Cruise Ship Jobs: Then & Now

Cruise ship jobs: Then & NowThe early cruise ships began plying in the 1850s serving the rich aristocracy and royalty. Cruises were always luxurious, serving fine food and offering stately accommodation. Crew conditions, however, were far from fair.

The class divide before modern labour laws came in was huge. Staff were expected to make life as comfortable as possible for guests with no thought for their own.

Ships like the Titanic had bath and bedroom stewards who served guests in their rooms and even assisted them with dressing. They were poorly paid and often overworked. Some were in charge of anywhere between three and 25 rooms depending on guests.

Downstairs, engineers and coal men worked hard to keep the ship running smoothly, shovelling coal non-stop in shifts for days on end. The working conditions were harsh – extreme heat, long hours and poor safety.

Most crew lived in cramped quarters and their food was certainly nothing to write home about. It was basic and mostly bland, served to offer nutrition more than to appetise. This was in stark contrast to passengers in first class who were served meals that would be considered rather fancy.

Safety was another major concern for cruise ship crew back in the day. With constricted living spaces and poor safety measures at work, conditions were ideal for disasters. However, as time went by and the cruise industry boomed – in small part credited to the Nazis who sent their officers on paid trips as bonuses – management took more precautions to safeguard ships with regard to hygiene in particular.

Today, holding cruise ship jobs is coveted in developing countries and also with gap-year students as the pay is excellent and living conditions are decent. Things might not be luxurious but it is still a far cry from cramped bunks with shared toilets. Crew now live two to a cabin with an en-suite bathroom, television and even Wi-Fi connectivity.

Cruise line companies look for people with specific qualifications and work experience, especially in positions that deal directly with guests, while decades ago anyone looking for a job and agreeable with the conditions on board could be taken on and trained.

Pay scales are on the rise, and many crew today are able to support entire families at home on the back of the compensation they receive. Management also ensures that crew receive medical insurance with an on-board pharmacy and nursing room, leave following the end of a contract, the minimum number of hours off duty while at work, discounted alcohol, free food, and even organised entertainment.

Thanks to the internet and recruiting companies like Kamaxi Overseas, aspirants can avail of cruise ship jobs from a range of companies based on their preference. Working on board a cruise ship sets crew up for an exciting life ahead – at sea, or back on land – owing to the strict adherence to standards and excellent exposure.

The biggest advancements have come in the sector of safety and security. Today’s cruise companies have policies in place for every role and all crew are trained in matters of safety – from fighting fire to life-saving and even personal hygiene to avoid the spread of diseases.

Like any other job, the world of cruise work continues to forge ahead with advancements and conditions for crew continue to get better each day.

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Cruise Ship Jobs: Pros and Cons

Cruise Ship Jobs: Pros and Cons

Every job has aspects of it that you absolutely love and others that don’t appeal to you all that much. It’s the same case with cruise ship jobs, but compared to land-based employment, working at sea is quite different. Let’s look at a few advantages and disadvantages of cruise ship jobs.




This is the single biggest advantage of working a cruise ship job, particularly for staff originating from developing countries. Cruise crew are mostly paid in dollars, and with excellent exchange rates, earnings are much higher compared to land-based jobs of the same position.

Additionally, almost all essentials are paid for on board, so you spend next to nothing getting by. You get free accommodation, food and medical insurance, low-cost laundry, communication, medicines, and even entertainment. Everything you earn can go straight to savings.

For someone starting out and looking to put together a chunk of money for something big, like a house, expensive medical treatment for a family member or even an advanced college degree, a cruise ship job is ideal.



Being moving hotels, cruise ships naturally call in at the most picturesque ports in the world. On one’s own steam, it would be difficult even imagining a holiday at places like St Maarten, the fjords of Norway or even the Arctic circle. But as part of the crew, you’ll have no choice but to travel to some of the most coveted holiday destinations in the world.

Many cruise ships have a dedicated crew manager who ensures that those off duty get a chance to tour the ports or call, often at a lesser fee than the tours for guests. Cruise ship jobs ensure your passport pages are filled with stamps that make your friends jealous.



People from around the world sign up for cruise ship jobs. So it’s only natural that you will meet and work with people of different nationalities. Working on a cruise ship offers opportunity to learn cultures and even languages of new friends from everywhere, from Scandinavia to Asia, Africa to Australasia, the Americas to the Middle East. It serves as an excellent way to widen perspectives and enrich lives.


Long Hours

Long hours

The service and hospitality industry is notorious for its long hours. Given the high standards and volume of guests on board a cruise line, 10-12 hour shifts are not uncommon. While the Maritime Labour Convention ensures a required amount of rest for all employees, there is no uncertainty about cruise ship jobs being long, hard work.

While on board, staff work seven days a week for the length of their contract, which ranges between four months for higher positions and up to eight months. This means not a single day of leave, unless you are ill, for the entire duration of your contract. Instead, you receive around four months off – unpaid – between contracts.

cabin quarters

Cabin quarters

Space is limited on board, and passengers obviously get preference. Crew must learn to live with at least one other person in a restricted space. The cabins are kitted with amenities, but they’re often just enough to get by. You’ll mostly find bunk or twin beds, small cupboards, a desk, small safe for valuables, telephone, DVD player and perhaps a mini fridge. It is certainly not spacious and will probably not compare to your room at home.

Cabins for crew are also below sea level, so there will be no view to look out at. There will probably be no porthole – or window – at all, which can be a problem for people with claustrophobia.



Due to their nature of being away at sea for months at a time, cruise ship jobs can affect family life. Depending on contracts, you are typically unsure of being at home for important occasions, events and festivals celebrated with family. Working parents may miss out on their children growing up, and youngsters may feel like they cannot spend enough time with ageing parents.

Wi-Fi connectivity on board has made this easier, but many suffer homesickness at least in the first few weeks of their cruise ship jobs, until they learn to adjust.

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Money matters: Insurance for Cruise Ship Crew

Money matters: Insurance for Cruise Ship Crew

Cruise ship jobs offer excellent opportunity to earn high salaries in a short period of time. It’s a lucrative option for youngsters fresh out of college and positions are often lapped up quite quickly.

While salaries are high, one must be aware that no matter what type of work one does on board, there is always the chance that an accident or sickness could occur out of the blue that digs into any savings. When applying to a company for cruise ship jobs, it is imperative to understand the firm’s policy on insurance and safety measures in unforeseen situations.

It is unwise to leave aspects such as travel and health insurance to chance as medical costs in developed countries, particularly Europe and the US, are extremely high. Without cover, a simple procedure such as being put on a drip or a trip to the dentist could burn a hole in your pocket.

Many cruise ship companies provide health insurance to crew, but one must always cross-check if this is so. However, even in cases where cruise companies do cover crew, the insurance can be claimed only during the term of the contract, while staff is on board.

If you happen to fall ill while travelling to the ship or back home, you might not be covered. It’s always a good idea to buy travel insurance that not only covers emergency medical expenses, but also lost or stolen bags and personal liability against suing for property damage or injury. Some insurance policies will even fly you home for treatment if needed. However, injuries sustained during adventure sports, which are available in many tourist ports, are not covered by travel insurance, and a separate cover will have to be obtained if you enjoy that sort of thrill during your off hours on shore.

Note that cruise ship medical insurance may not cover dental work, so understanding what exactly can be claimed from the company in precise circumstances is important too.

Many cruise ship crew from developing countries are sole earning members of their families, sustaining lives that depend on them. For those with dependents – either old parents, young families, or even dependent siblings – taking a life insurance cover is smart. As a youngster, premiums are low and returns are high, but understand that this will benefit your dependents only in case of your death. An additional policy that covers permanent disability may not be needed if such accidents occur during the duration of the contract.

For the typical cruise insurance, companies ask staff to undergo a medical examination at a clinic or hospital they recognise. Some of these check for pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart conditions and others which are not covered under the insurance policy.

In most cases, insurance policies go unused and one must be thankful for that. But it is always a good idea to safeguard your health and your families’ best interests by paying small premiums for a stress-free life. Remember to always read the insurance policies carefully and compare two or more before narrowing down to the ones that suit your situation best.



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The Fun side of Cruise Ship Jobs

staff only sign

When it comes to cruise ship jobs, your workplace is your world for the duration of the contract. Crew members work and live on the vessel, making careers and enjoying social lives, all in the same floating space.

To keep employees happy and eager to work on board, cruise ship companies have a team dedicated to crew welfare and entertainment. Many vessels these days have an expansive crew only area that is out of bounds for passengers. Here, you’ll find a fully equipped gym, a swimming pool and deck, lounge areas, dining rooms, internet cafes, and even pubs.

One of the most frequented spots is the crew bar, typically located on Deck 3 that goes by the name ‘I-95’ after one of the oldest highways in the US. Here, alcohol is much cheaper than in guest areas and anecdotes reveal some of the wildest parties on board take place here. However, all crew are aware that despite having easy access to alcohol, they must turn up to work in a responsible, sober state and be able to put in the required hours the following day.

Cruise ships often hire a manager and team solely to ensure crew enjoy themselves while on board. The team organises a host of events through the year, looks after logistics and decides how to spend the crew entertainment budget in the best way possible.

Before the ship reaches port, the team organises tours and other activities that can be availed by crew who are free to go ashore. They also coordinate activities for corporate social responsibility taken on by the cruise company, and encourage crew to volunteer and participate.

Most cruise vessels have crew from around the world, representing many different nationalities and cultures. Companies take trouble to ensure that important national and religious holidays of all the major represented cultures are celebrated with equal fanfare. Cruise ship crew from India can be certain that there will be crew festivities for Diwali and Eid as there are for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

Crew will often see theme parties, movie nights and other activities organised on a regular basis. Management sometimes provides for on board television channels with a variety of movies for staff, as well as crew bingo, and at times, live shows. There are extensive libraries that rent out movies and books, crew competitions, party games and quizzes, and board games.

Some cruises often also put together skills expansion courses, such as language classes or management sessions with certification so interested staff can work their way up or build their resume while on contract.

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Top Cruise Ship jobs

top jobs

Being paid to travel the world seems like an exciting job, and for many it is the calling of a lifetime. Hundreds of young folk from India and other countries around south east Asia revel in the luxury afforded by excellent conversion rates of their salaries paid in dollars. There are many different types of cruise ship jobs, but some appear just that much more enticing than others.

Health & Fitness:

Most applicants do not see this sector as a potential job creator, but with all things health-related increasingly turning into a trend, positions in this space can get lucrative. Most cruise ships these days have fitness instructors on board, so having a certification in streams ranging from yoga and pilates to functional training and zumba can help. You’ll be dealing with age groups and fitness levels across the board, which keeps it interesting. Plus, it’s port calls generally see reduced footfalls, so it’s more likely you’ll have the day off.


All cruise ships focus on entertainment to keep their guests busy and engaged during days at sea. Some of the most lucrative jobs are in this arena, with cruise entertainment positions requiring barely any prior experience, but offering a rise in position to cruise entertainment director which pays one of the best salaries on board. Entertainers, such as dancers, comedians, musicians and singers, magicians and gymnasts, are most often free during port calls as passengers prefer going ashore.


Guests enjoy spending their money on board a cruise line and this sector is one of the easiest ways to meet new people in a buzzing atmosphere. Depending on experience, you can put away a decent amount of money, with casino managers pulling in as much as USD 3500 (INR 227,000) a month. Barely any experience is required as a dealer, and with some past in one of Goa’s off-shore casinos, landing a job in this sector should not be too difficult.

Food & Beverage:

Cruise ship chef jobs are admittedly demanding, but also rewarding. Working in the kitchens on board offers excellent post-cruise career opportunities thanks to the exacting standards required with big companies. Even service in food & beverage is monetarily rewarding. Starting from the bottom, it is possible to make your way up to head waiter or waitress in the dining room, where tips and gratuities at the end of every cruise can sometimes notch up salaries to as much as USD 5000 (INR 325,000) per month on a good ship.

A great variety of positions are available on board. Finding one you enjoy and fit in will help with job satisfaction and also keep your career trajectory on a smooth path.

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Visa Requirements for Cruise Ship Jobs

Visa foe cruise ship

Gaining employment on a cruise ship rests largely on your qualifications and experience, but actually getting on board calls for a work permit as with cases of land-based jobs in other countries. However, the type of permits are often different.

Most big and popular cruise ships are headquartered in the US or operate from there, so to get into the country and join your ship, you will need the necessary travel documents. Other than your passport with a validity that comfortably extends beyond the end of your contract, you will need a special type of visa. It’s good to let your recruitment agency know that you have a valid passport and the date until which it extends so they know you are employable immediately.

Most work permits to the US for land-based jobs are B-type visas, but cruise ship crew fall under the ‘Seamen’ category, and as such require C1, D or combined C1/D visas. Whether or not you need a visa is dependent on the country you’ll be joining the ship at and the ports you might want to get off at, no matter what flag the ship flies.

Cruise ship companies deal with thousands of employees every year, so they have Human Resource divisions dedicated to helping new crew with the required procedures. However, the cost of getting the visa will be borne by the employee. While the recruiting agency or crew manning agent provides assistance, the employee must ensure that he/she has all necessary documents in order and turns up to the visa interview, if required, on time.

If a cruise line chooses to hire you, they will provide you a letter of appointment which will be required when applying for your visa. This is where you will choose the type of visa to apply and pay for.

C1 visas request the consulate to allow the non-immigrant applicant to enter the US, usually by air, and transit directly and immediately to the cruise ship. With a D visa, crew members can be in the US for as long as the cruise ship is in the country, up to 29 days at the most. To allow crew members to enter and exit the US, and also go ashore at ports of call, most cruise ships suggest applying for a C1/D visa.

To join a cruise ship in the UK, you might need a visa for ‘Visitor in a Transit area’ and a Transit visa (subclass 771) for Australia. Your recruiting company will suggest the most appropriate visa type based on where you will join the cruise ship and the ports it will stop at.

To apply, remember to fill up the application form – usually online – with all the requisite information. Also ensure that your photograph is strictly according to the specifications requested, or your application may be rejected.

For US visas, applicants are required to appear personally for an interview, so don’t forget to schedule one as soon as you receive confirmation that your application has been received. For all visa interviews, dress smartly, and carry your passport, letter of appointment, visa payment receipt, a print out of your completed visa application form and an extra photograph that complies with the specifications.

You can keep renewing the visa over the course of your employment. You should also consider getting a Seaman’s Book or a CDC, a document you can obtain to show a record of your career certifications that might help with future visa applications.

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Grievance Redressal and Cruise Ship Rights


Grievance Redressal, there is no company in the world that has never had problems. With hundreds of crew members on board a single ship, and with many ships under their helm, cruise ship companies see grievance redressal more often than not.

Not too long ago, cruise ship jobs came with a blot of harsh working conditions and few rights for employees. But following media blow outs and pressure from the international community, many companies have changed their on board conditions and also provided measures for cruise ship employees to get their problems addressed.

In this regard, it is first important to know your rights as a cruise ship employee. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) lays down certain guidelines that companies are expected to follow for the well being of the crew on board. There are many agents and websites working under the radar, promising jobs and necessary training. One must be wary of these fly-by-night operators, as they might be working in collusion with companies violating the international Maritime Labour Convention laws with regard to work conditions and safety on board.

As a cruise ship crew member, you are entitled to a work environment devoid of bullying and harassment, overtime in case of responsibilities that go beyond your contracted hours, a minimum of 10 hours of rest every 24 hours, and approximately seven days of paid leave for each month of service.

The cruise ship company is expected to cover the cost of your flight home after your contract ends, and medical treatment if you are discharged due to sickness while on work. You also receive sick pay and compensation if you are injured at work, 14 weeks of maternity leave if you get pregnant and the right to join a trade union.

Cruise ship companies, like many land-based firms, have human resources departments to deal with any and all issues related to the crew. Redressal systems are different based on the cruise line, and in-depth information is always provided during or before orientation.

Typically, the key to getting your grievances redressed is to note down specifics of situations and report them to your supervisor. Feedback forms and management reports are part of quality reviews that occur on a regular basis. This is one important way of getting your voice heard regarding management and working conditions.

Cruise crew are responsible for reporting any harassment so it can be appropriately addressed. Emails and any reports for feedback or management reviews should be written as professionally as possible, without any derogatory remarks or discriminatory language. This will leave you in the clear during any investigations that follow.

It is advisable to follow the procedure detailed in the crew guidelines provided in your contract or during orientation. Typically, the hierarchy begins with your supervisor, followed by a senior crew manager, the human resources department, the managing director and finally the company. Further than this, specialist lawyers deal with bringing cruise companies to task for violating maritime laws.

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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.


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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