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My family were amazed at the logistics that must be involved with making these cruises work. Having one sailing right after another, loading all the food, unloading all the garbage, where does all the fresh water come from and how big of a tank is used to store it, tons of details that seem overwhelming. 

While on our first cruise on Navigator a couple weeks ago, my almost 12 year old daughter said that she now wants to work on a cruise ship when she grows up. We found ourselves wondering - do the people who work on cruise ships basically live on the ship? Do they do a series of consecutive sailings without a day off, or do they alternate with another crew? I realize that some of the entertainers are hired for specific sailings, and switch off. But what about people like the captain, the cruise director, the wait staff, etc?

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6 minutes ago, JerseyJoe said:

do the people who work on cruise ships basically live on the ship? Do they do a series of consecutive sailings without a day off, or do they alternate with another crew? I realize that some of the entertainers are hired for specific sailings, and switch off. But what about people like the captain, the cruise director, the wait staff, etc?

Yes, they do contracts of like 6 months or more.

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Captain normally has a 6 week on, 6 week off contract. For the crew their contracts could be 6+ months with a maybe 2 month break.

Fly on entertainment is at their own will, depending on needs. No idea contract length for the actual performers for the main shows.

Pub/Schooner singers same deal. One from the Pub on Adventure back in January wasn't too sure when her next contract would be at that time. Posted some time ago about her next one. Off time wound up between March and July. Think she had mentioned being on the ship for 4.5 months.

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Cruise ship staff live on the ship full time, I want to say typically for a six or nine month contract. At the end of each contract, they get a month or two off so they can visit home and family / friends before being assigned to a new contract on a new ship.

There are lots of YouTube videos posted by current (at the time) or former crew members, where they openly discuss what it's really like to live and work on a cruise ship. It's really interesting to hear about, and definitely an eye-opener. They work very hard and also party very hard in the crew-only relaxation spaces. And while they may get a chance to visit the ports, often times they are working the whole time the ship is in port on things like touching up the paint, cleaning, getting some extra supplies on board, taking inventory, and more.

There's also a forum member here who has a blog of his own about what it was like to work on Royal's ships. I tried to find his posts with the links to his blog, but it was posted a long time ago now and I can't remember what to search for. Hopefully someone else here has it bookmarked or will remember the right set of search words.

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@JerseyJoe, for a great look at ship life as a crew member, look here and here. A while back Chris Wong posted about his life on Independence of the Seas. Very interesting reading and also has a link to his own blog. He seems like a really good guy and gives a lot of insight.

@JLMoran, I believe those are the posts you were referring to.

Also, for an amazing look at supplying an Oasis class ship for a 7 night cruise, try to find Season 3 Episode 1 of a show called Mighty Ships. It's from 2010 and is amazing. Here is a link to some trailers for it.

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7 minutes ago, Andrew72681 said:

If you’re looking to dissuade your daughter from thinking about it, here’s a good YouTube channel to check out. Just watch his video of the crew room (and he was a lucky one with a single room)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC404kEt4oyD8CNsMU735dvg

Thanks, I'm not too worried about it, she's not even 12 yet, she'll probably change her mind 100 times in the next few years. 

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There are many international conventions and in some cases law that applies to all seafarers (ship workers) regardless of the ship - cruise, cargo, tanker, etc.

Generally speaking they limit crew time on board to no more than 11 months before being entitled to repatriation but in some jurisdictions that is actually 9 months.  Royal follows the 9 month rule.

Some entertainment cast have 11 month contracts so during an entertainment backstage tour I asked the cast how is it they have 9 month contracts when the rule that Royal follows is 9 months?  In the case of entertainment cast their contract starts with 2 months in Miami learning the shows at the massive Royal entertainment studios there before they head to the ship for 9 months.  The 9 month rule applies to time on board the ship.  

Crew constantly rotate on and off the ship.  The 9 month contract length is not co-terminus across the whole ship crew.  This week 10 may join the ship and 10 leave.  Next week 25 join the ship and 27 leave.  The following week 19 join and 17 leave, etc.  To further complicate matters some crew movements are subject to the PVSA in the US so they can't end a crew contract in one US city if that crew member joined the ship in another US city.  They'll disembark them in places such as Cozumel or St. Maarten (as examples) instead.  Next Cruise and some other ship jobs have been deemed by the US authorities as crew who are not essential to ship operations so they are subject to the PVSA.  

Life on board the ship is interesting to say the least.  It's challenging for some while others embrace it and love it.  Whirlwind romances spring up but are often short lived given the nature of crew constantly coming and going with no more than 9 months on board.  The next contract (if one is offered) may be a different ship in a different region where a new whirlwind romance commences.  To be blunt, there are a lot of hookups going on below the passenger decks that come to a crashing end when a crew member goes home.  This can be an emotional roller coaster for some.

Crew work long days with few days off.  It's largely 7 days a week, week after week, 12 to 18 hours per day but not always in one shot.  Some love and embrace this given the opportunity to "see the world" but that often comes in very short glimpses of the world in between work shifts.   

Shared living quarters that are quite small are a big downside of life onboard any ship.  Many crew are not allowed into guest areas or have to have a valid reason to leave crew areas.  It's not a cruise vacation in between work shifts.  

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This is an interesting topic which I've done some research on, so please excuse my rambling. 

There are 3 categories of employees on ships: Officers, Staff and Crew. The officers include individuals such as the Captain, Hotel Director, Chief Engineer, Cruise Director etc.

There are two Captains who are exclusively assigned to one ship and they rotate 10 weeks onboard and 10 weeks off (when one is on, the other is at home and vice-versa). For Cruise Directors, the average contract length is 4 months on, 2 months off, but this varies depending on the Cruise Director, ship, itinerary. Some take shorter contracts, others switch between ships, so it's less clear cut for them. Officers tend to work in rotations but it does sometimes work out differently.

Staff are mid-tier (if that doesn't sound snobbish). They usually have the chance to be promoted to officer status. The 3 staff positions that come to mind are the Cruise Director's Staff, Youth Staff and Sports Staff. CS and SS work 6-9 months onboard and 2-3 months off and I believe YS work around 5-6 months and 2 months off. These particular jobs usually attract people from developed/Western countries. In these jobs, they tend to do a different ship each contract and don't really rotate with each other

As for wait staff, they fall into the "crew" category and tend to come from developing countries, not making a lot of money and have the harshest working conditions. I believe that they do contracts around 8 months on and 2 months off and work around 10 hours a day without a day off. Doesn't sound fun but it's better than what they would get in their home countries.

They all work for their entire contract length without a day off. They all work hard and party hard.

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1 hour ago, Joe01 said:

There are 3 categories of employees on ships: Officers, Staff and Crew.

So now I'm curious -- where do the technical workers fall in this lineup? I'm talking the people who work all the tech in the aqua theater to make sure the platforms rise and fall at the same time and the right spotlights trigger at the right time; or Two70 during Spectra for lighting, the robo-displays, etc.; or the main theater for any of the nightly shows.

I know a lot of that stuff can be and almost certainly is automated to a large degree, but at the same time Royal put out some promotional videos where they featured some of these technical crew members and the work they have to do to ensure that everything is working as expected and modifications can be made as needed. Want to say that video was focused on the Aqua Theater, but obviously they need guys like on other ship classes, too.

Be really curious to know if they're lumped in with the entertainment staff, or they're considered general crew and find themselves doing a lot more than just the tech work they're specialized in.

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12 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

So now I'm curious -- where do the technical workers fall in this lineup? I'm talking the people who work all the tech in the aqua theater to make sure the platforms rise and fall at the same time and the right spotlights trigger at the right time; or Two70 during Spectra for lighting, the robo-displays, etc.; or the main theater for any of the nightly shows.

I know a lot of that stuff can be and almost certainly is automated to a large degree, but at the same time Royal put out some promotional videos where they featured some of these technical crew members and the work they have to do to ensure that everything is working as expected and modifications can be made as needed. Want to say that video was focused on the Aqua Theater, but obviously they need guys like on other ship classes, too.

Be really curious to know if they're lumped in with the entertainment staff, or they're considered general crew and find themselves doing a lot more than just the tech work they're specialized in.

Not sure about the audio and lighting folks..but I know that IT is part of the staff tier..I know they can be promoted to Officers.

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17 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

So now I'm curious -- where do the technical workers fall in this lineup? I'm talking the people who work all the tech in the aqua theater to make sure the platforms rise and fall at the same time and the right spotlights trigger at the right time; or Two70 during Spectra for lighting, the robo-displays, etc.; or the main theater for any of the nightly shows.

I know a lot of that stuff can be and almost certainly is automated to a large degree, but at the same time Royal put out some promotional videos where they featured some of these technical crew members and the work they have to do to ensure that everything is working as expected and modifications can be made as needed. Want to say that video was focused on the Aqua Theater, but obviously they need guys like on other ship classes, too.

Be really curious to know if they're lumped in with the entertainment staff, or they're considered general crew and find themselves doing a lot more than just the tech work they're specialized in.

The folks that work in the AquaTheater, Two70 and Theater are staff. They are among the Cruise Division which report to the Cruise Director.

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12 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

So now I'm curious -- where do the technical workers fall in this lineup? I'm talking the people who work all the tech in the aqua theater to make sure the platforms rise and fall at the same time and the right spotlights trigger at the right time; or Two70 during Spectra for lighting, the robo-displays, etc.; or the main theater for any of the nightly shows.

I know a lot of that stuff can be and almost certainly is automated to a large degree, but at the same time Royal put out some promotional videos where they featured some of these technical crew members and the work they have to do to ensure that everything is working as expected and modifications can be made as needed. Want to say that video was focused on the Aqua Theater, but obviously they need guys like on other ship classes, too.

Be really curious to know if they're lumped in with the entertainment staff, or they're considered general crew and find themselves doing a lot more than just the tech work they're specialized in.

Based on entertainment tours which usually include some techies, the technical behind the scenes crew are on their own contracts independent of the cast.  The cast or performers of the shows come and go as a group, the techie folks work on their own contracts distinct and separate form the cast.  They work multiple venues which can play into scheduling of shows.  On Symphony for example 'Flight' is very technical with a lot of rigging and back stage work.  It draws from the Aqua Theater backstage crew which means the Aqua Show and Flight can not be performed on the same nights.  Quantum class is somewhat different with dedicated Two70° back stage crew although a few may straddle and work both main theater and Two70° at times.  

They work other gigs as well.  Setting up a microphone for an ad hoc event here or there, maintaining ice and setting up Studio B for other events.  They can sometimes be offered additional side jobs to earn more money such as guiding guests on embarkation day, staffing the Box Office for last minute reservations, etc.  These are voluntary, not required or forced side jobs.  

There is additional distinction of crew on board.  The Marine Department includes the crew who work on roles supporting the ship itself versus the Hotel Department.  The Marine Department seems to report up through the Staff Captain to the Captain while the Hotel Department roles up through the Hotel Director and Cruise Director to the Captain.  Cruise Directors have quite a few people as reports, direct and through middle managers/staff/officers.  There is a lot more to a CD job than just hosting events and being in front of guests and at times the process of managing humans consumes more of their time than they would like.  

On a recent bridge tour they had a poster on the wall for incident management that showed the reporting lines.  

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4 hours ago, Joe01 said:

 

As for wait staff, they fall into the "crew" category and tend to come from developing countries, not making a lot of money and have the harshest working conditions. I believe that they do contracts around 8 months on and 2 months off and work around 10 hours a day without a day off. Doesn't sound fun but it's better than what they would get in their home countries.

They all work for their entire contract length without a day off. They all work hard and party hard.

A friend of mine who works as wait staff on a cruiseship would love conditions like these 🙂  

They have a 9 month contract with 2 or 3 months off at end of contract, they can work anything up to 16hrs a day 7 days a week, those who work late into the night dont get much sleep due to the safety drills that take place while ship is in port ( like muster these are compulsory for crew) . Yes the money is better than they would get back home, but with that comes the fact they miss out on everything that is going on back home... Births, Deaths and marriages etc, imagine being stuck on a cruiseship while your nearest and dearest are on their deathbeds. 

Also while on ship they have to pay for a lot of things we as passengers may think they get for free, uniforms for events such as caribbean nights, black and white party, 70 or 80s disco etc. the clothes they wear they must purchase themselves and wifi they must pay for which is why some will go onshore to use the free wifi in the cruiseship port to call home. 

It's a very hard job and it can drive people over the edge

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3 minutes ago, Ray said:

A friend of mine who works as wait staff on a cruiseship would love conditions like these 🙂  

They have a 9 month contract with 2 or 3 months off at end of contract, they can work anything up to 16hrs a day 7 days a week, those who work late into the night dont get much sleep due to the safety drills that take place while ship is in port ( like muster these are compulsory for crew) . Yes the money is better than they would get back home, but with that comes the fact they miss out on everything that is going on back home... Births, Deaths and marriages etc, imagine being stuck on a cruiseship while your nearest and dearest are on their deathbeds. 

Also while on ship they have to pay for a lot of things we as passengers may think they get for free, uniforms for events such as caribbean nights, black and white party, 70 or 80s disco etc. the clothes they wear they must purchase themselves and wifi they must pay for which is why some will go onshore to use the free wifi in the cruiseship port to call home. 

It's a very hard job and it can drive people over the edge

Yet in spite of this, they still manage to take care of us passengers with a smile on their face, as good spirits as they can muster for us, and as much attentiveness as the crowd they have to serve allows. Not gonna lie, it makes me feel like I've been cheaping out at least a little on the amount of extra tip I give them at the end of the cruise.

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23 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Yet in spite of this, they still manage to take care of us passengers with a smile on their face, as good spirits as they can muster for us, and as much attentiveness as the crowd they have to serve allows. Not gonna lie, it makes me feel like I've been cheaping out at least a little on the amount of extra tip I give them at the end of the cruise.

Yip!! Money is why they are there. so they can get a better life for not only themselves but for their children, guy who worked for me in middle east had been away from PH for 12 yrs only getting home for 2 months at the end of each 2yr contract, in total he had seen his wife and children for 6 x 2 months over 12 yrs. he did it so his children could have a future, get a good education and not have to live the life he had 

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55 minutes ago, KathyC said:

Paging @Pippa_OceanTime!! 

Maybe she can do something like a semester at sea?  Here is just one program: https://www.semesteratsea.org/ 

WOW! I would have loved this back in the day!! Instead, I toured Europe with a band between my highschool grad and freshman year in college. Think I would have made "better choices" had I done this. . . orrrr, maybe not.

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My daughter is turning 18 later in the year and she is auditioning for a dancing role with Royal Caribbean. If she was successful in getting a contract and then discovered ship life is not for her then so be it. It's only 7 months and would be a good experience I think.

If not successful with Royal, she will try other cruise lines such as Princess and P & O (Carnival). Fingers crossed she is successful with Royal so I don't have to cruise on those other lines! 😀

 

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13 hours ago, Ray said:

A friend of mine who works as wait staff on a cruiseship would love conditions like these 🙂  

They have a 9 month contract with 2 or 3 months off at end of contract, they can work anything up to 16hrs a day 7 days a week, those who work late into the night dont get much sleep due to the safety drills that take place while ship is in port ( like muster these are compulsory for crew) . Yes the money is better than they would get back home, but with that comes the fact they miss out on everything that is going on back home... Births, Deaths and marriages etc, imagine being stuck on a cruiseship while your nearest and dearest are on their deathbeds. 

Also while on ship they have to pay for a lot of things we as passengers may think they get for free, uniforms for events such as caribbean nights, black and white party, 70 or 80s disco etc. the clothes they wear they must purchase themselves and wifi they must pay for which is why some will go onshore to use the free wifi in the cruiseship port to call home. 

It's a very hard job and it can drive people over the edge

I don't have much knowledge on the Wait Staff position, although having observed the Stateroom Attendants, it seems as if they work around 10-12 hours a day. One shift in the morning and one shift in the afternoon.

I don't have much sympathy for those in the "Staff' tier though, such as the Cruise Staff. They signed up for that job and it's not a similar situation to the "crew" who are doing it to bring home the bacon. Obviously, they do have obligations such as Gangway shifts, crew drill, guest drill etc, but they didn't have to do it. As for purchasing items, I can see why that would be irritating, but many of us have to buy clothes for our jobs.

It's a very tough one for the crew, I'll admit that, but the Staff do have more privileges.

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  • 2 months later...

You will love it or hate it. I worked in the Casino, which is great because it is closed when ever in port..

My contract was 6 months on 6 weeks off but I would always take 12 weeks off. 

I was lucky, I would work 7 days then get 1 day off. However now no days off in your contract. You are there to work. Yes long hours.

Work hard and party hard. I did it for 8 years and love my memories of it.

Pay varies from job to job and at the time I didn't have to pay Tax but they have close that loop hole.

Not a lot of American on board because of the pay and paying tax.

I got to travel the world, meet amazing people and do incredible thinks and get paid for it.

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On 5/8/2019 at 10:08 AM, Skid said:

@JerseyJoe, for a great look at ship life as a crew member, look here and here. A while back Chris Wong posted about his life on Independence of the Seas. Very interesting reading and also has a link to his own blog. He seems like a really good guy and gives a lot of insight.

@JLMoran, I believe those are the posts you were referring to.

Also, for an amazing look at supplying an Oasis class ship for a 7 night cruise, try to find Season 3 Episode 1 of a show called Mighty Ships. It's from 2010 and is amazing. Here is a link to some trailers for it.

We had the opportunity to meet him when on Independence.  He's a super nice guy..very down to earth and friendly.  Found his blog very interesting.

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We always make a point to talk to crew and address them by name.

I learned a lesson a few years ago that explains why. I was walking the streets of Dublin, Ireland with a priest and he would give the homeless on the street a few Euro's here and there and he would always ask their name. Those he'd run into again he would recall their name and say, e.g., "Good morning, Brian!" as he gave them the a few coins. I asked him how he knew their names and he explained that one time he gave a repeat customer a few coins and called him by name. The young man began  to cry because no one had called him by name in a long,. long time.

Ever since that trip I look at name tags, ask homeless their names and try to remember for next time. One night I had the family in the car when I went to a section of Philly I minister in regularly. As we came off the expressway one of the "regulars" was panhandling. I rolled down the window and said "Good evening, John" as I gave him a dollar. My wife and kids in unison asked how I knew his name. I told them it was John, that I spoke to him before and that he was originally from Pittsburgh. They were amazed.

Our cruise last week on Anthem was made so much better by our waiter and waitress in the MDR - Francisco from the Dominican Republic who has been on Anthem for 4.5 years, and Liezly from the Philippines who is on her first contract with RC after working another line (she likes RC a lot more than the other cruise line which she would not name). They took great care of my grandkids during meals - had the high chair at the table before we arrived each night, ketchup smiley faces for the fries, prompt, courteous and always a smile on their face. They were awesome. Its the first time in 4 cruises that I gave wait staff a tip but I always try to remember names for the survey. 

On North Star last week, Declan from Scotland rode up with us. He is new to working cruise ships and loves it so far. He does North Star and kids stuff. He went on a cruise last year, loved it and went on a couple more to observe before deciding to apply. He filled all of us in on living situation and maybe because he is new it doesn't bother him yet but he was fun to be with for the short ride.

Bottom line - I think good interaction with passengers who show a genuine interest in crew is a real pick-me-up for some. If they make a difference in your cruise it doesn't take much - and doesn't have to be $$ - to show your appreciation.

 

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