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Working on a cruise ship

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Well I'll start out by saying I'm 23 and I'm looking to experience something completely new to me. I feel that a cruise ship would be a good way to see the world (cheap cruises in my off time) and I love working 60+ hours a week.


My question is - what is the best way to achieve a job on one of these ships? I have never done online applications and it seems so impersonal to me. I feel I am qualified enough to get the job (would like to be a line/prep cook), just not to sure how to make my application stand out. Any help would be greatly appreciated.Thanks!


post #2 of 22

You have to go through a recruiter.


The big cruise lines usually have 3 mth contracts.  You work your butt off for 3 mths, 7 days /week usually 12 hrs /day.  If someone is sick or doesn't show, or gets booted off the ship,18 hrs /day.  Bunking at 4 per cabin.  Shore leave at call of ports is usually 4 hrs, rotating "on-duty" at the ship.


Be aware.  If you are recruited in U.S, you will get paid according to US standards.  If you are recruited in, uh.. "another" country, you will get paid lower.  Two guys dong the exact same job will have completley differenty salaries


Beer is cheap. 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #3 of 22

I've heard too many horror stories about working overseas to be comfortable doing it.

post #4 of 22

I was under the impression that the large cruise lines don't hire cooks from the U.S.

And that they are registered in some country in Europe to avoid paying U.S. minimum wage.

So they are, in fact, another country's ship traveling is U.S. territory.


But, it's hearsay.  Just something I was told.  Could be untrue.


There are tons of other opportunities, however.

I've worked for small cruise lines traveling up rivers in Washington and Oregon.  A boat from Seattle to Haines, AK.  Some boats do a Baja California/Mexico tour.  50-100 passengers.

If that's not to your liking, you could try being a deckhand/chef on a yacht.  I've heard Florida is good for that.


Here:  cool jobs


Anyways...  to answer your question finally...

I have no idea.


There are times of the year when they do bulk hiring, but someone always quits or gets fired at some point.

Your best bet is to copy/pasta your cover letter to an email and attach a resume.

I don't think I ever filled out an application, just skipped it and went to a direct email to HR.

Apply to 4 or 5 a day for a week and the replies will start pouring in.  Then you get to choose which one you want. :)

Worked for me.


Hope that helps.

post #5 of 22

While never have worked on one, I have been on many cruises and in many ship kitchens and have spoken to many chefs. This is what I have found out. That contract for time is required. You work 7 days long shifts. You use standardized recipes. Benefits are very good. Salaries today are in line. It is better if single. You have little oppurtunity to spend money ,so you save a lot. you can work 2 ships and 2 lines finish one then direct to other therefore living on ship all year rent or mortgage. Finally yes they hire American but most American guys don't like the life therefore do not apply.  The volume of food aboard  re, quantity is mind bogeling.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...


Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

post #6 of 22

Is it worth it?? @Foodpump

post #7 of 22
Hi there , No it is definately NOT worth working on a cruise ship . I worked for a very large " fun cruise" line out of Miami , I was hired in London .
The little darlings I had to work with we're THE most racist and unpleasant human beings I have had the mis pleasure of meeting , they work you like a dog
And you have zero rights and absolutely no benefits whilst at sea . The exec chef was a total bastard and surrounded by his little kiss asses .
I am no stranger to hard work and un afraid of hard work , however this job reminded me of slavery in the 1800's .
There were three English chefs myself included , one had worked for the roux brothers in London ....he was hit on the head with a iron bar and then stabbed by one of the little darlings , he is now permanently in a wheel chair , the second worked for Lloyds in the city of London ...he was continually bullied and had a nervous breakdown , the third ( me) trained at the Dorchester London and I had enough of the BS on the " fun cruise " and I quit .....which is a whole more horror story ....
post #8 of 22

I have never done it, but was looking into it when I was your age. I know people that have done it also.The jobs are hard to get, and as you know, the hours are long and constant, and you have to get your merchant marine license. Just imagine this. Cooking for thousands of people three times per day, plus three buffets every day. I have worked plenty of hotel buffets. Buffets display humanity at its worst, total push and shove dont be last, me first, off the wall requests, and herd mentality. I wouldnt do it at this point in my life. If I were younger I might. It looks good on a resume for sure.


This is what I remember about how to get the job when I was researching it. Get your resume looking top notch. Research the company history. Write an amazing cover letter about how you would be honored to work for such an amazing company, include positive facts you learned about the company, and avoid the word "I" as much as possible. Call their recruiting office, and get the mail box address of their head of HR, and whoever else may be in charge of hiring. Send them the cover letter and resume next day delivery. Follow up with phone calls once per week or so. I also seem to remember that Carnival has the highest contract renewal rates of all the major cruise lines. That has to count for something as far as good working conditions. And it was either Carnival or Norwegian that has the highest ratio of staff to guests.


Good luck

post #9 of 22

As Hamirt above states ''it is not your cruise it's the guest'. They work the s    out of you. In many cases you are one of the few who speak english, most crew speak their native language to one another. If you are a ''dirty American. they avoid you. On your breaks  you sleepcause you are so tired. You work and cook so much. that you almost grow to hate it. If yo like gambleing with rest of crew yo will love it, cause thats what the do. Not a great life. The style of cooking has also changed, not really classy anymore. Everything recycled

post #10 of 22

I was once interested in working on a cruise ship. After doing my my own research, i was no longer interested. As most have mentioned already. You will not find many American citizens employed  on these ships. A lot of the staff are not getting paid what they are worth. Some are happy to just have a job. Don't let the cruise advertisements fool you. Remember that the cruise lines are there for the paying customers. You won't have that ocean view from your room. There are no labor laws to follow once in international waters. There is no over time. You are allowed to leave the ship for a short period. You would be lucky to find a good group of people. Everyone always trying to meet deadlines. The executive chefs are the way they are because they have bosses to answer to. If it's the travels you are interested in. You would be better off doing it on your own. There are affordable packages that includes traveling with groups.  If you are single having no responsibilities to others. I would say try it out. All good cooks and chefs have worked somewhere that wasn't so pleasant. That the part of the experience. I wish you the best of luck.

post #11 of 22

If you flu under a Pan Amanian flag, you are governed by that contries abor law and in most cases there are none.

post #12 of 22
Hi there , I will continue with my experiences aboard the cruise industry , in fact I saw my old ship on the news last night ....stranded at sea ..hmmm
Well after my companions had been eliminated by the other members of staff , I was politely told I was as a Englishman being punished for the Raj . Every week they had what was termed the " monkey show " where all the chefs and cooks would go out on stage and " meet" the customers .....The compere Cory
Would wax lyrical about how they had people from all over the world working in harmony and why couldn't the world be just the same ...cue much cheering and clapping from the predominantly American audience ....oh if only they knew the horrible truth , it was like ww3 behind the scenes . I have never witnessed or been victim of so much racism in my life , disgusting really and the management is very aware of this .
Well after 18 months of 16-17 hr days and ultimate BS , I decided to quit . I quit whilst at sea and was able to be a pretend passenger until one day outside of Miami and then I was put under 24 hr guard , I went through customs control and then I was handed over to a private detective agency hired by the cruise line
They greeted me with " we have guns they are loaded and if you run we will shoot you " , talk about brown trouser time . Like I was going to do the 100 yard dash with two suitcases and a knife bag ......
They had taken my passport , money , airline ticket and I.D , ( the cruise line like you to buy a one way ticket so if you do quit they can take your entire wage and buy you a ticket home , I bought a open ended ticket thank god) . They returned me to the Howerd Johnson Crossways motel , where I had began my adventures and then the pressures began
I wasn't allowed to make a phone call home to the UK .....
If I didn't leave by 4.00 pm they would charge me $25.00 per hour , per guard (3 just for me) , plus food lodging ect
If I didn't leave by midnight I would be handed to immigration , thrown into jail and never be allowed to return to the USA
Well I went to the Bahamas for a few days to escape these damned people , I have never been treated so badly in any job over my career
post #13 of 22

Fines, fines and more fines, for anything as little as not having a pen in your pocket. 

Know a chef and heard for loads of others who we fined so much, they came off with no pay.

But he said he had a blast!

post #14 of 22

You're a great writer :) @hamlrt

post #15 of 22

And there you have it,


thanks for the great insights hamlrt.


From the above posts you can gather the following:


-Typical cruise line "contracts" are 3 mths.  Do not quit or walk off the job while at sea!!!! Quit at the end of your contract or slip out at a port of call.


-Keep sufficient cash or open tickets close to your chest.


-If you're lucky and have dual citizenship, keep your "back-up" (secondary) passport close to your chest.  Many employers like to keep your passport in their office, for cruiseships this makes immigration much easier.  If you ever work in Asia or S.E. Asia --not on cruise lines but on land--many employers like to keep your passport.  If you don't have  a back-up passport you can usually B.S. your way out of this situation by substituting an expired passport for a valid one as soon a you exit airport customs and before you meet your employer.


-I've been offered this advice many times from European cooks working the cruise lines:  When um, "dating" the opposite sex co-workers on board, you stick to citizens of your country.  There are many jealous and racist workers on board and there have been many serious injuries (beatings) resulting from relationships between N.American and European countries and those of other countries.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #16 of 22
Holy smokes, this thread makes working a cruise ship seem like a mix of nazi Germany and gang wars! On one side your being oppressed, working slave labor and being asked for your papers with a million horrible ramifications and on the other you might get stabbed/jumped for any reason by another clique while the whole time smuggling your own valuables, keeping your cards close to your chest, and constantly sleeping with one eye open looking over your shoulder. And you can never 'just leave'. I guess it sounds more like a voluntary prison. Scary stuff
post #17 of 22

Yeah... My sister made me promise never to work on cruise lines, she worked 7 years for one of the big ones as a Purser. 


She witnessed a lot of stuff going down.  One thing that really stuck in her mind was when 3 guys came to her and complained about their 4th bunk-mate.  Seems he was, um... defecating in the shower stall.  She had other complaints of throwing used toilet paper in the garbage (very common in L. American countries where the sewer systems can't tolerate ANY paper) and guys whizzing in the shower (again, common in S. American countries, even some Fed Gov'ts had national campaigns to do this as it saved water..) But that one really got to her.  And a lot of fights over girls.


What hamltr described was a s.o.p. for crew who quit while at sea, according to my sister, said it was a good thing he didn't get off at St. Petersburg.... .

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #18 of 22

This made me laugh!!!

post #19 of 22

Could not agree more with what has been said above



I feel for you - I worked cruise lines in S.E. Asia for 3 years (had to make a living back then - not by choice, not really, just had a lot of bills to pay and since you can't spend a dime - was able to save up some).


Luckily racism was not such a massive issue over in Asia, not sure why, but they did not seemed to be bothered too much with having (what they kept calling me) a white devil in the kitchen. Helped that I knew my way around the poker table of the favorite past times for the crew.


My worst time however was the 6 months I spend working for an "American" cruise line.

Well - not completely as I did meet my now wife there - but yeah...racism in abundance, threats, theft, sabotage...

First day I started the "leader" of the S.American crew came up and told me straight up, that if I stuck my nose anywhere near their business I would loose it.

Second day, after having "impressed" the Exec. Chef with actually being on time, clean shaved, etc...(my years in the army helped with that) my knifes went missing. Whole set.

When asking around with the other cooks I got only "death stares"...


To be honest though - it actually only got better after I met my now wife.

After having heard a lot about cross-cultural relationships aboard at the beginning I was very skeptical and actually afraid...(my wife is from Africa) but to my surprise, the other African crew members did the exact opposite of what I was afraid of - they actually backed me up against the S.Americans...but yeah - still not very fun.


Luckily had a better ending than hamlrt - even having quit 2 weeks before arriving at shore.


Anyways - IMO - would not ever do this again.

If you want to travel the world, cook - join the army.

Sounds dumb, sounds crazy, but I actually had a blast and truth be told, a much better time than abroad that cruise ship (and please keep in mind, this is with bullets whizzing least you are not afraid of getting stabbed in your sleep or worse...)

post #20 of 22

I gather so much knowledge here and waiting for your new post.thanks for your great post.

post #21 of 22

I gather so much knowledge here and waiting for your new post.thanks for your great post.

post #22 of 22

I worked for RCCL, I would agree with some previous comments about the job being hard work and long hours. The ship runs 24/7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year so everybody has to work 7 days a week, otherwise it would be impossible for the ship to run efficiently.  Regarding safety and some of the more outlandish comments made by posters, I never saw anything like what they claimed. Most of the posters seem to be providing second hand information rather than direct information and some degree of rumours as well. For example all ships I worked on, I never saw more than 2 people sharing a cabin. I had to do cabin inspection so was familiar with cabin layouts. Most of the comments have been negative with no effort to outline the postive. I will try to give both.


Here are my Pro's and Cons list:




Salary is tax free

You have almost no outgoings, food, accomodation, gym all paid for.

Drink is extremely cheap in the crew bar.

Most crew have 3-5 hour break during the day every day, when they can go out in port, some departments like retail, have almost the whole day off while in port (as onboard shops are closed in port)

Depending on the ship you get assigned to, you can do a huge amount of travelling and sight seeing.

I worked on various ships and in 2 years I had visited around 25 countries and seen great sights around the world, like the Pyramids, Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, Noreweigan Fjords.

You meet international mix of people and make friends across the world. I can go to half the countries of the world and now know somebody there who can show me around.

You learn about different cultures.

The ship generally follows the sun, you get decent weather year round when you go out.

Career progression, if you are good, you can progress quickly and as you move up, conditions and terms get better, single cabins, high salarys, shorter contracts.

Parties in the crew bar almost every night, if your single you can have a good time. If your a single guy or girl you can have a lot of fun. Crew gettig together for a night, a week or a contract is very common.

You can sometimes volunteer to help with excursions and get to tag along for free. I did things like jet ski coast tour and 4x4 buggy tour in mexico for free.

At the end of your contact you get a vacation period of 8 weeks, where you can do whatever you want.




Long working hours - by thte end of the contract you will be exhausted.

You will work 7 days a week.

Crew food is often quite bad.

You are away from friends and family (but they are always there when you get back!)

Some departments do have more of a backstabbing culture than others, because people want to get promotion.

If you are sharing a cabin, it can be good if you get a good room mate or bad if you get a bad one.

It is a transient lifestyle travelling all the time, you meet so many people, but of course while you are away from land, you can also lose touch with some as well.

You dont have the freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want that you have on land.


I found cruise ships to be a safe environment to work on, I heard of the odd fight breaking out, but when you have 1500 crew its like a small town and things that happen on land will also happen at sea. Bad things will always happen wherever you are, but statistically speaking Cruise ships are considered a very safe environment. After all you have a security team and a medical team and center within a minutes reach at all times. When you are on land you dont have free and instant access to a medical center which is like a small hosptial on the big ships.

I saw a lot of the world, saw places it would have cost a fortune to visit. I made loads of friends, partied harder than I ever did on land, and developed as a person thanks to meeting foreign people and seeing so many foreign lands. I am so glad I did it and would do it all over again.


This jobs suits someone who is willing to go outside his comfort limits for a while to see whether they like it or not. If you get homesick easily I wouldnt recommend this. You need to have a tough skin, be hard working and ready to take whatever comes your way. If that sounds like you, working on cruise ships should not be a problem.

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