Interview With Carnival Cruise Line Crew Member

Nov 06, 2019

The following article is an interview with a Carnival Cruise Line crew member describing his personal experience. Find out the process of how to apply for the job, how long it takes to board the ship and the first day at work.

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

The whole mood and situation in the country wasn’t very promising since it was 2011. The whole country was standing still, so to speak and the only way to find a job after you finished school and University was to have a good connection. It was especially hard to find any kind of work if you didn’t have any previous work experience. But that is the time and year when we started heating most stories about cruise ships and that sort of work, so my application was more in the sense “let’s send a resume and see what happens”. 

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

The agency that  I used is called Employment power. I didn't want to use them at first because I knew they were only helping and hiring people who are interested in Waiter positions. The first agency I went to was in Balkanska street and I went there in person. I can’t really remember the name of the agency but I do remember that they had several job offers that I didn’t quite understand. The job descriptions were very unclear and the two people who worked there didn’t seem interested to explain anything or to make any specific offers. After all that I decided to go to the Employment help agency and try my luck there. The people were very nice and pleasant and were ready to provide all the information that was needed. The office looked very nice and everything that I needed them to do in order to help me, they did. I waited about two weeks before they contacted me for an interview, which was taking place in Slovenia. I clearly remember that 88 of us were going to that interview to apply for waiter positions. I got the job very easily because of my English speaking skills.

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

This all happen in 2011. The boarding process didn't take very long since I boarded the ship after about one month after I applied. Later I found out that Carnival had two brand new ships that started working and that a third one will be joining them soon. Obviously the company needed to hire a lot of people as soon as possible. 

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

I went to the agency and they gave me a ticket that was printed, and they told when I had to go to the airport and report in, which is what I did. The problem was that this flight was already fully booked and there were no more free seats. After about half an hour of waiting and anxiety, a woman who worked at the airport called out several of us and told us that we were going to board a flight to Munich instead of Zurich. I wasn’t very comfortable about living in the unknown like that but the alternative was to stay in Serbia and never see another part of the world. I separated for the group and passed the passport control, after that there was no turning back. Traveling to America in 2011 was like landing on the Moon – almost impossible. I arrived in Miami after about a fifteen-hour flight and it felt like a completely different world, I almost felt like I was in a movie. Everyone was driving huge cars, the road signs didn’t look at all like the ones I’m used to seeing at home so I just stood there and felt so surprised. I remembered that in the best thing to do If you are in any trouble or have any issues in America is to ask the police for help. I did just that and to my surprise, they didn’t beat me up. I explained the situation and said that I don’t know where I’m supposed to go next. The police officer stopped a cab for me, I went straight to the hotel and got there very safe and in one peace. I saw some familiar faces from the airport in Belgrade and everything was alright. I remember we were all in one room and that we drank Heineken bear because it was the only drink we were familiar with at that point. That’s how we celebrated our arrival in America. 

Your first impression of the ship?

Arriving at the port felt like a movie all over again. we were using the highway and over the fence, we could see four or five cruise ships in the distance. They looked like skyscrapers from that distance. But as we got closer they seemed smaller and smaller. When we eventually got there the ship didn’t seem big at all. I mean it was big and huge, but I knew that already. The actual boarding was strange to me – it was like entering some business building. We passed through security, signed a few papers that they gave us and then I saw what can only be described as chaos. Everyone was running knowing exactly where they were going, unlike me. It was my first time on board a ship like this and the only thing I saw was white walls and the floor. Someone approached us and told us where we’re supposed to go. There we three of us and we had no idea where we were supposed to go or what to do.

Your first working day?

The day I boarded was also my first working day and I felt like a paper bag in the wind – I went exactly where I was told to go, but I had no idea where exactly that was. I remember I just prayed to God to make it to my cabin. After those few initial hours of work and after meeting some of the colleagues, the training started. It all felt like we were being brainwashed with capitalist propaganda, which wasn’t that far from the truth. 

The hardest and the best moments while onboard?

I can’t really remember the worst moment because nothing was really that difficult for me. We live in the 21st century, the internet was already widespread and used almost everywhere so there is nothing really that I can say that felt really hard. As far as good memories go, I had a lot of those. I remember Chrismas fondly. The Indian cooks made a Christmas cake and wrote Hristos se rodi (Marry Chrismas) in the Cyrillic alphabet. I was, of course, brought in to play the priest because I was the only one onboard who had a beard. 

Everyone who decides to work on cruise ships will have one contract that will be above all others. In my case that happen in 2013, I was transferred from one ship to another. I arrived at the ship very late and I was the last one to board, the entire ship was waiting for me. I finally got there, entered my cabin and placed my guitar on the bed. A few minutes later my roommate for the next five months entered the room and looked at me and my guitar with quite a shock on his face. He said, „Looks like I got fired“. I was very confused by this. He saw the guitar and since he was a musician and a guitar player, he thought that I was his replacement and that he would be sent home the next day. We spent the next week laughing at the whole thing. Later we organized an Open Mic night for the Crew where he and I played our instruments, while the rest of the crew was singing. I remember arriving with three bears but later we ended up with about twenty cans of beer that people bought and left for us. It was totally crazy and those Open nights went on until the end of our contracts. It was one of those once in lifetime contracts. I doubt that such a group of people will ever reunite in one place and do something that good for the crew. 

Did you have any problems?

You come into all sorts of problems during your contracts. But if working onboard cruise ships has taught me anything is to look at things first and then come to conclusions. Personally I didn’t have any specific problems that I would mention or describe. 

What would you recommend for the first time crewmembers? 

If you have a chance to work on a cruise ship that you should take it because life is too short to spend it at home and in your comfort zone. You should use every opportunity to leave and try and experience new things. And to see with your own eyes that there is something else out there besides folk music, Audis and BMWs. The moment you leave our country you will realize just how big the world is and how small we are. The thing I love to tell people the most when they arrive for their first contract is that 90% of people back home never saw the Bahamas or Mexico. Not that those places are particularly special for me, but at least you get to see something that others never will. 

I am with Carnival 8 years now, been two contacts as Buffet Steward in Restoran, 6 years as a Printer and now am doing cross-training for Assistant F&B. Planning to stay until I reach F&B Manager.