What can I tell you about cruise ship life?
Well, for starters, much like I’ve heard from other veterans, it’s almost impossible for everyone to wrap their heads around what a day in the life is like (unless they have worked on previous ships). This isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle.
And I love it.
Oh yeah, and I happen to have the best job on the cruise. Better than the captain, in my opinion (okay, maybe not that extreme). But I mean, I get PAID to party all night long with guests and socialize with them, learn about their stories and travels, and interact with people on levels I’ve always enjoyed. I get paid to talk to people, which I already love doing on a daily basis – and most of them are Aussie, so I love them even more.
I’ve learned to deal with the following:
- Set meal times
- Split shifts
- Afternoon siestas (trust me, if we don’t take them, we’re zombies by midnight)
- Unhealthy food (the crew food isn’t as bad as I predicted, but it isn’t healthy, either – much to my dismay)
- Forcing myself to gym it (I don’t want to be the fat one in entertainment when everyone here is a stick)
I’m incredibly lucky to be on the entertainment team. In fact, maybe I’m too lucky? I joke around and tell all the guests that I probably shouldn’t even be part of the team – I can’t sing, dance, OR play sports. Basically, I was hired off the lucky miracle of my personality and the fact that I have no problem speaking in front of large crowds with a microphone. I was fortunate enough to get this right when my contract in Thailand was ending, so everything happened for a reason and ended up working out perfectly. I count my blessings every single day because this is probably the coolest job I’ve ever had (and I really hope I can stay on after this).
I don’t want to elaborate on any names, specifics, or references to my company since I’m absolutely terrified of our whole social media policy (even though I know it’s fine to post a blog that commends the ship). I’ll say this much – the entertainment team is privileged enough to use the officer mess, meaning that we only share our cafeteria with the medical staff, deckhands, and yes, the captain himself (I think). And we also have deck privileges, meaning that we get to roam around and sunbathe (kinda) as long as we’re in uniform around passengers.
However, I’m really new and uncomfortable with the concept of being on a team that gets the most attention from both crew and guests. Sure, I’ve worked at the Disneyland Resort before, but it was on a much different spectrum (pushing buttons on an attraction and selling park events is far different from my current role). Quite simply, I am expected to look and conduct myself at the highest standards possible, meaning that I have to put a lot of time into my appearance.
I’m definitely not used to standing out, especially since I’ve always liked blending in. Going makeup-free for the past 2.5 years has been such a relief for me, and now, to have to revert back to a lot of makeup and painstaking measures (i.e. high heels) to ensure that I look my “finest” is quite interesting. Not complaining, by any means – after all, like I said, I feel like I have the best job on the cruise. It’s just so strange when almost every crew member backstage, both male and female, will gawk at me when I’m in my required “smart casual” outfit for the night (meaning my finest “pretty” clothes). Basically, on evenings, I’m practically going to the Met Ball whereas everyone else is just in their standard uniform duds.
I get to do everything from host karaoke and trivia night to just “mixing and mingling” at theme parties (yes, it’s part of our job description to do this). We also oversee games (table tennis, quoits, golf putting, golf chipping, paper planes, etc.) and are allowed to drink alcohol and mingle with guests while on the job. I’m probably the only sober crew member on the entire history of all cruise ships, to say the least.
I don’t know how anyone couldn’t enjoy this job. I’m guessing that my communication degree is going to good use for this role, at the very least.
A flamboyant guy on our Cruise Staff team has been training me and showing me the ropes, and I could never compare to his natural humor and ease with hosting events and parties. He’s a pure natural. The other night, he taught a huge Gatsby number (which we then staged a flashmob with, twice), the Nutbush, the electric slide, etc. and I just played along looking like a gangly hyena, freaking out and laughing every time I messed up (every second). He left me on the spot a couple times, purposely making me the leader in front of at least 30 guests. I’m sure the older ladies got a kick out of the fact that they could dance far better than this Asian chick. But yeah, this is the most fun job ever.
We also have three theme parties, which I love the most – Gatsby, Bianco white night, and back to school party. I’m forced to don a very unflattering “cigar girl” costume (with a plunging neckline, ugh) for Gatsby night, so all of my pre-planned Gatsby outfits aren’t going to any use, but maybe in due time…
Here are some other observations:
- Crew is like family – everyone says hi and/or thank you and is extremely friendly. It’s like Disney, but even more extreme – it’s almost like cruise ships gather the friendliest people and dump them on ships to work together. And then, of course, you always get the weirdos and creepy people that you have to run away from… but mostly everyone is okay.
- It’s exactly like college, but in a box. On every level, but without any academia involved. You can imagine how many people sleep together and hook up within one week period – if someone stays with someone for longer than a week, that’s considered an eternity.
- I work for a really chill company, which is awesome. While there is hierarchy, I can definitely talk to 3-striped officials without getting in trouble (on other ships, I know that isn’t possible).
- You get used to the swaying of the ship within a couple days – and if you think you’re not standing up straight, chances are, you probably aren’t and it isn’t your fault
- We have about 600+ crew onboard which is extremely small compared to other ships – and everyone knows your business. Everyone.
- Fresh air when off port has never felt so good when you work in AC and live in a box.
- We never know our schedules for the next day until 8pm the evening beforehand, similar to my experience in Japan. We’re on rotation as well for ports, so some of us cover while others get to do ports. I’ve only seen Brisbane and Hamilton Island so far (and seen the stunning Fraser Island from the windows when I was covering, sigh), but we have an overnight cruise coming up this week in Cairns. It’s going to be off the charts and wicked amazing. New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea are also coming up, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Sleep has never been more important, also. We work a bunch of split shifts broken up – sometimes as early as 5:30am, sometimes 9am, blah blah; a sample schedule could be 9:30-11, break, 3:30-5, 8:30-11pm. We’re usually done by 11 or 11:30pm, which wasn’t what I was expecting at all.
WiFi and staying connected to the world doesn’t faze me as much right now, since all I ever think about is how much I love the job (or the next time I get to nap).
Aussie kids are absolutely adorable in comparison to the maniacs I taught in Thailand, as well. For example, I was hosting a game of bean bag toss this morning and a beautiful little 3-yr. old girl named Emma took a picture with me dressed as Wally (Where’s Wally?) and then wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. That would NEVER happen in Thailand, but maybe that’s just because half of the kids I taught there were little devils (I swear).
For the first time in my life, I think I’ve found a job that I really, really enjoy and take pride in. I can foresee myself working in the cruise industry for awhile, especially since I worked my ass off and did everything in my power to secure this job (and I really mean that – I’ll blog about that another time). Whereas in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Thailand, I loved the lifestyle and my time off, I never had fulfilling jobs – but here, I love the lifestyle and have the best job in the world. Sure, you don’t get much true “travel” time but it’s what you make of it.
I gave up a 16-hour workweek with 3 days off per week for a 60-70 hour workweek with no days off for a few months straight, but it’s worth it. I wouldn’t trade this for anything. I’m so happy and even happier that this experience has been everything I hoped it would be and even more (I mean, I get to play dress up far more than expected).
Before I boarded our 1,500 passenger ship, I endured about 23 hours of flights in a 3-day period (I lost a day with the timezone difference) and 5 hours of flight delays in order to reach Brisbane, but it was worth it. My flights, Brisbane hotel, airport transport, and all meals were covered by the cruise, so all I had to do was show up and get pumped up for the job. It couldn’t have been any easier.
This was my first time staying in a beautiful hotel – and mind you, it was massive. It was situated in the middle of Southbank, very similar to Melbourne’s Southbank, meaning it was an upscale, posh, artsy area that I fell in love with instantly. I jumped on the bed and everything.
That entire evening I had to myself was so surreal. Everything looked so familiar from two years ago, and yet I was such a different person. I couldn’t help but feel like I was dreaming – I was back in one of my favorite countries, and everything was just as I had left it, except better. Once again, my heart was just so deliriously happy (previously, it was overjoyed from my Disneyland visit).
FROM STRANGER TO CREW
The next morning, I sat by myself in the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, completely unaware and oblivious to the fact that the rest of the 30 people in the restaurant were also boarding the same ship as me. I was quite relieved to discover that a handful of people were joining at the same time as me, since it meant I wasn’t a complete loner when checking everything in and getting adjusted.
Granted, I was the only one of everyone who had never worked on a ship before. In fact, in my week here alone, I think I’ve only met about 2 people who are on their very first contract like me (update – now it’s upped to about 6 or 7, haha). The majority of crew has been with the company for years, meaning they’ve always extended their contracts, transferred ships, or just had tons more experience than me.
Everything became real when we were all bussed over to the ship and I talked to three of the crew, all three of whom became instant friends. One girl in particular is a lovely Senior Doctor from South Africa who basically took me under her wing and helped me out with almost everything from the second she met me. I’ve run into her almost every day in our dining area and while roaming the floors, and it’s so comforting to know that one familiar face.
I was filled with so many questions from day one (obviously). Surprisingly, I wasn’t stressed at all – not even the slightest. I think both my body and mind was just in utter exhaustion mode for the first few weeks, anyway – it didn’t have the energy to even be stressed.
There are a handful of people that remind me of other people – I’ve found Tina Fey and Lupin/Weasley/Faramir lookalikes within the span of a week. And one guy seriously sounds like a dead accurate Daniel Radcliffe, so I’m perfectly fine hanging around him just to imagine that I’m talking to Daniel Radcliffe.
Overall, a wicked good time with a ton of good stories. I’ve gotten lost hundreds of times on this small ship and said sorry way too many times, but along the way, I’ve managed to meet an amazing bunch of people and after 9 days, I think I’m finally settling in. I love it, and I hope to continue my career in the cruise industry.
Sidenote – our (expensive) crew wifi is crap, so I wasn’t able to upload any photos – it took ages enough to post this, which is why I’ve disappeared from all social media for days at a time. Such is ship life!