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Want To Work On A Cruise Ship?

By Laetitia Bouffard Roupe

Should you consider working aboard a cruise ship? Entertainment on cruise ships is a growing industry; today there are theater shows, atrium shows, ice-skating shows, parades and even water shows! 

On some ships, you might have three full casts plus different acrobats, musicians, comedians, and singers.  One of the most interesting parts of working on a ship is that you get to meet people from all over the world. You can get up to 45 different nationalities within the crew only; it’s like a United Nations meeting onboard.

Many professions are represented onboard, from the Captain, who is like the mayor, to the sanitation workers, who sort the garbage. It’s a twenty-four-hour operation and it never stops.

Of course having a lot of people in such close proximity leads to plenty of partying and gossip.  Just like in Vegas, what happens on the ship stays on the ship! Crazy parties are part of life on cruise ships and they do make great stories and memories – but the walls on a ship have ears. Anything you say will get repeated and transformed, especially on small ships. Ship life is a little bit like high school, everyone wants to know everyone’s business: who is with who, who is cheating, there is so much gossip! I could probably write a whole book about it!

Benefits of Life on the Water

The best part of working on a cruise ship is travel. You get to travel for free all over the world to the same unique locations that guests pay big money to see. As an artist, I have the privilege to visit most ports since I perform at night, usually after the ship leaves port. Waking up every morning in a different city. It’s so enriching.

Cruise ship work is a great way to save money because you are able to save a very high percentage of your wages. You get free food and, on some ships, even free drinks. You have no electricity, water or gas bills, but you may end up with a huge internet bill!  The Internet on a cruise ship is extremely expensive, and tremendously slow if you manage to connect yourself.   It is very frustrating when you are trying to stay in touch with your friends and family back home. In each port, most crew members get off the ship just to find fast Wi-Fi hotspots.

Naturally,  I can’t write about cruising without speaking about food! It’s everywhere, around every corner; cookies, pizza, sandwiches – you name it, they have it. The temptation is all over! On some ships, you can get up to 25 different dining options. For me, food is the most dangerous part of cruising.  I love food so much but I need to keep fit and slim for the show. It is really difficult to say no, you need to have strong self-control. These days most cruise lines have a healthy/low-calorie version of most menus so I usually try to stick to that.

My favorite part of cruise life are the sea days. A sea day is basically like a Sunday at home.  You don’t have to work, you have nowhere to go, and because you’re on the ship, you don’t have to clean or cook. So a sea day is a “me” day.

Sea days let you catch up on sleep, read a book, workout and do all the things you have no time for while you are working. Getting a sea day is like pressing the pause button.

I’ve defined sea days from an entertainer point of view. Other crews like waiters, bartenders, and cooks hate sea days because they must work about 14 hours a day.  Most of the other crew onboard dislike the entertainers. They think that we don’t work and spend a lot of time having fun. When this becomes a problem I always tell them, ‘You can apply for my job, here are the contacts, just send your video.’ They just don’t understand all the years of training and sacrifice many performers went through when we were kids to get where we are at now.

Drawbacks of Sealife

I have to say, working on cruise ships is not for everybody. Cruising brings with it a very specific/unique lifestyle and living environment. A cruise ship is like a village but in an enclosed space. While working my first contract, it took me two weeks just to figure out where everything was! There were so many corridors and most of them looked alike, it was like a maze.

When you are working on a ship, you surrender parts of your freedom. There are a lot of rules and regulations you need to comply with like random drug tests and cabin inspections. While at sea, most crew members count how many days of their contract are left, it’s like waiting out a jail sentence.

There is something strange about working on a ship. When you are onboard you miss your home and family and think about it all the time. But when you are home after a few weeks of vacation, you do start to miss the ship. It’s difficult to explain but I experience it after every contract.  When I take longer contracts, there is a moment when I start to wonder where I can really call home. When cruise employees say we’re ‘going home’, we mean that we are taking a vacation, so in a sense the ship also becomes home.

Should You Consider Working Aboard Cruise Ships?

Like I said earlier, cruise ship life is not for everybody. It’s a fantastic way to combine work and travel but it has its cons. I would highly recommend this lifestyle to single young adults without kids. Especially if you are looking to save money and would like to explore new places and make friends from all over the world.

Anyone who works at sea will at some point say, “This is my last contract” but most people come back! The sea is always calling you back, it’s addictive.

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