There’s a lot to look forward to in your first cruise ship job. The work environment is quite unlike the shore-based hospitality industry in many aspects. So many prospective cruise line employees wonder what their career graph will look like in the future.
With cruise ship jobs, you can get on board in one department and then switch within the company after a few contracts and find something else you might like. Or you can stick with the same department and climb the hierarchy within.
Many companies offer training programmes that enable you to upgrade your skills and apply for higher posts. You could start off as a line cook in the galley and move up to being the head chef of a particular restaurant, simply by honing skills and applying for vacant positions when they open up.
For higher posts, cruise companies require previous experience on a vessel, so sticking with cruise ship jobs can help build on that time needed. A junior assistant food and beverage manager on Princess Cruises, for example, requires two years of experience in a management position, while an assistant manager requires three years.
To oversee operations as the food and beverage manager, the applicant will need at least five years of experience in a senior management position with thorough knowledge of all the processes involved. If you have entered the cruise industry in an entry-level position, you will have to work your way up from there to a senior management position where you will be for five years before getting a shot at the position of food and beverage manager.
Most often, applicants with experience in the cruise industry will be considered first because they have an in-depth understanding of working on a cruise ship, from the long hours and seven-day work week, to the connections between various departments and hierarchy involved, to first-hand training in emergency drills and possibly even crowd management.
Remember that for dozens of entry-level staff on cruise ships, jobs are an interim feature, particularly if they are European or North American. Many see these jobs as a means of making quick money to pay for further education, or to travel the world more cost-effectively for a short period of time. In such cases, the competition for promotions decreases and only those who are committed to cruise ship jobs long-term remain in the bid for higher positions.
Understand that management is looking for not just experience and skills, but also personality and passion for the job. So when vacancies open up, you should showcase these in the interviews. Sometimes, additional skills can make a big difference. Service staff such as bartenders, maitre d’s and waiters who speak more than one international language will probably have an edge over others. Particularly if the language is common among their guest demographic – say Mandarin, German, Italian, French, Spanish and even Portuguese, which are among the top 10 cruise-loving nations in the world.
Other skills such as crowd management, designated security duties, emergency training in first aid, fire fighting or related sectors can also give you an edge over others. Some cruise companies have skills enhancement training on board, but it can be tough to find the time.
However, it’s possible to do these courses during your months off too. Typically, cruise ship crew can get between two to four months off between contracts. It can work to your advantage to use some of this time to broaden your skill set. Most emergency training courses last a week or so, while intensive language courses can be completed within a couple of months.
Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities and open up your horizons with cruise ship jobs.