Working on a cruise ship is an extremely demanding profession, which is why some people should not work on cruise ships (and also why some people should work on cruise ships). However, even if you are the right kind of person for cruise line employment, there are some other factors to consider, like whether you are eligible to work on a cruise ship, and whether you have, or can get, the necessary documents (work permits, visas) to work on a cruise ship. Below we have compiled a guide to help you determine if you have the necessary documents for working on a cruise ship. With only a few items, you should be eligible to work on a cruise ship.
The cruise industry is thoroughly international, and the workforce on cruise ships reflects this. On any given vessel, it is not uncommon to have crew members from dozens of countries all over the world. For this reason, cruise lines are well-versed in the employment requirements imposed on their workers and have developed extensive support systems to help future employees comply with employment law. Thus, employees are not simply on their own when it comes to determining what documents are needed, nor must they go about obtaining these documents without any assistance. In most cases, cruise ship employees are recruited from countries – places like the Philippines, Thailand, Croatia, India, and Peru, among many others – through an employment agency that a cruise line partners with. If you are a good candidate for a job and have nothing barring you from employment, you can expect some assistance in getting the necessary documents for working on a ship. However, one thing essentially all cruise ship employees need is a passport, as this is a necessary document for any travel abroad, an obvious component of cruise ship employment.
But what exactly are these documents? The short answer is “it depends,” as the necessary work documents are set by the country in which the ship is registered. In other words, you have to be eligible to work in the country where the cruise ship is registered, and as you might imagine not all countries require exactly the same things. However, cruise ships are registered in certain countries in part because of looser employment regulations. (This is why virtually all cruise ships fly foreign flags.) It is easier to pull from the pool of international labor if your ship is registered in certain countries. Thus, a ship like Norwegian’s Pride of America, the only major cruise line registered in the U.S., is therefore comparatively hard to work on.
However, even if a ship is registered in, say, Panama (a popular place to obtain a “flag of convenience“), employees will still need certain work permits depending on the ports out of which the ships operate. For instance, a good portion of the major cruise ships operate out of U.S. ports, even though they are registered in foreign countries, and employees of these ships would need certain visas to work on these vessels. These visas are not green cards – if these were necessary, cruise ships would have an enormously hard time finding employees for their ships – but are rather temporary visas, like C1 transit or D “seamen” visas. Again, though, a cruise line that employs a person will assist with the obtaining of these visas.
So, there is not a set list of documents that are necessary for working on a cruise ship. Apart from a passport, what you need will depend on which ship you are working on, as they are registered in different countries and operate out of different countries. This of course complicates working for a cruise ship, but cruise lines provide support to make sure employees get the required documents. So, while work permit and visa paperwork must be handled, it shouldn’t necessarily be a major concern before you apply for a cruise line.