Interview With Princess Cruises Buffet Stewardess

Dec 27, 2019

The following article is an interview with Princess Cruises Buffet Stewardess describing her 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 cruise ship?

While I was studying at the College of Tourism I saw an ad for a job on a cruise ship. The ad was on the school door and it was from the Safe Cruise agency. I was intrigued so I called them, asked some questions and decided that I am willing to try that whole thing. Obviously the main reason was money. Or lack of money, to be more precise. I was 21 at the time, so old enough to start this adventure. 

How long did the preparations take, how was the interview and for what position did you apply?

I got all the necessary documentation that I needed and made the necessary payments, and I only had the two interviews left. The agency prepped us for these interviews. Three amazing people were there to help us with everything we needed. After our first conversation, they suggested that I should apply for the Assistant Buffet Stewardess position (a real beginner’s position in the Crew Mess). They helped me put together my resume and told what I could expect, although they weren’t 100% sure because none of them ever worked on a cruise ship. My first interview was with a Hungarian man and it went great, and to my surprise it was quite easy, while the second one was a bit more difficult. It was with the company representatives from Italy and it required that I be a little more prepared because I was asked some specific restaurant questions (basic knowledge about wine, how the table needs to be set, etc.). 

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

I waited four months for my contract when I received a confirmation that I was flying to Barbados. About a million emotions struck me all at once, happiness and excitement and fear but somehow I prepared and packed and got ready for the trip. 

Were you met by the company agent at the airport, did your suitcase arrive?

I packed everything that the agency people told me that I should pack, but I also got in touch with some people who I meet in the agency and whose contracts have already started and listened to their advice on what I should bring with me. I flew from Belgrade to Rome to Miami to Barbados. I boarded the Sun Princess which was one of the smaller ships in the Princess fleet and the only thing that I knew was that it was cruising the Caribbean at that point and that I was going to spend New Year’s Eve and my birthday there. It sounded amazing. 

My parents and brother came with me to the airport to send me off. Of course, there were some tears and hugs and somehow I said goodbye to them, passed all the controls and finally got into a plane for the first time in my life. When we landed the pressure in my ears was so strong that I couldn’t understand a word of what this lady was saying. To make things worst her English was horrible so I just nodded, passed through the control and showed the Princess papers. After that I got on the plane to Miami. When I landed there I quickly had to find the exit for Barbados because I was a bit late and I made it two minutes before the gate closed. I was relieved because that was my last flight and I made it on time and in one piece.

When we landed in Barbados we were told that a storm just swept through and that the whole island is a bit chaotic. We got off the plane on the runway and we had to walk to the airport gate some 50 meters. I remember the smelled so strange, salty in a way and the humidity was awful. When we got into the terminal I waited for my suitcase but it never arrived. I was so scared and frustrated because I didn’t know what to do plus the agent that was supposed to meet me wasn’t there. 

I was spinning around in circles not knowing what to do when a Filipino guy approached and asked if I was waiting for the Princess agent too. Wow, what a relief it was. He helped me fill out the form for my lost suitcase and said that it was also his first time on a cruise ship. After that, a few more people arrived and we all waited for the company agent to pick us up. The agent showed up an hour and a half later and took us to a half-flooded hotel. We got our rooms and soon after I met Casio and a few other interesting people who were going on the ship. They told me what awaits me and what’s going to happen with my suitcase. 

There was this Filipino woman there whose name I can’t remember, who told me that men from ships are bad for me and that I should watch myself because most of them are married and that I should not fall in love. She was about 50 years old and she was like a mother figure in more ways than one, she borrowed me a shirt to sleep in during that first night and she also gave me some cosmetics. I saw her several times onboard but I never saw her again after that first contract. Casio was one of the Brazilian people that I’ve met, he came to work in the Reception as a Purser. A great guy, very nice and polite and also on his first contract. We talked about what we could expect tomorrow while going to the store because I had to buy a lighter – I was a passionate smoker back then and I had a bit of a crisis because it was almost 24 hours since I last had a cigarette. The next morning we were picked up in the hotel by company agents who drove us to the port to board. I remember the heat, that the Sun was very bright and the smell of the sea when we got out.

Your first impression of the ship?

Soon we found ourselves in front of the ship where we were greeted by members of the Crew office who gave us lots of orientation papers, and eventually boarded the ship with us. The ship was amazing, everything was so bright and shiny and everyone around me was so happy and smiling. Or at least that’s how it appeared. After that we were taken to a small office where heads of our departments were waiting, they were supposed to show us to our cabins and the place where we took our uniforms, laundry, crew mess, etc.  We went through the orientation and a drill what we should do in case of a fire or flood, after that we were taken to our cabin and they told me that they expect me to start working within the next 2 hours. 

How was your first day at work on a cruise ship?

I was assigned to the Crew mess and to clean the trollies and tables because they thought that I wasn’t experienced enough for other duties. I spent one month in the Crew mess along with 2 other fellow countrymen who made me laugh every single day, a Ukrainian woman Viki and her husband Rodrigo were there too. A bit later we were joined there by a Serbian girl Maja who became my roommate because I switch my cabin with my first roommate who was constantly naked in the cabin with her boyfriend. I transferred to Maja’s cabin and I stayed there to the end of my contract. The Supervisor was a Mexican man called Diodoro and he was tough but fair if we did our jobs right. After the Crew mess I got transferred to the Officers mess and one month after that to one of the passengers Pizzerias. Thing got more interesting there, I started working with passengers, I met new people, the supervisor was great and so were the tips. Our supervisor was South African. He was amazing, he adored us and he spent a lot of time teaching us how to be better and improve our skills. The schedule for the Restaurant staff is very different then the Bar. The superior for the Assistant buffet stewards and Buffet stewards was the F&B supervisor, his supervisor was Assistant Maitre’d and also the supervisor for the assistant waiters, junior waiters, etc. 

The hardest and the best moments while working on a cruise ship?

My suitcase arrived after 7 days and all my belongings were fine. The most important thing about my first contract was the fact that I was nominated for the Employee of the month, I received a $500 award and a dinner at the restaurant of my choice and I could eat with the passengers in the Horizon Court. The cruise and the ports were amazing, we spent 6 months in the Caribbean and I explored the amazing beach in Aruba, the Caymans, Barbados, St. Lucia and Jamaica. I also had a day trip on an ostrich farm where we could ride the big birds, but I skipped that part. I went shopping in Miami every 2 weeks and I returned home with an extra suitcase. I met lots of great people from different parts of the world and I communicate with some of them to this day. We even ran into each other on other contracts. We Balkan peoples were usually sticking out of the crowds, especially the guys who were taller and louder than anyone else.

After the Sea Princess, I was assigned to the Island Princess. The job wasn’t that hard so I extended my contract from 6 to 8 months. Not everything was perfect, here I learned how people can be unpleasant and corrupt. The restaurant was opened at 5.45 PM and all the seats were taken by 5.10 PM. Those who wanted a table would yell at me, say that they don’t understand why they can’t get a table when they paid for everything. Not everyone was the same of course, there were some wonderful people there. We were cruising the coast of Alaska and I was amazed by the glorious nature, the glaciers were breathtaking. But I got bored of Alaska after a while because there isn’t much to do there and I just wanted to leave to some more tropical parts of the world. After the Island Princess and a 2-month rest, I started another contract with the Sun Princess who was scheduled for a World cruise. I boarded in Singapore and we set our way towards Europe passing through Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, then a transatlantic voyage to the USA, Hawaii and New Zealand, Fiji and then back to Sydney. I always wanted to see the Sydney Opera house and it was so great when we got to it, it is magnificent and beautiful, just like I thought it would be. Sydney is also beautiful and from there we traveled to Japan, China, and Korea. I was absolutely amazed by those extremely wonderful and kind people and their amazing culture. We had a few overnights in Hong Kong and I can only say great things about it. Shanghai is similar, big skyscrapers everywhere and just an amazing place that I can’t really describe because you have to be there and experience it for yourself. 

I spent my entire contract in the restaurant with the permanent guests and I got promoted to Junior waiter. Despite all the amazing places that I visited and the great people onboard, the whole contract was just so depressing and I took it pretty badly. I thought about quitting a few times but thankfully I had some amazing people around me who supported me, so I was able to hold out to the end of the contract. You just need to me mentally strong to get through all that; sometimes your supervisor can make you angry, sometimes your colleagues, and sometimes you just had enough of everything and you just want to go home and sleep. I really lacked sleep and at one point I started feeling like a robot – work, sleep, work, sleep. 

After these smaller ships, I got assigned to the Royal Princess, the first bigger ship that I worked on. The ship itself was still being prepped for its first voyage when I boarded in Southampton. I met a lot of people here because the dynamics are quite different on bigger ships. 

I had 2 contracts on the Royal and the second one was easier because I knew how everything worked and where everything is, and there were a lot of the same people from my first contract there. The ship was cruising through the Mediterranean and heading to the Baltic. We spent a few nights in Venice and got to know it pretty well, as well as St Petersburg and several other beautiful places. My favorite place was Tallinn, a gorgeous city in Estonia. I started out as a Junior waiter and later as a Hostess, which was much easier for me with all the experience that I had. When I started my second contract on the Royal I did Dine Line reservations for restaurants over the day, and as an assistant waiter in the evenings. I got promoted to Assistant waiter then. Later they assigned me to work as a hostess during dinner time, usually on Deck 5 where the atrium was. 

One time while I was serving breakfast, I dropped the coffee pot and spilled hot coffee all over my legs. The Supervisor reacted very quickly and literally carried me to the Medical center where they put bandages on me and gave me pain medication. I didn’t work for 19 days. They didn’t want to send me home because they thought that I would make a full recovery, which thankfully I did. I just have a small scar on my foot to remind me about this whole thing. Lots of people told me “Why didn’t you sue the company for a ton of money?” but I would never do something like that. 

After my fifth contract, I got tired of ship life and I needed a change. So I decided to give up on more contracts and ships and just stay home. I missed that life for a while and even now after 5 years I still miss it. 

Your advice for the people who want to work on cruise ships? 

All in all, I would definitely recommend that everyone tries to work on a cruise ship for at least one contract. Being there and working is very hard and whoever says otherwise is lying, but it’s worth it. You miss your family and friends and you miss all the important moments in their lives, but then you see that your friends made some new friends who just stepped in your place. You don’t stop being their friend but they start making new memories with those new people, and you get jealous and sad and start cursing at yourself for leaving in the first place. Then you go back on a ship and the whole thing starts all over. That is my ship story. I’m going to quote one guy for the end and say “We here are condemned to one another”. That means that you can either adapt or go home. The problem is that you start dreaming that you’re cruising the seas even when you’re not onboard the ship.

Written by: Ghansham Gulwani