Life on board as a Crew Member

Quick Links
What is life like living and working onboard
Jerry with Alex and Lulu on Rhapsody of the Seas.jpgWhat can I expect when I get onboard
Can I choose which ship to go on
Crew Areas
Rules and regulations
Ship Terms
Communications on board

 What is life like living and working on board a ship?

Living and working on board a cruise ship is a unique and exciting experience and for the most part is fun and rewarding. Working as an integral part of a 1000+ strong crew, the team’s function is to ensure the ultimate enjoyment and relaxation of the ship’s guests and to make certain that their trip is unforgettable.

As space is limited on board a ship, crew quarters and “back of house” work areas and facilities are tight and crew numbers are kept to a minimum. You will be expected to work hard and fast and adjust to a 24/7 roster with flexibility and commitment.

Cruise companies derive their crew from around the globe, bringing together a complement of nationalities, cultures, professional expertise and individual uniqueness from over 90 countries. As such, you will be working closely with, and perhaps even be sharing a cabin with, people who have very different backgrounds to you. It will take everyone’s cooperation, understanding and commitment and individual patience and tolerance to create an effective and successful team. Life on board a cruise ship and the people around you soon become your new found family, away from home. You will develop new friendships and encounter different challenges and also be able to say hello and welcome in 8-10 different languages!

What can I expect when I get on Board?

Hours of Work

  • Each crew member will be expected to work to a rotating 7 day roster as determined by Your  Department Manager
  • Departments that operate an ongoing 24 hour service for guests require its staff to fit in accordingly.
  • Hours vary from position to position, however, typically hours are based on a minimum of 70-hr/7-day work week
  • Typically crew members work every day for the entire length of their contract

Time Off

  • How much, and the frequency of time off you w ill have, will depend on the position you hold and individual rostering guidelines of the cruise company that you are employed by
  • Typically crew members will have time off (as in shifts) rather than days off
  • At the end of your contract, you will have anywhere between 4-8 weeks vacation

Back to top.jpgCrew Facilities 

There are dedicated crew spaces on board most ships which are designed specifically for crew members to relax in. These areas also allow for crew to interact and socialise with one another.

They include:Pool deck buffet.jpg

  • Crew Bar
  • Crew Cafeteria & Recreation Area
  • Crew Library
  • Crew Gym
  • Crew Pool deck
  • Crew Internet Cafes
  • Crew Pool deck
  • Crew Internet Cafes
  • Banking
  • If you hold a bank account, banking services are available through the Purser’s office whilst on board
  • Some ports that you will visit may have international banking and wiring services available, however, please bear in mind that they may charge high fees for these services

 Guest Privileges

 Crew who hold senior positions or officer positions that are heavily interactive with guest services may have the following privileges:

  • Access to Guest areas- gym, bars, pools, spas etc. Even when you are off duty you must wear your name badge at all times
  • Dining with Guests
  • Attending Captain’s Dinners
  • Invitations to special functions and/or Cocktail Parties

Can I choose which ship I go on?

Unfortunately No. When hiring staff and allocating personnel to its fleet of ships, there are many factors impacting on where you will be placed. Some of these factors include current status of staff within the specific department, outgoing contracts, current experience of staff on board versus your experience, etc. It would be a logistical nightmare for crew personnel to allocate staff only to the ships and destinations they choose.

As your career and experience within a specific company grows, there may be opportunities to request contract placements on specific ships, however, it cannot be guaranteed that these requests will be fulfilled.

Can my husband, wife, partner and I travel together?

Generally No. Candidates are assessed individually based on their skills and experience. If both of you are successful we can put a request in for you to be assigned to the same ship and the Cruise Company will do its best to accommodate- but there are no guarantees.

Can my family sail with me?

Yes. Family can sail as guests normally after a qualifying period of time with the company, under a family and friends cruising rate. You need to submit a request to bring family on board and subject to availability they are offered heavily reduced rates to cruise. If you are in a senior position with your own cabin, family members may be allowed to stay on board for with you for a visit free of charge. Each Cruise Line has differing policies regarding Family travelling on board and if you are keen to know more, then you can ask this at your final interview with the cruise company.

Crew Spaces

 Back to top.jpgWhat are Crew Cabins like?

  • As space is limited on board, crew cabins are compact and in most cases they are on the lower decks of ships, sometimes below water level and in the majority of cases you will be sharing a cabin with another crewmember.

Cabins are generally equipped as follows:

  • Bathroom (shower, sink and toilet)
  • Personal and lockable storage space
  • Bunk beds and all linen
  • TV/VCR or DVD
  • Small refrigerator
  • In most cases, crew are grouped into particular sections determined by the department in which they work, management level and same gender.
  • There are usually electrical outlets in cabins, but you will need to have all electrical appliances approved by the Safety Officer prior to being used.
  • As this will be your new home for the duration of your contract, you will be responsible for treating it as your own, keeping it clean and tidy at all times. Certain positions have crew housekeeping privileges
  • You are encouraged to bring personal mementoes, but there may be limitations on whether (and how) they can be adhered to cabin surfaces. Due to safety regulations, cooking in cabins is strictly prohibited.
  • Any other Cabin Rules & Regulations relating to the particular ship that you are cruising on will be clearly outlined to you at the commencement of your contract.
  • Room and board is at no expense to crew.Beverage Server.jpg

Can I freely access all areas of the ship?

  • When off-duty, crew are generally not permitted into guest areas
  • Depending on the position and seniority that one holds, they may have access to certain guest areas with certain protocols in mind. This will be clearly outlined to you upon your commencement.
Do I need to wear a uniform?
  • All crewmembers are provided with a uniform and name badge by their employer upon arrival, which is to be worn at all times whilst on duty.
  • In some cases, you may be requested to bring a particular colour of trousers, skirt, shoes and socks or perhaps a shirt.
  • If taking shoes, ensure they are comfortable and have a non-slip sole and also approved styles
  • Female crew are generally not permitted to have open toed or open sided shoes and heels are to be less than 5cm in height.
  • All of the necessary particulars will be explained to you prior to your commencement.

Do I have access to a laundry service?

  • Compulsory uniforms and work clothing is nearly always laundered free of charge by the ships laundry service. There will be certain procedures that you w ill need to follow to get your laundry picked up and processed.
  • All ships have a crew Laundromat equipped with washing machines, dryers and irons that can be used by crew free of charge. For safety reasons, irons are strictly not permitted in crew cabins.
  • As an option, crew may send their personal clothing to the ship’s laundry to be washed at a crew rate.

Back to top.jpgDo crew have to pay for their own meals?

  • Meals are provided on board free of charge to crewmembers and generally served in the crew mess (or restaurant).
  • The crew mess serves a variety of meals and caters to many different nationalities. The preparation of special meals is usually limited, however, should you require a special diet for medical reasons (i.e. low cholesterol), please advise your Crew Steward who will liaise with the chefs.
  • In general ships have very good crew food, and have rotating menus and recipes. However, after 6 months on board, you may be longing for some of that special home cooking!

What happens if I get sick?

  • Throughout the term of your contract, you are covered by Medical Insurance (in most cases however, this may not include dental/optical). You may need to make alternative arrangements in some cases and arrange travel insurance if you choose
  • All ships have an infirmary staffed by qualified doctors and nurses. For non-emergency medical treatments and/or advice, most ships will assign and post designated infirmary hours specifically for crew. Please ensure that you schedule these visits when you are off-duty. This is also where you get your seasick medication from!
  • After evaluation, any treatment and/or medications will be arranged by the infirmary staff and recorded on your crewmember file. This information is kept strictly confidential by the infirmary staff.
  • If you are receiving medical treatment for a pre-existing condition, you may need to bring with you enough prescriptions to last you for the duration of your contract. All prescriptions will need to be registered by the infirmary upon embarkation.
  • Can I purchase personal items and incidentals on board the ship?
  • Many ships have a Crew Shop, which is sometimes referred to as the "Shopchest" and is open at specific times.
  • Toiletries, chocolate and other day-to-day necessities can generally be purchased here and, depending on the ship, a selection of beverages and cigarettes can sometimes also be purchased.

Rules & Regulations

Can I leave the ship when in port?

  • Absolutely you can, but only if you are not rostered on to be working. The services on the ship do not stop functioning whilst it is in port.
  • Crew are actually encouraged to go ashore to explore as many destinations as possible whilst not on duty. Not only is it important for your well being to have time off and away from the ship, but it’s also valuable to learn as much as you can about the ports the ship visits as guests will often ask your advice and expect to gain information from you!
  • Remember, if you do leave the ship, to ensure you keep a watchful eye on the time so as to arrive back to report for duty (or if the ship is setting sail). Tardiness in this respect will result in disciplinary action being taken.
  • Remember that you must be back on board no later than 30 minutes before departure when the ship is docked. When the ship is at anchor and uses tenders, all crew must come back on board at least one hour prior to departure.

Back to top.jpgHow critical is safety on board?

Safety is of the utmost importance, as your life, your fellow crewmembers’ lives, and guest’s lives will depend on the training of the crew in emergency situation. Safety must be one of your main concerns during your stay on board. You will be required to participate in the regular scheduled ship’s safety drills and emergency training. Upon your arrival on board, you will receive your emergency instructions and safety training. In order to maintain a minimum safety manning when the ship is in port or at anchor, you will be periodically asked to remain on board, and be part of the " In Port Safety Manning".

What ship rules and regulations as a Sea Farer do I need to know?

  • A cruise ship is like a floating community where people (passengers and crew) from a multitude of nationalities, cultures and religions come together. In any community there are certain Rules & Regulations that people must abide by in order to have a happy and harmonious environment, free of trouble.
  • Listed below are some general guidelines that would be typically found in most Cruise Handbooks regarding interaction and protocols between crewmembers and guests.
  • All crew are here to provide the best possible service to our guests. This means that even if you do not deal directly with guests, you are still providing an important service behind the scenes to those crewmembers who do. Act professionally at all times and treat everybody, colleagues and senior staff, with Galley on the Pacific Dawn.jpgrespect. The ship cannot function without a team and every single job on board is equally important to a smooth operation.
  • If a guest or crewmember asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, endeavour to find out or direct the person to someone w ho knows the answer. Never disregard the question by saying that you do not know , and likewise, never answer a question if you are not sure of the answer.
  • Be sincere. If you made a mistake, admit it and let people know. The sooner you do it the easier it will be to correct that mistake. People appreciate sincerity.
  • Always ensure you are wearing an immaculately clean uniform and that you are showered, shaved and clean at all times.
  • Whilst on board, guests are enjoying a lifetime vacation. They do not want to listen to your personal problems. Do not ever discuss company or personal matters with guests.
  • The relationship between crewmembers and guests should be a cordial and professional one. Intimate and/or sexual relationships with guests travelling on board are strictly prohibited. Inappropriate, suggestive, provocative and promiscuous language and behaviour will not be tolerated.
  • When addressing a guest, politely say “Excuse me Sir/Madam”. Do not tap them on the shoulder or inappropriately interrupt them.

Other Rules & Regulations include:

  • The Captain of the Ship has the highest authority on board and all shipboard personnel are under his command and direction.
  • All crewmembers are required to follow instructions as given by the Captain and the Staff Captain, Department Heads, Supervisors and Officers on Duty.
  • The Staff Captain is responsible for order and discipline on board. If a crewmember breaks any of the Rules and Regulations, necessary action will be taken. If the offence is of a serious nature, it may be cause for dismissal.
  • All personnel must attend Lifeboat and Safety Drill.
  • It is strictly forbidden to bring on board, or to be in possession of drugs, weapons or explosives.
  • Discrimination against any fellow crew member(s) or guest(s) on the grounds of race, colour, religion or for any other reason, will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
  • Crewmembers shall maintain a professional relationship with guests.
  • No crewmember is allowed in a guest suite, except those crewmembers that are there due to job related matters. Nor are crewmember allowed to call any guest in their cabin, except in line of duty. Violation of these rules will result in dismissal.
  • Guests are not allowed in Crew Quarters, including the Crew Bar. Violation of this rule willl result in dismissal.
  • Crewmembers are not allowed to use guest elevators, bathrooms/toilets.
  • Whenever the ship docks in port or uses the tenders, our guests have the first priority at all times. Respect and courteous manners must be shown at all times by crew.
  • All personnel must conform to uniform regulations and maintain a good personal clean and tidy appearance at all times. The uniform must be worn at all times while in a public areas.
  • Smoking is not permitted whilst on duty. Crewmembers are not permitted to smoke in any guest areas.
  • No crewmember is allowed to participate in any game arranged for guests on board where money is part of the prize.
  • Any crewmember responsible for defacing, abusing or stealing any of the ship’s property will be subject to instant dismissal.
  • Crewmembers are not allowed to bring food or dishes to their cabin.
  • Crew are not allowed in food preparation areas when off duty.
  • Garbage is never to be thrown overboard at any time. Garbage disposal procedures will be explained to you and must be followed at all times. Anyone found dumping garbage overboard will be dismissed immediately.
  • There are crew members working around the clock, and out of respect for fellow crew members SILENCE should be observed in all crew living areas at all times, and especially after 11.00 p.m. The crew dayroom is available at all times for any crew meetings.
  • Crewmembers should never go the ship’s reception desk for personal business i.e. buying stamps, changing money, etc.
  • You will find that some cruise companies have very thorough Cruise Handbooks with very detailed and specific Rules & Regulations which you will be asked to abide by at all times. This will be an extremely useful tool for you when you start your new career.

Ship Terms

Back to top.jpgAFT  - The rear of the vessel
BELOW  - The lower decks
BERTH  - Dock, pier, quay. Also bed in guest’s suiteCastaway Cay Lifeguard Water Trikes.jpg
BOW  - The forward or the front part of the vessel
BRIDGE -  The ship’s command centre, located forward
BULKHEAD -  Any of the partition walls used to separate various areas of the ship, such as rooms etc.
DEBARK  - To go ashore
DECK  - Floor
DECK PLAN  - A diagram illustrating suites and public room locations
DOCK -  Pier, wharf or quay - i.e. the structure at which a ship ties up when in port
EMBARK  - To go aboard ship to begin a voyage
FIRE DOORS - Special doors located throughout the ship that close after a command from the bridge
FORWARD  - The front area of the ship
GALLEY  - Ship’s kitchen
GANGWAY-  Passageway for guests or crew to enter or leave the ship
GRT - Gross registered tonnage. This is a measurement of 100 cubic feet of enclosed revenue earning space within a ship
KNOT - A unit of speed, equivalent to one nautical mile per hour
LOG - A daily record of the ship’s speed and progress
MANIFEST - A listing of all guests and crew currently on the ship
MUSTER - To gather at the assigned station during lifeboat drill
NAUTICAL MILE - 6,080.2 feet
PILOT - The official who guides the ship into port for docking purposes
PORT AGENT - A Company that acts as the ship’s link to local authorities in the port-of call
PORTHOLE - A circular window in the side of the ship’s hull or superstructure
PORTSIDE - The left side of the ship facing forward
SPACE RATIO - Measurement of cubic space per guest
STABILIZER - A fin extended from both sides of the ship for smoother sailing
STARBOARD - The right side of the ship facing forward
SUITE/CABIN - The room on board
STERN - The aft end of a vessel
TENDER - A smaller vessel, sometimes the ship’s lifeboat, used to remove guests to and from the ship and shore when the ship is at anchor
WATER-TIGHT DOORS - Special doors located in the lower decks that can seal off sections of the ship in case of flooding
WINDWARD - The direction towards the wind

Communication whilst on board

Back to top.jpgHow can I communicate with family and friends? And how can they contact me in the case of an emergency?

  • As all communication to/from the ship is through a satellite, phone calls and/or faxes will be much more expensive than land rates and they will differ greatly from ship to ship. Your manager will explain access to these facilities to you. You can however contact family and friends in case of an emergency at any time
  • Most ships now have crew centres with email and Internet access, which is the most economic and common way for crew stay in touch with family and friends. Phone cards can also be purchased on board most ships or in port.
  • In the case of emergencies, the cruise company will do everything possible to get information to you as quickly as possible.

What about receiving mail or faxes?

  • It is certainly possible to receive phone calls, faxes and correspondence whilst on board, however, you will need to ensure that those sending informationDiamond Princess in Sydney.jpg are aware of your crew ID number, department and cabin number in order to ensure that mail reaches you.

Am I allowed to have any visitors on board?

  • If allowed by the local authorities and approved by the on board management and the cruise company for which you are employed, you may be allowed to have visitors on board.
  • In most cases, an application must be submitted at least 24 hours before arrival in port.
  • There is usually a limit of 2 visitors per crewmember.
  • Visitors must always present a valid picture ID to the security personnel at the gangway before being allowed on board.
  • Remember, that the crewmember is responsible for the conduct of his/her visitor(s) and there will be certain regulations that will need to be adhered to in these instances.

How do I get to meet and interact with other crewmembers?

  • Often Committees are formed on board cruise ships, elected by the crew, and responsible for taking care of arranging sporting events and competitions, social events. These group events will help “break the ice” for new crew and give you the perfect opportunity to mix with other crewmembers.
  • Through socialising and mixing in designated crew areas such as the bars, pools and mess areas.