Ship life advises for the first time crew

Apr 10, 2019

For all the first time joining crew on cruise ships, It is good to know these tips before sign on. You will work 10 to 12 hours a day (sometimes 14 hours), each day for the entire duration of a 6 to 8 months contract. Besides your regular work schedules, there are also other duties, responsibilities, and activities that you need to know. Hopefully, this article will present you with the bigger picture of life at sea, and help you prepare better.

Guest lifeboat drill

Each turnaround day, when new guests arrive onboard there is a mandatory boat drill aka Pax Drill. This takes around 30 to 45 minutes and part of the crew need to participate guiding the guests to their Muster Stations. So good luck if you are assigned to this duty because you cannot rest during your off work resting hours.

Crew Drill

There are also Crew emergency drills which last 30 minutes to 1hour. Every crew member onboard must participate except the crew who are needed on the floor and are on the excuse list. Usually, there is a crew drill every week or approximately 4 times a month.

Safety training

Safety training lasts approximately 30 minutes, twice a month for your emergency duty. You're lucky if you're not a fire team because then you need to participate in additional firefighting drills.

Cabin inspection

30 to 1hr approx, 4 times a month. Your cabin needs to be clean all the time because there are random cabin inspections conducted by the ship's management.


Each time when a cruise ship arrives in US port there USPH cleaning onboard. The crew cleans their assigned station when they finish with their work, preparing for the unannounced USPH inspection. Usually, this is done the night before the turnaround day and lasts is a 30- 60 minutes. 

Bomb Drills

Bomb search drill is almost the same as the crew drill but every 3rd month. During this drill, the crew needs to search for suspicious packages in their assigned area and report to the officers once they find it.

Sick leave 

This is the only time when you get a full day off. You are given10 to 72hrs to rest and recover in your cabin. If you need more time to recover the company will send you home for further medical treatment.

Time Change

1hour forward – Time change is quite often on cruise ships when the vessel sails from one time zone to another. If there is one hour forward this means that you will sleep less because the clock moves on hour forward after midnight. The only ones who love this are the night shift crew because they work one hour less.

1hour back- favorite to all seafarers. An extra hour of rest, others hang out in the laundry to take advantage of the laundry, as well as crew bar to join the troops, for corona or jack coke. The only bad thing is if there is USPH cleaning. Then you spend your extra hour on deep cleaning.

Crew party 

This is the time and the place to free your stress from work. They are held at least once per month at the crew open deck or in the guest areas.

Crew laundry

Crew personal laundry - Time to wash your personal clothing. if you have extra time you do it in the crew laundry if you are lagege and have extra money to spend you do it in the main laundry where they will wash it and press it for you.

Clean room 

If you are tidy you don’t need to worry about this. If not you will need to clean it or pay a crew member to do it for you. 

Cabin Mate

Usually, two crew members share one cabin so it’s very important to get along with your cabin mate. Everyone wants to have peace and quiet to rest after the working hours and if your cabin mate is noisy or disorganized then you have a big problem. This is when many confrontations happen and you can complain to the HR or the crew purser. But the best thing to do in this case is to request for a cabin change when someone signs off.  

Time Off

A full day off does not exist when working on cruise ships. You will get only time off, once every 10 to 15 days, depending on the cruise line, itinerary, department you are working for, and of course from your supervisor. Time off means that you will not work in the morning or afternoon but you still need to work the rest of the shifts. Usually, when a crew member has time off he/she works 8-10 hours.


Usually, when the crew is on duty but it’s not that busy on the floor, supervisors can send part of the team in their cabins. They need to remain in their cabins and wait for a phone call by the supervisor if the things get busy and they need to get back on duty. This is some kind of time off so the crew can take a rest a little bit. Not many crew members like this because they are confined in their cabins. The supervisors use this policy to cut the working hours and save some company money from the overtime payments.

Port manning

If a cruise ship stays overnight in port, a certain number of crew members need to remain onboard and they can’t go ashore. Port Manning is a policy to ensure the safety and coverage of all positions while the ship is in port. In the event of an emergency, there always need to be enough crew onboard to evacuate passengers and respond to the emergency. This is quite frustrating for the crew because there are not too many overnights, and going ashore at night is considered as a privilege in a 6-8 months contract.

Sideline on the ship - hair cut, massage, crew talent show, cheerleader, phone card, extra income ie. It's your own time and you have to adjust.


Being away from your family, for a long period of time can be a difficult challenge. That's why, before joining the ship you need to think before you act. For example, self-knowledge, if you are easily provoked understand that the chances of you quit the ship or do something stupid, are thousand times greater. The pressure is higher, and the work is exhausting, you will sleep less, eat food with spices different from what you are usually used to, and you will not have your comfort zone to run and get help. You will have only you to cry and wipe away the tears. The stress is even greater when problems at home and on the ship pile up. So, the best advice is to isolate yourself from the negative people and surround with new positive friends who you can trust. After all, you are all stuck together in this big metal can you call your home away from home.

Stand firm and end your contract – you are a crew member now.