The Ultimate Guide for Surviving your 1st Cruise Ship Contract

Sep 17, 2016

There are number of things you need to know before you start your first adventure as a crew member. This guide will help you during your first couple of months on board. It is better to know these important pointers than to learn it the hard way. 

So you are off for your first cruise ship contract. Pretty exciting isn’t it? When you arrive in front of the cruise ship, crew purser or the Human Resources Manager welcomes you. You enter this giant floating hotel unlike anything you have seen before, and you get your orientation. Usually, they show you where is the crew mess, crew bar, pursers office, laundry room etc… By this time you are already confused, lost and forgot anything they show you. Don’t worry this is normal because every first-time crew member has the same experience. Next, you enter your crew cabin, there are no windows and you rely only on the light bulb. No time for unpacking because in half an hour you have some training with an onboard officer. On the meeting, you are tired and together with the rest of the group you try to stay awake. End of the meeting and no time for resting, you need to report on duty. There everyone is in hurry and your supervisor has little time to explain your working responsibilities, so you go with the flow. Crew members work hard but what I was especially impressed is, how fast they work. There is nothing on land that you can compare. I know what you think because I had the same experience “What the hell am I doing here… Should I take my unpacked suitcase and go home?” Wait a minute it’s not so bad. The first week working on a cruise ship is hell but the things will get better. Finally, you will get the things right and you will be Ok.

Here are some pointers that you really need to know in order to make your life at sea easier.

Crew Mess

Crew Mess is the dining area for crew members. On the door, you will find when breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snacks are served. Write the opening times down or take a photo. Why is this important? Very simple if the crew mess is closed at the time you arrive, there is no other place to eat. So you will go hungry on duty.

Crew Cabin Location

Memorize your cabin location. This is very important because there are no signs on the main corridor named I-95, to guide you to your cabin. It took me one hour to find my cabin on my first day on the ship. Why is this important? Losing valuable time to find your cabin means less time for you to rest. So you will be tired when on duty.

Your Supervisor

Never and I mean NEVER confront your supervisor. Anything he says just say “Yes Boss” Don’t share your thoughts and opinion. You are here to work, not to think. Keep your thoughts to yourself. I know 99% of the supervisor on a cruise ship is a pain in the butt. But you need to keep your mouth shut. Why is this important? If you share your opinion, the supervisor will give you hard time all the time. He / She will start shouting at you and humiliate you in front of everyone, and on top, you will get extra duties. On land this is called Mobbing on Ship is called Normal.

Crew Cabin Maintenance

You need to keep your cabin clean, so I strongly recommend you pay a cleaner. For $20 in 15 days he will make your bed, bring toilet paper, and take out the garbage. Why is this important? Because you don’t have time to do these things. I know you will laugh but when you run out of toilet there is no place to go and buy one.


Crew members have a separate laundry room where they wash their personal clothes. There are usually 4-6 washing machines and dryers (there are at least two that never work). Most of the times they are all occupied so you need to find the perfect time to wash your clothes. Always, and I mean Always stay in the laundry room while you wash your clothes. Why is this important? First of all because some other crew member TROSO, can come and take out your clothes from the washing machine and put his clothes. Second, if you leave your clothes unattended someone can steal it. Yes, it happens many times.

Laundry Uniforms 

Usually, crew uniforms are washed in the main laundry room. You need to write down the working hours and which day is laundry day so you can bring your dirty uniform and pick up a clean one. They also charge $2 depending on the cruise line for express cleaning, this mean that your uniform will be ready the next day. Why is this important? Because you have limited number of uniforms and you need to report on duty with a clean uniform. If you miss the laundry day then you are in KAKA.

Make friends with the Cooks

Let’s face it the crew mess food is not so good. Cooks have the access to the food for guests and sometimes they make their own food that is shared with their countryman (Paisanos). Making friends with the cook can make your life easier and your stomach full. I will suggest you pay the cook as you pay your cabin cleaner, it is worth.

Crew Bar

Ah yes, the onboard happy place. The place where prices for alcohol are so low you can buy a round for everyone. You will find lots of people from your country on board and probably you will meet all at the crew bar. The crew on board tend to group in crew bar by country or by departments. Cruise ships have strict alcohol policy so don’t be fooled of the cheap booze prices. There are crew members who can drink 15 Corona and be ok the next day and report to duty sober. If you can’t handle alcohol then don’t drink. Why is this important? Simple, if you go on duty drunk you will be fired.

Hope these pointers will help you on your first cruise ship contract.