What is working on a cruise ship like? Well, if you're looking for The Love Boat, you'll have to settle for a TV screen. The reality of working on a cruise ship, while not necessarily the hardest of labor, isn't all romance and partying, although employees partake in both, along with a chance to see the world, cheap alcohol, and an environment free from cubicles.
But according to cruise ship employee stories on Reddit, working on the high or low seas (river cruising is a thing, too) also means dealing with lots of drunk people and co-workers, working long hours for months at a time, living in cramped quarters, and eating food that's considerably less gourmet than what onboard guests feast on.
And what is the pay working on a cruise ship? It won't make anyone a millionaire, especially if they're from the US.
These "working on a cruise ship" secrets suggest that as with any job, the daily tasks include highs and lows - but with opportunities for seafaring adventure not available to those with landlubbing 9-to-5 careers.
From Redditor /u/JMPBass:
Cruise ship musician here... Ship life is basically high school mixed with jail.
Remember high school, where everyone knew everything about everyone's business? Who was [with] whom, cheating on so-and-so, doing this-and-that, being a such-and-such? Well, that's ship life in a nutshell. The bar is where we all congregate, it's where we all commiserate, and it's our only meat market option, because sleeping with guests is not tolerated. Oh, and cheap booze is great...
Now, let's add in the jail factor: you're in a tin can and you can't leave. Some people can never get off in port because their jobs don't allow for it. I was lucky - musicians have an evening schedule that revolves around guest schedules, so we could easily get off in port as long as we weren't working on skeleton crew that day. Oh, and that involved us staying in and doing nothing (or laundry) unless a fire broke out somewhere, and even then we'd stand at a staircase and lead people to a muster station...
Now, my gig was always easy... We'd go, play for a few hours, then off to the bar or for food.
Speaking of food - crew mess was always horrible. It's mostly geared toward the crew who are from Asia/India. It's not always bad, per se, but it's not what you always want. We had access to the guest buffet, where we'd normally eat. Some ships give more; some give less.
Ships are a very classist system! I can't stress that enough. If you're into social justice, it's a case study worth exploring. Sometimes, the work is exploitative, other times it's demeaning, but these crew have to support their families somehow, and often it's better than what's at home. I've tried to curb my entitlement each time I've been on board.
My last contract featured the party band doing a '20s/30s-style party. We'd take newer songs and put them to a swing beat and a walking bass line... Another party was back-to-school style, where we'd dress up in stereotypical prep school uniforms and play 1960s-2000s tunes. Sometimes it was a bore; sometimes it was awesome...
Our job is basically to drive bar sales and make people want to stay. If we failed, they'd have to run extra events in the lounges, which meant more work for the bar staff and the entertainment staff... and then the band would get in some heavy sh*t...
I made good bank on both ships, more than most musicians and entertainers. I didn't mind it because I knew what other jobs people had and how much they made in other departments, and when you take in to account how few actual hours we worked on board, it was best not to complain...
From Redditor /u/rmmyyz:
We had a saying: "Every night is a Friday night and every morning is a Monday morning. Every day is Groundhog Day."
From a former Redditor:
Don't remind me of the countless 14-hour days and next to no Internet. Ugh.
The only thing to do was drink after my daily report.
From Redditor /u/Seastar321:
Long working hours, very small shared cabin with walls thinner than paper so you can hear everything your neighbors are doing, [and] crew food is bloody awful unless you like living on boiled rice. Crew bar is very cheap, but also full of creepy guys hitting on everyone and insanely gorgeous girls sneering at everyone. But none of that matters... in five years on cruise ships I literally traveled the world.
I went to Europe; Canada; North, South, and Central America, including Alaska and Hawaii; Asia, including China, Japan, and India; [and] Africa. I basically visited every continent except Antarctica, and went to over 75 countries. I took a sled dog ride in Alaska; [went] whitewater rafting along a river through the jungles of Costa Rica; visited Alcatraz; had an authentic curry in Mumbai, spent a day on a luxury yacht sailing around the Caribbean; snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef; visited the great pyramids in Egypt; went to the lost city of Petra; spent days in Barcelona, Athens, Rome, Kyiv; and so, so, so much more.
None of the bullsh*t you have to put up with on board matters compared to that.