When I was hired by Royal Caribbean almost two years ago, I realize I had little to no concept of what I was stepping into. I had only been on one cruise prior, on a different cruise line, and as a guest. Even when asking friends who had worked on the same or similar cruise ships, they seemed to have a hard time explaining “ship life”. Cue the grand search on the internet of what to expect.
So little information!
So what are some things you may not know about ships but could come in handy when deciding to join one as a crew member? Take a look!
1. Safety first, then your job.
Don’t like doing drills? Don’t try to work on a ship. Safety is your first responsibility on a ship, then the job you are contracted to do. No, the drills aren’t what I would deem “fun”, but they are vitally important to ensure the safety of the guests and your fellow crew members.
On some cruise lines, certain crew members do not have to take part in pax, or passenger drill. But regardless of that, safety is ALWAYS the top priority on any ship. Thinking of the ship like a floating city, we have to be self-sufficient in medical and safety needs while floating from port to port, so it is imperative that crew members are ready to act at a moment’s notice.
2. You can go the whole day without seeing the sun or getting fresh air.
Very few cabins have portholes onboard, so most crew members live in cabins with no natural sunlight coming into the living space. Unless you are outside, the air you breathe is going to be circulated. Getting sun and fresh air can be challenging at times, particularly if you do not want to get off in port or are at sea all day. Getting that Vitamin D is incredibly important, so even taking 5 minutes a day to step outside in some capacity will keep you feeling human, or like a really pretty flower.
3. Snacks are your best friend.
The messes on the ship are open for a certain number of hours each day. If you love to eat or need to eat every few hours, snacks will be your best friend. Each week we are back in our home port, what we call turnaround, I know of cast members getting cereal, peanut butter, protein powder, and other necessities to make sure they can last the week in those hours of no mess. From the perspective of a performer, the snacks are incredibly important on the days when shows are earlier. There usually isn’t enough time to get dinner, allow it to digest, and then perform. Those days are usually when I have a big protein shake and a Kind Bar with peanut butter. Yum!
4. You will be surrounded by constant noises.
There is always work happening on the ship. Banging, drilling, and loud conversations are a few of the noises you may come across while walking around the ship, or even sitting in your room. This contract, the entertainment department is all the way forward on the first deck of the ship. So when the anchor comes up on the port side of the ship, my room begins to move and shake like it’s in a music video!
5. Personal space is basically non-existent.
When you live in the same area as your cast members, dine in a mess with other staff and crew at every meal, and have to walk down the main “highway” to get everywhere, there is very little time to be alone. Even in a cabin, you may have a roommate with the exact same schedule as you (production cast or other performance venues) or hear some of those noises, as mentioned in number 4. So finding those few moments of complete peace are important to keeping your sanity intact while onboard.
6. Someone will get fired during your contract.
Though not the most pleasant topic, it is true. There is a zero tolerance policy for many infractions onboard, and if they aren’t followed, it’s a swift kick in the pants and signing off. Often times, you won’t know a crew member was fired until you realize you haven’t seen them around the ship. It’s sad, but this is the moment you can be thankful for Facebook.
7. People leave, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Coming from a performance perspective, we have had multiple sound and light technicians, production managers, as well as orchestra members during our contract. So what does that mean? New experiences onstage! Never getting too comfortable with the way something runs is always a good way to approach working on a ship, from the way a rehearsal runs to drills.
From a friendship standpoint, you may become friends with someone who has very little time left in their contract. Making the most of the time you have is always the best thing to do.
In conclusion: If you have the chance to, do it.
At the end of the day, when you’re floating away from a beautiful port of call on thi big ship you call home, it’s all worth it. I have created lifelong friendships from working on ships, and who I am as a person and performer has GREATLY transformed in this last year and a half. If you have an opportunity to work on a ship in any capactiy, I will say, “Go for it!”
To travel the world, visit places you may have never had the opportunity to see otherwise, while also performing or working with people from all walks of life is such a rare experience. Take advantage of the opportunity.