A few months ago, I bid adieu to ship life – I spent almost four years working at sea, and I’m finally back on land once again.
[2020 edit: Amidst COVID-19, if you are thinking about a career on cruise ships, you might want to do a lot of research before committing. It’s a scary time to be working at sea, and even if you’re not worrying about a specific virus, there are other sanitation issues and safety precautions you should be aware of. Not trying to negate anything here – just being extremely honest]
My last contract (August 2019 – January 2020) proved to be one of the best, since I had an incredible team and a dream of an itinerary. In six months, I saw the Northern Lights in Alaska; spent two straight months with my best friend on ships; frequented animal cafes and played with hedgehogs, Shiba Inus, raccoons, cats, and meerkats in Busan and Tokyo; had overnights almost every cruise throughout Asia; ate my weight in pho and ramen; rang in 2020 in Vietnam; fell in love with Hong Kong; and got to see six new countries.
For these reasons alone, I’m glad I ended ship life on the best note possible. There isn’t another itinerary that could top this one, let alone another Cruise Director that I could appreciate as much (“Hi, Steve!”). I also had some of the best food of my entire life in Japan and Hong Kong. In all honesty, the majority of my paychecks went to cramming as much Asian food as possible into my mouth during my time off in ports.
I almost didn’t finish this last contract, though. Working on ships is incredibly draining – crewmembers just don’t post about that part on social media. My friends and family probably thought I was just getting paid to party in different parts of the world, both on and off the ship. However, every crewmember truly works their butt off. We earn each and every dollar that we’re paid, and we definitely put in more hours than any typical office day. Much like anyone in the airline and hospitality industry, we deserve to be respected as much as any other human. Remember that if you ever take a cruise in the future as a guest.
I’ve been lucky to see family while working as well. My parents cruised with me in the Mediterranean a few years ago, and I saw all of my relatives in Hawaii last year. Additionally, some friends have also cruised with me – all the more fun!
I also met a lot of animals throughout my last four years at sea:
Now, the future of the cruise industry hangs by a thread. Will anyone want to even travel by cruise ship anymore after COVID-19? My contract ended just a week before COVID-19 news spiralled out of control. I don’t really know how I got so lucky – I was part of a crew that sailed throughout Asia for four incredible months. Sadly, those were the last Asia cruises – I watched in shock as the news unfolded once I left and all cruises were cancelled, leaving many guests and crew feeling uncertain. Similarly, I left another ship days before it sailed into a “bomb cyclone,” as termed by the media. Those are enough close calls for me.
I had a good run on ships, but I never wanted this chapter to be the highlight of my career. I have so much yet to accomplish and things I’m interested in focusing on.
Many thanks to the various cruise lines that gave me a perspective into traveling via ship. While this isn’t my preferred mode of travel, it surely did its part in funding all of my dream vacations between contracts. Thanks to doing six contracts, I also know people from literally every part of the world.
By the numbers:
- 7 ships, 6 trans-Pacific or Atlantic crossings, 6 contracts
- 69 countries, 6 continents
- 7 states
- 112 cruises (approximately)
- 56 overnights (approximately)
- Regions covered: Mediterranean, Baltic & Scandinavia, Caribbean, Antarctica, Middle East (Israel), Oceania (Australia), South America, North America (Canada, Alaska, Pacific Coast, East Coast)
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