There is certainly something exciting and intriguing about life on a cruise ship. And for some people, it seems like the perfect career move. You get to see the world, meet interesting people and your room and board are included, so what could be better? But according to those who have made this huge leap of faith and taken a job as a crew member, it is definitely a different world and far from what cruise guests would imagine.
As an entry-level staff member, the annual salary is likely to range from about $14,500 to $21,500. The key to moving up in the service industry is customer service and strong language skills. Servers who can converse with guests and create a bond will obviously earn more in tips and will also be on the fast track for greater responsibility and higher paying positions. But what potential new hires do not consider is that there are no days off while the ship has guests, which is all of the time. So expect to work day in and day out with a weekly tally of 80 to even 100 hours.
As a server in the States, you are likely to be working in a fast paced and demanding environment but there is also going to be air conditioning and ample staff to meet the demands of the guests. But a cruise ship is not able to add staff to accommodate a busy day at a certain bar or restaurant nor do many of the outdoor areas include any cooling. So your twelve hour day could be spent running back and forth across a sweltering deck in a full uniform and with no second shift to arrive for relief. Another factor to consider is that guests on a cruise tend to overindulge on a regular basis. No one is driving home or getting up early for work so good judgment is not a necessity. This makes a large percentage of your customers hard to deal with and even belligerent by the end of your very long day.
Not that you will have a great deal of free time while on the ship, but the time that you do have to yourself may only be spent in your miniscule bunk area or the few crew common areas in the bowels of the ship. Fraternizing with guests is strictly prohibited. As a result, the crew area is very reminiscent of fraternity row at a large college. The staff gets together to commiserate and drown their sorrows on a nightly basis. By the end of a contract, you have abused your body with high-stress levels, little sleep and copious amounts of alcohol; not a healthy combination at any age.
Being young and single can make a year contract on a cruise ship sound very appealing, but there are a lot of details that are not fully disclosed to applicants. Chances are that even those who love going on cruises would not be happy as an employee. But the other take away for all cruise guests is the reminder that the servers and staff on your next cruise are not making great money, living in lavish suites or working an eight-hour shift. So be polite, patient and offer a nice tip for great service or extra effort made to ensure that your vacation is one to remember.