Interview With Princess Cruises Crew Member

Nov 09, 2019

The following article is an interview with Princess Cruises' crew member describing her personal experience as a buffet stewardess. Find out the process how to apply for the job, how long it takes to board the ship and the first day at work and much more

What made you decide to apply for a job on a Cruise ship?

Although most people think that money is the main reason to get a job on a cruise ship, that wasn’t the case with me. In 2012 my several year-long relationship has ended, and a few months after that I got fired from my five-year-long job at a Pharmaceutical company. A few days after that I found a job in a small restaurant but at the same time, I received a job offer from another Pharmaceutical company. However, near the restaurant where I was working an agency for cruise ship jobs had its office so I decided to go there and ask some questions. I was smothered by Pazova and the people around me, memories of my ended relationship and the disappointment. In the end, I just figured and said: “Who knows why this is a good thing”. It was destiny. I had five contracts in total. Four of them were spent on the Royal Princess and one on the Golden Princess. 

What agency did you use to apply for a job? How was the interview and for what position did you apply?

I applied to the agency Safe Cruise. They were offering training for restaurant positions and also English lessons where they would teach words and phrases that are used in restaurants. I went on those training because I didn’t have a lot of experience with restaurant jobs.  That was so convenient because the office was close to my work and I could go to the classes and training after my shift. Preliminary interviews were being held then and they were carried out by Company representatives from Hungary. Those who pass the preliminary interview have to have another interview with representatives from Italy. After that, there were two more tests – written and oral English tests and also a conversation with a psychologist. I passed everything and was hired for the Buffet Steward position. 

How long did you have to wait before you boarded the ship?

I went to the agency for the first time in mid-August 2013. The preliminary interview was in September, the main one in October and I boarded the ship on November 8th. So overall I waited about a month before boarding. 

Were there any specifics about the flights, and did the company agent wait you at the airport? 

I packed relatively quickly mostly listening to advice and recommendations that I got form the people in the agency. I packed everything that they told me, some personal belongings and clothes and I bought everything else whenever we stopped somewhere while I got my uniform when I arrived on the ship. My first airplane flight was right then, when I headed to board the ship. I was 25 years old. I didn’t know how to fasten my seatbelt in the plane so one German gentleman who was sitting next to me showed me how to do it. Actually, he saw that I was in trouble so he just took the belt and fastened it for me. It was funny to me but I was also a bit embarrassed. The agent waited for us at the airport in Miami. I was lucky enough to travel with a great guy called Zlatko, he worked in the restaurant and it was his third contract. He shared a lot of his experiences and gave a lot of good advice. My suitcase arrived properly but it was lost when I was going home after my first contract, and also when I was going on my third contract. Thankfully there were people who helped me out but it was still difficult without my makeup and underwear. It’s also difficult to go out and buy anything when you are IMP during your first contract so you have to do your best to borrow stuff form other people. It’s very uncomfortable and tricky without your personal belongings for ten days onboard, trust me. 

Your first impression of the ship?

It was one of the biggest things that I had seen in my entire life. I knew the ship was huge and that it was the biggest and newest one in the fleet, only a few months old. It just looked enormous to me, although I saw even bigger ships later on. As soon as I walked onto the ship I was greeted with comments and curious looks. They said “This one is new, fresh meat, etc.”. I even heard a few Serbians who said “She must be from Mexico” and they just said “Hola” when I passed them. I just replayed to their native language. All paisano crew members were there for me and they are all true friends. I had different opinions about other nations, because everyone is different and everyone always stayed with their own people. I got along with Serbians and Ukrainians the best, the Indians treated me fairly. The Supervisor was a good man. He was Portuguese and he always gave me time to rest and to go out for a bit. The Management was mostly Italian back then, most people called them the Mob. I worked in the Crew Mess in my first three weeks and it was okay, I never had any complaints about the food. Even back home food was never one of the most important things to me. My cabin was great because I spent my whole contract in a Waiter cabin (the two of us who share a cabin have our own bathroom and we didn’t have to share it with other girls, which was the case in regular cabins). 

How was your first day at work?

It was very demanding, both physically and mentally because as soon as you board there are several things waiting for you including training, drills, a tour of the ship, etc. You also have to take your uniform, change very quickly, eat something if you find the time and get ready for work. I was very tired and my legs were really hurting. I worked until 11 PM and I needed some time to find my cabin. One of the biggest shocks during my first day was when I arrived at my cabin. It was around 11 PM and the only time before that when I was in my cabin was when I left my suitcase. The cabin doors didn’t have name tags on them so I didn’t know who my roommate was. When I got in I saw that the upper bed was empty so I started to put my things there and unpack. Next to the bed was a name tag that said Natalia, Junior Waiter, Ukraine. I thought how great it would be to have a Ukrainian roommate. After about 15 minutes the opened and a Filipino guy holding a guitar walked in. They thought I was a man and so they put me in a cabin with another man whose girlfriend is called Natalia. I got really scared and I was so confused. All of a sudden lots of other Filipinos started coming out of their cabins and laughingly said how it would have been great if they got a female roommate. After ten minutes the Assistant Maiter d’, the HR Manager and several other officers arrived and I got even more lost and confused. I only remember that the Assistant Maiter d’ asked me if I felt safe to spend the night here because they won’t have any available cabins until tomorrow. I started crying, told everyone that I was very tired and that I just want to sleep. My roommate for the night was actually very nice, he took me to get fresh sheets and fixed the upper bed for me and just went to sleep. The next day I got a new cabin with an amazing roommate from Mexico. 

What are the best moments while onboard?

I worked in the Crew Mess for three weeks and then I had to transfer to the part of the ship where the passengers were. I was a bit sad about leaving because I had a great time there with all my colleagues. The day I transferred to the other part of the ship was also the day when new crew members were arriving. As it usually happens we were looking at the new people and tried to guess who was Serbian, Mexican, etc. based on the way they looked. One guy passed next to us and I told the girl who was with me “Look Mica, he must be Serbian”. He said something like “Of course I am, we pretty people understand each other”. I instantly thought how smug he is, and that is where our story begins. We started spending time together and I enjoyed talking to him and go out to have a drink. I simply liked being near him, he was there for me as a very good friend. We spent two contracts together on the same ship and on my birthday in 2014 he told me how he really felt about me. That is how our relationship began and it was borne out of friendship. People can get very lonely onboard a ship and it’s so important to have a good friend there. In the summer of 2015, I was assigned to one ship while I was assigned to another one about two months later, so we spent eight months apart. But our relationship survived and thrived. 

The hardest moments while onboard?

In 2016 we were assigned to the same ship which was scheduled for Mediterranean cruises. We had a lot of free time to get off the ship and hang out with all our friends. It was an amazing time, definitely the best contract I ever had. We ported in Kotor in Montenegro and we could bring our family and friends onboard the ship for a few hours. It’s hard to explain that feeling when you work on a ship for several months and then you get to see your family before the end of the contract, but I can say that it was one of the best days in my life. His mother was the first to come and visit us, and my family came after her. After that a Dry dock was scheduled and we spent two weeks in Palermo where the engineers and mechanics inspect the ship and fix everything that needs to be fixed. We had six-hour shifts during those two weeks and two free days. We went out, eat the best ice cream in the world, went to coffee shops and listened to live music until the mornings. It was amazing. He booked a hotel without my knowledge, he bought a ring and arranged two free days for both of us. We got off the ship, went to the hotel and he told me to get ready because we were going to dinner. While we were walking the beach towards the restaurant he asked some guys who were surfing to take a few photos of us. He got down on one knee, got the ring and asked me to marry him. I said yes. We returned to the ship tomorrow night and we were engaged. We finished our contracts mid-November 2016 and our next contract started in January 2017. We planned our wedding for October 2017 but one month after we got to the ship I found out that I was pregnant. I went home in the end of May, two months before the end of the contract and I organized our wedding for October. And so our Ship Love story prevailed and it still lasts, except now there are three of us – we had a daughter. 

The hardest moment was on my third contract when I got separated from him. He was assigned to the Regal and I to the Royal. The actual work wasn’t hard but I missed the company because all the best people I worked with went home. My fifth contract was also hard because we worked on the Golden Princess which was a very old and small ship. There were almost no Serbian crew members, we never went to the Crew Bar and the entire atmosphere was just bad. That felt worst than all the physical labor. This ship was just the complete opposite of the Royal, which was new and big and beautiful. 

Did you have any problems? And if so, how did you solve them?

I didn’t have any serious problems. I tried to be fair to everyone but I was also careful with whom I spoke because you really need to balance that who thing. People are strange and you need to find a specific way to talk to specific people, otherwise, they will get angry and misunderstand you. I had some issued during my last contract because the Head Waiter didn’t like me. Actually, he didn’t like Serbians so he always gave me horrible schedules, short breaks, extra work and he really harassed me. An assistant waiter position in the Dining room is no easy task, especially because I had to hide the fact that I was pregnant for four months. As soon as I told them they sent me home, two months before the end of the contract. 

What would you recommend for the first time crewmembers? 

I would say the following  - never think that everything is bad and that nothing can change. Working and living on a cruise ship is a priceless experience, whether it’s good or bad. I would suggest everyone should try it at least once because it can change your life. I became a better and stronger person after the ship experience, I learned how to appreciate certain things in life and I learned how to fight for myself. I met the love of my life on that ship and I got pregnant there. I had much more positive than negative experiences while working on cruise ships, I’ve met some amazing people from all over the world with whom I still stay in touch. Not everything was perfect all the time but you should never give up and just keep going forward. It’s important to surround yourself with positive people because their positive energy passes on other people and everyone feels better. People will remember you more fondly because of this and the days, months and contracts pass more quickly. You can’t change the world but you can start with yourself.