Joining a cruise ship

Crew life: Joining a cruise ship amidst the corona pandemic.

The coronavirus has undoubtedly disrupted our life and impacted several industries. The once untouchable gigantic cruise industry has been among the most impacted, labeled as a breeding ground for the virus, many cruise ships were forced to cancel their scheduled voyages for the rest of 2020 and through early 2021 which left many crew members jobless. However, with the virus slowly getting under control resulting in restrictions being eased, some cruise lines have started sailing again mainly in European waters. Therefore, crew members are joining back the cruise ships to resume work again. 

It’s a fact that life (in general) on board will no longer be the same as it was prior to Covid-19. To get an idea of what’s happening onboard, I’ve gone through several articles and have interviewed my friend who’s currently working on the MSC Grandiosa, which was one of the first ships to resume sailing post lockdown. 

Q: Has the work environment onboard changed post-Corona lockdown? 
A: Work on board is the same as before but new protocols have been implemented(covid prevention protocols) and we have to follow strict compulsory measures. Guests are trained about the new covid protocol onboard in order to enjoy their cruise with minimal risk of contamination.

Q: What sanitary measures are being taken by the ship to ensure the safety of the crew and guests? 
A: Crew members are having single cabins wherever possible and upon availability. Compulsory swab tests are being performed prior to embarkation for both crew and guests. Crew members also have to submit a negative covid-19 test to the company test before boarding the flight. Families are treated like social bubbles. Social distancing in public areas and crew areas are being strictly monitored. Sanitizer stands are placed all over the ship. Masks are compulsory and staffs wear gloves. There is minimum guest and crew contact via new technologies services. Additionally, crew members have daily temperature checks. When it comes to excursion, guests and crew from one ship does not mingle with outside tour guides and peoples. 

Q: Do you have to quarantine before joining the ship and after finishing your contract? 
5A: Yes, Crew members are quarantined for a minimum of 2-3 weeks before commencing duty. 

Q: Has the clientele changed? 
A: The ship is not operating to its full capacity, so we have fewer guests onboard. Demographics wise, we have a younger clientele (mainly European) before the guests were mainly elderly people

Q: Are you allowed to go ashore? 
A: No. 

Q: What if a crew member is suspected to carry the virus?
A: I was contact-traced and put in isolation in a single cabin for 10 days. I had to undergo swab tests several times a day. Meals were being delivered to my cabin and I was not allowed to roam around. The company takes good care of you in this situation.

No shore leaves and additional rules and regulations in new contracts 

Previous contracts already had a long list of rigid rules, regulations, and protocols, and now the coronavirus has just added a new layer to it. As you’ve read above, shore leaves are not allowed for the entire contract (traveling the world is no longer a source of motivation to work on a cruise ship). Royal Caribbean cruises has established a 15 Steps protocol that crew members need to follow before re-joining the cruise. Wearing Protective equipment (masks, gloves.) will be compulsory and crew members have to undergo daily temperature checks. Also, if you’ve been contact traced or suspected to have covid, the cruise ship will isolate you for 10+days and will have to go undergo swab tests. With social distancing, Crew bars have limited opening hours, and fewer parties are organized(or no parties at all). Furthermore, You will have to quarantine again once your contract ends both on the cruise and when you reach your home country.

The good is news is shorter contracts (depending on the cruise line), my friend from MSc has signed for a 5-month contract when previously her contracts were 9 months long. Besides, some of the new restrictions might be softened not immediately though, but once the pandemic gets fully under control. If you would like to add something please feel free to do so in the comment and for brave seafarers going back on cruises, Be safe and happy sailing! 

Everything You Should Know About Working On A Cruise Ship.

Are you interested to work on a cruise ship?Or maybe you’ve signed up for your first contract and you are curious to know how life is on board.Cruise ship life is a different kind of life ;It’s like a mini society floating on the sea with its own rules and regulations.You are in for some awesome adventures,money and friendship.Here is a sneak peak of life on board.

1.You will travel..a lot..while getting paid .

Traveling around the world is what attracts many people to work a cruise ship besides making a lot of money.You will wake up to magnificent views and in different cities or countries everyday.You will visit countries you’ve never heard of and discover landscapes and ports that will blow your mind away.You will discover cultures different from yours and many delicious cuisines that you will miss when you return home .

2.You will Party Everyday.

The Crew Bar,this where you’ll head to after work no matter how tired or sleepy you are.It’s like a nightclub with the clubbing music,the bar area and the dance floor with only difference that you will party with your fellow colleagues. It’s the place where you will catch up on a beer with friends,socialize and meet people who are from other departments This is also the place where rumors spread at lightning speed,so be careful though.The crew bar is open everyday,except on embarkation day, until the wee hours of the morning .If you go there everyday,you will memorize the playlist,because it’s the same music that is played everyday except on special parties like Easter,Halloween ,Christmas Party etc…

3.Crew Sales And Crew Discounts

The perks of working on a cruise ship is that you can buy luxury branded stuffs such as watches,perfumes and liquors at a really discounted price when there’s crew sales.There are also several Duty Free shops in ports around Europe that offer crew discounts on the presentation of your crew card.Additionally,If You want to use the spa on board,you can do so at a discounted price only on port days though.

4.International Friendship

Cruise ships employ their crew from all around the world.So If you like socializing,meeting new people and creating new friendship bonds,You won’t miss out.You will meet wonderful people,with their own wonderful stories,culture and personalities with whom you will share unforgettable moments during your contract.

5.Alcohol is Cheap.

Alcohol on board is really cheap,sometimes you can even get it for free when there is special crew parties .And you can get it at bargain price in Slop Chests.However be careful with consuming alcohol on board,Cruise ships are very strict about their drugs and alcohol policy.If you are caught drunk or if you fail alcohol test ,you can say goodbye to your job.

6.Forget about Days Off

Weekends or Days off don’t exist on board.You work 7 days a week with no rest day in between,however,You get hours off!.On Cruise ships,You work on shifts.For example,You work from 8 am to 2 30 pm ,then from 2 30 pm until 05 30 pm that’s your time off,You resume work again from 05 30 pm until 10 30 pm.And From 10 30 pm to 08 30 am that’s your time off again.If you have an awesome boss and if there isn’t too many guests on board you can request a day,they won’t refuse you.

7.Language On Board.

Although the official language on board all cruise ship is English.Crew members have their own special Language which is a blend of English,Tagalog,Spanish and other unknown languages.So,if you are going on board to improve your English skills ,forget about it .You will come home knowing a language which is definitely not mainstream English!.

8.In Port Manning

In Port Manning or commonly Known as IPM on board,refers to the minimum amount of crew members that must ,by law,remain a board a cruise ship to evacuate it if a situation arise.That means you can’t go ashore if you are IPM.Depending on the number of people working in your department,You might be IPM once or twice per week.

9.Forget Your Privacy.

Depending on Your Position on board,you will have to share your cabin with 2-3 people but that’s not all,there’s regular scheduled cabin cleaning followed by cabin inspection by the captain or his staff and the HR.There’s also frequent surprise cabin inspection.And if your cabin fails this inspection you are in for some serious Bananas (trouble). So Always Keep your Cabin clean,don’t leave objects that are not allowed in your cabin in open air.

10.Salary,Vacation and Contract Length.

The Length of the Contracts can vary from 4 months,6 months and 9+ months and the Vacation leaves is between 6-8 weeks ,you can request for an extension if you have a solid reason.Vacations are unpaid so the company will deduct 10 % or 20 % off from your salary every month for your vacation pay ,so don’t be surprised if you are getting less than it is mentioned on your contract.If You decide to terminate your contract ,they will use this money to pay for your plane tickets and other travelling expenses ,therefore ,please,don’t resign ,you will lose your hard earned money.Wait until the end of contract and don’t come back if you do not wish to work in the cruise industry anymore.

11.Time Ashore .

You are free when you are off the ship,however be careful of the time.Crew members have to be back on board 1 hour prior the ship is scheduled to depart .Don’t even think of coming late by 2 minutes,you will get some serious shit for this .And don’t go too far from the ship ,the ship will leave without you,if you don’t make it on time and you will have to bear the costs of joining back the ship only to get fired!.

12.Filipinos make up the majority of the employees.

Most of the Crew members are Filipinos.They are the most sweet and friendly people I’ve met on board,they are people with big hearts.However ,some of them,specially when they have their own large group ,they tend to ignore the minority and start being loud or make mean joke or talk bad about you in their own language and all that in front your face.Nevertheless ,I’m not generalizing ,Everyone is different .

13.Food On Board

The crew or officers’ mess is the place where you will have all your meals on board.The Cruise ship will provide you with 3 meals a day; Breakfast,Lunch and Dinner .Additionally,You’ll also be provided with freshly baked pizza around midnight in the crew mess ,sometimes leftover viennoiserie around tea time.Nevertheless,The food in crew mess is of poor quality ,even your dog would refuse this food.Once in a blue moon ,you can get tasty food especially on occasion such as Crew dinner/lunch but Most of the time ,it’s crap.Crew eat in the crew mess,officers and other higher position staffs eat in the officers mess and some of the highest ranked employees eat in the main dining room,Unfair ,I know!But that’s the industry!.

14.You can’t Say No to Over time.

The average working hour on cruise ship is around 10-14 hours per day. Sometimes you will have to work some extra hours when you have Deep cleaning,USPH or the day before embarkation/disembarkation.And don’t expect to be notified about 2 days before,sometimes you’ll be alerted about it only 30 minutes before the end of shift.And it’s not like on land where you can refuse to do overtime. You’ll have to do it whether you want it or not!.

15. First Few Days on board is tough.

I’m Not saying this to discourage you but the first 7 days you are going to be tired from the jet lag, the fast-paced environment and the drills and training that you will have every day. Moreover, If your ship is changing time zone every 2 days, You will have to change your time forward and back .If you are going one hour forward several days on your first weeks ,then be strong my dear,this is going to be hard but eventually, your body will get used to it very soon .

16.Everyone is friendly but not everyone is Your friend.

Everyone is friendly and ready to help with a huge smile on board but be careful.Don’t trust anyone blindly,be careful with the information you share because it can be used against you and lands you in serious problems.Not every friendly colleague is a friend and Not every friendly person wants to be your friend sometimes they may have sketchy intentions.

17.Ladies,Be careful.

My beautiful ladies ,be extremely careful,Every married man is divorced on board !.They will promise you the universe,use you like tissue paper just for sex.Love stories last until the gangway do you both apart .And be careful if you are having unprotected sex,because if you get pregnant ,the ship will send you home ASAP!.

Working a cruise ship is a rewarding and enriching experience,I know,it’s hard work,but if it was easy everyone out there would be have been working on a cruise ship.I hope this article has been helpful to you and if you are about to embark for your very first contract then welcome to the journey and have an awesome contract.