Get the Inside Scoop on Cruise Ship Working

Posted January 7, 2016 by Tricia in Traveling Jobs / 8 Comments

Many people have dreams of working on a cruise ship. Sounds fun and exciting, right? Well, it can be, for sure! My fellow seasonal worker Krista dishes on life aboard a cruise ship. Depending on the cruise contract you nail, the possibilities of sightseeing are endless. Cruise ship working is hard work but rewarding.

What is it really like to work on a cruise ship? Check out my interview with a former worker

For other seasonal working opportunities, check out these chats with a nanny, a student worker, or a teacher.

Let’s Chat Cruise Ships!

How many years did you spend working on a cruise ship?

Cruise ship work is by contracts. The majority of contracts are 4-6 months. The length of your contract all depends on what department you work for. Spa contracts are 9 months. Meaning you work and live on the same ship for nine months straight. And I completed 2, nine-month contracts onboard P&O Australian cruise ships. Total of 18 months at sea with a two-month break home in between the two contracts.


What was the process you went through to obtain a job?

First off, the interview process. First, I applied online for the company. Second, they accepted me by email and gave me two separate dates that were coming up to be interviewed in either Las Vegas or Miami ONLY. I choose the nearest date to be there in Miami. Arrived in Miami were I had to do a written test, perform a facial in front of them, and lastly sit and talk to someone like a ‘normal’ interview process. From there, they will send you an email to if you are accepted to their training academy in Watford, England. Two weeks after leaving Miami, I received an email saying I’ve been accepted with a date to be in England.

Two months later I arrived in England 3 days before my training start date (made a lil site seeing vaca out of it as it was my first time out of the USA). My company provided a host family for me to live with during my training. I lived with a nice family who grew up outside of London who also fed me as well. I shared a room in their home with two other students, a hairdresser from Australia and a massage therapist from Croatia. All three of us took the bus to and from the training academy together. Your stay at the training academy depends on what they want to train you in based on what you are already licensed in. Some students were there 2 weeks others 3 months. I was there 2 months. I’m licensed in skin and they trained me to also be a massage therapist at sea during that time.

While you are at the academy, it’s honestly beauty school boot camp as they’re extremely strict. If they don’t believe you are qualified enough, they kick you out of the training academy and give you a day to go home at your own cost when it already cost you the plane ticket there. So they sent students home all the time. I, for one, thought for sure I was going home but after 7 weeks I got called into the office to fill out an Australian visa. I was so excited! A week from there I got my ship details saying I was flying to Wellington, New Zealand to join P&O Pacific Pearl for a nine-month contract. From there they pay for your flight to your ship wherever they may send you in the world.


Would you say it is the same process for other types of jobs on a cruise ship?

No, it’s a completely different process for other jobs. There are different companies for every department that own certain cruise lines. There are actually very few departments that actually work for the cruise line you are working on itself.


What did you like about working on a ship? Dislike?

Mostly I loved being away from the real world. I liked that no one could get in contact with me from outside the ship unless I wanted to contact someone. I liked being one of the only Americans out of 600 plus crew and working with people from places I’ve never even heard of and creating a lifetime bond with some of these people. Also, I enjoyed my work. I enjoyed giving facials and massage and making people enjoy their service. What I didn’t like is a manager pushing and pushing you to sell sell sell and shortening your lunch to add another guest to your book. Or that when it came down to your last guest, you weren’t able to give 100% because you were that drained and tired after already having 8 full hour services.


Do you miss it?

Yes and no.

Yes, I miss the traveling and miss being away from the real world (as here I am currently back in beauty school now gaining my nail tech license but then going back to Arizona which I found to be my new home) and I miss the people and have the best memories.

And no I don’t miss the long hours. I don’t miss the yelling from managers. I don’t miss the fish heads they would sometimes have for lunch. And I don’t miss living in a closet size room underneath sea level. I don’t miss the shitty pay for the amount of hours I put in.


How often did you get to get off the ship and explore the ports you visited?

We worked 12-14 hour days. We had to have one full day off in a week in a time period. You could gain more time off if you made your personal target. But some managers would take away your well earned time off if they didn’t like something you said or didn’t think you were trying hard enough to sell products on a certain cruise. Managers only a cared about retail, retail, retail. And I hated that as for me working in the spa is 90% or more about the service you do and 10% or less about what products that can be recommended after a service.

Time off was given in half days or you could get a full day off. Time off can ONLY be taken if the ship is at port. Meaning certain cruises were only at sea then we would start a new cruise have three sea days to get to a port. A week would go by meaning no one had a day off. Sometimes it took over two weeks to have a day off. But when you did have a day off you made the absolute most of it. But then it would over and it was back to work. Being on the same cruise company for two contracts meant islands or ports I didn’t have the chance to get off at on my first ship, I was able to my second.

But over all it was a great experience and I wouldn’t change anything.


Ready to take that plunge and try cruise ship working?

Tags: , ,

8 responses to “Get the Inside Scoop on Cruise Ship Working

  1. Oh my goodness. I know cruise jobs require long hours, and the spa has to be one of the toughest. I’m sure it’s getting tougher with all the warnings to people not to buy products because they’re so overpriced. Thanks for this insight.

  2. I’ve heard similar stories about the work hours from other friends who worked on the cruise ships. Which sucks, but they also say that it was a blast and were happy they did it for a while. Best of luck with getting your nail tech license 🙂

  3. I’m glad you got to bond with a work force from around the globe, and to see parts of the world you might not have seen. But I am so sorry you had managers who drove you to sell, sell, sell products in the spa. That makes the spa experience less enjoyable for everyone, and kind of defeats the purpose of going into spa work and buying a spa treatment. Especially sorry that you had managers who took away earned time off, which sounds really awful and probably not legal. Glad you’ve found a different way to work now!
    Philadelphia Traveling Mom recently posted…6 Unique Hotels That Will Make Your Stay MemorableMy Profile

  4. I’ve honestly never even taken a cruise (I want to very soon), so I’ve never really thought about this. The traveling and being away from the ‘real’ world sounds appealing. It would also be nice to meet people from all over the world too.

  5. Sounds tough, but I guess the benefit is that it’s hard to spend money when you’re working all the time (especially at sea!!!). I hate that retail-push nonsense that affects the customer experience. It’s no secret to most when products start getting pedaled.

    • It sounds more brutal than fun to me too. But I guess it is a good way to make and save money and see a bit of the world.