Photographers on cruise ships know how to do much more than take pictures. They motivate passengers, show passengers how to have a good time, and they hustle to make the bucks. Professional photographers on cruise ships work either solo or as part of a 6-7 member team under the direction of an seasoned Chief Photographer. In addition to a can-do attitude, friendly personality, and the ability to multi-task, photographers on cruise ships must have the ability to make split-second shots of passengers, process and develop photographs, set the stage if needed, and operate a wide range of cameras.
Photographers on cruise ships work on commission only. A good photographer can earn anywhere from $300 on the low end up to $1,000 on the high end per week. A big part of a photographers job is to catch passengers as the board the ship, shake hands with the captain, walk through gangways, dine in restaurants, leave the ship at various ports, and party. These photographs are placed on display where passengers can purchase them. This means, photographers are constantly on deadline to get the pictures on display, so that they can sell quickly. This part of the job equals big commissions for these professionals.
If you’re interested in becoming a photographer on cruise ships and you have solid, verifiable skills and references, you can get started by choosing several cruise lines you’re most interested in. You can locate the cruise lines’ OFFICIAL website by visiting the Ships and Cruises Directory for official listings. Once you have located the site, visit the website and search around for job postings. Most cruise line websites have a career center or job postings page. If the cruise line lists photography job openings, be sure to follow the application procedure to the letter. Applicants that do not follow directions are typically passed over in favor of those that do. If the cruise line does not list job openings on its site, send a polished cover letter and resume to the cruise lines Human Resources Department. The Human Resources Department is typically located at the cruise lines headquarters. This information is usually listed on the cruise line website as well. It is important to include the position you are interested in so that it can be directed to the appropriate department manager.
If you need a little help or you prefer to sign up with a placement agency, read our article “How to Choose a Placement Agency” by
About Working on Cruise Ships
So what’s it like working on cruise ships? For starters, it’s fun. Next, there’s lots of freedom. And finally, just about everything is free. Now, just how much fun, freedom, and free stuff you will enjoy will depend on where you fall in the ship hierarchy. Let us explain. Ship employees fall into one of three main categories: officer, staff, and crew. Officers are at the top of the hierarchy. They wear the stripes and enjoy superior accommodations. They also have free access to all ship facilities, and they enjoy the highest salaries. Captains average anywhere from $6,000-$10,000+ per month, staff captains typically earn $5,000-$7,000 per month, and first officers earn around $4,000-$5,000 per month. Can you imagine earning this amount of money plus paid expenses?
Staff members (not staff captains) are second in the hierarchy. These individuals work in retail shops, casinos, and spas. They are also photographers, entertainers, cruise staff, and concession staff. These individuals enjoy unlimited access to passenger areas and they are allowed more time off in port than officers. Most officers have to remain onboard in order to “man” the ship while docked. Staff member salaries vary greatly depending on the position. For example, hospitality managers may earn anywhere from $4,000-$4,800 per month, while retail salespersons may earn $1,400-2,000 per month.
Crewmembers are last in the hierarchy. These individuals make up the largest population of workers on the ship. Crewmembers are non-managerial bar and restaurant personnel, cleaning staff, cabin stewards, galley and laundry personnel, and deck hands. Crewmembers do not have as many privileges as officers and staff members. They have access to the “crew bar,” and they must share accommodations with one or more co-workers. That said, there are several advantages to being a crewmember.
Crewmembers make a significant amount of income in tips, they have lots of room to grow, and they can spend more time having fun at various ports of call rather than remaining on the ship. It is not uncommon for crewmembers to turn down a promotion if it means losing his freedom and his tips! Crewmembers salaries vary greatly depending on the position. For example, a cocktail waiter may earn around $1,600-$2,400 per month, while laundry staff may earn anywhere from $1,000-$1,400 per month.
Now that you know how things work on board, your place, and how much you can expect to make, it’s time to gather your belongings and head out to sea. Most new ship employees end up packing everything but the kitchen sink on their first working trip. Fortunately, you don’t have to bring much. Remember, ships are like little cities at sea. You will have access to grocery stores, clothing stores, pharmacies, salons, health clubs, bookstores, libraries, cyber cafes, and more, so the most important things to remember are: all of your identifying information (passport, driver’s license, state ID, Insurance cards, etc.), and any medications (or prescriptions). If you’re an entertainer, don’t forget your costume, accessories, and any necessary equipment. For all workers, check with the ship ahead of time to inquire about dress codes, but more than likely, you will have to wear a uniform while working. So, that’s it – you’re ready to go!
For more information about cruise ship jobs, pick up a copy of Working on Cruise Ships by Sandra Bow (Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Connecticut).