Life on Board

Life on a cruise ship is really a unique and unforgettable experience, very difficult to compare to a land job. Few jobs offer the chance to see so many places in the world, exotic views and meet so many people from so different countries. Obviously, after such experience, you’ll become a well-rounded and worldly person, and get a better understanding about global problems and people from around the world and their culture and way of life.

certainly, the only way to know if you like it is to try it. Nevertheless, in order to prevent possible doubts and uncertainties, we are going to expose some essential aspects of the life on board.

Day-To-Day Routine On Board a Cruise Ship

First of all, living and working onboard a cruise ship presents a series of particularities that must to be taken into account by any person interested in this labour sector.

The Cabins of the Crew

These cabins, which are usually small, are located in decks under the passenger areas, and some of them, under the water line, which can be rather noisy due to vibration and hum of the engine room and the splash water. On the larger cruise ships, employees are separated by departments and, some times, by nationalities.

On some ships, you’ll enjoy a cabin with a bathroom inside; but on other ones you’ll have to content with communal bathrooms, shared by several members of the crew. The beds are bunk style. The sheets, blankets and pillow are provided by the shipping company.

The crewmembers are responsible for the care, cleanness and proper maintenance of the cabins, and they must keep it in due order as well. The authorities of the ship regularly inspect the cabins to check them and make sure of the respect for the rules.

Privacy limitation is commonplace. There are posts that allow having a private cabin, new employees who are heading into an entry-level position must share a cabin with somebody. This is the only mayor issue on the cruise ships, but if you don’t mind having a roommate, there is no problem at all.

The human relationships between the roommates are an important issue. The small places increase possible personal differences. The successful operation of the ship depends on cooperation of all the members of the crew. The possible individual differences require changes in the lifestyles and a high team spirit. Issues such as order and cleanness, being smoker or non-smoker, nightlife, etc, must be solved friendly. Only if this system fails, the persons involved have to go to the manager or supervisor. The confrontations and grudges must be avoided.

Chances are you won’t be spending too much time in your cabin. Just the time to sleep. And, finally, after some time working aboard, you could be promoted and get your own cabin.

International Working Environment

The personnel come from dozens of countries around the world, so it is necessary for them to speak some English.


It will depend on the cruise ship. On smaller ships, crewmembers eat the same food as the passengers, although, on the large vessels, they have their own mess hall and food preparation personnel.

All food and beverages are free.

Possible Expenses

Except for the money you could expend when you go ashore, everything is free.


They are not tolerated aboard the ship. Any drug will be confiscated and the crewmember that was using it will be discharged, disembarked and surrendered to the local police authorities. Besides, there are frequent drug tests carried out to detect their use.

Time Off

During the time off, the members of the crew can go ashore, if the ship is on port.

Attitude Toward Passengers

It must be considered that passengers expect to live a unique and pleasant experience while on board. So, crewmembers must maintain a smiling and positive attitude towards them.

Safety and General Emergency Training and Drills

Due to government and fleet regulations, crewmembers are expected to take part in constant safety and general emergency drills.

Communications with Land

On a ship, almost everything is free. However, there are certain aspects that may be complicated and quite different from anything you have known on land.

Communication systems, such as telephone, fax or telex, are more expensive than on land, save traditional mail, which is very easy.

Electronic mail is not always available for the crewmembers on board.

Bank Operations

Normally, you will be paid twice a month and there are several alternatives to secure the money:

  • You can send the money home by traditional mail service in port.

  • An international money order.

  • You can keep it with you aboard the ship and open a saving account in port.

  • A security box available for the crewmembers.

In any case, it is a personal choice.

Personal Aspects of Working On Board

The correct operation of the cruise ship demands a perfect coordination of all the crewmembers. Everybody must know each other and cooperate to solve any personal problems. And, it is a responsibility that belongs to each member of the company, because the proper maintenance of personal relationship is as important as the maintenance of the vessel. The companionship and the team spirit must be a priority for everybody on board.

Access to the Ship

Before embarking as a crewmember onboard a cruise ship, there are a series of requirements and economic costs to be considered.

Documentation Needed to Work On Board Cruise Ship

Depending on the shipping company and the country, the employee lives in. In case the person should work on a ship operating around USA or Canada, it is necessary a VISA (except American and Canadian citizens), which can be obtained in any American Consulate. It is recommended to make it after the shipping company has sent you the contract.

Any other place around the world will depend on the local legal system.

Passport is needed and it is recommended that you bring a birth certificate.

Possible Expenses

Depending on the company and the contract, the air ticket may be paid for by the shipping company or the employment agency, but usually it is not that way and the new employee is demanded to pay these expenses.

Normally, new employees are required to pay a trip deposit (between $400 and $500), that will be reimbursed when the contract is finished. This deposit won’t be refunded in the event of resignation or dismissal, in which case it will be used to pay the return ticket. Anyway, some large companies don’t demand this deposit.

Functional Structure On Board a Cruise Ship

Absolute order and discipline must preside over the life and work on a cruise ship, if the safety, which is indispensable in this kind of business, and the proper comfort are to be guaranteed.


There is a ranking presided over by the Captain or Master of the ship, who is the supreme authority on board. Everybody must fulfil all of his orders and instructions.

The personnel have to get familiar with the different ranks of the officers (deck officers, engine officers, etc.) on board and the new employees will be well informed about it during their training period.


They are in charge of diverse tasks in the engineering, deck and food and beverages departments. This category of employees cannot go to public areas while working.

Administrative Staff

This section includes employees responsible for a variety of services and activities on board, such as the casino, entertaining programs, shops, gym and spa, etc. They are allowed to go to public areas and even socialize with passengers, which, in some cases, is part of their job.

Advantages and Inconveniences

Working onboard a cruise ship offers a series of advantages and inconveniences that must be taken into account and evaluated before deciding to search for a job in this sector.


  • Very profitable conditions coming from the combination of interesting earnings and the lack of expenses, because you don’t have to spend any money in lodging and feeding.

  • Opportunity to travel the world and see exotic places continuously and for free.

  • Time off to enjoy a ship designated with the luxury and amenities of a five stars hotel, and to visit the exotic ports of call all around the world as if you were on holiday.

  • Chance to meet very different people from all around the world.

  • Possible promotions.

  • The cruise ship industry is so wide that, once you are in, there are plenty of opportunities to find another job.

Leaving aside other possible circumstances that may arise in each case and person.


  • Long shifts and extensive working days (12-14 hours a day and 7 days a week).

  • You could suffer from seasickness (nausea, dizziness, etc).

  • The personnel are always on. Although there is a time off, the employee is expected to be ready to work twenty-four hours a day.

  • Small and very modest lodging, very far from the amenities of the life at home, shared by, at least, two persons, which demands mutual understanding and coordination.

Leaving aside other possible circumstances that may arise in each case and person.