Cruise ships are probably some of the most culturally diverse workplaces on the planet. Often cruise vessels can have more than a thousand people working as crew itself. Symphony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, carries a 2200-person crew of people from the far corners of the world.
Diversity in nationality
According to the Royal Caribbean cruise line, there are more than a hundred different nationalities working across their fleet. Some of these might be part of their shore teams, but a large majority of nationalities comprise their cruise ship crew.
A diverse crew allows companies to cater to a wider range of cruising guests. For example, the number of Indians holidaying on cruise ships is steadily increasing. In 2017, we recorded a 27 per cent increase in passengers in Singapore alone, according to Cruise Lines International Association. Meeting crew from your own country adds a feeling of extra warmth and comfort to the guest cruising experience.
Typically, cruise ship crew in catering, service and housekeeping tend to be drawn from south east Asian markets where conversion rates to the dollar allow them to earn salaries higher than standard shore jobs. India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, etc are popular nationalities in this sector.
But as part of the crew, you will likely meet people working in all other sectors as well, from entertainment and sales to human resources and youth services. It’s possible to meet people from as far as Peru, Israel, Jamaica and Guatemala to even lesser known countries such as Guyana, Dominica, Zambia and Moldova.
Cruise ship companies ensure that a wide array of crew activities are organised to help break the ice among personnel on board. From theme nights to regional festival celebrations such as Diwali or Holi, to regular crew parties, companies ensure that everyone feels welcomed and has the opportunity to interact with people from diverse backgrounds.
Diversity in gender
Diversity is required not just culturally but also in gender. A 2017 consensus by the Australian Journal of Maritime & Ocean Affairs estimated that just two per cent (or 24,000) of the 1.2 million seafarers around the world (IMO figures) are women. Of the 24,000, just 20 per cent are women, and most have cruise ship jobs.
The cruise industry is working hard to improve gender diversity on board. Celebrity Cruises boosted the number of women working across their fleet from three per cent to 22 per cent in just four years.
In 2007, the cruise industry saw the first woman appointed captain – Sweden’s Karin Stahre-Janson took over the helm of Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas. Since then, many other lines have had female cruise captains, including Cunard, P&O Cruises, Windstar – whose Belinda Bennett became the first black female captain, Sea Cloud Cruises, AIDA, Silversea and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
Women have proved themselves in positions of authority and are now being recognised for it too. The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea in 2016 went to Captain Radhika Menon, of Indian descent no less and the first woman to receive this honour. She was recognised for her role in rescuing seven fishermen from a sinking fishing boat.
There are still many barriers that prevent women from working at sea, especially in high-ranking positions and technical roles, but organisations such as the International Labour Organization are working to improve gender diversity on board.