Crew Insider Stories: The Book - Living and working on-board a cruise ship

Sep 22, 2019

For all future crew members interested how to get a job on a cruise ship, and what awaits you once on board, you can find detailed accounts in the book “Living and working on-board a cruise ship” written by a former crew member. The author of the book Tamara Wolf describes her personal experience from the first day of her journey and everything she lived through during her contracts. There is practical advice on how to better handle everything and how to avoid the mistakes that she made.

The stories are very interesting, not only because they describe amazing destinations, but also they describe the everyday life of a ship employee; the relationships between friends and colleagues, the mentalities of different nations, as well as everything that could happen during a contract. The good, the bad and the ugly.


2013. is well underway, spring is almost over. Every day I think what am I going to do with my life – jobs are available but none of them are long term. I am working 3 part-time jobs to raise money to go somewhere else. I chose to work on Cruise ships. I’ve asked around, spoke with one of my best friends who has been working on cruise ships for some time. He told me an amazing story about all the places he traveled to and visited, everything that he’s seen, even how he swam with dolphins in the Caribbean. 

cruise ship crew member bar uniform

As it so often happens in life when you make a choice to change something, I saw an online add which said that the Safe Cruise agency is organizing interviews for cruise ships for Princess company. I send my resume because I have a lot of experience as a waitress, as well as a barista and a bartender. The conditions for the job were: good knowledge of English language, at least 21 and no more than 31 years of age. I meet all the conditions; I decide to go to a meeting with the Agency in their office. I dressed in a professional manner (jacket, white shirt, elegant trousers, and high heels). The meeting went well, the agent in charged informed me about the travel expenses.

I had a final interview with Spanish and Italian representatives from the Company. Appearance was crucial, we were told to dress in a business fashion, the same way we were dressed on the first day – my hair up, full make up on, a watch, a good bag – 80% was looks and 20% was knowledge and skills. I was successful. 

The excitement is growing. I have to buy a shirt, a skirt (my uniform) and several personal things. The agency sent me a list of things that I have to have: 3 black skirts, 3 white shirts, black shoes and skin color socks. The shoes are crucial because the contract says 13 hour working days, 7 days a week, which meant lots of standing, serving and moving around so the shoes have to be comfortable and durable.

On 23rd of August, I board the Royal Princess ship. It’s beautiful, huge and was named by Kate Middleton the Duchess of Cambridge. 

I said goodbye to my family at the airport and I board an airplane for the first time in my life. I thought about how it will be like. 

When we boarded the ship we were greeted by Dexter, a supervisor from the Philippines who had a big smile on his face. We followed him where ever he went. The ship was defiantly huge, I was very excited and I wanted to see as much as I could. We went through the Staff corridor which was located in level 4. The ship had 19 levels, it carried 3.500 passengers and about 2.500 employees. A magnificent ship! First, we went to the office to meet the bar manager, assistant manager, junior manager, restaurant manager… The bar manager was Jamaican and was quite relaxed. He had a diamond in his upper tooth which was quite cute. 

We received an envelope with a schedule, our obligations regarding the job, a paper (ILO) where we write our working hours and breaks. It’s an official document and we were told that no mistakes were allowed. 

bar waitress on princess cruises 

We were also given a small plastic book called Blue Card, it contained our duties as a ship member in case of emergencies and accidents onboard, an instruction with what we should be doing in those situations. The “Passenger Drill” was one of the most important duties for all employees, a safety exercise which was performed every time new passengers came onboard. We also had a Crew Drill, a similar exercise and we did it once or twice per month, depending on what continent the ship was located. 

There are certain signs that signal the kind of emergency and who should respond. It is also very important that we know how to react if we see smoke or fire, what fire extinguishers we should use, how to evacuate, inform the Bridge (the officer crew on deck 12). If at any moment we heard 7 short and 1 long sound, it was a sign for the crew to drop everything that they are doing, go to their cabins, take a life west, warm clothes, medications, the Blue Card and go directly to the place indicated in the Card. Crew and passenger safety is the basic obligation and it had to be done. If anyone was late or a no show, they received a written reprimand from a Third rang Officer. 

Our supervisor showed us the ship in detail on the first day. It was really big, we saw all the bars where we could work, the employee rooms, the Crew Bar which was on level 6.1 (a level unknown to the passengers), the Crew Mess in which the crew eat. 

The positive side of the job is the travel, of course. We visited lots of cities because the ship is always ported somewhere else. 

If you had free time, you could get off the ship and go anywhere you want, as long as you return on time for work. We were cursing through the Mediterranean until the end of October, we had 14-day cruises in 10 cities. 

You can usually experience the cities since we had 3-hour brakes. We used that time to have a meal and coffee, walk around a little, or we would just hop on a tour bus and go through the city. 

My favorite European place was Mikonos. Actually, I loved the whole of Greece. I prefer the smaller sea side cities, I had no interest in the big ones. I love smelling the sea, to have that sense of freedom. I’ve been in Civitavecchia (a port in Rome) 3 times and each visit was better that the last. When it comes to the big cities I loved Barcelona, Naples is great for shopping, 

Lisbon has a unique charm, as well as Porta Della Grade where we all gathered and had an amazing lunch. The city is beautiful, the buildings are white with black stripes all around, a true artistic city that I really enjoyed photographing. Most people, of course, prefer sailing through Europe. The gorgeous and exotic Caribbean, Saint Martin and Saint Thomas, gorgeous islands where you are surrounded by water, the Sun is shining and everything is so simple. A very relaxing place.  We had a one hour break, everything is so cheap, you can have a full lunch for 12$. Hawaii and Tahiti were also on the itinerary. In my opinion, two of the most beautiful places you could ever see. Everything is so simple, several shades of blue water stretch out on all sides, intact nature… divine places. Bora bora has beautiful beaches and excellent diving places, you can swim with rajas… The underwater world is exquisite but also very exotic. That means it’s more expensive and it costs a pretty penny to travel there. I feel extremely privileged for being there, I was truly lucky to make a round trip on Earth. 


The World cruise lasted for 112 days. 35 cities, a lot of time spent on open water but that didn’t bother me because I managed to fulfill my wishes. 

In Dubai, a giant metropolis, I’ve earned an excursion called Desert ride - an entire day spent in the desert, driving along the beautiful sand dunes (I almost threw up because of the bumpy ride but no matter, it was amazing), camel riding, the Sunset, an evening camp where we had a traditional dinner, there was a belly dancer… It was like a fairytale. 

Definitely one of my wishes that came through. I had another excursion but this time in Jordan. We visited Petra, an amazing and gorgeous place. A lot of people know it because it’s where Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed. 

Still, perhaps the most important thing about these trips are the people you meet, the friends you spend time with. Lots of people meet the love of their lives aboard these ships, a best friend, someone you will have for the rest of your life. Every time when my contract ends and when I have to leave the ship, I would cry for leaving those amazing people behind. 

But I would also be infinitely happy for going home, seeing my family, my pets and my best friends. To take a breath of ‘’Home air’’ – I love it, it’s charming and it makes me feel safe. 

My greatest achievement in the “ship experience” is on the way. Will let you know about it in my book…

This book describes my family, desire for a change, preparation process for finding best agencies, travel expenses and minor details of my personal experiences about that adventure. I love traveling, my English was great as well as my bar experience. The plan was good and everything came together. The Stars were aligned. 

This is not a manual, I described everything I lived through. There is practical advice on how to better handle everything and how to avoid mistakes that I made. But again, this is not a manual, but – my great story. Imagine you were chatting with your friend who was telling you about all the great adventures that she had traveling around the world. And of course about the salary. A very good salary. 

Among the bad things that could happen, I experienced most of them. I had to shorten my first contract because of my father’s illness. During my second contract, I found out that he passed away. I heard this when I was in the middle of the ocean. I had a work-related injury so I describe how you can be compensated it. Also I had an unbearable roommate, norovirius and a bad supervisor. 

Perhaps it’s good that I had all these experiences because otherwise this book “Living and working on-board a cruise ship” could not have been written. The book was written in the spirit of everlasting changes and how you should adapt to them, how you should never give up on your goals no matter how hard things seem – because everything passes and you should remain focused on your motives and goals. 

The book can be ordered online at AMAZON, to find out more just click here.

The Serbian version of "Living and working on-board a cruise ship" is available at the following link.

Cruise ship Book by Tamaera Vukovic

I wrote this book felling a moral duty and in the hope that it will help anyone how decides to work and live on a cruise ship. 

Things aren’t always so bad, there are lots of bright moments. Perhaps the most important things are the friends you make along the way and the time you spend with them. A lot of them find the love of their lives onboard, a best friend, a best man, a person that will be close to them for life. 

With all this experience I also became an advisor of sorts. Back in 2015 I wrote an article called Working on cruise ships – first hand experience for the website SlovoPress. A lot of people contacted me because of that article and asked me to help them. My goal is to open a consulting agency where I could prepare people for interviews, help them prepare their resumes and just to support them before they board for their first contract. I think that all Balkan peoples are amazing workers and that we deserve to be treated far better on cruise ships and everywhere else. 



Tamara Wolf is an experienced Hospitality Professional who has sailed and worked for over 6 years on ocean-cruise ships. Nominated for The Worker of the month three times, received Consumer Host Awards, Honorable Mention and Team player is more than a skilled worker who has written on the subject of earnings, living and cruising. She has toured over 150 cities on 5 continents, the Caribbean coast, the East and West coast of America, Alaska, Tahiti, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Mexico, South America, Antarctica, Europe, parts of Asia, India, Jordan, New Zealand and Australia. She recorded many adventures, praise and a good experience with guests. As one of the top sellers, she will share her knowledge about needed skills and services, resulting in high earnings. She considers herself a world traveler and has the best experiences with working in Central America. She loves to travel and continue her work as adventures on the following contracts along the Cruise Lines.