Want to travel the world without having to pay for housing or food? Of course you do! This is why the idea of being a cruise ship worker is so enticing, but there’s a side to cruise ships none of us see. While you’re relaxing by the pool or shoving your face full of all-you-can-eat pizza, there’s someone stuck catering to your every need. Those hand towel animals don’t just appear on your bed out of nowhere!
A cruise ship is essentially a floating hotel, and working in the service and hospitality industry is never easy. Before you decide to fill out a job application and set sail, read on for some behind-the-scenes secrets coming from former cruise workers themselves!
Gavin, a waiter who worked for a major cruise line told Mental Floss that Big Brother is super real. In other words: there are cameras literally everywhere. This is mostly for safety as you’re literally on a giant boat in the middle of the ocean. Though the next Titanic is unlikely, crew members may have to review security footage in the event of an emergency.
When you’re away for most of the year and cut off from the rest of the world, it’s way easier to get away with hiding some major secrets. This is why so many cruise workers lead double lives when they’re on the ship. It’s not uncommon for certain couples to have wives at home and a whole different relationship as soon as they set sail. Apparently, marriage vows may not really hold up in international waters.
There have also been reports of gay men who are closeted on land but very open and out-of-the-closet on the ship. Being cut off from the world gives you a chance to be who you want to be, not who you feel you have to be on land.
Forget keeping up with Game of Thrones or your favorite TV programs. If you work on a cruise ship, you’re lucky to keep up with the news in general. As much as it may pain you to not see your favorite team smash next season out of the park, sometimes it’s impossible to tune in. Internet connections at sea are notoriously expensive and unreliable. Often times, you have to catch up when you dock, leaving days between when you get your news and not. For this reason, many cruise workers tend to stop following news, sports, and pop culture altogether.
Crew members don’t want to alarm passengers. Guests are on vacation and don’t need to know about every little emergency – especially if it doesn’t have to do with them. What sort of mass panic would it cause if every passenger suddenly knew there was a small fire on the ship? It’d be hectic! Because of this, crew workers use certain codes that they can announce on a loudspeaker without alarming passengers.
Work hard, party hard – this motto holds true for cruise ship workers. When workers aren’t working, they’re probably drinking and partying. In fact, the crew has a special “crew only” bar with insanely cheap liquor. For example, many cruises charge about $15 a drink for guests, but at the crew bar, you can get a cocktail for less than $1.50. The crew definitely party hard, but they’ve got to be careful. Ships sometimes subject employees to random breathalyzer and drug tests, though it’s not always enforced. A former cruise ship worker who spoke to Trend-Chaser let us know just how lax the rules often are.
“The crew isn’t supposed to get drunk pretty much ever,” he said. “Everyone is told they’re not allowed to actually get drunk, but then you go drinking with your HR person and she has four or five drinks.” Apparently, people drink on the job all the time and just fly under-the-radar. As long as you’re not making a spectacle of yourself, you’re probably good to go.
If you’re looking to find a fun fling while you’re on contract at sea, look away from anyone who may be on vacation. Cruise workers are strictly forbidden to hook up with guests, and it’s one of the easiest ways to get booted from your job. In fact, according to an anonymous cruise worker who spoke to Trend-Chaser, the crew is actually discouraged from interacting with guests one-on-one. This helps protect the cruise line from any sort of accusations that may hurt the ship’s reputation. If you’re caught breaking the rules, you’ll be kicked off at the next port.
It can get pretty boring at sea. To break the monotony, cruise members pull pranks on passengers. The pranks are pretty innocuous, as messing with passengers too hard is a great way to get fired.
According to one anonymous cruise worker who spoke to Mental Floss, “A favorite was while in a passenger area say to another crew member, loud enough to be heard by passengers, ‘Meet you in the bowling alley tonight!’” Of course, there wasn’t actually a bowling alley on board. “Then we’d wait for the comment cards to come in: ‘Why do crew get a bowling alley when we don’t?’” Hysterical!
Crew members are the lowest on the food chain, meaning they get the scraps. It’s like high school cafeteria food, but sometimes worse. The kitchen staff does get creative considering they don’t have a whole lot to work with, but it’s not necessarily something you’d want to eat all the time. Imagine having to eat weird offerings like goat foot stew on the regular!
Lucky cruise members get to eat passenger leftovers. At the end of a shift, they’re allowed to eat what’s left of a passenger buffet, though it’s so good, it doesn’t really last very long.
The service and hospitality industry is a goldmine for weird stories. You never really know what you’re going to get, so you have to be ready for anything. Cruise ship employees are pretty used to getting bizarre requests from guests when they’re at sea. According to USA Today, one cruise ship worker repeatedly gets strange requests from young couples on the ship. At this point, it’s more common than it is surprising.
If you’re the kind of person who savors your weekends, avoid working on a cruise ship at all costs. Most cruise ship workers don’t get a single day off. Typically, they’re contracted for nine months at a time and work straight through.
It’s not absolutely terrible, though. The crew works every day but on a rotational basis. Instead of having full days off, workers get hours of downtime every day that they can spend on themselves. When their contract is up, they get a nice two-month long vacation. Think of all the stuff you’d do if you had two months off.
Often, cruise lines are known for their delectable food offering a variety of fancy desserts, seafood, and other delicacies. However, for employees they get the short end of the stick so to speak. One cruise worker wrote on Reddit that it was akin to a school lunch saying, “Imagine eating at your high-school cafeteria three meals a day, seven days a week for a year.” Another employee said they were fed strange cuisine like “goat foot stew”. Yikes! Former cruise ship employee Kat told Mental Floss, that the food choices were a sure-fire way to lose weight. She said, “I would lose about 10 to 12 pounds per contract.”
While relationships between employees are definitely discouraged. They absolutely do happen. Although, the opposite is true for passenger and employee relationship. These relationships are strictly forbidden by cruise lines around the world. If they do occur and the cruise line finds out about it, the employee is almost immediately fired. Of course, this rule is in order to protect the company from facing any kind of lawsuits or general bad press. So, if you’re looking for love on a cruise, it’s best not to start with the crew! Or at least wait until everyone is land bound before you contact them!
Cruises are known for places to let loose, well for the passengers anyway, but did you know the same holds true for the employees? Cruise ship employees are notorious for heavy partying and heavy drinking. Typically, staff has their own designated drinking area, where they can partake out of sight from passengers. While cruise ship drinks are notoriously expensive, at the crew bar they are much cheaper where you can buy a mixed drink for as low as a $1.25. We can certainly see why partying with the crew might be more desirable than partying above deck! Plus, alcohol would certainly be a way to distract from the cramped living quarters.