Only a few people ever get to experience the life behind the scenes on cruise ships. One of the most common questions I’m asked is how to get a job on ships. This is a HUGE question, as there are so many roles that make up the team on every ship.
Let me give you some pointers so you can get started on your career at sea!
First off – can you travel?
Cruise ships travel internationally. To make sure you can do this, you need your passport. Apply early, so you know it’s there when you need it! For most countries, it’s valid for five or even ten years.
You’ll also need to be allowed to travel to the United States. Many ships operate out of the USA for at least part of the year. When hired by a cruise line, they’ll provide you with a letter that will allow you to apply for the appropriate visa (called a C1/D). If you have past criminal convictions etc, you may not be eligible for this. You can find out more about USA visa ineligibilities here.
Finally, you will need to pass a medical. This is to make sure you’re fit and healthy enough to carry out the expected work on board and to respond to any emergencies. Depending on the job you get, your company may have different requirements for you to meet. This is also an excellent opportunity to take a copy of critical medical records such as your regular prescriptions, or management notes for any ongoing conditions. They will come in handy if you need any attention when you start travelling!
An important part of this is your immunisations – travelling to different parts of the world, and working alongside so many people, can increase the chances of contracting certain illnesses. Having all your vaccinations up to date will help keep you healthy! Again, your company will provide you information if there are specific ones you need for particular areas of the world.
Now you know that you CAN travel, how do you find cruise ship jobs?
A great place to start is with each cruise line’s website. Not only do you get to see what they’re currently hiring for, but they often have descriptions of life on their ships. Read or watch what they have to show, and get a feel for how they treat their crew.
There are different ways positions on ships are filled –
- Direct Hire – Many of the positions will be hired directly by the cruise line. They’ll list these on their site, and conduct the application and interview process themselves. When you’re hired, your pay and benefits will usually be provided directly by the cruise line themselves.
- Contracted Companies – There are some positions that are contracted by a separate company – these are often positions in the spa and salon, photography or medical departments though they can vary between different lines. You’ll be an employee of the outside company, who happens to work on the cruise ship. In this case, your pay is generally managed by your company, though you’ll be expected to follow the rules and policies of the cruise line.
- Recruitment Agencies – Used more in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and India, agencies are employed to screen candidates for positions on cruise lines, manage their documentation and communicate with the cruise line.
Cruise lines will have certain agencies they recognise – it’s important that you use ONLY those official ones. There have been scams around where fake agencies try and make you pay to apply for positions – be wary, and if you’re in doubt, double check with the cruise line that the agency you’re speaking with is a recognised hiring partner.
A recruitment agency should never ask for money to accept your application!
What job should I do on a cruise ship?
I’m not even going to try and explain the hundreds of crew functions here. But whatever your expertise is on land, there’s probably a cruise ship equivalent. Take a look at what’s available, and think about how your experience can fit into it.
There aren’t many positions that you can walk into without previous experience. From hotel positions, entertainment, food service and beverage staff to the technical and nautical roles that operate the ship itself, everyone has proven themselves in their fields. If you find a role you know you’d love, it may take some time to develop your skills ashore before you can be successful in your application.
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