Facilities for Cruise Ship Crew

Facilities for Cruise Ship CrewLife at sea for a cruise ship crew revolves mostly around work. Long hours with no days off make up every day of your contract. However, cruise line companies ensure that cruise ship crew have a number of facilities at their disposal to keep them happy at work.

Accommodation & food

Room and board is paid for by the cruise ship company. Typically, each crew member shares his or her cabin with another, most often of the same sex. Only in special cases where heterosexual spouses or long-term partners get permission from the company are they allowed to share a cabin.

These days, each room is equipped with an en-suite shower and toilet, a desk, mini fridge, safe box, storage space for luggage and sometimes a television. For crew, the layout often involves bunk beds to save on space, but higher ranked officers get either separate bedrooms or a room to themselves.

Cruise ship crew also have separate galleys and buffet areas for them where they are served delicious food ranging from healthy and nutritious to decadent comfort food. Often, menus are designed keeping the nationalities of the crew in mind, so Indians can expect to find rice, dal, curries, rotis and familiar vegetable preparations.

Amenities

For cruise ship crew to be able to put in their long hours, companies offer additional amenities for various conveniences. Laundry areas – either free or for a very nominal fee – ensure that crew have clean uniforms to wear every day. They are available 24 hours a day as cruise ship crew work in shifts.

There is also a separate convenience store and medical shop where cruise ship crew can get daily essentials such as batteries, stationery, hygiene products as well as medications for a variety of illnesses particularly common colds and sea sickness.

A doctor is available on call especially for crew so they can get treated at the slightest sign of an illness. This helps cruise ship companies nip conditions such as norovirus in the bud before they can turn into potentially dangerous epidemics.

Entertainment

To keep crew happy, cruise ship companies offer a variety of entertainment and leisure options. There are outdoor and indoor spaces reserved solely for crew, where passengers are prohibited from entering.

Here, you will have access to a swimming pool and sunbathing areas, a gym, recreation room with indoor games such as snooker or billiards, foosball, chess and cards. There’s also a lounge area with a DVD player, a library of books and specially designated crew smoking zones.

Additionally, there is a crew bar and disco offering beverages at rates much lower than what passengers would pay. A specific department on board caters to the crew entertainment and regularly organises everything from volunteering activities to theme parties, with something new happening each week.

All of this keeps the cruise ship crew motivated and happy to perform at their peak and stay loyal to the company.

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Safety From Infectious Diseases on Board

Safety From Infectious Diseases on BoardConsidering the thousands of passengers embarking on each cruise trip, and the hundreds of crew changes occurring every month, there is no dearth of viruses and germs all around. Cruise ship crew may be insured, depending on the company policy, but as always, prevention is better than cure.

One of the most common illnesses on cruise ships is gastrointestinal disease. Often, norovirus is the main culprit. This is highly contagious and because the disease spreads easily, can turn into an epidemic very quickly.

Most gastrointestinal diseases are characterised by nausea, vomiting, abdominal and/or muscle pain and diarrhea. If you experience any of these, it is time to tell the ship’s doctor and get treated.

An important part of cruise ship jobs is hygiene and sanitation within the galley, service and storage areas in particular. It might be hard to keep guests from transmitting the disease, but ensuring the virus does not have a chance to multiply keeps any infection from spreading or affecting many people at one time.

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), great care and hygiene must be taken during storage, preparation, service and sanitation. One of these is personal hygiene, which includes washing hands thoroughly, bathing regularly, wearing clean uniforms and reporting any illnesses.

Others include maintaining food within its safe temperature zones – hot food remains hot and cold food remains cold. Bacteria multiply quickly in temperatures ranging between 40F and 140F, doubling in just 20 minutes. Any food left out at room temperature for more than two hours can fall into this temperature zone and be susceptible to harbouring dangerous bacteria.

Appropriate utensils must be used for various food items during preparation, and safety rules call for products to be stored according to strict rules – for example, raw meats and fresh vegetables cannot be stored next to each other. There are various procedures to follow when washing dishes and sanitising them as well.

In addition to gastrointestinal diseases, cruise ship crew are also susceptible to a few other infections. One among these is influenza, which also spreads easily because of close contact with others. It can also be transmitted through sneezing and coughing, so – just like norovirus – many places touched by infected people such as door knobs and handrails will be contaminated.

It can help to speak to your doctor before you join the ship and if recommended, get a flu vaccine to keep yourself protected. If you are not protected against chickenpox, it might be wise to get a vaccine for this disease too. It is infectious and can involve complications for adults.

Also beware of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, zika and yellow fever. These have been known to affect common cruise destinations such as Brazil, the Caribbean islands and Latin America. Remember to wear protective clothing or insect repellent when making port in these areas to stay safe.

Finally, it is important to practice safe sex when on board. Many cruise ship crew have sexual encounters during their contracts, often with multiple partners. This increases the risk of STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Pregnancy among staff may not be well received by the company either.

While some cruise ships offer free condoms and other contraceptives to crew, it may not always be the case. In such cases, check with the cruise medical store or carry your own.

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How to Get a Cruise Ship Chef Job

How to Get a Cruise Ship Chef JobSome of the most coveted positions in the marine hospitality world are cruise ship chef jobs. For those passionate about the culinary arts, these careers offer exciting new avenues, higher-than-normal pay – for developing countries at least – and excellent exposure.

So how do you get a job on a cruise ship?

The first thing to do is to determine whether or not you are indeed cut out for this type of job. Understand the environment you will be working in and how ready you are for it. Cruise ship chef jobs involve working seven days a week for between four to six months, and often 14 hours a day.

This also means often working through holidays such as Diwali, Christmas and New Year, and being far away from family at this time. You will get a couple of months off between contracts but there is no guarantee that these will coincide with the holiday season back home.

Staff live at sea for the entire duration of the contract. Those with a tendency to fall sea sick often might want to consider how this might affect their work. Mild seasickness is common and you get over it and used to it quickly. But more persistent conditions can become a liability.

Another factor to consider is being away from family, friends and familiar people for months on end. Communication back home is limited but certainly available. You will have to make do with short calls that depend on internet connectivity most days.

The next thing to do when trying to get a cruise ship chef job is to check whether you have the qualifications, experience and most importantly, aptitude for the job. Do you want to be a chef? Do you have a passion for cooking good food, presenting beautiful dishes, serving people and interacting with them?

Check cruise ship company websites for various posts and check the qualifications and experience required. Some positions ask for a year or two of similar work experience in a shore-based job. If you don’t have the requirements, you can work towards it and perhaps land a better position on board instead of having to start at the very bottom of the hierarchy.

While it is possible to get cruise ship chef jobs by applying directly, it is probably a better shot to go through recruitment agencies. Do your research on various cruise ship recruitment agencies and be aware of fly-by-night operators and scamsters. Good recruitment agencies like Kamaxi Overseas Consultants work with reputed cruise ship companies, and you can always cross reference information.

Always check the position you are applying for and tweak your CV to reflect the work experience, volunteer work and qualifications they want in a prospective employee. For example, it helps to highlight that you handled the dessert bar at your local café if you are applying for the job of a pastry chef, even if you had more experience cooking Chinese food at a pan-Asian restaurant.

The final process to get a cruise ship chef job includes a preliminary interview to check whether you are suitable. If you are not shortlisted for the job, the recruitment agency will inform you of your shortcomings so you can work towards it.

If you are shortlisted, there will be a technical interview to grasp your knowledge of the job at hand. After this, you will be interviewed by the cruise ship company – as opposed to being interviewed by the recruitment agency in earlier rounds.

Once you are selected, the recruitment agency will inform you of all the necessary documents required and how to process them. These include visas, STCW, police clearance, medicals and vaccinations, seaman’s book, etc.

You will then receive a joining date and a short orientation of what to expect during travel and on your first contract on board.

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Are you physically and mentally healthy for cruise ship jobs?

Are you physically and mentally healthy for cruise ship jobs?Staying healthy is an important part of life, not just work. But with cruise ship jobs, this aspect becomes doubly important. Living and working relatively far from land can pose problems although all cruise vessels offer some sort of medical aid on board.

However, they’re not taking any chances. In order to get on board in the first place, you will need a medical certificate, signed by an authenticated or approved doctor. Your recruitment agency – like Kamaxi Overseas – will help you get in touch with one in your vicinity.

This practice of certifying medical fitness of crew began 70 years ago when the International Labour Organisation realised the benefits of being healthy at sea. It wanted to ensure that crew were healthy so they do not pose a danger to others on board. This is especially true of cruise ships where crew live in close quarters with each other and can often come in contact with passengers – many of them over the span of a single day.

Therefore, Convention No 73 of the International Labour Organisation stated that anyone working on a ship must have a certificate signed by a medical practitioner that proves he or she is fit for the work he or she may be engaged in while on board.

The Pre-Employment Seafarers’ Medical Examination, or PEME, includes a wide range of tests to check for a number of health issues particularly pre-existing conditions that could manifest on board during the duration of the contract.

In the UK, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency offers guidance for about 17 conditions, but in general approved medical practitioners will ask any or all of the following: a Mantoux skin test to check for immunity to tuberculosis, chest x-ray, an ECG, and tests for blood, urine, immunology, liver function, blood pressure as well as pregnancy for women.

The doctor will look for a blood pressure reading that is around 140/90, check your body-mass index by measuring your height and weight and also see if you can pass an exercise or performance test.

It is also important to maintain good dental hygiene as some doctors may look at this as a parameter on which to consider you ‘fit’. When you go for your examination, carry along any medications you take regularly, as well as your glasses, a copy of any vaccinations you have received and contact lenses or spectacles if you use them. It is best to avoid actually wearing contact lenses as you will have to remove them during the appointment anyway.

Doctors will also ask you questions that will help determine your mental health, including queries about alcohol use/abuse, suicidal thoughts, homesickness, issues with concentration, side effects of medications, failed or stressful relationships, etc.

It helps to be honest about any issues or conditions as these play a big role in life on board, which involves long work hours and living with crew members from around the world.

While on board, the onus is on you to keep yourself physically and mentally fit so you can do your job well. If you are deemed unfit at any point, the cruise ship company may send you home as they would prefer not to take any risks.

Cruise ship jobs will have you working seven days a week, but they do offer some free time. Fill this up with activities that keep you healthy. Many crew members fall prey to the temptation of ignoring their physical health.

To avoid this, Use some free time to hit any of the various activity or recreation centres built especially for crew – the gym or swimming pool, etc. Be mindful of what you eat as the food in the crew mess offers enticing comfort food options from around the world that can be high in calories. They also offer fruit, vegetables and other healthy options but the temptation to choose the former over the latter is strong.

Stay mentally active and relaxed by engaging in some meditation every day or a hobby you enjoy – such as learning a new language from another crew member. Crew Wifi allows you to stay in touch with friends and family back home. On board, stay away from negative people, and make a few friends you can trust so you can speak to them if you feel mentally exhausted or strained.

Your good health – physical and mental – ensures a happy and long career on cruise ships.

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Why Working On a Cruise Ship Could be your Dream Job

Why Working On a Cruise Ship Could be your Dream JobSo much of our lives is spent working. There is no better way to live than being engaged in a job you love. For this reason, there are many who look to working on cruise ships as dream jobs thanks to the variety of opportunities available and the work environment. Here are just a few reasons why working on a cruise ship could be your dream job:

A booming industry

Everyone likes to get on the bandwagon of a booming industry. It means more open positions, possibly higher salaries and a variety of experiences. More people are travelling than ever before, and cruise ships are getting larger and more exciting. This is fuelled by the increasing demand for cruise holidays and, with it, brings coveted jobs to your doorstep.

The demand is currently so high that cruise ship companies headquartered in and operating from the US have opened offices in south east Asia to meet their needs. In India, the key is to go with a reputed recruitment company, like Kamaxi Overseas, to ensure you get placed with good companies.

Training on the job

No matter your educational qualifications, all cruise companies offer you hands-on training to bring you up to speed with the regulations of the ship and the way things work on board. You’ll receive training in safety at sea, first aid and what to do in case of emergencies. All of these sessions give you life skills that you can apply to any situation in the future. And the training is part of your job, so you get paid for it!

Promotions and benefits

While contracts may be long and work may be hard, sticking with a cruise ship company has its advantages. A majority of cruise ship crew start at the bottom, and with diligence and consistency, they can rise through the ranks. Cruise ship members often tend to stick with companies for added benefits they get due to loyalty. Some crew have worked with companies for a decade or more. With good companies, it’s possible to get flexibility with contracts, a preference for certain ships within the fleet and more career opportunities.

Travel while you work

Without exotic locations and exciting port activities, a cruise ship would be a failure. As part of the crew, you are guaranteed a certain amount of time off. Many crew members take advantage of this and are able to explore destinations they would otherwise only have dreamed of visiting. Good cruise ship companies also organise separate port excursions for crew members which are often cheaper than those for guests. Those with cruise ship chef jobs can widen their food experiences by experimenting with different local tastes and learning things along the way.

Conditions keep getting better

While the past may have seen much negative criticism by way of cruise ships taking advantage of crew, times are changing. Companies have realised that happy crew are a key to making a difference in their guests’ experience. One cannot expect five-star conditions for employees, but cruise ships have a variety of facilities – from entertainment and sports to training and low-cost communications or stores – just for crew. The only thing they expect in return is hard work and adherence to ship policy.

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What to Expect from Cruise Ships of the Future

What to Expect from Cruise Ships of the FutureThe future of cruise ships is already here. Technology has advanced to a great extent and is being incorporated by companies at a quicker pace than ever, solely to enhance the guest experience.

Everything a cruise ship company does is aimed at setting itself apart and creating a brand identity – something to differentiate itself from all the other players out there. Cruise ships are combining a powerful mix of technology, service and marketing to create not just memorable holidays, but experiences.

As they move forward in time, companies are building on the data and trends of today to surge forward and build ships of the future. Today, iPads are increasingly common in hotels where guests can adjust temperature and mood lighting, book a restaurant reservation or wake up call, or even print travel tickets.

For hospitality staff such as cleaning crew, electronic sensors inform them of heat signatures in the room so they are aware if a guest is in. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas began as a project in February 2011, and is considered one of the most technologically advanced cruise ships sailing at the moment. Even for today’s standards, much of its offerings are certainly advanced.

The aim of the company – as with many other companies now – is to build a cruise ship that caters to people who want to be perpetually connected to the world. This means futuristic technology and high-speed internet, the latter being one of the biggest shortcomings on cruise ships thus far.

It gives guests the opportunity to plan their day in advance or change their minds on a whim, get a seat in a restaurant without a reservation, and still be connected to the world they left behind. Guests on Quantum of the Seas are able to video chat and perhaps even live stream their activities thanks to an innovative system that tracks the closest satellite overhead and hops to the next one every hour to offer almost 600MB of internet capacity.

This means more guests can get online at the same time for a cheaper rate, and Royal Caribbean can charge the same internet rates that are applicable to land-based hotels. The aim is to draw as new customers the millennial generation that is perpetually connected so they can share images, videos and posts on the go while enjoying their vacation.

To enhance the guest experience, the ship goes so far as to use high-definition TVs positioned vertically along the cabin wall displaying the ocean going by to offer the illusion of a balcony to every room. Guests can even sky-dive in a wind tunnel out on deck and visit the Bionic Bar where robotic arms designed by MIT mix cocktails for guests pre-ordered on a tablet system that informs them how long they have to wait for the drink to be made.

But Royal Caribbean isn’t the only one on board the technology express. Costa Cruises has started a 4GoodFood project that is looking at reducing on board food waste by 50 per cent by 2020. The project is hoping to engage cruise ship crew as well as guests by sustainably improving preparation without losing quality and encouraging Taste Don’t Waste at buffets.

In the cruise ship kitchens, it focused on seasonal and local produce, used kitchen scales and records to assess food wastage during preparation, and trained galley staff in reducing waste.

Soon, cruise ship guests will be able to tailor their rooms to their requirements before even arriving – set temperature and lighting, alarms, brew coffee while they are taking a shower. Or perhaps your smart home will relay your preferences directly to your hotel or cruise ship to adjust the settings according to its collected data. The sky’s the limit!

The Internet of Things allows for truly personalised services, and the hospitality and cruise ship industry are not far behind in realising its potential and working towards implementation.

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How USPH regulations bring in cruise ship guests

How USPH Regulations bring in Cruise Ship GuestsIn a large industry, nothing can work smoothly without rules and their implementation. With most big cruise ship companies plying in the Caribbean having headquarters in the US, it is imperative that they follow applicable laws.

The United States Public Health or USPH ratings are taken as the gold standard among cruise ship companies around the world as to the quality of hygiene on their vessels. Ships are inspected typically twice a year, and these visits come unannounced. This means that inspectors from the Center for Disease Control – which sets the USPH rules – are able to observe a vessel as it functions on a regular day. Cruise ship inspections take place under the USPH Vessel Sanitation Program.

The USPH came into being to curb the spread of gastrointestinal diseases on board cruise ships. Previously, cruises were notorious for norovirus epidemics which spread quickly in the confined areas through cross-contamination.

USPH rules are applicable to all crew and staff on board and they must be followed at all times – whether one is on duty or off. The regulations govern all waters belonging to all US territories and as well as areas covered by its agreements and treaties with other nations.

The main aim of the Vessel Sanitation Program is to keep guests and crew safe from infections while on board. Effectively, a good USPH score can boost the cruise ship’s image in the eyes of potential guests.

Cruise ship companies use good USPH ratings to their advantage during marketing. Many cruise goers come from at risk groups – such as the elderly and young children, whose immune system may be more susceptible to infections. So when booking a holiday at sea, they will be more likely to look at cruise ships with good USPH scores.

The Vessel Sanitation Program rates ships on a scale of 0-100, and any score of 85 and below is considered failed. A ship that has failed is not allowed to sail until appropriate rectifications are made that help them attain a passing score. High-risk violations must be corrected immediately – such as temperatures at which food is stored or disposing of items that have passed their expiry date.

Other violations may take time to be rectified, such as a documentation system that fails to identify a crew member’s immediate contacts on board other than cabin mates, such as a spouse or partner.

Inspection reports are available to the public online and are updated as and when a ship has been checked. For potential guests, knowing the type of violation a vessel lost points on can play an important role in determining where they spend their money.

Documentation violations may not hold much significance, but poor sanitation systems and galley hygiene can push them to look at other companies.

Cruise ship companies must constantly be on their toes to keep their systems in order, not just to pass the USPH inspections but also to attract their guests. Most ships that follow regulations score around 97 per cent. So a score of 87 may take a vessel over the USPH passing mark, but it is considered a poor score in the world of cruising.

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How To Avoid the Most Contagious Cruise Ship Illnesses

How To Avoid the Most Contagious Cruise Ship IllnessesA cruise may be a holiday, but if even one person – crew or passenger – has a gastrointestinal disease or any contagious illnesses, all hell can break loose. It is hard to keep track of passenger hygiene and cleanliness. Cruise ship crew, however, can be called upon to be more diligent.

Gastrointestinal disease affects the digestive system, causing cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. It is debilitating to say the least and highly contagious. The reason why gastrointestinal diseases – such as e. coli and in particular norovirus – easily turn into epidemics on cruise ships is because there are thousands of people confined to a relatively small space.

These illnesses occur when people carrying the bug contaminate commonly used items such as door knobs, fridge handles, railings, etc. Fecal matter and vomit particles are quickly transferred this way from person to person, and can soon affect many. Most recently, large cruise ship companies, such as P&O Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, have experienced norovirus outbreaks on board.

The easiest way to avoid contracting a gastrointestinal disease on cruise ships is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. It is important to do so before and after you eat a meal, and – as a cruise ship chef – before and after you handle food in the kitchen. Any other staff also handling food, such as wait staff, should also wash their hands frequently and thoroughly.

Hands should also be washed if you have gone out to port, touched railings and other commonly used items, used the toilet, shaken hands with a stranger, handled money, etc.

When it comes to passengers, the quickest course of action cruise ships can take when handling a potential outbreak is to quarantine all those who report symptoms of gastrointestinal illnesses and shut down the buffet. The latter is the area where germs spread very easily – other than public toilets.

Passengers touch everything from the serving spoons to the drinking water fountains so it is difficult to keep the virus contained. Far worse is serving food that might be contaminated, thereby infecting many more people in a shorter span of time. Until the source of the contamination is discovered, cruise ship companies keep buffets off limits.

Gastrointestinal diseases spread quickly, so reporting is paramount to nipping it in the bud. Passengers are typically required to fill in a form upon embarking which details whether they were unwell during the few weeks before boarding the ship. If so, they are sent to the ship’s doctor and ascertained whether a quarantine of a day or two is required to avoid any possible disease from spreading.

Crew including cruise ship chefs are required to report to their supervisor at the slightest hint of illness. Medical officers can then trace the cause of the illness and management can take the crew member off duty until he or she can be cleared for work.

Regulatory bodies also play a huge role in containing the incidence of gastrointestinal disease. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US has a Vessel Sanitation Program that grades any ship touching its ports.

Vessels are inspected twice a year and the visits are unannounced. The agency trawls through all areas of the ship, checking everything from medical logs, potable water systems, swimming pools and whirlpool spas, to galleys and dining rooms, child activity centres, cabins, ventilation systems and other common areas. The ship must get a score of 86 or above of 100 to pass the inspection.

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Do’s and Don’ts for Cruise Ship Crew

Do’s and Don’ts for Cruise Ship CrewAs a crew member on a cruise ship, knowledge of the rules that govern life on board is vital. Living and working on a floating hotel brings with it a whole new parameter of safety and conduct.

The rules are strict and those that involve interaction with guests are stringently enforced, risking crew with a dishonourable discharge should they be flouted. Below are a few of the main points to follow and avoid.

DO’s

Punctuality

Crew members are expected to report on time for their shifts so that the workings of the ship can move like clock work. They are also expected to arrive back on board well before departure time if they go on an excursion in port. Failure to do so can cause them to be left behind in port.

Appearance

As with the hospitality industry around the world, appearance creates an impression. Cruise ship crew have strict rules when it comes to dress codes and these must be followed to the ‘T’. They are expected to shower regularly, keep their hair neatly cut or trimmed and their nails short and clean. Wearing the correct uniform is important too, and it helps greatly for crew to develop a laundry schedule to ensure their garments are spotless.

Safety

Every crew member on board a cruise ship is considered a health and safety officer. It bodes well for the cruise line for officers, staff and crew to know exactly what to do in emergency situations or how to avoid safety risks. All cruise ship crew are expected to attend safety drills and learn all the emergency procedures. Many ships even train their crew how to respond in the event of a possible pirate attack. Crew on some ships must even learn code words for various emergencies so they can get messages across without alarming passengers.

DON’Ts

Drugs & alcohol

Intoxication is not tolerated. Consumption and even possession of narcotics are strictly prohibited. Cruise ships do have a crew bar with cheap alcohol but employees are expected to remain within limits. Alcohol levels should never be such that they impede work. Crew can be randomly breathalysed at any time, and although this rarely happens as cruise vessels understand social needs, employees must be able to function at their jobs up to standard.

Fraternising with guests

Cruise ship crew members are not allowed to engage with guests unless their role requires it. For those who interact with guests as part of their job, they are expected to be friendly and helpful, but there is a line they should never cross. Being overly sociable is frowned upon; getting physical is not permitted. Cruise ship crew whose roles do not involve guest interaction are not allowed in the passenger areas.

Illnesses

Hygiene is vital on a ship as it can affect all on board. Never dismiss a feeling of physical uneasiness or symptoms of a stomach upset. They could be signs of a deeper issue. Crew are expected to inform their superiors of any illness or sickness as soon as they feel uneasy. This especially applies to those working in the galleys and in service as their neglect could cause passengers to fall ill, and if this is left unchecked, it could lead to an epidemic on board.

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How Cruise Ship Crew Celebrate Festive Holidays

How cruise ship crew celebrate festive holidaysWorking on a cruise ship means working seven days a week for months at a time. One of the biggest drawbacks of cruise ship jobs is thought to be spending holidays working.

Indeed, this could be said of any hospitality job. However, on a cruise ship you might actually have a better time than you would at a similar land-based hotel job.

Reputed cruise line companies make it their business to ensure the crew are fairly well looked after. This includes helping to cut some of that nostalgic, home-sick feeling with holiday festivals on board.

The biggest holidays celebrated around the world are part of the festivities for crew – Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year, and Easter. However, because many of the crew are from South East Asian countries like India, cruise ships include celebrations for festivals such as Diwali as well.

It is rather hard for cruise ship crew to ignore festivities even if that is some sort of defence mechanism to avoid the painful feeling of missing their families at that time of year. Decorations and symbols of the festivities are everywhere – Christmas trees and snowmen at Christmas, scary costumes at Hallowe’en, candles for Hanukkah, eggs and Easter bunnies for Easter.

Many crew join in the festivities full swing, buying cheap, small decorations from shore to string up in their cabins and create an air of joy. The cruise line company typically organises a slew of related events. At Christmas, each department will have its own party, filled with exchange of gifts or Secret Santa events, spiked eggnog, themed food and drink.

Sometimes, smaller department heads put together less formally organised parties in their cabins. This, however, is restricted to roles in the higher end of the hierarchy, say the captain having his or her deck officers over in the spirit of the season.

Similarly, New Year’s will have a full scale party in the crew club for those who are off work. If the ship is in port, as many are, there will may be fewer guests on board, but the vessel will pull out all the stops for celebrations in any case. If by chance, they are at sea, more hands will be needed and the crew party might be deferred to a slightly later hour.

But it’s not all about themselves. Cruise ship companies often take holiday festivities as a time to engage in charitable work. The department responsible will often organise a volunteer crew trip for the less fortunate people at the ports they berth at. For Christmas, they may distribute toys to orphans or visit an elderly care home with treats dressed as Santa and elves.

A few charities even work to bring the holiday cheer to those on board. US charities such as the Seamen’s Church Institute celebrates Christmas at Sea each year by donating scarves and other garments for crew who sail. In 2008, it added cruise ship workers to its list of mariners to receive garment donations.

Cruise ship crew may not be with their families at home on holidays, but they are treated with celebrations on board complete with festive food, drink and decor. With dozens of others in the same situation, together they create an excellent holiday vibe in crew only areas which makes up, at least in part, for missing out on celebrations back home

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