Cruise Ship Jobs and Careers
The floating hotels that are cruise ships offer a wide array of job opportunities. If you are healthy, energetic and fancy the idea of travelling while you work, a job on a cruise ship could be right for you.
While most industries in the UK are contracting, the international industry of cruise ship tourism is growing, with more and more ships being built and many on order. If you already work with the public in the travel or hospitality industry, it's very likely that you can find work on a cruise ship.
Areas of employment range from servicing the ship to looking after the passengers. So while the usual sailing positions need to be filled - officers, seamen, engineers, etc - hospitality positions can range from massage therapists through to restaurant staff, entertainers to class lecturers.
Skilled jobs onshore also require skilled workers on ships, but there are still many positions open to unskilled workers. While the jobs are much sought, people also leave quickly, either joining another company or settling down on shore, meaning that positions come up over and over again. Many cruise companies also have trainee schemes.
Type of Person Suited to Cruise Ship Work
There are some general requirements that apply to all staff employed on cruise ships. The age limits for employees is usually 21 to 65 years, although trainees might start at 16 years. You'll need a valid passport and a 'seagoing' visa for the country of the company you're going to work for.
Contracts range from three to ten months in length, although most are six months. These are usually renewable if the company is happy with your performance. You'll usually need to take a medical before the job offer is considered firm - you'll have to pay for this. While there's full health coverage on the ship, you're still advised to buy your own travel medical insurance.
If you're looking at a skilled job opening, then you'll need the relevant qualifications for that role - see below for more information.
As a person, you need to be highly motivated and energetic, being interested in taking on new challenges. As you'll be constantly living in close proximity with the people you work with, it's important that you are sociable and oriented towards teamwork. A hard working approach and strong self-discipline is needed, especially as long shifts might be required.
Apart from the port visits, you'll always have to abide by the ship's company rules, so you have to be willing to do that. At the same time, a degree of independence is needed, as you'll be a long way from your home base of friends and family for long periods of time.
Benefits and Disadvantages of the Work
The negative aspects of cruise ship jobs are obvious: you're effectively trapped in your workplace for most of your contract, with only occasional visits to shore. This can be challenging, particularly at the end of a tiring shift or 'bad day at work'. If you're unhappy with some aspect of your job, you can't just walk out, so you have to be prepared to commit for the full contract, come what may.
As these cruise jobs are contract work, you won't receive paid vacation or other employment benefits. Despite this, the work is financially attractive enough to make it worthwhile and many people save a large amount in a short period of time. You will have so few overheads that it's possible to save a large amount of your income.
Accommodation is provided. Most crew members share two or four to a cabin, matched by gender, nationality and (usually) nature of work. Meals are provided free of charge, so you'll have no subsistence outlay when it comes to your basic needs. Additionally, good crew facilities are usually provided, such as recreation areas, a bar, a gym and deck area. You can buy at duty free prices in the onboard shops and staff discounts often apply to other purchases.
Cruise companies want to keep their staff happy and satisfied, as this will reflect in the service given to passengers. When not on duty, you'll always be able to visit the ports of call and for most people, this is the major attraction.
Hospitality Jobs on Cruise Ships
1. Cruise Staff
The Cruise Director oversees all entertainment on the ship and usually has a background in entertainment, although it's possible to work up to this position from within the company. Strong organisational abilities and an extrovert personality are important. The Cruise Director is assisted by the Assistant Cruise Director and Social Hostess, who will have the same skills and an entertainment background.
Additionally, Cruise Staff are responsible for organising passengers and running some of the events, such as competitions. Entertainment experience of some sort is usually preferred.
Other specific roles include Fitness Instructors, Disc Jockeys and Children's Coordinators. Relevant experience is required. Diving Instructors need to have relevant qualifications and first aid and safety certificates.
2. Hotel Staff
Specialist experience and relevant qualifications (degrees) are needed for the positions of the ship's Chief Purser, who supervises all departments apart from engine and deck, and Deputy Purser, who oversees daily activities of this office. The Purser and Assistant Purser also assist with front desk, passenger-facing work, particularly in relation to accommodation. The Crew Purser oversees administration of the crew and needs relevant experience or a qualification.
Additionally, the Excursions Manager and their Assistant oversee all aspects of the trips at ports of call, from promotion to the passengers, taking bookings and making all arrangements. Related tourism experience is necessary, along with experience on a cruise ship excursion team.
Housekeeping is critical. The Head Housekeeper and Assistant Head Housekeeper need to have onshore hotel experience of a similar nature. Floor Supervisors, who are responsible for cleanliness and order of designated accommodation floors, also need prior hotel experience. The Head Cabin Steward needs prior hotel or cruise ship experience, while the Cabin Steward and Stewarding team can commence without experience.
Other roles that can be taken up without directly relevant experience include Cleaning staff, Linen staff and Pool Attendants. The Head of Room Service, Laundry Supervisor and their assistants need relevant experience.
3. Food and Beverage Staff
The Head Chef oversees all menu planning, food preparation staff and quality control. Cruise ship and hotel or similar experience is needed, although with formal chef qualifications. The Assistant Head Chef requires similar experience and oversees daily operations while assisting the Head Chef.
The First Chef supervises the other food preparation staff and oversees daily catering. They also need cruise ship and hotel or restaurant experience, plus formal qualifications.
Roles requiring solid experience include Dining Room Head Waiter, Bar Accountant and Bar Manager.
Positions requiring little or no experience include Buffet Steward and Stewardess, Bar Person, Bar Utility (cleans and maintains order of bars), Dining Room Waiter or Waitress and Assistant Waiter and Waitresses.
Entertainment Jobs on Cruise Ships
Performers are much in demand on cruise ships. Special Guest Entertainers bring their own set performance, which must be recommended and have a wide appeal. Lounge Entertainers perform in the bars, night club or other locations and must be versatile with a large repertoire.
Dancers and Singers work in the big shows and cabaret performances. Solid experience in big production shows is required. Musicians with experience and music sight reading can perform in the show band. Groups can apply to work in the lounges.
On the production side, there's the Production Manager who oversees the shows' production and manages the technical crews, supported by the Assistant Production Manager. Both need to have experience in show production experience and technical skills. Lighting and Sound Technicians assist in running shows and need appropriate experience or education.
Other staff involved in entertainment include Disc Jockeys, who have club or resort experience, and Fitness Instructors, who are experienced in running exercise and sports sessions.
Service Jobs on Cruise Ships
1. Hair and Beauty Staff
The Salon Manager runs the beauty salon, managing staff and handling budgets, so must have solid salon management experience. They are supported by the Assistant Salon Manager, who is responsible for the daily running of the salon.
Hair Stylists and Beauticians must also have good salon experience, while Massage Therapists must also have extensive experience.
2. Casino Staff
The Casino Manager and Assistant Casino Manager oversee the operations of the casino as well as accounting and staff management. Both must have management experience. The Cashier needs accounting experience. Card Dealers need experience, while Slot Machine Technicians need mechanical and electrical skills.
3. Medical Team
The onboard Doctors are highly experienced in emergency care, while the Nurse needs to be registered with several years' hospital experience.
4. Photographic Team
The photographers have the important job of recording passengers' holidays. The Photo Manager and Assistant Photo Managers need managerial experience, while photographers need some portraiture experience.
5. Shop Staff
Shop Managers and Assistant Managers need retail experience, although Customer Service Assistants may have limited onshore shop experience.
Maritime Jobs on Cruise Ships
1. Deck Staff
Those responsible for the overall operation of the ship are usually long term employees with specialist maritime qualifications and ample experience. Captain, Staff Captain, First, Second, Third and Junior Third Officers are responsible for day to day operation and management.
Additionally, Radio Officers take care of all communications while Bosuns oversee general maintenance and tendering processes. Security Officers and Safety Officers have fairly self-explanatory roles, with military experience often preferred for the security roles and maritime qualifications for the safety roles.
Seamen are responsible for general maintenance, cleaning and painting. Unskilled positions are usually available. Other positions for which no or little prior experience is needed are Carpenter and Deck Attendants, who keep the open decks in order.
2. Engine Staff
The Chief Engineer, First, Second, Third Engineers are collectively responsible for the technical operations of the ship, including electrical, mechanical and engineering systems. Maritime qualifications and solid experience are required.
The Motorman maintains and cleans engine parts, while the Fitter does the same for engines and mechanical equipment. These roles require maritime qualifications and experience. The Wiper cleans the engine room, organises tools, and completes any painting required. This is an entry level position.
The Chief Electrician and Electrician oversee the ship's entire electrical system and are required to have maritime qualifications and experience. The Chief Air Conditioning Technician and Air Conditioning Technician maintain and repair all air conditioning and refrigeration systems, under direction of the Chief Engineer. Maritime qualifications and experience are needed.
Firefighters need to have the relevant certification. Plumbers maintain and repair all plumbing, and need to have relevant experience. Upholsterers, who maintain furniture, are often entry level positions.
Finding Work on a Cruise Ship
There are a number of consultancies dedicated to placing registered members with cruise ship companies. Some are free of charge, while others charge a one-off fee for registering with them. Before signing up, always make sure you know how much you are liable for if you gain employment through the agency.
Some agencies deal only with managerial roles. Others focus on particular areas of cruise ship employment, such as entertainment.
You can also apply via agencies or employers in other countries - the U.S. is clearly a major source of employment - but remember that if called for interview, you will have to make yourself available overseas.