What It’s Like to Live on a Cruise Ship for 6 Months

Sure, going on a cruise for a week is fun — the endless soft-serve ice cream, the pools, the entertainment, and (of course) the food. But what if you had to live on a cruise for MONTHS as part of your job? Would working on a cruise ship be the stuff of your dreams or a nightmare in disguise? Today we find out.

Disney Dream

We actually spoke to a number of individuals who have lived on cruise ships as part of their jobs and let’s just say, things are INTERESTING. There are a whole bunch of secrets, exciting things, and not-so-great parts that you probably never knew about when it comes to life on a cruise ship. So put on that sunscreen, grab a beach towel, and take some time with us to investigate the unique life of living and working on a floating hotel and entertainment venue.

First, we want to give a big thank you to Nathan Moreno (@nathanlmoreno on Instagram) and Kaitlin H who spoke to us on these topics. They both have experience working on cruise lines. Nathan worked as a part of the production cast/entertainment team on a cruise, while Kaitlin worked as a guest services hostess.

Disney Cruise Line Terminal

While we won’t be disclosing what cruise line Nathan worked for, we can share with you that Kaitlin actually worked on Disney Cruise Line ships!

Alright, let’s get into the details.

General Overview

Working Hours

How many hours do you work on a cruise ship? Is it a typical 9-5? More? Less? Well, it depends!

Nathan shared that in the entertainment role things could change a lot! Some days Nathan would work up to 8-9 hours, but some days it would just be one hour of work. Typically, Nathan shared that they’d work 4-5 days each week, but that could also vary, with the crew getting more days off during longer sailings (and working more during shorter sailings).

For Kaitlin over at Guest Services, it was about a 10-hour work day, with a typical week made of 70+ hours. 

Mickey Meeting Guests on the Wonder

In terms of a cruise contract, Nathan shared that he’s had contracts for 3 months, 4 months, and 6 months, though some of those were “replacement” contracts where he was stepping in to replace someone that had left. Generally, though, he noted that contracts are 6-8 months in length.

Kaitlin shared a somewhat similar experience, with contracts that lasted 5-6 months.

Itty Bitty Living Space

You’ve probably seen guest staterooms across a variety of cruise lines (you can even tour a stateroom from the Disney Wish HERE) and you’re familiar with their…tight size! So what’s it like for the crew?

Nathan said that he was placed in a cabin in the middle of the ship for his contracts, and those cabins had been on decks 2, 3, and 7 in the past, but it really depends on the ship since they’re all very different! Kaitlin shared that during her contracts she was on Deck 1.

Queen Bed in Category 4C Oceanview Verandah Stateroom

Nathan noted that he had lived in a room that he had all to himself, as well as in rooms where the space was shared (we’re talking BUNK BED LIVING, folks). For Kaitlin, her department generally had things set up where they each had 1 roommate and the room did feature bunk beds.

According to Nathan, the size of the cabin can depend on your status on the ship.

Stateroom Sofa — pull-out bed (Guest Stateroom)

What about those coveted windows? Are you stuck with NO view of the outside world from a cruise cabin? Sounds like the answer to that is mostly “yes.” Nathan said they never got balconies, and that you might get a port hole if you were LUCKY! Kaitlin basically had the same experience and said she was in purely inside staterooms. 

In her experience on the Disney ships, rooms with little windows were mainly for officers, and balconies would be just for 4-stripers (a.k.a. those in high positions like the Captain). She noted, like Nathan, that things can vary depending on the ship.

You’re Not Getting This View as a Standard Cruise Ship Cast Member

But sometimes the rooms have their own unique perks! Kaitlin shared that the cabin she had during her travels through Alaska was actually all the way forward, so she could hear ice scraping against the ship as they were sailing. 😯

So what’s actually INSIDE the room? Any storage space? What are the bathrooms like? We asked ALL the hard questions (😂 ) and here’s what our friends had to say!

Nathan shared that the rooms he was in typically had a closet and desk. He said to think of it like a college dorm in terms of overall style, except smaller and more compact. 

Stateroom Shelves for extra storage in a guest cabin

Kaitlin shared that on the Disney ships she was on, each room had 2 closets and enough space to hang up your costume (uniform) and a few shirts. There was also some other storage space but you do NOT want to overpack for your cruise line working experience!

When it comes to the bathrooms, Nathan shared that the bathroom space would (naturally) be shared with your roommate (if you have one). Kaitlin said that the bathroom she had was made of 1 space with a small shower, toilet, and sink. 

Toilet and sink — Split bathroom (Guest Cabin on the Disney Wish)

In terms of how these cabins compare to those of the regular guests — well, it’s really no comparison! Nathan said they are VERY different. For the crew, the cabins are very functional. They’re comfy enough and you’re able to decorate a bit to make things your own, but they’re small.

Kaitlin described it as more like “a closet and two people live in it.” 😂  In other words, the space is not really comparable to what guests stay in!

Sink space in a guest cabin

So how could you get a crew cabin that is better, bigger, or nicer? Well, you’d have to be a bit higher up when it comes to your position! Nathan shared that usually, the best cabins are reserved for the captain and department heads, followed by the officers and managers of departments.

In the entertainment department, that means you’ll want to try to grab a position in one of these roles: cruise director, assistant cruise director, activity manager, stage manager, and music director. But keep in mind that the only way you usually get these roles is by putting in years of work!

Closet Space (Guest Cabin)

Things are somewhat similar on the Disney cruises Kaitlin experienced, but things could vary by department. For example, she shared that guest services cabins were on one particular deck, close to the gangway, office, and crew bar. But other departments were on lower decks, meaning they were more exposed to LOUD noises from the engine or galley. But things can also vary depending on the ship!

Can You COOK as Cruise Ship Crew?

Okay we know you’re wondering — you’re working on a cruise ship and we definitely didn’t mention a kitchen in those stateroom descriptions, sooooo what do you do for food?

Nathan said “eating on the ship is pretty easy.” There was a crew mess hall where 3 meals were served each day, and there were usually snacks provided in the times between meals too.

Marceline Market on the Disney Wish

Does that meal regular guest-facing restaurants are off-limits? Well, it depends! According to Nathan, depending on your status on the ship, you may get the ability to eat at the guest buffet or the restaurants guests get to go to — but that all depends on the director. He said, “Some are very strict and don’t let staff eat in those areas other are very easygoing and let us eat up there.” It just depends!

For Kaitlin on the Disney ships, things were fairly similar with a crew mess hall available for dining and she said that sometimes they could even surprise you with something really tasty! But most of the time it was…well, a little like your old school cafeteria. You know that feeling you’d get where you’re just a tiny bit fearful of what you might find to munch on that day? Yeah, a bit like that.

Steak from Worlds of Marvel on the Disney Wish

Kaitlin was a petty officer, however, which meant that she also had access to the quick service dining locations guests have access to. This isn’t something all crew members have the ability to do, but it’s a great perk if you can get it!

What about getting a dining reservation for one of the regular guest restaurants? Kaitlin said it was something she could request, but it wasn’t all that easy. Requests “needed to be approved by multiple people before being allowed.”

Chicken at Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure on the Disney Wish

What about cooking on board? What if you’re craving a dish you’ve just gotta whip up? Well…don’t hold your breath! Both Kaitlin and Nathan told us that cooking was not really available for the crew. Nathan shared that you could “cook” up some Cup Noodles in the mess hall, but that was about it! Kaitlin said that crew was not “allowed to have anything in your cabin that you have to eat with a utensil.” Looks like you’ll have to stick to those mess halls then!

But there are some crew perks when it comes to food, specifically for late-night snacks! According to Kaitlin, late-night snacks for the crew would basically consist of all the extra food that guests didn’t eat — and this would be served up at the crew mess hall. So pro tip: don’t miss the late-night snacks!

Secrets Revealed!

Now, let’s get into the SECRETS! We’re talking crew-only areas, what the Wi-Fi is like, and more!

Crew-ONLY Spaces

When it comes to unique areas, Nathan shared that there are some areas made just for them, to give them a bit of a work-life balance, though that does depend on the ship size and the brand. The ships Nathan was on had things like a crew gym, crew bar/lounge, a game room, and even a crew deck with the ability to soak up some fresh air! Some ships may even have a crew pool (though those are harder to find).

Guest Pool on the Disney Wish

Kaitlin shared that on the Disney ships the crew bar turned into a coffee bar during the day — gotta get that caffeine! She also mentioned that on the Disney Wonder there was an activity room, though not all staff utilized the space.

On the Fantasy (a larger and newer ship) there were more entertainment spaces for the crew, like a library and other things. Kaitlin also noted that the Magic and the Wonder have a little pool on the bow of the ship for the crew, but it is prettttty small so don’t exactly expect huge amounts of swimming space!

The ships Kaitlin was on also had a crew gym, though these were in different spots depending on the ship. Still, it gave the crew a nice tucked-away space to exercise away from the rest of the guests.

Would You Work Out? (Guest Gym)

Days Off

Ever wonder what the crew does on their day off? Do they get to lounge around and explore the ship? Well…it depends.

Nathan shared that on his days off if they were in port, he was allowed to get off the ship and explore (at least, pre-COVID). For him, this was one of the best perks about working on a ship — getting to see and experience places all over the world. But not everyone can get off. On port days, typically about 30% of the staff has to stay on. He shared that people are typically given a group and then if that group is called, they are not allowed to leave.

Disney Wish docked at Castaway Cay

If he didn’t get off the ship for his day off, he said that he’d typically work out, connect with family, and sleep.

Depending on your status and the hotel director, Nathan shared that they could also go to the pool deck (but not swim), go to the guest coffee shop, go to the spa or hair stylist, or head to the library.

Castaway Cay

For Kaitlin, things were a little different. She shared that they didn’t really have days off in her department, and, in fact, “Most departments do not.” But, if she did have a decent amount of break time, she could use that to go to the gym, nap, or get off the ship to grab some food.

In terms of using regular guest areas during “off time,” Kaitlin said that they could venture into these spaces, but that had to be approved. So, for example, she could get access to the guest pool deck but only on port days!

AquaMouse

In terms of leaving the ship during port days, things for Kaitlin were somewhat similar to the situation with Nathan. The crew could leave the ship on port days unless they had an “in-port manning” shift. In port manning ensures that there’s a required amount of crew members on the ship during port days in case there’s any kind of emergency. But she said you could have someone cover your in-port manning shift for you potentially!

What about things like the internet? While wifi prices and set-up have changed over the years, it’s still not quite as easy or cheap to have internet access on a cruise ship as it is on land, at least for guests — so what’s it like for crew?

On the cruise ships Nathan worked on, the crew had their own wifi packages they could buy, but they were not all that affordable and sometimes didn’t have the greatest connection.

Bus WiFi Sticker

Nathan said that he would get online every day and try to call family about once a week. But, for him the easiest thing was…to get an international plan for [his] phone. It made it easier to navigate the places [they] were in and also be able to contact family out at port.”

Kaitlin had a similar experience. There was a crew wifi plan that charged based on megabytes, but she shared that “sometimes the internet was spotty and [they] wouldn’t be able to get online.” Still, she’d try to get online every day to talk to family, if given the chance.

SURPRISING Cruise Facts

We asked both of our new friends just what surprised them about working on a ship and here are some things that might totally surprise you too!

For Nathan, he said the biggest learning curve came with the importance of chains of command on the ship. Nathan said, “If someone is a higher status the[a]n you then they have more authority the[a]n you do and you have to respect that. And if you are having [a] problem you either go to your person in command or HR.”

So Many People Make the Vacation Possible!

For Kaitlin, she said the most surprising thing about working on a cruise was “the amount of people behind the scenes that work so hard to ensure the Guests have a Magical Experience.” There’s a lot of pressure on the crew to really get things “right” and “perfect” for the guest — so make sure you give the crew a big “thank you” the next time they help resolve a problem for you!

Working on a Cruise Can Be AMAZING

What’s the best part of working on a cruise, you ask? Well, for Nathan it was the ability to travel, the community of people you meet and become friends with from around the world, and getting the chance to perform all the time (in his entertainment role).

For Kaitlin, some of those “bests” overlapped. She shared that one of the best parts was seeing how people from all over the world, “people from all different backgrounds, cultures, religions,” were able to “work together and respect each other.”

Captain Mickey

She also shared that exploring new places she would have never had the chance to visit was a major plus! Plus, meeting guests and crew from all over the world was a big bonus and “genuinely made [her] who [she is] today.”

Things Aren’t All Fun Though

Things aren’t all sunshine and roses though. Working on a cruise can be TOUGH. According to Nathan, one of the things he liked the least about his cruise experience as crew was that the crew mess hours were very strict. For example, he said that if lunch is from 12-1:30, then that’s it. They pull that food at 1:31PM, and “if you miss it you miss it.”

He also shared that rules for the crew aren’t always fully explained in advance, so you might not find out you’re breaking a rule until, well, you’re actually breaking it and getting in trouble. So be careful!

He also said that packing up your life in basically just 2 suitcases (50 pounds max) can be extremely difficult.

Don’t Miss Your Mess Hall Times!

For Kaitlin, one of the things that was the most challenging on her cruise experiences was the quality of the crew food. Let’s just say, to her it wasn’t the best.

Kaitlin said that the pay is also something to consider. Under American standards, she was getting paid less than minimum wage. Her pay did include free room and board and the free crew food, but she said it was “a lot of work.”

Another tough thing was working every single day and having to wear TIGHTS while doing it! Though the policy has changed, at the time when Kaitlin worked, girls had to wear tights under their skirts, and that was…less than fun.

Disney Wish Guest Space

Finally, Kaitlin said that the politics of the job were less than ideal in terms of how certain leaders picked who got promoted, etc. That’s a thing you’ll encounter in almost any work situation of course, but it’s important to remember that working on a cruise ship (fun as it may sound) doesn’t exempt you from it!

But, despite the challenges, both Nathan and Kaitlin said they wouldn’t change a thing about their cruise working experiences. Nathan said, “Working on a ship is hard but also fun. I felt like I grew the most while at sea. It’s something that is like no other and you see how you react to different situations and you can become a very well-rounded person and a great problem solver.”

Kaitlin echoed those statements and said, “I think that all the challenges and things I hated made the experience the way it needed to be.” Though she did note that giving Guest Services a bit more credit and the opportunity to potentially earn tips wouldn’t be a bad thing either. 😉

How YOU Can Be a Better Cruiser

If you’re going on a cruise and wondering what crew wishes you knew, we’ve got all the insider knowledge.

Nathan said that he wished guests realized how hard the crew works. There are people who work 10-15 hours, crew who work throughout the night, and crew who change things at the drop of a hat to make the guest experience special. So, he said, “be kind to all crew and respect all boundaries.”

Nathan continued, “If something changes on your cruise, like we can’t go into an amazing port and have to have an extra sea day[,] [w]e are sorry but don’t complain to us about it, we can’t do anything to fix it, so be nice and enjoy the day. It’s not the end of the world!”

Goofy

Kaitlin had some similar comments. She said that she wishes guests would realize the crew cannot control the weather as much as you’d like them to. They’re only human!

She also recommended that guests do some research before they come on board. “Please,” she said, “Listen to a podcast, watch a video on youtube, Do something.”

Don’t Go Into Your Cruise Without Any Knowledge!

And that’s what it’s like to LIVE on a cruise ship for 6 months as part of the crew. Is it something you think you’d be able to handle? Tell us in the comments!

Want to learn more about cruising, especially on Disney’s ships? Click here to see what CDC regulations have gone away when it comes to cruising, click here to learn 5 SECRETS about the Disney Cruise Line app, and click here to see why it might be more difficult to go on a cruise this summer.

As always, stay tuned for more Disney news!

Click here to see our FULL COVERAGE of Disney’s new cruise ship — the Wish!

Would you want to work on a cruise ship and live there for months? Tell us in the comments!

The post What It’s Like to Live on a Cruise Ship for 6 Months first appeared on the disney food blog.

source https://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2022/07/25/what-its-like-to-live-on-a-cruise-ship-for-6-months/

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