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Ask a Captain: How many people does it take to sail a cruise ship?

13 Jul 2022

If you've been on a cruise ship, then you've probably wondered how the ship works, the crew members that manage the ship, and a lot of the logistical work that goes into it all.

Spectrum of the Seas bridge

Royal Caribbean's ships are like a floating city, and there's lots that goes into making it all work. 

Each cruise, the ship's Captain and other officers hold an event onboard known as, "Captain's Corner," where guests can ask them questions.

On an Anthem of the Seas 2019 cruise, a passenger wanted to know how many crew members it takes to man the navigation of the ship. She wanted to know what's the least number required for the ship to operate.

What is the minimum amount of crew needed on the bridge at any one time?

Explorer of the Seas bridge

Captain Srecko Ban was the ship's Captain at the time and explained that there are a minimum amount of bridge crew members they must maintain at any given time, "The minimum manning on the bridge is two licensed officers, and one lookout."

"One of them being the first officer, in charge of navigation, and the second officer assisting first officer and looking after the safety center."

The lookout does more than simply scan the horizon for obstacles or other traffic, "my lookout is a quartermaster with experience to steer the ship, should there be a need for us to use hand steering versus autopilot."

Navigator bridge

Captain Ban said most of the time the autopilot is used to get from one place to another.

However, when there is bad weather, traffic in the way, or every time the ship is taken in and out of port, other officers are present, "We have senior team on the bridge as well, which consists of myself, Staff Captain and Chief Officer."

What is the worst weather you've faced as a captain?

Storm in Port Canaveral

Captain Ban mentioned having more staff on the bridge in the case of bad weather, which prompted the question what was the worst weather he's been in.

"Well, as far as my time on the cruise ships, I haven't really faced any big storm and for good reason."

"We are very mindful of our cargo, or people, that we carry aboard and the need for us to provide a safe environment and comfort to everybody."

James Van Fleet predicting weather

Captain Ban said his team monitors the weather and they go around any bad weather that is predicted ahead of them.

Read moreHow Royal Caribbean navigates bad weather with its own meteorologist

He did say during his time working as a merchant marine, he encountered "difficult weather challenges", which he characterized as being similar weather to the 2000 film, "The Perfect Storm".

Which port is the most challenging to navigate for a cruise ship?

Adventure of the Seas sailing into Nassau

Anthem of the Seas is one of the largest cruise ships in the world, so getting her in and out of port is not simple.

Captain Ban said the growing size of cruise ships has made the docking process everywhere more of a challenge than in the past. Strong winds are the biggest issue, more so than the layout of a port because when a ship takes wind directly abeam, they lose speed.

Harmony of the Seas bridge wings

He said St. Maarten provided sufficient space, but getting into Nassau can be an issue, "Nassau can be particularly tricky for us."

"Going through the channel and entering the harbor, it's very narrow and we are turning this here and channeling through and it's very difficult for us when we face conditions with strong winds, which usually is the case."

More than just navigation

While many people imagine a cruise ship's bridge handing where a ship goes, Captain Ban added an additional function is serving as the primary hub for the ship-wide safety operations.

"The bridge is not just a place where we navigate the ship, it's also the safety center with all different safety installations you find around the ship is remotely controlled from the bridge."

"In order for us to initiate response to emergencies in a timely fashion, we have assigned person to alert people that need to know about it, like myself."

Royal Caribbean allows crew members to freely get off the ship in ports again

11 May 2022

Crew members can now disembark cruise ships in port during their time off once again.

One of the many Covid-19 protocols on cruise ships prohibited crew members from visiting ports of call, but that rule has been changed.

Ovation of the Seas crew member Chris Wong shared a video update recently that crew members are getting once again free flow.

"We have just been told that we are officially getting once again free flow surely for crew members, which means we can go back out into port, just like it was pre-pandemic days."

"Since the restart, crew shore leave or any crew members to go out into port was not allowed."

Crew members in port

He explained that small changes were made over the last few months, but it just wasn't the same, "towards the end of last year, they slowly started allowing crew to get off again. But it was a very it was in a very controlled environment. These were bubble tours. So it wasn't really the same thing. And to be honest, it wasn't that much fun."

Mr. Wong cited a crew newsletter email that explained the new policy, "we're thrilled to announce that our shore leave pilot was a success. And beginning May 1st, free flow shore leave will be extended to all ships and participating ports of call."

"As we ease back into free flow, capacity limits of 250 crew per port will be implemented."

Mr. Wong added that the updated policy excludes turnaround ports, which do not have capacity limits.

Mr. Wong was visibly excited for the change because being limited to staying on the ship during a contract meant missing out on some real fun that one can have while working on a cruise ship, "this is certainly a lot better than how it used to be."

Street in Cozumel

"I cannot wait to just visit the first port of call wherever it will be, to walk off the gangway and to just be able to walk around wherever I want and not, you know, having to think, oh, am I allowed to go there?"

"This is a really big deal for us crew members."

Royal Caribbean has been slowly relaxing certain protocols for crew members and guests alike.

Following the Omicron variant, Royal Caribbean began to slowly open up shore leave for crew members in February. This week's update follows up on that initiative even further.

Royal Caribbean updates: Ukrainian crew, Pinnacle lounge access, & more

03 Mar 2022

While Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas is front and center at the moment, there's still other things happening in the world of Royal Caribbean that you should know about.

Independence of the Seas aerial view birds eye

Of course, if you want to read more about Wonder of the Seas, check out photos from around the ship!

In an effort to highlight some other changes and happenings, this blog post summarizes the changes from this week that may not have made big headlines.

If you ever have a news tip, feel free to email it to [email protected] for possible inclusion in a future update!

Lounge access is back for Pinnacles

The top cruisers in Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society loyalty program  got some good news this week.

Due to Royal Caribbean's participation in the CDC's "Highly Vaccinated" program, the cruise line can now reinstate access for Pinnacle Club guests to the Suite and Concierge Lounges across our fleet effective on sailings beginning after March 15. 

Should the number of guests surpass the desired capacity of these lounges, the ship will continue to provide a temporary Pinnacle Club lounge just for Pinnacle members.

US prevents Ukrainian and Russian crew members from getting off cruise ships

One consequence of the Russian invasion of The Ukraine has been seafarers from those countries are not allowed to disembark the ship in U.S. ports.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley explained that this new rule is not a cruise line policy, but instead a new policy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"All foreign crew are typically granted a visa and entered into the USA as seafarers and are processed and given a I95 form. Kind of like a permission slip to go ashore in USA ports.  

"Our latest information to be confirmed, is CBP (U.S. Government agency) has stopped shore leave and repatriation for all Ukrainian and Russian crew. This impacts all seafarers.  

"We are working with our Government relations team and industry to see if this can be relaxed.  They are free to come and go in all other non USA ports (so far)."

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While browsing Royal Caribbean's website, em.down.the.rabbit.hole saw a popup to sign up for $50 off their next cruise booking.

The voucher code appears to be only for Americans, but promo code "WELCOME" is good until it expires on March 8, 2022.

The fine print says it is $50 voucher for sailings 6 nights or greater and $25 off sailings 5 nights or fewer.

I can't promise it will work for you, but give it a try!

Royal Caribbean CEO pledges support for Ukrainian crew members

28 Feb 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has elicited all sorts of support for the people of Ukraine, and the cruise industry has been quick to respond.

Ukraine flag

The geopolitical issues of the conflict are one aspect, but the people behind the invasion are another aspect that have a deep connection, especially those that work for the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean hires crew members from all over the world, including the Ukraine. Royal Caribbean employs over 500 crew members from the Ukraine.

In a post on social media, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley responded to questions the company has received about those crew members.

"Understandably they are extremely concerned and anxious about their loved ones at home," Mr. Bayley wrote.

Royal Caribbean is offering its Ukrainian crew members various forms of assistance, "We have made available all communication channels that we have so they can access their families.

"[We] Have offered assistance getting them home or close to home if they wish to leave their ship and we are trying to expedite any Ukrainian crew who wishes to join any of our ships earlier than scheduled."

Mr. Bayley added that support is not just limited to the Ukrainian crew. Royal Caribbean's 200 crew members are not being ignored, as they too are dealing with questions about what is happening back home.

"We also have over 200 Russian crew who also are concerned and anxious over these events and we are offering them the same support."

"The Royal family is here for all our crew and our thoughts and prayers go out to all impacted by these events"

Port stops in Russia could change

Prior to Mr. Bayley's comments, Royal Caribbean informed guests booked on Baltic cruises in 2022 that visits to Russia could be skipped.

In an email to guests booked on Voyager of the Seas sailings that visit St. Petersburg in summer 2022, Royal Caribbean said it has, "secured alternate ports" just in case.

"We’re continuously monitoring events taking place around the world, including the situation in Ukraine. With the recent events, it is increasingly uncertain if we can visit St. Petersburg, Russia, as scheduled. For your peace of mind, we want to share our plans."

7 tips for a great Royal Caribbean Baltic cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

"At this time, our intention is to sail to St. Petersburg; however, we have secured alternate ports, should we feel that changing our itinerary is the best path forward."

In addition, Royal Caribbean said it would allow anyone booked on a Baltic cruise in 2022 to change their cruise and would waive change fees.

Royal Caribbean relaxes crew member shore leave and quarantine rules

15 Feb 2022

As the number of Omicron cases has begun to decrease worldwide, the cruise industry is looking at updating regulations, including those that apply to its crew members.

Martina, a Royal Caribbean crew member onboard the Serenade of the Seas has provided an update on her YouTube channel regarding crew shore leave, vaccination requirements and quarantine rules.

A relaxation of crew rules, especially as it relates to onshore visits, is good news for crew members who have faced restrictions during the pandemic.

Martina has been providing updates from the Serenade of the Seas, as its sails from its current homeport of Tampa. The ship takes on fuel, food and mail in Tampa before it voyages out to pick up and transfer crew members in Cozumel, Roatan and Belize.   

Serenade of the Seas was designated as a hospital ship for those crew members who have tested positive for Covid-19 but are largely asymptomatic.

Caring for the crew on one ship was deemed to be much better for the overall care of crew members without the worries of cruise guests on board.

Relaxing protocols

In her latest Youtube video,  Martina shared some recent positive changes in terms of the easing of certain rules and protocols for crew members and guests, "This is one of the most exciting and for sure one of the most positive videos that I am able to share".

In the fall, there was some loosening of rules however, the sudden uptick in Omicron in December delayed any further progress, and in some cases, took a few steps back, especially for mask protocols.

In describing the move toward less stringent rules, Martina describes the changes as the “sunset of the heightened protocols”.

Shore Leave

One of the most significant hardships for crew members has been the cancelation of shore leave. Much appreciated time on land gives them the opportunity to relax a little, purchase personal items, or simply just enjoy being off the ship for a couple hours.

Shore leave had been canceled during the resumption to service, but now it is restarting but the rules vary by port and country. Martina sums up the crew's sentiment by saying "It has been rather frustrating for crew members"  as guests are allowed in port, while the crew are not. 

At this time, Royal Caribbean has provided the new regulations for sailings with port stops in the United States and the Caribbean.

Shore leave in the United States

Starting February 12th, U.S ports will allow for the free flow of shore leave. This only applies to ships that are currently in service. Serenade of the Seas would not qualify for this as it is presently serving as a hospital ship.

There are specific conditions that apply to this as it pertains to the number of Covid-19 cases onboard. Some additional details:

  • This will cover major ports such as  New York, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Port Canaveral. San Juan, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Galveston
  • It will start with a 3-week trial, first 100 crew members,  increasing in groups of 50 thereafter
  • Crew members have to be fully vaccinated, including a booster
  • They must wear a KN95
  • Private transportation is encouraged
  • Crew members will need to carry their most recent test results with them

Caribbean shore leave

The Caribbean is much more complicated given the number of countries involved. Regardless, Royal Caribbean crew members must be fully vaccinated to go onshore and must wear a KN95 mask, no matter which port they are visiting.

Countries fall into three categories for shore leave. Free flow (no restrictions), bubbles, which are restricted groups, and no shore leave.

  • Free flow ports include St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Kitts, Mexico, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Jamaica, Antigua, Columbia and Haiti
  • Bubble countries consist of Curacao, Aruba, Barbados,  Roatan (Honduras), Bonaire, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Vincent, Grenada, and the Dominican Republic
  • Crew members will be unable to go onshore in the Central American countries of Belize and Costa Rica

Covid-19 vaccine requirements for crew members

A third vaccine dose, or booster as it is commonly referred to, is now part of the mandatory vaccination program for crew members. Royal Caribbean began a booster campaign for its crew several months ago.

Crew members have the option to get their booster in their home countries prior to rejoining the ship. Or they will be given the opportunity onboard.

For those staff members who do not get a booster, they will be sent home as this contravenes Royal Caribbean’s policy.

Crew member quarantine

Sign-on, the return of crew members to the ship, has required varying lengths of isolation periods during the pandemic. It started at 14 days, then decreased to 10 days, then 7, and now 3 days. A great improvement.

Staff no longer require day 3 or day 7 tests if vaccinated, are asymptomatic and tested negative on their embarkation test.

This is undoubtedly a great benefit to crew members, as they don't need to spend as much time alone in a room, waiting to get back to work.

Guest protocols

Woman wearing a mask in front of cruise ship

In addition to several crew-related rules, Royal Caribbean has recently announced the relaxation of mask rules for guests onboard

During the height of Omicron, the cruise line had imposed more stringent mask rules, even in vaccinated-only areas. They also banned smoking in the casino.

Prefacing the rules change, Martina adds " I am sure some people will be relieved to hear this" of February 15th, masks will be optional in vaccinated-only venues (although encouraged) and smoking will be allowed in the casino. No change for vaccination rules as guests ages 12 and over will still be required to be fully vaccinated (2 doses) to sail, in addition to pre-departure testing.

'It was a pleasure being here for the quarantine': What it's like to be on a cruise ship quarantining crew members

21 Jan 2022

With the growing number of Omicron cases throughout the world, so too have cases increased on cruise ships across the industry.  

In an effort to improve the care of those crew members completing quarantine, Royal Caribbean has designated the Serenade of the Seas as a hospital ship for those who have tested positive for covid-19.

What's it like onboard? News stories have sensationalized the poor conditions onboard cruise ships, however, this does not seem to be the case currently.

Martina, a Royal Caribbean crew member onboard the Serenade of the Seas has provided a glimpse into her day to day experience, showing us what it is really like to live and work on a quarantine ship.

Onboard the Serenade of the Seas

Recording her experience during a week of sailing, crew member, Martina, who is from Argentina, gives her opinions and interviews crew members as the Serenade of the Seas sails from its current homeport of Tampa to Cozumel, Roatan and Belize.

The ship takes on fuel, food and mail in Tampa before it voyages out to pick up and transfer crew members. Serenade of the Seas takes on infected crew members who have tested positive for Covid-19 but are largely asymptomatic.

Once the crew completes their 10 day isolation period, they can leave. Some stay the night in a hotel before going back to a ship or others take an early vacation prior to their next assignment. 

Why is a quarantine ship necessary?

Talking about the transformation of Serenade of the Seas from a ship for leisure travel to caring for crew members, Martina explains the importance of their mandate, “to relieve the pressure on the amount of Covid Cases around the fleet”.

She also notes that there are a number of challenges in caring for quarantining crew along with cruise passengers. Onboard the hospital ship they get the care they need from medical staff and guest services, along with good food.

Normally crew live in compact quarters on cruise ships, so this gives them the opportunity to spread out, along with separating them from the healthy crew members.

Quarantine conditions

Photo by The Curious Lens of Martina from Argentina

Martina sat down with 4 crew members from the Adventure of the Seas who had finished their isolation period and were now enjoying a couple of days off before returning to work.

She prefaced the interview by acknowledging that on some occasions, quarantine conditions could have been improved and it was tough managing crew and passengers on an operational ship.

The process on Serenade of the Seas now seems to be running more smoothly, based on feedback.

Crew feedback

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Ensenada | Royal Caribbean Blog

During the informal discussion, the crew members had high praise for their treatment onboard the ship, adding that the food was “amazing”.

On a ship with no passengers, they have more cabins and access to more spacious rooms, including some with balconies. The staff chime in saying it was great to get fresh air, a significant improvement from windowless cabins, and they did not have to share rooms. One lucky crew member was quite pleased to have received a junior balcony cabin.

There was also more staff/resources to take care of them since there were no guests onboard. Frequent check-ins from guest services and the medical personnel made them feel well cared for.

Impact on crew positions

Royal Caribbean moving Covid positive crew to Serenade of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Many have speculated as to the impact on crew jobs, due to the Serenade’s reassignment.

Martina spent some time explaining how the conversion to a quarantine ship has affected the crew since they were no longer serving guests. “Going home doesn't meet losing your job," she said.

The Serenade of the Seas was scheduled to go into to dry-dock for refurbishment in a couple of months.  So, for some, they were given the opportunity to take an early vacation.

For those with more time left on their contracts, they were given the option to reassign to other ships.

Progress to date

U.S ports begin vaccinating cruise ship crew members | Royal Caribbean Blog

Although there have been some issues in the past, Martina says that “we need to celebrate when the right decisions are made". And that the strategy of having a separate quarantine ship has improved the overall conditions for staff.

Although the media portrays these ships negatively, most of the crew Martina spoke with were asymptomatic and just needed to wait out their quarantine time. Being on the  Serenade of the Seas made that process much easier and more comfortable.

Time on the ship also provides the opportunity to provide booster shots to crew members for enhanced immunity. Royal Caribbean already requires staff to be fully vaccinated.

Follow Martina on YouTube

You can see all of Martina's videos and enjoy her behind-the-scenes videos on her YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe!

Royal Caribbean will begin hiring crew members from India again later this month

08 May 2021

Royal Caribbean will once again start hiring crew members from India.

Less than two weeks after announcing the cruise line would temporarily halt hiring crew members from India, later this month the policy will revert back.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted on Facebook that the hirings will once again commence, beginning on May 21st.

"We are starting crewing from India on May 21st," Mr. Bayley announced in his post, and said "enhanced protocols" will be used for these crew members.

Crew coming from India will undergo a rigorous set of testing and quarantine procedures to ensure they can safely join a ship:

  1. PCR Test
  2. 14 day quarantine
  3. PCR Test
  4. Charter flight
  5. PCR Test
  6. Given a Covid-19 vaccine
  7. Quarantine
  8. PCR Test

Mr. Bayley said these protocols will be in place at least for a "short time", although these sort of enhanced protocols will be used for crew members coming from other countries where new Covid-19 case counts are surging.

Since the additional quarantine requirements will take up more time than the usual onboarding process, crew contracts will be extended by 2 months.

Large scale vaccinations for crew

In addition to vaccinating crew members coming from India, Royal Caribbean has been systematically bringing ships to PortMiami to get crew members vaccinated there.

In less than a week, crew members from Explorer, Liberty, Navigator, Freedom, Independence and Mariner of the Seas have all received their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Reports are more ships are to arrive soon as well for their jabs.

Mr. Bayley also celebrated the World Health Organization approving Sinopharm vaccine, which is China's vaccine option that is more easily available in China and other nearby countries.

A WHO emergency listing is a signal to national regulators that a product is safe and effective. It also allows it to be included in COVAX, a global program to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries, which has hit supply problems.

The WHO had already given emergency approval to COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and, last week, Moderna.

Royal Caribbean begins vaccinating crew members in Miami

04 May 2021

More Royal Caribbean crew members are getting vaccinated so they can get back to work onboard.

Already two Royal Caribbean cruise ships have made stops in Miami to get some of their crew members Covid-19 vaccine shots, and two more are scheduled for today.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley shared photos of crew members stopping in for the vaccine.

So far, Explorer of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas have had some crew members get the vaccine, along with Celebrity Equinox.

Mr. Bayley posted on Facebook the importance of getting crew ready so cruises can begin again soon, "It is going to be extremely important our crew are vaccinated."

"We are working to help make this possible and have been assured vaccine availability will significantly improve in the coming weeks and months globally."

"I encourage all crew to get vaccinated at home if possible and to be guided by their national health authority."

Photos shared by Michael Bayley

He even said that letters of employment "will be coming soon. Crewing is starting up".

Miami is one of at least three ports now welcoming cruise ships in so that its crew members can get vaccinated.

It was speculated, but never confirmed, that Odyssey of the Seas began getting its crew members vaccinated during a brief stop in Israel two weeks ago.

Photo by Omar Israel G S, Human Resources Specialist

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees approved an expansion to vaccine eligibility in Florida to include individuals who are in the state for purpose of providing good or services for the benefit of residents and visitors of Florida.

Not only does Royal Caribbean need to vaccinate crew members, but it needs to get more of them back onboard before any cruises can begin.

Mr. Bayley told one crew member on Facebook that Pfizer is the vaccine being distributed to crew.

Currently, most ships are running at minimal staffing levels in order to keep costs low while there are no cruises, but more crew members need to be brought back (and subsequently vaccinated) for a ship to truly be ready for cruises again.

Royal Caribbean said in February 2021 that it would staff its ships with vaccinated crew, and Mr. Bayley's comments encourage crew to get vaccinated at home if possible to speed up that process.

In addition, cruise ships can restart faster if at least 98% of the crew members are vaccinated, along with 95% of passengers.

Report: Royal Caribbean temporarily halts hiring new crew members from India

26 Apr 2021

The latest impact the global health crisis has had on the cruise industry is now hiring.

The amount of new coronavirus cases in India continues to climb, creating a major health emergency in the country. 

India's health ministry reported 352,991 more infections, taking the total past 17 million. A record 2,812 deaths were confirmed Monday, taking the total to 195,123 since the pandemic began.

India set a new record daily cases for a fourth straight day on Sunday.

A new report indicates Royal Caribbean has paused hiring crew members from India due to the rapid escalation of cases there.

The Crewcenter website shared the contents of a letter sent by Royal Caribbean that the company has decided to "temporary cancel all assignments for shipboard employees from India or people who reside in this country".

Royal Caribbean's letter to crew members reads as follows, "It’s always unfortunate when we must cancel assignments but we believe this is a prudent decision at this time. We know how much our crew look forward to returning to work after waiting for so long."

"We also understand how tough it can be to have to make last minute travel changes. It’s not the way that we want to operate, but it is the reality of the quick changes we need to make based on different reasons that are often unplanned and beyond our direct control."

"Those crew members who are currently at hotels pending joining a ship or are currently en route (already flying) will be notified and accommodation will be provided under quarantine guidelines till further notice. They will be kept informed by the HR ops team as needed."

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reached out to the Royal Caribbean Group for confirmation of the new policy, and a spokesperson indicated there has been a shift in hiring from India.

"We continue to monitor impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world including travel restrictions to and from areas with a high rate of cases."

"To ensure the continued health and safety of our crew, guests and the residents of the destination we visit, we are currently exercising extra caution in the movement of any crew from India to our ships due to the recent surge of COVID-19."

Royal Caribbean is in the midst of preparing a few of its cruise ships to restart sailings this summer, and getting crew members back onboard is a critical piece to resume sailings.

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships have been manned by skeleton crews during the industry shutdown, and any vessel that is going to offer sailings this summer would need to get back enough crew members to support the guests sailing.

Based on posts seen on social media, Royal Caribbean is in the process of hiring back at least some crew members to its ships. 

Many are in various phases of quarantine to prepare them to join the ship in a few weeks.

Five cruise ships are expected to restart sailings this summer outside of the United States, including Adventure, Vision, Odyssey, Anthem and Jewel of the Seas.

How much do cruise ship workers make and other crew member questions

11 Mar 2021

There is something intriguing about the crew members that work on a cruise ship and what it's like to live and work on a cruise ship for months at a time.

Many cruisers are curious about what life is like for crew members onboard, as well as the nature of the lifestyle and daily routine for a crew member.

Just like everything, people will search the internet for answers to these questions, and I have assembled the top questions about crew members on a cruise that people are searching for on the internet.

Keep in mind that it is impossible to give an answer that encompasses all crew members' experience, just like doctors, mechanics, postal workers, teachers, and CEOs do not all make the same income, or work exactly the same way.

Do cruise ship employees get free food?

Yes, crew members receive free food for working onboard a ship, along with a cabin to sleep in (more on that later).

Similar to the guests, crew members have their own buffet style restaurant to get their meals from throughout the day.

Known as the crew mess, this restaurant offers prepared foods, ready-to-go foods, and ways to heat up food that crew members already have. There is seating provided as well in booths or tables.

Often there will be regional dishes from the crew members' home countries.

How many dining venues and where they are located, will vary from ship to ship.

Read moreTop 10 things you didn't know about what it's like working on a cruise ship

What are the highest paying jobs on a cruise ship?

Just like any job on land, how much someone makes doing their job will vary depending on a person's experience, what their employer is willing to pay, where they live, and other factors.

As you might imagine, the best paying jobs on a cruise ship are going to generally be held by the highest ranking crew members onboard: officers.

Just like a job on land, everyone's salary is not public information, so I have to rely on job recruiting websites for some insight.

According to BestHospitalityDegrees, the top five jobs on a cruise for salary are:

  1. Executive Chef
  2. Cruise Director
  3. Chief Purser
  4. Hotel Director
  5. Human Resources Manager

ZipRecruiter also notes that Cruise Ship Physician Assistant and Cruise Manager also rank well in terms of salary.

Do cruise employees hook up with passengers?

Despite what you may have seen on the television show, "The Love Boat", crew members are strictly prohibited from any kind of relationships with passengers onboard.

Royal Caribbean's cruise contract states guests are, "prohibited from engaging in physical relationships with crew members. Guests are not permitted in any restricted or crew area of the ship, including crew staterooms and corridors."

In fact, crew members are not allowed to go into passenger cabins unless there is an official reason.

Any crew member that is caught engaging in any kind of a personal relationship with a guest can be terminated immediately.

Do cruise ship employees get days off?

Crew members work very hard onboard, and their schedule is different than the 9-to-5 schedule many Americans think of when it comes to a work day.

Rather than getting full days off, crew members get large gaps in their schedule, but they work every day of their contract. This is because crew members work around the schedule of the cruise ship.

As an example, a stateroom attendant will work the morning to go through all of his/her cabins, and then take a few hours off in the afternoon, before returning for work in the evening.

Often crew members will disembark the ship while it is in port during the afternoon for a break to visit the port of call. Others may simple enjoy some downtime back in their cabin.

Read more8 cruise ship tips from a former employee

Do cruise ship employees share rooms?

Many crew members do share a room with another crew member, although it does depend on their rank or title.

The most common scenario is two crew members will share a cabin together, although on some ships larger cabins can accommodate a third crew member.

Crew cabins are basic and typically smaller than guest cabins, and offer the basics: bed, desk, closet, shelves, and a small bathroom.

Bunk beds seem to be the norm for crew cabins, as it maximizes the space available for them.

Officers, higher ranking crew members, and temporary crew may earn themselves a larger room, or even the opportunity to not share a cabin with someone else.

This may actually change somewhat once cruises begin again. One of the 74 recommendations of the Healthy Sail Panel is "Crew should be placed in single-occupancy crew cabins whenever possible to minimize extended periods of close contact with other crew members."

Do cruise ship employees pay room and board?

Cruise lines cover the cost of food and a place to stay for crew members working onboard.

On top of their pay, crew members on a ship can expect to receive a variety of benefits, such as:

  • Accommodations
  • Meals
  • Medical care

A contract ranges anywhere from three to approximately eight months, depending on the position. Most senior management roles have 4-month contracts while most of the rest of the positions have 6-8 month contracts. Employees live onboard for the total length of their contracts.

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