feeling of cabin fever, demanding work schedules and other difficult aspects of life onboard.
For the most part, cruise ship employees are happy to have a job which affords them such great benefits, travel and earning potential. While the living quarters and schedules are typically seen as draw backs to the job, they are simply adjustments that need to be made. Most employees will tell you these small drawbacks are worth the positives of working onboard a cruise ship.