7 Occasionally Asked Ridiculous Questions About Working On Cruise Ships

Posted by:     Tags:      Posted date:  April 29, 2012  |  32 Comments
Insert Drawing :)

Usually when I tell people that I work on a cruise ship, I invaribly get asked many questions about it. The most common one is “What is it like to work on a cruise ship?” Answer: Imagine a mash-up of high school, summer camp, a hotel, United Colors Of Benetton and Battlestar Galatica. But at sea and with a disproportionate number of guys. The second question is “why are there so many guys?” Answer: I don’t know. I think women hate going to idyllic islands with pristine white sand beaches and water so blue, it looks like it’s been Photoshopped.

Apart the normal questions, I occasionally get some fairly ridiculous ones, which is very indicative that they have probably never stepped foot on a cruise ship before. Here are my 7 favorites:

Q: Are you allowed to hook up with guests?
A: If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship, you’d know how ridiculous this question is – apart from the obvious corporate liability issues. Firstly, “young” on a cruise ship is like 50. OK I’m exaggerating – more like 45. Anyway to answer your question, no and it would be a zero-tolerance violation. I remember this one time, I was asked to meet up for a martini by a very young (43) attractive guest, so I hid in crew areas for the rest of the cruise. Okay, maybe that was an over-reaction!

Q: Are there lots of drugs on board?
A: Really? It’s still a place of work, not Burning Man. Btw, having drugs while you’re going from port to port makes you a drug trafficker – which is a much more serious offense than possession/consumption. And trying to bring drugs on board a cruise ship is like trying to bring drugs on board a plane – you’d have to find a way past security. Besides booze on board is duty-free. And legal.

Q: Do all the crew cabins have windows (ie. portholes)?
A: Far from it. Imagine a shipping container but 1/3 the size. Now put in a shower, toilet, closet, TV, mini-fridge and bunk beds. That’s your average cabin (How else do you expect them to fit 1000+ crew?). It’s actually quite cozy and perfect for minimalists. Also, it’s really easy to sleep when there’s no natural light. When I first started working on ships, I used to wake up in the morning and think I was dead or blind or both. It took me a few days before I realized there was a light-switch next to my pillow.

Q: Is everything free for crew on cruise ships?
A: The food in the mess and accomodation is provided to the crew. However, there are still many ways to spend money on board especially internet, coffee, bottled water, soda, junk food and booze.

Q: Does everyone hook up at the crew parties?
A: Unfortunately, this is just statistically improbable. When you average 9:1 guys to girls, there will be some lonely hearts (despite the “valiant efforts” by some individuals). The crew parties are still fun though. Imagine being in a dark, smoky basement with a bunch of truck drivers and everyone there was encouraged to dress in theme for the night. It’s a bit like that!

Q: Is possible to just turn up to a cruise ship and ask them for work?
A: Have you ever turned up to a plane and asked them if you could work on board? Try that and you’ll get your answer.

Q: I just want to go from Point A to Point B and/or only work for the summer. Is it possible to do that?
A: Not unless you’re kind of a big deal. What some people don’t realize is that working on a cruise ship is still a real job – not summer camp. So it’s in the company’s best interest to hire permanent contractors, rather than career tourists. Obviously, ship life isn’t for everyone. Some people only last one 6-month contract, some do a few contracts and then quit, and others make a life-long career out of it.

Do you have a ridiculous question to ask? Go ahead!

This post was sponsored by How To Work On A Cruise Ship – complete eGuide.

About Me

In 2004, I sold everything I owned and left New Zealand to go see the world. In that time, I've run with bulls in Pampolona, watched the Man burn at Black Rock City, volunteered at a special-needs summer camp in New York, hosted & couchsurfed with 100+ people, taught English in Prague, trained with Muay Thai fighters in Phuket, worked on 5 different cruise ships, hugged strangers on streets in 7 countries and this one time, I even hitchhiked naked (but that was back home, so that doesn't really count). I moved to Vancouver, BC in 2012, to embark on new adventures. It's nice here, I think I may stay awhile! Let's connect: @roymarvelous, facebook & RSS.

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  • http://www.onetravelsfar.com Stacey

    This is really interesting. I’m thinking about working on a cruise ship in a few years and your posts are really helpful. I can imagine the cabins aren’t for the claustrophobic!

    • Roy Marvelous

      I’m glad! You’d probably be perfect for youth staff.
      Anyway, now off to a crew party :D

  • http://foggodyssey.com/ T-roy

    Well here are a few more dumb questions (though not sure if these are the avg dumb questions you get):

    1) Do you get to use the gym on ship when off duty? Do they have free weights and machines or is it just mostly cardio bikes and treadmills for little old ladies?

    2) Where can one normally smoke a cigg when on a boat? Have most cruise lines gone all New York and banned it completely… as that’s the growing trend for everything related to this subject.

    3) Can you gamble in the casinos when not working? Nothing better then getting paid on Friday and putting it all on black on the roulette table. It hits, it’s an extra bonus, if not, f*ck it you’ll make it up next week! lol

    4) How expensive is it to use the Internet for an hour on an avg ship? Do you need to visit the casino first and hope you win to be able to afford it?

    5) When you get a contract does the company pay for your flight to the ship and after the contract is done do they pay for a flight home? (this questions relates to visiting the casino to often and hoping the contract doesn’t end in Venezuela and broke! lol)

    6) Do all captains of ships have snowy white beards? I don’t think I could trust a CPT without one! lol

    7) What happens if you miss the boat at a port of call? As in the taxi you took back, the driver was drunk, side swiped a food cart stand, killed a donkey and then was promptly arrested by local police while you were riding shotgun? (I think I heard this one once… but can’t verify the story)

    These are the questions that keep me up late at night wondering if ship life is for me :)

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      1) Yes and the gym is awesome.
      2) Crew bar & your cabin.
      3) Not on board, for obvious reasons. There are casinos in the ports though.
      4) We pay $12/hr. It’s actually cheaper to drink!
      5) Every position is different. Usually, yes.
      6) Yes.
      7) You’re fucked :)

  • http://www.thetravelhack.com Monica

    You have just crushed my dreams of working on a cruise ship. I thought it would be all drug fuelled orgies with young and sexy guests. I’m going to pretend I never read this post… ;)

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      I know huh! I wish someone had warned me earlier :P

  • Caanan @ No Vacation Required

    The fact that young on a cruise ship is around 50 (45 was being way too nice) is one of the reasons we enjoy them. There is nothing better for the self esteem than being the youngest and fittest person on the ship. Kent and I always get mistaken for “the talent.” However, that is generally from an 80 year old with extreme cataracts. We’ll accept it none-the-less!

    • Roy Marvelous

      Wait, you’re not dancers??

    • http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/ Jeremy Branham

      I felt the same way on my tour group through Eastern Europe years ago. People weren’t going there yet except for the older people. Honestly, there was a son who went with his parents but he was about the same age as me. The next youngest was in their mid 50s!

  • http://www.naturalworldsafaris.com/ Alex Jones

    I love number 6.

    Maybe the 9:1 ratio will help to encourage a few more women to get on board!

    • Roy Marvelous

      Yeah, I should write a post to spread the word :D

  • http://www.scarletwonderland.com Jen

    Brilliant post – I thought you weren’t allowed to drink on board too? xx

    • Roy Marvelous

      I guess they need some way to tame the masses! Bridge officers can’t drink at all but everyone else can. Technically speaking, we’d get fired if found over the limit – which basically means enjoy but don’t do anything stupid (And people *do* get fired for stupid drunken antics).

  • http://quirkytravelguy.com Scott – Quirky Travel Guy

    I’m surprised you’re actually not allowed to hook up with guests. Seems like corporate overreach to me. A cruise ship worker-guest relationship isn’t like a teacher-student or boss-employee relationship, where there would be valid societal reasons for disallowing it. Are they really worried about lawsuits or something?

    • Roy Marvelous

      I’m sure it’s to avoid lawsuits but also to maintain a professional image. I imagine hotels would have a similar policy – but I hear some resorts are much more relaxed.

  • http://www.baconismagic.ca Ayngelina

    9-1 guys to girls? Where do I sign up?

    • Roy Marvelous


  • http://margyleunbound.com Margyle

    It’s funny you say things like this because while they make perfect sense, it is like any other business after all, television and film ruin most peoples grip on reality. Oh so unsexy reality lol.

    • Roy Marvelous

      I know! TV makes every job look sexy.

  • http://downtowntraveler.com Leslie (Downtown Traveler)

    Thanks for the peek into the life of a cruise ship employee. Sounds like it’s not as glamorous as one might imagine ;)

    • Roy Marvelous

      No, but that’s also probably the case with all jobs :)

  • http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/ Jeremy Branham

    While some of these may be stupid, I loved your answers. Seems like a girl working on a cruise ship looking to hook up would totally score as she has her pick of men. Honestly, I don’t think I could do it though. I love the minimalist rooms though and the dark would be awesome to sleep in!

    So here’s my question – how many hours a day do you actually work? Do you have free time on your own? Do you have an 8 hour schedule?

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      Indeed ;)
      An average ship job is 70 hours a week. Yup there’s still free time (I’ll dedicate that to a future post of it’s own).

  • http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/ Jeremy Branham

    I got one more question. Do you use your free time on board to draw silly cartoon figures? :)

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      Yes. Sad I know, haha.

  • http://www.landlopers.com Matt

    I really love this post, for so many reasons. Well done! :)

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      Thanks Matt! To be fair, I would have asked many of these questions 2.5 years ago as well :)

  • http://google.com/ kate

    Good one

  • http://n/a Lindsey

    You say you work 70 hours a week. That seems pretty taxing. Do you burn out easily? And is the compensation for this enough to make it worth it, and to be able to save money? Thanks!

    • http://roymarvelous.com Roy Marvelous

      It’s a difficult question. You save time in other ways – no commute, no cleaning or grocery shopping. Yes people burn out and yes, you can save money. But personally, I can save more on land with my job. If you come from a developed country, working on cruise ships is more for travel than for financial reasons.