Cruise Contracts for Dummies

No matter which position you are interested in whether it’s chef, cruise director, DJ, or spa attendant, you will have to sign a cruise contract. Cruise contracts typically outline everything from benefits to responsibilities. Before you show up for your first day at work, you will have to submit the signed contract. The contract is renewed each time you return from leave and it is usually remains in effect for anywhere from 4-12 months.

Like any other contract for services, there are things you should look out for. For starters, if the contract is not issued before you board the ship, this could be a red flag. Cruise lines should give new hires enough time to read the contract and clear up any questions they may have. If the cruise line doesn’t provide the contract well in advance and you still feel the line is worth working for, pay close attention to the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Ask as many questions as you need to, even if you receive the contract on your first day. You are not locked in until you sign on the dotted line. This is the only way to protect yourself in case of a disagreement about payments, commission, expenses, taxes, or insurance.

According to Sandra Bow, author of Working on Cruise Ships, you should ask for clarification on the following points:

Ask your manager or boss if you are expected to travel to the ship at your own expense and if you are expected to book your own flights. Most cruise lines provide air travel to and from the ship.

Ask if you are expected to pay for your own uniform. If so, ask if there are any accessories that you need to purchase and if they are available on the ship. In most cases, the cruise line will provide uniforms and accessories for you.

Ask about health insurance. Will the cruise line cover you or do you have to carry your own personal policy? If the cruise line provides health insurance ask what it covers. Will it include dental, vision, maternity? Most cruise lines provide full health insurance coverage for full-time employees.

Ask if taxes will be deducted by the employer or if you will be liable for your own tax declarations.

When will you receive your first payment and what form will it take? Cash, direct deposit, or company check.

Special Requirements
Ask if you will be required to bring any special equipment. If you are a chef, ask if you should bring chef’s knives. If you are photographer, should you bring a special photographers camera. Or if you are a gentlemen host, should you bring a particular type of dress – formal, casual, or semi-formal.

Contract Conditions
Ask about the terms of the contract. How long is it for? Is the full duration of the contract subject to the successful completion of a trial work period?

Ask if you are expected to pay commissions on your earnings, and if so, for how long? This is an important question to ask as many agencies include contractual clauses that require commissions on extended follow-up contracts or additional offers for work.

Any Other Expenses
Although most cruise lines provide free meals and accommodations, a few may deduct money from your pay for these expenses. It is important to clarify this so there won’t be any surprises when you receive your first paycheck.

Tip: If your new employer informs you that your contract will not be ready until you board the ship, be sure to obtain a letter or document from your employer stating your start date and the vessel you will be joining. This letter can be in the form of an email (just print it out), a fax copy, or if you have time, ask them to mail it to you.

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