The Love Hate Relationship of Working On Cruise Ships

Apr 05, 2016

Article By Sean Sassoon

Former Training Manager for Maritime Operations at Carnival Cruise Line

Every day, I receive tons of messages from people all over the world asking me how can I get a job onboard a ship. Many are simply unaware of what life at sea is really like. They don’t understand the commitment, what they are gaining, and what they are giving up. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best experiences of my life happened because of the time I spent on ships, but at the same time, there were also a few instances where I really just wanted to leave and I couldn’t. I am sure there are several occupations (Astronaut, Navy, Oil Rig, Etc) that can relate to some of the experiences. So let’s get to it: 

LOVE – The opportunity to save money. It’s great because all the living expenses you would normally have don’t exist on ships. There’s no rent, utility, and food cost. It’s a great way to save up Money. 

HATE – It’s way too easy to spend money. Between the various ports of call and other things that you can spend money on. Usually, most crewmembers wake up to the harsh reality several weeks before the end of their contract that they haven’t saved a dime and want to stay on longer.

LOVE – Free food. It’s nice that the food is free

HATE – It’s definitely not mom’s home cooking and there are only certain times of the day it is served. Sometimes you just want comfort food and it’s not always available.

LOVE – Love the travelling, seeing new places, and experiencing new things. As a crewmember you are certainly cultured.

HATE – Boat Drills & In Port Manning every week, visiting the same boring ports over and over again. Just because you’re working on a ship doesn’t mean that the places you visit will always be fun or that you’ll even have an opportunity to leave the ship.

LOVE – The People I work with. It’s fantastic to be around so many diverse people from all over the world. It really makes you think that world peace is possible.

HATE – The people I work with. There are always a few people you are going to knock heads with. You really have to learn how to deal with conflict because some of these people you may have to spend 4, 6, 8 or even 10 months with. If you have ever quit a job because of someone you didn’t get along with, then working on ships is NOT for you.

LOVE – I love my free time to do what I want: Reading, movies, playing games, going to crew bar, socializing.

HATE – At anytime the ship’s needs come before yours. If there’s an emergency, you have to respond and quickly. That can be tough after working a long day.

LOVE – Constantly making new friends. Your Friends list on FaceBook will definitely grow and quickly. You’ll make friends from all over the world and build friendships that will last decades.

HATE – For every new friend you make, another one is leaving. It’s very transient. People come and go every day and while you’re happy to see old friends, your also sad to see them leave.

LOVE – “Hour Back” night. Seriously, you really feel rewarded when you have an opportunity to sleep in an extra hour in the morning.

HATE – “Hour Forward” night. OMG it’s such torture when you have to get up an extra hour early because you have to do an hour forward. You will oversleep at least once in your contract, I can tell you that much.

LOVE – Crew Bar. It’s so convenient that the crew bar is so close. Seeing friends and coworkers, socializing. It’s just what the doctor ordered after a long day at work.

HATE – Most crew members hate the alcohol limits. That means you can only drink so much because let’s face it, you’re on a moving ship. Guests depend on you to lead them to safety when there’s an emergency, which means you should never be drunk. You must always be able to perform your emergency duties.

LOVE – High speed internet while in port. You can Skype with your family and friends back home, download TV shows and movies. It’s really great.

HATE – The Internet onboard is slow or at least slower than what you’re used to at home and it can be pricey depending on which cruise line you’re with.

LOVE – My ship. Some ships are really awesome. It’s always great when you get to work on the newest ship. So many cool things onboard and so much you can do.

HATE – My ship. Sometimes it can be a real curse to work on an old ship. Smaller cabins, less venues, far less entertainment. Yes working on an older smaller ship can be rough.

LOVE – My new family, even though I miss my real family

HATE – There’s always going to be someone you don’t get along with in your family. You may really miss your real family especially if someone back home is pregnant or not well. 

LOVE – My Boss. He/she is so awesome and totally gets me! It’s like we were meant to be.

HATE – My new Boss is a jerk. He/She is always giving me a hard time. You’re always going to work with a boss you may not get along with. Your ability to see beyond this conflict will determine your ability to LEAD others in the future.

LOVE – Time Off

HATE – Not getting enough time off.

These are just a few examples of the Love/Hate relationship of working on ships. I will let you in on a little secret that almost all crewmembers can relate to. When you’re working onboard the ship, you often will count down the days that you will be going home (End of Contract). However, once you leave and you’re a month into your vacation, you start to miss your time on ships and you may start counting down for your return.

No matter what your experience has been on cruise ships. The longer you’re away, the more you remember only the best parts and the greater your desire is to return especially when you go on FaceBook and you see so many colleagues traversing the globe.

Fellow current and former crew members, please share your LOVE & HATE experiences.