So you're wondering how it is to work on a cruise ship, or maybe you're thinking about working on one yourself. Well after 9 ships, 2 different companies and 6 years of my life, I will let you in on my thoughts and opinions of life onboard.
Don't Set Expectations
Honestly, after the interview, the recruiters sell it to you so well, that I joined my first ship with the mindset that it was a dream come true. Now, everything they say is the truth, but what they don't tell you, are the cons of the lifestyle. You need to be prepared to work every-single-day. Even the day you start. I walked onboard and was handed my uniform, sent to training, then to a safety drill and then off to work. I don't even think I had time to let it sink in, where I was and what was happening. My contracts were 6 months, with no days off and with working with kids, it could get a little tiring. We would have time off in the ports, a rotational schedule, giving us time to explore and take tours. Honestly, if you think it sounds rough, I think kids club had it pretty good. Some departments work 9-10 month contracts and can work up to 12 hour days, with little to no time off in ports.
You'll Make Friends For Life
One of the biggest things I loved about working on cruise ships, is how my mind opened to new cultures and to new experiences. I was always one of the few Canadians onboard a ship with 800-1400 crew. Sometimes my youth team could be as big as 17 people. I come from this small city in Canada, where mostly everyone is friendly, to working on a team with 10 different countries where everyone applying their different work ethics, their different opinions, and all have a different way of doing things; WHEW! Talk about building those teamwork skills. It was challenging at first, but I came to understand and appreciate different cultures, different people and I learned so much about them and about myself. It still blows my mind to think that I have built friendships with people from all over the world, even with some amazing families and parents that I met onboard, that I will forever remember.
Once while traveling on a ship to Alaska, I met up with friends from a ship years ago. It was 2 Canadians, a Romanian and an Indonesian, all meeting for dinner in Alaska. Like what??! It's beautiful.
You'll Sometimes Choose Sleep Over Anything
The first contract, you'll have energy that you never knew you had, to do any and everything. If you come back, contract after contract, you'll feel yourself trading in beach days or crew parties for your bed. For me, it was the rotation of schedules all the time. Some weeks early morning shifts, next week late nights. Sometimes it was hard for my body to adjust, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the moments. The first company I worked for had much more crew activities then the second. It kept living onboard fun and enjoyable. There would be different theme parties, waterslide or pool parties, bingo, karaoke, spa nights, food events, and so much more. There is also a crew bar area, that most people would head to after their shift to unwind and chat with friends. Also, even though there was no church onboard because of so many different religions, people within those religions would start their own practices, bible studies, worship nights and others, which I really enjoyed attending.
Some Days You'll Feel Like Your In Highschool
I mean, if you have 800-1400 people confined in a space, floating on the ocean, working up to 12 hours a day, dealing with people all day long, tired, sometimes PMSing; you're bound to have some drama. A lot of the time the internet connection is horrible, or the internet packages are overpriced, so you have to take time off social media (which I ended up loving), but without being able to check your newsfeed every moment; people always find ways to gossip onboard. It can honestly feel like another world.
You'll Miss It When You're Gone
Working on cruise ships can become an addiction. Imagine, you don't pay for rent, bills, groceries, gas, so if you're not a shopaholic (like me) you can save a pretty decent amount. You have your three meals a day, you have a gym, you can watch the sunsets from the middle of the ocean, you can lay on the beach in Aruba one day, and shop in Curacao the next. It can become easy to continue going back. The feeling that I had when I received my first contract and took my first flight to join my first ship is indescribable. It's a feeling everyone should feel, to step out of their comfort zone, to step into the unknown and be filled with so many emotions, from fear to excitement. But eventually, cruise ships became my comfort zone. I'd finish a contract and ask for a 2 or 3-month vacation, and once home, I felt like I didn't belong anymore. My friends were getting married, having babies, I didn't know how to relate and talk about my night in Mexico, or my skydiving in Fiji. So I'd ask to return early. Then I'd be back on board, and remember why I would always say "this is my last contract." I'd get home, and try to apply for land jobs, but thinking about transitioning, I don't know, it scared me.
I moved past that feeling and I am officially no longer on cruise ships, and even though at times I do miss it, I have never been happier. Like any job, it has its pros and cons, but it was a life changing experience for me. I learned and grew so much as a person, being able to travel to more than 58 places around the world, and experience those places and build relationships and create memories that will be cherished forever.