Most Frequently Asked Questions
Am I old enough?
In the vast majority of cases you must be 21 for immigration clearance purposes. Some countries have laws that a foreign visitor must be of legal age or accompanied by a parent or guardian to get clearance to enter the country. An age requirement of 21 ensures there will not be problems. There are ferries in Europe and Scandinavia that hire at 18 and 19.
Am I too old?
I have never heard of a maximum age. You must pass a basic physical exam. The top priority on ships is safety. All crew are assigned safety duties that are particular to each job. You must ask yourself if you are up to the challenge of possibly a strenuous safety assignment. Entertainment and social staff usually are required to go to a designated location and direct passengers to their lifeboat stations. Other crew must operate the lifeboats and be expected to perform more physical safety duties.
Also consider if a ship job would be too much of a regression for you. You might have to share a cabin with someone younger and with different lifestyle priorities. You might have a supervisor that is half your age.
What is the average age?
30s-40s. Many people think cruise jobs are like summer camp party jobs. Not true. Since cruise passengers are typically seniors and safety is the top priority, a mature crew is preferred.
Can I get hired together with a friend?
Applying for a job jointly with a friend in ANY industry is a bad idea. It sends a variety of wrong messages. Think about applying independently. If one person gets hired, the other then has a friend on the inside.
Can I get hired together with a spouse?
Most cruise lines like couples. They put you in one cabin and sometimes that generates an extra cabin (a very valuable commodity).
The first problem is finding 2 jobs at once. If one person applies for a job that is hired by the cruise line and the other person applies for a job that is hired by a concessionaire, it will be difficult, if not impossible to coordinate.
I do not live in the US or Canada. Is your information useful for me?
Yes. Most ships employ 30-40 different nationalities.
How long does it take to get hired?
If you do not get a call in four weeks you probably won't get one so do the application process again. The companies try to give employees two to three weeks notice but that does not always happen. Sometimes crew quit, get fired, get sick or injured. In these situations a replacement must be hired in 2-3 days. If you are available for immediate employment indicate that in your correspondence.
If you are presently employed and your current employer has asked for two weeks notice (or whatever) you will not hurt your chances if you decline a job offer from a cruise line. They will respect your professional commitment to your existing employer and keep you on top of the list. They will believe you will provide them the same commitment.
When is the best time to apply?
Cruise ships "in season" year round. Unlike a land-based resort, ships can reposition on a seasonal basis. Ships that cruise Alaska in the summer reposition to Hawaii, Mexico, South America and the South Pacific in the winter. Likewise for ships that do Scandinavia in the summer and the Mediterranean in the winter. Some ships remain in warm climates year round and repeat the same cruise(s).
If there is a little better time to apply it is the holiday season. The holiday cruise is the most difficult and busiest cruise of the year to work. For this reason, many crew members schedule their vacation over the holidays. Some even terminate their onboard employment in December to avoid the holiday cruise.
What are the living conditions like?
Most crew share a cabin with one other person. Officers, Managers and Entertainment and social staff usually do not. The cabins are cleaned every day or every other day. Clean towels are brought in and the trash is taken out. The food is good but you cannot always get what you want to eat. Officers, Managers and Entertainment and social staff get limited passenger food opportunities such as buffets. Social staff are usually required to host a table in the main dining room. The crew mess is cafeteria style with three meals per day with snacks in between and at night. There are no "slave cruise ships" where crew are mistreated or even placed in uncomfortable living conditions. Cruise ships are the hospitality industry and are managed by hospitality industry professionals.
The other and more important question you should be asking is what the lifestyle is like. A Human Resources Director once said that trying to describe ship life would be like trying to describe the color blue to someone who has never had sight.
How much will I get paid?
You will make the same as you would doing the same job in a land-based situation. Just like hotels, resorts and restaurants, some cruise lines pay more and provide better perquisites than others. Five-star luxury lines usually pay a bit more and provide better living facilities than economy cruise lines.
The financial benefit is that you have limited expenses.
How long are the contracts?
Four to eight months is the norm. Officers and Cruise Staff (entertainment department) usually work 4 months on and 2 off. Crew usually work 6 to 8 months on and 1.5 to 2 months off.