Expectations of Cruise Ship Employees

Another possible drawback is that you, as an employee on the cruise ship, must be “on” nearly twenty-four hours a day. Contracts are generally three to eight months long, depending on the position and the company. For all that time, you will be expected to represent your company to the public, which means that you must always show a sunny personality. For many passengers, the week or so that they spend on the ship is one of the best times of their lives, and you will be expected to share their enthusiasm. As one aerobics instructor for Norwegian Cruise Lines describes it, always being on duty is probably the most distinguishing characteristic of ship life:

    “You’re always ‘on’ when you’re out of your quarters area, regardless of whether it’s your time off or not. We were part of the cruise staff, so after leading fitness classes all day, we had to greet people at shows and generally be available in public areas at least five nights per week. This wasn’t always hard work, though; it was kind of like socializing and getting paid for it. We even got a $75 per month bar allowance, to encourage us to mingle with passengers and buy them drinks. Eventually, though, we learned to avoid the public areas of the ship during our true time off, because it got tiring having passengers constantly approaching us and asking questions. And they ALL knew who we were, because the cruise staff was always introduced at the beginning of the cruise, and we had to wear uniforms and name tags anytime we were in the public areas.”

Because employees are considered on duty any time that they’re in public areas on the ship, off-duty recreation can be somewhat limited. However, you also don’t have to commute to work, cook a meal (unless that’s your job), or do laundry. All these needs are fulfilled for you, which means that the free time you have is completely your own and free of mundane chores. Activities also vary depending on whether the ship is at sea or in port:

    “We didn’t have lots of free time, but when we did find some, we watched TV, took a lot of naps, and read. On ‘sea days’ we stayed away from public areas on our days off, because otherwise you were basically on duty. When we were in port, though, the passengers were pretty much off the ship, so if we didn’t have any shore duties, we could go hang out by the pool, sunbathe, or use the spa without our name tags and uniforms.”

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