Cruise Ship Crew Work Hours

Oct 01, 2023

Passengers often encounter the same crew members throughout the day and wonder about the actual hours cruise ship employees put in. Irrespective of their job positions, cruise ship employees typically work between 8 to 12 hours on a "sea" day and sometimes fewer hours on a "port" day. This duration does not include breakfast, lunch, and dinner breaks, which can range from 30 minutes to over an hour. Some roles require almost no hours on a port day.

Sea Days Vs. Port Days

"Sea" days are when the cruise ship is at sea, usually between two distant ports. Most cruises only have one or two consecutive sea days, but transatlantic voyages, for instance, can have six or more.

"Port" days are when the ship visits a port, potentially occurring every day of a cruise.

During sea days, as all passengers are onboard and actively using the ship's amenities, the crew works the maximum hours.

On port days, with most passengers ashore, fewer crew hours are necessary.

Consistent Hours for Some Positions

Certain onboard positions maintain consistent hours regardless of sea or port days. For instance, the Laundry department operates under a constant flow of laundry each day.

Which Cruise Ship Jobs Have Limited Hours on Port Days?

In some fortunate cases, employees may have minimal hours on sea days. This applies to roles in both the casino and shops due to legal restrictions in many countries. These venues may open earlier in the morning before the ship arrives in port and stay open late into the evening after departure. During port time, managers may handle finances, and staff may restock shelves or conduct inventory.

Nevertheless, these positions do not necessarily mean complete days off. They can still involve work-related tasks during port visits. Nonetheless, having ample free time on port days makes these roles an excellent opportunity to explore the world.

Additional Time Off for Cruise Ship Employees

Getting sick is unfortunately one of the few ways to secure additional time off. Though not ideal for health, it can provide a much-needed break after an extended period of continuous work.

Regulations for Cruise Ship Employee Work Hours

Fortunately, the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) serves as a safeguard to prevent cruise ship workers from being overworked.

According to MLC, the maximum working hours for cruise ship workers should not exceed 14 hours in any 24-hour period or 72 hours in any seven-day period. Minimum rest hours should not be less than 10 hours in any 24-hour period or 77 hours in any seven-day period. Rest hours can be divided into two periods, one of which must be at least 6 hours. The interval between rest periods must not exceed 14 hours.

Adhering to these rules ensures that employees are not overburdened and have sufficient rest to perform their duties effectively, ensuring the safety of both the crew and passengers.

However, in practice, cruise ship workers often work more hours than stipulated. These overages may occur due to inspections, weather conditions, poor planning, or excessive workload relative to the available crew. Despite reporting systems in place, there are ways to circumvent these regulations. Employees sometimes feel pressured to only report their legally allowed hours to avoid scrutiny and potential job loss. While this is not ideal, it is a reality on some ships where crew members must sign daily spreadsheets detailing their working and rest hours. Stirring the pot and not complying with the status quo can lead to job insecurity, an unfortunate but prevalent aspect of the industry.