I'm taking my first cruise on Galaxy in a month. I am becoming overwhelmed and even a bit guilty about the luxury in comparioson to hte people who will be looking after me.
I'm curious to know about crew and officer conditions by comparison. Do crew members share cabins - how many to a cabin, what sort of privacy do they have, what recreation facilties do they have, do they have to stay "indoors" when not on duty, what hours will they work say on an 11 day cruise like mine, do they get substantial paid time off between cruises. I'm sure it varies from ship to ship but as a generalisation?
I saw a great show on the Travel channel: "behind the scenes" on a Royal Caribbean megaship (I forget which one). The crew had their own dining room, outdoor recreation area, bar with dance floor, and shows put on by the entertainers. It looked like the crew had more fun on the ship than the passengers did.
I don't know anything about the officers, but from what crew members have told me, life on a ship is hard. Different cruise lines have different facilities for the crew.
On one cruise I went on, a crew member gave me lots of info on crew life, and even showed me his cabin and living area. On this particular ship, he had one roommate, and in the small cabin there was two bunk beds, two desks, a tv and bath. He told me some ships have a dormitory-like setup with 4-6 crew members sharing a sleeping area and a communal bath, and the crew provides their own tv. I saw the crew recreational facilities, and they did have a pool, bar with reduced price drinks, and a store with reduced price goods to purchase. On this ship, he told me the crew work about 16 hour days in a split shift. Every other week they get 1/2 day off, and are free to go in port. One nice perk was a reduced priced international phone card so they could call home for about 9 cents per minute.
Another crew member told me the cruise line paid for his plane trip home and paid time off when home. The longer he worked on the ship (this guy had 9 years), the more paid vacation time. The crew member said the pay was very poor by US standards ($300 per month net), but still more than his home country (he said there were no jobs at home). He said working on the ship was hard, but having friendly, appreciative passengers helped. Like the rest of us, he disliked rude and demanding passengers.
It depends on what the crew member does. THe crew members that are officers or part of the cruise staff have more of the ship they are allowed in. If youa re a waiter or stateroom attendant, you do not have this provaledge and mostly need to stay in the crew decks aside from work. I have been to the crew bar area and it is small, but certainly a good way to unwind. I had fun.
My crew contact made a couple thousand US (2500-3000)/month, but worked every day for 9 months. Usually 10-14 hours per day. The embarkation/debarkation day can be longer. The guest relations guys make about 1250/month. There are websites out there for the pay scales. It is not bad, but considering the hours worked it is not that good. For port days you got 2 off and worked one. Then, they would have to work evening no matter what.
For costs covered, the airline ticket to and from the ship is covered as long as it is from your home. You shared a cabin usually. If you left your contract early, you paid for the expenses yourself.
A hard life, yes, but some people really enjoy it.
Wow. It's nice to hear someone have concern for the people taking care of them. I comend you for that. I just finished working on ships for the past two years. I worked for both Holland America and Carnival.
As for the Travel Channel's piece they did on ships, they had some of it right, but not much. The ship they did their piece about is one the newest and most amenity packed ships in the world. That's why they chose it for the show. Most of the things that ship has for crew members don't exhist on other ships. If they do, then they're in much smaller areas with much older equipment. Also take into consideration that Royal Carribean knew the show was on board doing that piece. So eveything was obviously touched up.
Let me start off by saying this. The first thing I learned on a ship was that none of them are registered in the United States. They carry 98% American passengers, but are registered in foreign countries. By doing this they don't have to adhere to US labor and wage laws. Then they go out and hire workers from foreign countries that will work for almost nothing, and they can treat them however they like. Most crew members work for anywhere between six months and a year without ever getting a single day off. It all depends on the cruise line, but none are less than six months. They usually then get between six and twleve weeks off for vacation before heading back. However, there is no pay for vacation time.
KMK had it right in that the biggest determining factor is what you do on board. What is your position and where are you from determines what privelages you're given. I'm American and I was the Assistant Cruise Director so I had privelages that most people wouldn't even think about. I was lucky in that I could go anywhere on the ship that I wanted, other than in a passenger's cabin. That would get you fired, but it still happens. Only the entertainment staff and some of the officers have the ability to go into public areas such as the bars, clubs, lounges, pools and hottubs, ect. Obviously the entertainment staff is recomended to spend time in these places hanging out with passengers. However if a crew member (one of the foreign born employees that work as waiters, cooks, housekeeping, ect.) were to get caught in these areas, they would be fired and sent back to there country. It is very very strict for them. I would compare it to being in the Navy. They take orders and if they get out line what so ever, then they're sent home. Unfortunately, there are millions of other foreigners out there begging for these jobs. Crew members are very expendible. Therefore the cruise lines can treat them however they want to. Most of the crew members have never seen any of the shows, entertainment, or really much of what goes on outside of their work station.
When it comes to cabins, again everything depends on your position. The captain lives like a king. Literally like a king. The chief officers on board (department heads and the cruise director) all live on one of the upper decks, and live very well. They have all the amenities of the passengers. Cabins with seperate rooms, bathtubs, room service at all hours, and so on. Then officers and entertainment staff usually live on a deck together. Depending on your job and seniority, you could have a cabin to yourself, or have to share with someone else. Either way, cabins are small and tight. In some cabins two people couldn't stand up at the same time. There is usually a tv on a desk, a single bed or bunk beds, and a bathroom that is the size of your shower at home. It can be tight, but hopefully you don't spend much time there. Crew members either have a cabin that they share with one other person, or three other people. On the lowest decks it is worse than a college dorm. Four people to a cabin and a communal bathroom at the end of the hall. However, they usually have at least a sink in the rooms, but that's it.
When it comes to money, the cruise lines don't spend much of it on payroll. Most of a crew members pay comes from gratuity. Depending on the ship and the person, they could make $1500 to even $2500 a month. Tips are usually pretty good. What they are paid in salary from the cruise line is something less than $10 a day for twelve to sixteen hours of work. Again, there money comes from your genorosity, and most of these hard workers can't find work in their own countries. Plus when they convert the American dollar into their home currency, it usually pays off well. Some crew members have told me that if they save everything, then they could build a house back home in between two and three years and have it paid for. Entertainment staff and officers obviously get a set salary and aren't included in any gratuities. On land, one would laugh at their salaries. They're that bad, but the perks of living on a ship are that you really have no expenses. Everything is taken care of. The food sucks, but it's free. It usually takes a certain kind of person to work on a ship for long periods of time. When it comes to Americans, Canadians, Aussies, ect., they don'y usually take these jobs for the money. The money sucks. Most do it for the experience, or because they can't find something they're searching for back home.
There is usually a crew bar/game room (ping pong table if you're lucky), crew gym, crew mess, crew internet cafe (usually four to six computers to be shared by all and at a cost of 15 - 20 cents a minute), and a crew laundry. The laundry can be between six machines and upwards of a twelve depending on the ship. I was on one ship that literally had one washer and one dryer for the entire crew of 700 people. It was bad. I used the guest laundry to wash some things. It cost money, but not much. The rest I was lucky enough to have dry cleaned for free due to my position. Most don't have that luxury.
Due to the fact that there is so little for most crew member to do, they spend a lot of their free time drinking. Lots and lots of alcohol is consumed by the crew to the point that it becomes like a high school game. Kind of sad, I know. But there's little else for most of them to do. When it comes to entertainment for the crew, it's tough. Some ships to get the entainment staff to perform for the crew on special occasions, but it's hard to do. As second in command over the entire entertainment staff, I was constantly begging entertainers to put on a show for the crew. Most don't want to do it. The foreign crew doesn't really get the comedians American material of want to hear American songs. Also the dancers dance the same show every single week for six months and therefore don't really want to perform them any more than they have to. It is tough to come up with activities for the crew. There is a crew commitee that puts together events and parties, but they all tend to end up just people hanging around drinking.
I know I've painted a grim picture of life on a cruise ship. However, it can be. Again, a lot depends on your position and the perks you have. I could get off the ship whenever passengers did. Most crew member can't. For people like myself I wouldn't trade my time on ships. I saw allot of the world while getting paid for it. The greatest thing to come out of it is the experiences that you have with people from all over the world. It will definately change your perspective on life and open up your mind to so much. For the cew member from second and third world countries, they do it for the money and to take care of their families back home.
I hope that I answered as many of your questions as I could. I know this went long, but I love for people to understand what it is really like for the people working so hard to make your vacation so enjoyable. Myself, I was privelaged and treated like a passenger. But most of them work extremely hard and never get any recognition. One thing I would recommend to you. Some cruise lines add the gratuity directly to your bill. You can have it removed. Please do so and tip your crew member personally. Allot of the money that get taken in the automatic gratuity is never seen by the crew. Good luck and have fun on your trip.
All I can say is WOW. Thanks so much, Ryan, for all this great information.
I was considering looking for any available job onboard but this info you've given has given me some doubts. But I hope that I still can find a job that is one of the higher level positions you speak of, after I graduate from college later this year.
Your welcome for the info. Please don't allow me to persued you or discourage you from persuing a job with a cruise line. I just want people to understand all the hard work that goes into making their cruise vacations so great. My job was fun. I was in charge of the entertainment, and spent hours on a stage making people laugh and have a great time. I heard the applause, and every day I had people approach me and express there appreciation for what I did. However, the people who work really long hours for little pay and with almost no privelages never seem to get their due appreciation.
If you're considering taking a job on a cruise ship, then I say go for it. It will definately change your life and who you are. Especially if you're an American. Of the approximately 900 crew members on board, you'll find less than twenty from the states. It so amazing to learn about all the other cultures, and just spend time talking to people from all over the world. It's got to be the next best thing to living overseas. I say go for it.
Ryan.....if you're the same Ryan that worked with Owen on the Conquest last summer, many many Kudos to you! Thanks ever so much for making our first cruise wonderful! My son and I had a ball. And yes....you worked harder than I can imagine! The effort was well spent for your passengers. Any complaints would have been totally uncalled for!
you are so right!!! ryan what made you work on a cruise ship?how can a person like me go about keeping intouch(MAIL)to a former crew person.i would like to write to him?got any suggestions?hope you are diong better!! d