How to achieve consistency when working under continuous extreme stress on a ship?

Jun 02, 2023

Working on a cruise ship is known to be one of the most stressful jobs. It involves long work hours, frequent changes in team members, and high standards of quality. Additionally, crew members have personal responsibilities such as paying off loans, supporting their families back home, and managing everyday tasks like laundry and studying.

All these factors create a challenging environment for the cruise ship crew. With contracts requiring them to work seven days a week for six months at a time, they can't afford to let stress affect their performance as much as it would on land. There are no weekends to relax or the option to call in sick for a break.

To tackle the stress while working on cruise ships, here are a few strategies:

Time management: 

Start each day by organizing your tasks and creating a clear plan. This will provide a better understanding of the workload and help you navigate through it without confusion. Take a few minutes at the beginning of your shift to list everything that needs to be done and tackle each task one by one.

Be realistic: 

As you gain experience on the job, you'll learn how long it takes you to complete specific tasks. When creating your daily to-do list, consider the time required for each task. If you find yourself overwhelmed with too many tasks, communicate with a superior to share the workload or discuss removing some tasks entirely. Demonstrating your commitment to doing the job correctly and working as a team is important.

Exercise and meditation: 

Take advantage of the free gyms, swimming pools, or exercise spaces provided on cruise ships. Engaging in physical activity releases endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and promote better sleep, ultimately reducing stress levels. Additionally, learning yoga and meditation techniques during breaks between contracts can help you establish a practice on board. Even dedicating 15 minutes daily to these activities can positively impact.

Build reliable work relationships: 

As team members change frequently, identify colleagues you can rely on for support during your workday. Knowing who you can count on for assistance with small tasks can help lighten your workload. Similarly, offer your help whenever possible to build rapport and encourage others to assist you when needed.

Enjoy downtime: 

All cruise ship jobs include designated downtime, as mandated by labor laws. Utilize this time to rest, catch up on sleep if you're feeling tired, or engage in activities you enjoy. Whether it's reading a motivating book, socializing with friends in the crew bar, contacting your family back home, or discussing any challenges with a trusted friend, make the most of your free time.

Maintain a positive mindset: 

Whenever possible, try to maintain a positive outlook. When stress starts building up, take a short break and remind yourself why you love your job and what motivated you to join the cruise industry. Recall any positive feedback you've received or achievements you've made. Avoid negative colleagues and reward yourself with small treats for even minor accomplishments, like an extra scoop of ice cream after dinner.

Furthermore, when applying for cruise ship jobs, it's important to demonstrate to recruiters that you understand the challenges of living onboard and possess the necessary tools to handle them. Address their concerns directly by explaining how you would prevent seasickness or homesickness.

Recruiters want to see your enthusiasm for pursuing a career in the cruise industry, your willingness to make new friends, your ability to work in a multinational environment, and your overall affinity for the sea. Avoid conveying any issues with motion sickness or expressing extreme longing for your family, as these may raise concerns about your suitability for the job.

Suitability for the Job

From the beginning, when a cruise recruiter is looking for a qualified candidate with work experience and skills, they are also seeking an individual who can handle the challenges of cruise ship life. How can you convince the recruiter that they can rely on you?

It is important to convey to them that you understand what it's like to live onboard and have the necessary tools to deal with these challenges. Addressing their concerns head-on, you can explain to the interviewer how to prevent seasickness or homesickness.

The recruiter definitely doesn't want to hear that you suffer from motion sickness or that you will terribly miss your family. Instead, they want to hear that you are excited to pursue a career in the cruise industry, make new friends, work in a multinational environment, and have a genuine love for everything about the sea.

How to Deal with Seasickness and Homesickness?

Passing the Pre-Employment Medical Exam

The pre-employment medical exam is another tool cruise employers use to determine if a career at sea is suitable for you. You will be asked if you have ever experienced seasickness and, if so, the severity of it. The doctor will also try to assess if you are prone to homesickness, even if the questions may not seem directly related to the exam.

When it comes to knowing if you will suffer from either seasickness or homesickness, there is a big unknown if you've never been in such situations before. Do you experience motion sickness? Have you ever been away from your family or friends for an extended period? Have you ever dealt with depression? What medications are you currently taking?

Proving to the doctor that you can mentally handle working on a cruise ship is just as important as being physically fit. Additionally, minimizing concerns about seasickness will demonstrate to the doctor that it will not be an issue for you.

Seasickness Facts

If you've never been on a cruise ship, the fear of not knowing if you will experience seasickness is likely on your mind. What is seasickness, and is it something you will experience? What are the symptoms, and can it be prevented?

Here are some facts about seasickness:

In modern cruise ships, crew and passengers rarely experience the natural movement of the ocean due to stabilizers that limit the ship's side-to-side movement. However, there are times when rough weather or the direction of the waves can cause the ship to pitch, rock, and roll. Certain itineraries are also more susceptible to rough weather and excessive ship movement.

So, how does this relate to seasickness? All this motion can disrupt your inner ear equilibrium, leading to a feeling of imbalance. Nausea can occur when your brain and inner ear are confused by the movement. The good news is that nausea can be prevented, and it's easier to prevent than to cure.

How to Prevent Seasickness

To be clear, seasickness is not contagious nor caused by a virus. If you start feeling nauseous, there are precautions you can take. Staring at a computer screen or reading a book can exacerbate the feeling of seasickness. Additionally, some foods can either alleviate or worsen the symptoms.

It's important to keep something in your stomach, but avoid overeating or drinking excessively. Ideal options include bread, crackers, and bland items. On the other hand, greasy or spicy foods and alcoholic beverages should be avoided. Fresh air can also help alleviate the feeling of nausea.

Ginger ale can be helpful when feeling seasick. It's worth noting that the entire ship usually runs out of ginger ale during rough seas. It helps stabilize the stomach, as I have personally experienced since I started working on a cruise ship.

In addition, some crew members resort to taking medications such as Gravol® or Dramamine®

Homesickness for Cruise Ship Crew

It’s only natural to miss your family, friends, and the comforts of home while working on a cruise ship. Contracts can be long, and for many crewmembers, it may be their first time in this situation. You are in a new environment with new people. You will have to give up texting your friends 20 times a day. You may miss having weekends off or eating certain foods from home.

Almost everyone onboard suffers a little from homesickness, but if and how it affects you and your work is the difference. For example, mild homesickness may cause stress that can lead to overeating, drinking, or a lack of concentration. Extreme symptoms lead to depression, anger, and withdrawal.

Dealing with Homesickness

Working on a cruise ship should be a positive experience where you meet lots of great people from all over the world. You try many exotic foods and visit lots of exciting new places. Having a positive attitude is a great way to start.

The best way to deal with homesickness is to stay connected with your family and friends through phones and email. But making new friends and surrounding yourself with other positive people will make this experience fun and rewarding. Keep busy and avoid dwelling on the negatives of long contracts and limited contact with back home. Enjoy ship life for all it’s worth.

You will soon see it takes a particular person to work on a cruise ship. It certainly isn’t for everyone. And, once you finish your contract and return home, don’t be surprised if you find yourself longing for the sea and ships again. You’ll start missing your home away from home and wonder how soon you can get back on board.