What work is like on board a Cruise Ship

What work is like on board a cruise ship

Notice the volume of staff working at your neighbourhood hotel, your favourite restaurants, pubs, casinos, spas and gyms. Now add them all together and throw in some more for administration and you have an approximate number of people working on a cruise ship.

Chefs on board might take up a small portion of these, but thanks to the vast number and array of cafés, food stalls, and restaurants, there are many who will be working the kitchens on a single ship. So what’s it like to work on board?

Work hours

There is only a maximum number of staff you can employ to set the cash registers ringing while getting the job done. This typically translates to long working hours and set contracts. Depending on your position in the hierarchy, your contract could range from four months to nine months. The lower you are on the rung, the lengthier your contract.

Between contracts, international guidelines require that cruise ship companies offer a minimum number of days off, and this ranges between 45 to 60 days depending on the employer.

This helps offset the nature of work hours in that cruise ship chefs, along with other employees on board, do not get a day off during the duration of their contract. This means that in certain situations, staffs are on call 24 hours a day. However, this rarely occurs and every crew member is assured time off during the day when they can relax. This does not mean that work is easy. It is not uncommon for crew to work 100 hours a week during peak season.

Pay

Critics around the world have often lambasted cruise ship companies for what they call “sweatshop conditions” – long work hours with little pay. The truth is that companies do change pay scales according to nationalities only because the exchange rate makes it favourable to both employer and employee.

Typically, cruise ships offer around $800 – $900 (Rs 543,500 – Rs 60,200) a month for entry-level positions where staff require a short term of prior experience – usually a year – in the culinary field. In developed countries like the US, where minimum wages are now at about $7.25 an hour, this pay would hardly cut it. But for countries like India and the Philippines, this is a fair bit more than one would be paid per month at a job in the same position on land.

As you climb up the ladder, salaries obviously increase, and go up to $1900 – $2500 (Rs 127,200 to Rs 167,400) a month for a commis 1 or first cooks and further for more senior positions.

It helps to note that on board expenses are minimal and most cruise ship chefs can save a significant portion of their salaries during their contract. Employees are not paid while on leave.

Living conditions

Room and board is paid for by the cruise ship company for all employees on board. Cabins, however, are most often shared by two and can get cramped depending on the size of the ship. Many staff have described it as living in a university dorm, but in general, while not large, accommodation is comfortable and sufficient.

All meals are served in dedicated cafeterias – the crew mess, staff mess and officer’s mess – depending on where you are in the hierarchy. Contrary to popular belief, staff do not eat the same food as guests. They have dedicated kitchens serving a mix of dishes from around the world, generally bent towards the various nationalities working on board. So you will not miss out on “home food”, and will also get a chance to taste food from other countries on a regular basis.

Cruise ships also offer a wide range of recreational and social activities for employees, included dedicated gyms and swimming pools, movie nights, theme parties, festivals, games and more. Crew pay much lower rates for alcohol at the crew bar and for convenience items from the crew store.

There also are discounted internet rates to keep in touch with family back home, and sometimes even tours in port.

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Dealing with Harassment on board a Cruise Ship

Harassment art

Cruise ship chefs seem to have the ideal job – engage in work they are passionate about, live in a multi-cultural environment, travel the world and get paid for it too. This seems too good to be true, and sometimes this is the case.

In few other sectors is it as important to research the cruise ship company you apply to when looking for a job. Global standing and reputation are important with regard to crew safety and laws in cases of harassment.

Sadly, in some companies the benefits of flags of convenience are taken too far, and cruise companies sail under the rather laid-back trade laws of countries that give them leeway for abuse. They often work employees too hard, and pay them far too less for the corresponding amount of work. Staffs from countries like India, the Philippines and Indonesia are most likely to be on the receiving end.

Being aware of the company you work with and all of their employment policies can significantly reduce the chances of a rude surprise on your first day at work.

In other cases, you might be subject to bullying and harassment, particularly when you are new to working as a cruise ship chef. Harassment stems from any type of behavior that makes working difficult and bearing it is a condition to continued employment.

People can be targeted over their choice of religion, their heritage and nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation and even physical appearance. Women – and sometimes men too – are often targets for sexual harassment, even on cruise ships.

It is important to recognise harassment when it occurs, even when it might not be done to you. Some guidelines recommend you keep a journal of any and every case that happens to you, with as many details as possible. Having witnesses can help make your case even stronger, and it helps to have them on the same page as you.

The first step in dealing with harassment on a cruise ship is to bring it to the notice of the perpetrator and tell him or her that the behavior is not acceptable, and that you will make a complaint if it does not stop. If your move is not acknowledged and the behavior continues, speak to a supervisor. If the offender is your supervisor, go further up the management. All the while, it is best that you try not to react to the behavior if possible.

In your report, ensure that you remain as professional as possible, that you stick to facts and request for a resolution.

Many cruise ship companies have strict guidelines when it comes to any and all kinds of harassment, and crew are encouraged to speak out when they occur and report incidents as well. Knowing what constitutes harassment according to your company can help when filing a complaint.

It is also important to note that while cruise ship companies take cases of harassment seriously, they do so with false claims as well. All cases are scrutinized and investigated according to company rules and in either case, disciplinary action even up to discharge can be taken.

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5 Dressing Tips for Job Interviews

job-interview-dress-code-1It’s easy enough to pretend that looks don’t matter, but first impressions definitely do. Job Interviews are that one chance for your to create a lasting impression that’s both positive and professional. It is hence crucial to dress appropriately. This is why we’ve compiled a few crucial dressing tips to guide you on your big day

1.Formal over Casual
Pick rousers over jeans, shirts over t-shirts, formal shoes over slippers. Dress formal no matter the position you’re applying for since it depicts seriousness towards your job.

2.Dress Neat & Clean
Make sure your clothes are ironed and clean. There’s no point dressing in formals if your clothes are still stained or crumpled.

3.Choose Sober Colours
Leave the bright and flashy colours and prints to the weekend and choose something neutral and sober. You don’t want to be remembered for wearing an odd colour rather than your interview.

4.Dress Comfortably
The more comfortable you are, the more natural you will appear to the Interviewer. Your body language will essentially be scrutinized during the interviewing process and you don’t want to appear awkward or fidgety.

5.Basic Hygiene
While clothes can only do so much, your basic hygiene will need to be carefully attended to. Bad breath, messy shoes, chipped nails and uncombed hair gives an appearance of being untidy and casual. Do use perfume or cologne but ensure it isn’t too powerful.

Apart from the above, remember that your dressing will also depend upon the job and position you’re applying to. Additionally, do not forget the confidence, the attitude and the smile that will complete your appearance. Good luck for your next interviews!

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How to Improve Yourself | Personal SWOT Analysis

self improvementYou don’t need us to remind you how important self improvement is. Life is a process of continual learning, new experiences and many mistakes. To err is human, but would you want to make the same mistake twice?

We understand that self improvement is easier said than done. For this purpose, we will be depicting a commonly used method called the Personal SWOT Analysis which has been designed for you to understand yourself better.

The SWOT Analysis revolves around your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Jotting this down gives you a clear picture of the qualities you should be proud of, what you lack and outside forces that could be stopping you from improving yourself.

STRENGTH

Think carefully about the professional as well as personal qualities that you truly believe you possess. Do you think you’re patient? Honest? Punctual? What about your practical skills? Are you good at cooking? Art? Making friends?

WEAKNESSES

It’s normal for us all to have certain flaws. This isn’t your fault but completely human. Everything from being hot tempered to impatient to lazy counts. This also includes professional skills that are essential to your work such as a Chef being poor a fish deboning, or a marketing professional being bad at telephonic skills.

OPPORTUNITIES

While your Strengths are what you possess on a personal front, your Opportunities are what are available to you through external factors. Do you have good educational opportunities awaiting you? Are you qualified enough for a good job? Do the job prospects in your field look good?

THREATS

Your Threats, like your Opportunities, will depend upon external factors. Are job opportunities low in your field? Do you dislike your job? Are family issues coming in the way of your career?

Your Personal SWOT Analysis should be able to give you a clearer picture of yourself as an individual. Your self improvement however doesn’t end with this.

Your Strengths are your biggest advantages. Stay true to them and never lose these qualities. Your Weaknesses need to be improved upon. This would be easier now that you’ve recognised them. Your Opportunities constitute the next big step in your life. Work towards grabbing them. Your Threats are the biggest obstacle currently in your life. Find a way to tackle them.

Conducting this activity regularly every year is a sure yet easy way of improving yourself. Only remember to stay true to yourself.

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Health & Hygiene Standards in Commercial Kitchens

commercial kitchen

Every Chef, every Cleaner and every team member in commercial kitchens need to understand that the food they serve could have direct implications on their guests’ health. As a member of the kitchen staff you are bound to ensure the highest of health and hygiene standards as per fixed benchmarks to avoid any unfortunate incidents. So how are these standards maintained?

Commercial Kitchens in India

Every Indian commercial kitchen comes under the radar of the FSSA (Food Safety & Standards Act). This act has outlines stringent procedures that need to be followed at all times.

Included in this act is the design and layout of commercial kitchens as well as the usage of equipments. Any changes or expansion of the layout needs to adhere to these guidelines and also informed to the FSSAI. Moreover the guidelines also stress on the measures to be followed with respect to the procurement, storage, preparation and display of ingredients. Detailed records of these ingredients right from the procurement to the usage stage needs to be maintained.

These high levels of safety and hygiene requires high levels of professionalism in commercial kitchens. Regular, and typically uninformed, checks are made to ensure that these standards are maintained.

International Cruise Lines

Most international cruise lines follow the United States Public Health (USPH) laws which needs to be followed with respect to the handling and storage of food, cleaning and sanitising of the work stations as well as personal hygiene of the kitchen staff.

Every team member – right from the cooks to the chefs to the utility cleaners – need to utilise appropriate attire and equipments during the handling, preparing of food and cleaning of the kitchen. Garbage generated needs to be disposed fittingly.

Inspections are conducted before departure, at the ports as well as weekly. The consequences for failing to adhere to this gives bad publicity as well as repercussions to ships and is hence taken seriously. It isn’t uncommon to have surprise checks for additional safety. Ships must score 86 or more on 100 to pass the test.

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The Key to an Effective Handshake

effective handshake

An effective Handshake is much more crucial than it appears. Business, corporates, countries are built upon these. It’s been scientifically proven that Handshakes help release the body hormone Oxytocin which helps establish trust. While a good Handshake may appear easy, there are certain dos and don’ts that are best followed in order to make a good and lasting impression.

  1. Know when to extend a Handshake

Handshakes are common during introductions. There are commonly seen during job interviews, meetings or even casual settings. Extending a Handshake shows good etiquettes so it’s always recommend to initialise one.

  1. Understand the grib

Make sure your palms are clean and dry before offering or responding to a Handshake. No one likes sweaty or oily palms. Remember to hold your palm straight and not slanting. Once the grip is made clasp the other person’s hand firmly without being bone crushing or even worse, limp. Shake their hands once or twice – no more, no less.

  1. Duration of a Handshake

An average Handshakes lasts between 2 to 5 seconds. Any lesser is as good as none, while any longer is plain awkward.

  1. Your left hand

Simple though this may sound, your left hand matters during your handshake. Do not pocket this as it appears defensive and too casual. Don’t use your left hand to touch the other person’s shoulder or add on to the handshake unless you know them personally.

  1. Your general body language

Always remember to stand up during the Handshake and make eye contact. Handshakes are typically accompanied with the greeting or the farewell – mostly both.

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Personal Mobile Usage at your Workplace

mobile usage at workplaceIt’s no secret that cell phones today are amongst our prized possessions. What was originally meant for making phone calls has today evolved to useful devices that help us in multiple functions such as chatting, gaming, video recording, directions and so on.

With the revolution of cell phones is the constant need to check and recheck your phone. Can you last an hour without checking your messages and notifications? This is the situation faced by almost everyone around us. In such a scenario, how do we manage this near obsession at a workplace?

Professions that don’t allow Mobile Usage

Most other professions don’t allow mobile usage. This could be either in the policy or an ethical move. Chefs, Doctors, Engineers and so on can’t or shouldn’t use their phones while on duty because it would only cause distraction. It’s encouraged to keep the phones on silent, preferably with automatic replies to call back at a time when you’re free. Give your friends and family the company number so they can reach you in case of an emergency.

Professions that allow Mobile Usage

Certain jobs – or companies – allow their employees responsible mobile usage. If you are in fields such as Sales, PR, Marketing, Journalism or such then you will need that cell phone. However deadlines and maturity will force you to be responsible enough not to try gaming or chatting during office hours when there’s more important work to complete.

Cell Phone Usage on Cruise Ships

Any professional on Cruise Line duty will tell you that cell phone usage is close to null on a Cruise Ship. Network coverage is barely available on sea and can only be accessed at the ports. Moreover international roaming is quite costly so it’s best avoided. Instead the Internet is mostly made available so you can connect with your close ones while you’re off duty. Emergency hotlines are installed so they can reach you if urgent.
All in one you will realise that personal mobile usage is only a necessity at a workplace. You will need to treat it as an act of leisure to be used only when you’re free. With experience you will automatically realise how productive you are without the constant distraction and learn to control that urge to keep checking and rechecking their phones.

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What is the Best Age to Retire?

best age to retireIs Retirement a topic you would rather not dwell on yet? Believe us – it’s never too early to think of Retirement. The earlier you decide your approximate retirement age, the longer you have to prepare and plan for this.  This does not mean you need to know the exact age but the approximate that you aim for. There’s always time later in your life to relook this based on where your career has headed.

The traditional retirement age across the world has always been around 60. However with lifestyle changes this norm has been broken. There are those who retire as early as 50 and then the kind who prefer to continue working till the end. In this post we will elaborate on the characteristics and things to consider before retiring.

50’s

Retiring in your 50’s is an increasing trend across the developed and developing countries. However there are certain points to consider before making this decision. Retiring at this age is encouraged if you have an alternative and guaranteed source of income. This could include giving properties on lease, handling a small family business such as a shop or part-time teaching. There are multiple such early retirees across the state who have who have taken up organic farming or are running eco-friendly farmhouses. They’ve diverted from their professional careers yet continue to have stable, relaxed and alternate options.

60’s

Retiring in your 60’s has so far been the norm in India. This age falls in the Senior Citizens category and offers multiple benefits and facilities from the government. This is also the time when most people prefer to take a break from their fast paced professional environments and focus on their health instead. The corporate world typically appears hectic and they prefer the calm and quiet instead. However retiring in your 60s is possible if you’ve saved enough from an early age to be able to cope with the expenses.

70s

The world is seeing another trend of prolonged work lives with people working until their 70’s on longer. This group typically consists of 2 categories of individuals. The first kind are the ones who enjoy their professional work roles. Politicians, Lecturers and people holding top roles in the Industry are typically driven by their careers and find retirement boring. The second category are those who realise that their savings weren’t enough. Bad planning, regrettable investments or unfortunate circumstances force them to work long. To avoid this it’s always recommended to start saving early and smartly.

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5 Helpful Tips for Phone Interviews

telephone interview

Phone Interviews today are a lot more common than they were a few years back. The reason why is obvious – everyone has a phone and it’s a lot more feasible for the recruiter. These interviews however could determine the next step of your career so there is a lot at stake. We’ve compiled 5 useful tips for acing your Telephonic Interviews.

  1. Pre-Call Preparation

Always provide a reliable personal number while applying for jobs. Ensure that this same number is written in both your Application Mail and Resume. Avoid landlines or any other number which doesn’t directly connect to you. Note down a brief profile of the company you’ve applied to, the job description and your Resume. Understand that the conversation will circle around these so it’s best to be prepared.

  1. Creating an Appropriate Setting

Sit in a quiet space to avoid unnecessary distraction. Moreover try and make sure everyone is informed so there isn’t any interruption. Make sure that there’s proper reception and turn off Call Waiting. Keep a pen and paper handy for taking notes. Most importantly be comfortable and relaxed.

  1. Phone Etiquettes

Do not chew or smoke during your call. Refer to your interviewer with respect at all times. It’s alright to pause after every question and think out your reply instead of ranting. However keep the pauses to the minimal. Listen carefully to every question and do not interrupt. Be articulate and clear while speaking and keep your tone cool and friendly. Your replies will need to be concise and to the point.

  1. Tackling Unscheduled Calls

Always be prepared for unscheduled phone interviews that could take place anytime after sending across your application. Keep your ringtone volume high and make sure you know enough about the company, the job profile and the details of your own application to speak about these even when you’re caught off guard. Upon answering you’re allowed to excuse yourself  so you can move out to an undisturbed place. As a last resort it’s alright to ask the interviewer to reschedule the call to a time convenient to both.

  1. After the Interview

It’s always useful to note down the important points of the conversation after the interview. This can always be useful in preparing for future calls. Make note of the questions asked, the overall flow and most importantly what you could have answered differently. Send across a thank you note in the same thread as your application. Use this to express your gratitude for giving you a chance. This will help you appear enthusiastic about the job.

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What is the Kitchen Brigade?

Kitchen Brigade

Anyone working in a commercial kitchen – be it a restaurant, a resort or a cruise ship – knows that you’re never just a Chef.. The categorization of functions, skills and leaderships has resulted in a hierarchy that is systematic but complex.

The Kitchen Brigade – of Brigade de Cuisine in French – is a century old hierarchy which is commonly followed today. Everyone in the kitchens from the Executive Chef to the Dishwashers has been assembled using this universally followed concept. The number of people at each designation differs as per the size of the kitchen while some places may even skip out certain roles. However we’ve explained the general job roles below in descending order for better understanding.

  • Executive Chef

They are in charge of the overall management of the kitchens. Their functions include menu creation, staff management, inventory management, plating design and so on.

  • Executive Sous Chef

They are second-in-command to the Executive Chef and may even act as their substitute when needed. They are responsible for scheduling and managing the CDP’s when needed.

  • Sous Chef (Hot & Cold | Pastry)

Although they work beneath the Executive Sous Chef, they are overall in charge of either the Hot & Cold or the Pastry departments. They directly work with their staff and see to that their tasks are completed.

  • Chef de Partie (CDP) & Demi Chef de Partie

They are known as station cooks or line chefs in charge of a particular area of production. Based on this specialisation their designations are customised to Fish Chef, Saute Chef, Grill Chef, Head Baker, Butcher and so on.

Some kitchens are in need of multiple CDPs to handle various stations. This is when the Demi CDPs job roles are created for easier management.

  • Commi (I, II, III)

They work beneath the CDP at their respective stations. Accordingly they assist with specific functions based on their line. In most cases they work with specific tools or skills e.g. baking, chopping and so on. The distinction between I, II and III is based on the experience and time spent in the kitchens.

  • Assistant Cooks

These are typically fresh graduates with minimum experience which differs based on the kitchen. They work alongside the Commi under respective CDP’s at their stations and assist with their functions. They are promoted to the role of Commi based on their skill set and experience.

  • Galley Utility

They are lowest in the job hierarchy beneath the Assistant Cooks. They comprise of Dishwashers and Cleanliness Staff who maintain certain codes of hygiene while clearing out the space.

What distinguishes the Kitchen Brigade from any other hierarchy is that no one can directly become an Executive Chef. The hierarchy is such that everyone begins as Assistant Chef and gradually makes their way upwards. At the same time growth here is faster than in any other hierarchy with promotions seen every 6 months!

chef tree

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