The recent pandemic has cast cruise ships into the harsh criticism of the public light. The industry has been suffering to regain its footing amidst public fears and skepticism.
But, what is it really like to be a crew member on one of these monstrous ships, where living conditions can ebb and flow just like the tides – from high to low within a matter of moments.
Long shifts, income inequality, and a troubling social caste system can make a career at sea burdensome and disheartening.
On the flip side of the coin, crew members are privy to perks like cheap booze and the experience of a lifetime as they navigate through diverse geographical and cultural territories while the ship gallivants across the globe.
Sometimes, seafaring frustrations need to sort out with the help of workers unions and legal assistance – especially when dealing with unfair salary discrepancies and dangerous working conditions = but other times the woes of living on the waters are quite harmless and sometimes downright hilarious.
Keep watching to see if you’d be willing to trade your familiar life on solid ground for a nautical professional life at sea with these amazing stories from cruise ship workers from all across the world.
Trust us, the cruise ship industry definitely doesn’t want you hearing these wayfaring tales.
Facts Verse Presents: Revealing Stories from Cruise Ship Workers
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Single Rooms – Not For Everyone
The average employee on one of these monstrous vessels has to share a cabin with other crew. That means very little privacy or peace and quiet. When you confine to a cruise ship at seas, you might start to feel like a caged animal without having your own space.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, however – say, if you’re an officer or another employee of rank – you might get the luxury of having your own private room. So essentially, unless you climb the ladder a bit, chances are you aren’t going to find any of that elusive booty – if you get my drift.
Seafaring folks with their own private rooms however express that the added privacy does wonders for their love lives.
Caste System – Not Exactly Equal
There is a very clear and distinct hierarchy on cruise ships. As we already mentioned in the housing situation, officers are at the front of the pack. Entertainers are the next in the chain of importance next is front-of-the-house staff like servers and bartenders. Finally, the back-of-the-house staff is at the bottom of the totem pole receiving the worse pay and accommodations.
Geographically and economically speaking, cruise workers in America fair better than, let’s say, an Indonesian employee. The latter might work their tail-fins off pulling 12-14 hour shifts and netting only about $600 a month. The American employee will likely only work 6-10 hours a day and make about 3 grand a month after taxes.
Social Life – When It’s Time To Unwind
When you’ve put in a full shift and come home to unwind, how do you relax?
The options can be a little limited aboard a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, but most cruise line employees express that boozing is the go-to recreational activity onboard one of these megalithic boats.
Apparently drinks are pretty cheap too. One Reddit user that goes by the handle ‘Heapsgoods’ noted that “there is a crew only bar and beers are $1.50′
It’s not surprising that the party scene can get pretty intense. Finding the right balance between your work responsibilities, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and managing your social life can get a little tricky but also “Totally worth it” – as one worker put it.
Drunken Nights – Hard To Forget
Remember that one time you’re sloppy drunk at the bar and make an utter fool of yourself? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. You probably went home, passed out, woke up, and brushed aside the night before like it didn’t happen. After all, you probably won’t see half the people at that bar again anyways.
On a cruise ship, on the other hand, you can’t just act like that embarrassing night didn’t happen. Everyone that saw you vomit in that planter and stumble around like a buffoon, lives, and works in a relatively confined space in relation to you. So you might not be able to just live those awkward moments down.
Lack Of Privacy – It Gets Old
In addition to not getting your own private room unless your an officer, the cabin walls themselves are super paper-thin, so whatever your neighbors are doing, you’re definitely going to hear it.
When things get a little socially awkward – as they often do when you cram a bunch of humans into a box – you have to deal with that uncomfortable or embarrassing situation for the rest of the season. As such, employees have to plan out their social lives strategically to avoid sticky situations with lasting repercussions.
Crew Food – Almost Inedible
Redditors had a lot to say about this particular subject. While some ships have halfway decent menus, the majority of crew cafeterias serve up lackluster cuisine.
It’s definitely a plus that employees are provided with free food, but you’re at the whims of the cruise line culinary process. One employee reports that the predominant nationalities on his ship are Filipino and Indian, so most of the food stuff that they just noot used to.
Picture having pigtail stew and fish heads being presented to you on a daily basis when you’ve never eaten either.
Passenger Hook-Ups – Strictly Forbidden
Sure, you can go to bed with that cute girl or guy that you met on your shift – that is if you want to quickly get fired and sent home at the next port on your own dime.
Cruise lines strictly forbid any intimate encounters between employees and passengers specifically to avoid legal liability for sexual assault or harassment accusations.
Most ships disallow crew members from even riding in the same elevator as a single passenger just as an added precaution.
Drama City – Just Like High School
Another downside of being on a boat at sea with the same folks for months on end is the tendency for things to get a bit dramatic. All this drama can be tiresome, vexing, and troublesome.
But why you might ask does all this drama happen?
One former crew member put it pretty bluntly, “everyone sleeps with everyone”.
Younger – and more drama prone – crew members especially tend to make the rounds the most throughout the ranks of the crew members. Everybody’s business is out in the open. Who is hooking up with who, who’s cheating on so-and-so and everything else.
To make matters worse, it’s kind of like being in boozy jail. You’re in a floating box out at sea that you can’t leave and you’re only social outlet is the bar. Things can get squirrely real fast.
Internet Access – Expensive As Heck
So, you might not have to pay rent for your cabin, but sometimes cruise ships charge their employees for basic amenities such as toilet tissue, drinking water, and internet access.
A basic connection to Wifi just for a limited number of social media apps will cost you about 5 dollars a day and if you want unrestricted access to the net for 100 minutes, you’ll be paying 10 bucks at a time.
As such, many cruise workers are wildly out of touch with world events and pop culture for months on end.
Great Way To Save Money – Or Blow It
Since most living expenses are covered like rent and food, working on a cruise ship can be a great way for you to save money – that is if you don’t blow all of your money out of boredom.
You might not expect to get tired of life aboard a cruise ship experiencing free travel, the natural beauty of tropical locales, and cheap booze, but it definitely gets old after a while.
A lot of cruise ship crew members end up blowing all of their paychecks every time the ship docks at a new port or drinking it all away at the crew bar. Without cell service and expensive internet access, there is very little else to do. So unless you really like reading books and playing video games on your tablet, you’re probably going to find it hard to be as frugal as you might hope to be.
Join The Cruise Band – For Shorter Work Days
Some cruise employees lament about long workweeks of 60-70 hours without a day off. That can take a toll on your psyche if you’ve been at sea for months on end.
If you are a talented musician, however, you might consider joining the cruise band. Typical workdays don’t exceed 2-4 hours. Most musical folks spend a couple of hours a day practicing and an additional couple hours playing shows for guests in the evening hours.
But, with more downtime comes the increased need to fill your day with entertainment. If your idea of fun is going to the crew bar, more free time can mean more wasted cash.
Get Paid To Travel The World
With all the ups and downs of working onboard a cruise ship, you may be wondering if it’s really worth all the hassle.
Ultimately, it’s up to you what you value more. Sure, some aspects of working at sea might be tiresome or overwhelming, but it does give you the once in a lifetime opportunity to literally travel the world and get paid for doing it.
What other jobs offer that same prospect? — Not too many.
Some employees have expressed that over their tenure as cruise crew, they’ve gotten the opportunity to visit nearly every continent and dozens of countries. If that sounds like one of your bucket list items then maybe some nautical nonsense is something you wish (yes, that was a Spongebob reference).
Sounds like life aboard a giant cruise ship isn’t for everyone, but for those that can mesh well with the required lifestyle changes, it can be packed full of amazing possibilities.
Do you think you’d enjoy working aboard a cruise ship, or do you prefer your land-locked life with all of its familiar comforts? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
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