Anyone that's ever been on a cruise has wondered what really goes on when the crew has some downtime. 17 crew members let you in on all the secrets, the good, the bad and yes, the debauchery.
"Odds are, someone died on your cruise.
Think about all the old folks you see get on to the boat - for a lot of them this is their retirement home (and cheaper than a lot of other retirement homes). They are literally taking cruises until they die and we eventually find them in their cabins."
"I am a cruise ship worker. First one is, we don't want you to know that we actually have more fun than the guests. Sure we'll work the big white hot party that your all going to, but once we finish our shift all hell is breaking loose in the crew bar.
Just below and to the sides of where you are sleeping there are crew members having sex, smoking and drinking. Our beers are $1. No drugs or spirits though.
We also don't want you to know that all those funny jokes we tell you at bingo? Yeah... Same ones are said every. Single. Cruise. That really funny answer you gave us about your wife during the happy couples game? Heard it. It was said last cruise and the one before that, and the one before that...
We are not allowed to f--- to passengers... But we do know the all the nooks and crannies the cameras don't reach.
There are morgues below deck and a jail cell. We get at least 3 deaths onboard a month. Some people go on a cruise to die.
No I do not know where Jack/Rose is... They're not real people."
"My sister was a dancer with Carnival and I went on 5 cruises as crew-family. Stayed in a crew cabin, but only paid about $50 per cruise. Also had a pass to get into crew areas. Went to the crew bar every night and had a great time. $8 a drink in the passenger bars, same drink for $1 in the crew bar. It was so cheap I just doubled every bill as a tip and still came out on top."
"I loved the job, I loved the people, but I hated the corporation. The company always made it difficult for those of us in entertainment to do our jobs and help the guests enjoy their cruise. It wasn't so much like summer camp for me, it was more like a dorm at college. I got up whenever (it was a red letter day if I was awake in time for lunch), did some very basic work setting up a game show or turning on a microphone for the Shopping Specialist, and played a lot of video games until the evening's show. I set up the evening's show (helping to load pyro, checking/double checking all the machinery, etc), ran the show, and then struck/tied down all the set pieces. If there was no midnight comedy show, I went to the crew bar.
Crew bar is pretty much the only thing to do in the evenings, and since my go-to drink (Grey Goose and ginger ale) was less than $2 (back then I think it was $1.75), it was hard to argue anything else. Occasionally, we'd set up morale parties, but those tended to be hit or miss. I mostly spent my evenings hitting on whoever would let me, whether it be waitresses, dancers, bartenders, dancers, and....yeah, the dancers. Never managed to close the deal with the dancers, awkwardly enough.
Looking back, the food was awful. Generally, the chefs who work topside get trained in the galley down below. They were pretty random on what was good or bad, honestly. Mostly, it got monotonous, since the menu didn't seem to change up very often. I was considered "staff" (halfway between officers and crew), so I was able to get food to order, such as eggs or a chicken breast, hamburger, etc, and we came up with college-style recipes and ways to combine foods to make them new. Most didn't work.
Crew/staff were definitely not allowed to "fraternize" with the guests, but it certainly didn't stop many people. I can't say that I did personally (although there was a fetching lady that kept asking me back to her room, but once I found out how outrageously fake her I.D. was....), but I had a roommate that was the DJ at the discotheque, and it was a few times a week that he wouldn't come back at his normal 4am, stumbling drunk, slurring-at-the-top-of-his-voice bedtime.
As far as port calls, I've made some great memories there. Since I worked in the main theater, there wasn't much for us to do during port calls, and unless there was important maintenance (like moving the new 1,000 pound soundboard up 8 decks), I was generally making a mess of things in some port call or other. My favorite by far is Cozumel, followed closely by New York City, all of the islands down near Puerto Rico, and the Mexican Riviera on the Pacific side of the country. Again, I spent most of my time trying to hit on various women and drinking, but I also spent time with some of my best friends and saw some great stuff in port calls. I learned to scuba dive in Cozumel, went swimming with wild-ish stingrays on Grand Cayman, and saw some amazing Mayan ruins on mainland Mexico near Cozumel.
Some of the darker stuff...let's see...for starters, I hear that nearly all the live music is gone from Carnival ships due to it not bringing in any money (directly). It's kind of heartbreaking, I knew a lot of excellent musicians that likely were laid off, only to be replaced by canned music and karaoke. I don't have anything against karaoke, of course, but they also (last I heard) got rid of the karaoke host and the aft lounge technician, and just lumped those jobs onto the main lounge technician and social hosts. As far as the officers, it was exceptionally rare that they were anything but Italian, and while there were exceptions to the rule, the majority of them were raging a--hats. There was your basic managerial nightmare-boss stuff, but there was other stuff, like security turning a blind eye to some of what they did. I heard horror stories about crew members being beaten, threatened, stalked, etc. I didn't see most of this firsthand, but a ship is a very small place, and word gets around. Most of the higher officers had wives/kids at home, and nearly all of them had mistresses on-board. There was a time on one of my ships that the mistress was pretty pissed because the wife and kid came aboard for a visit, lasting maybe a month or two...the crew was especially wary during that time, since s--- has a habit of rolling downhill, and it did then, too.
Looking back, it really was an amazing time in my life, and I'm so glad I happened upon that job, even if there was some darkness in there. I'm just touching on my experiences, since I could go on much farther (provided I could remember). To end on a high note, I should mention that my amateur-ish flirting did occasionally end well for me. I dated a few crew members, and managed to convince a few more to take their clothes off with me in the room. Eventually, I met an amazing blonde woman that worked in the video production department (the people running around with the big video cameras). We met, and after 2 weeks with her, I was sent to a new ship. It was supposed to be my last contract, but after corresponding with her for a few months, I changed that plan and did one last contract so I could spend more time with her. To make a very long and happy story short, our 2 year wedding anniversary is coming up fairly soon. After we met, I joined the Coast Guard, where I am today.
I hope that suffices for interesting, I tend to think most of what happens to me is interesting, and I'm often proved incorrect."
"Male crew outnumber female crew approx 5:1. If you're female and can't get laid while working on ships, you're uglier than the south end of a northbound elephant.
If crew are caught sleeping with guests (they made us call them "guests", but we call you "cones" when you can't hear us), they're put off in the next port with a ticket home. That's the threat at least. Only saw it put into action once.
Our food is terrible. We don't eat what you eat, there are three levels of food for workers. There's
Crew Food - Unidentifiable for the most part. Real ox tails in the oxtail soup. Lots of saffron rice.
Staff Food - It's like someone saw a picture of a buffet, and said "I can make that!" but only had access to dumpster leavings. Many a night I'd wander to the staff mess and ask someone along the way what was for dinner. Many a night the reply was "Toast and cereal". They had think pink "dessert" that we called "Pepto Bismol surprise". The surprise was that it didn't taste like Pepto Bismol, or anything else you'd put in your mouth. It was served in little metal cups, and if there was any left over, it would appear upside down, sans la cup, on a small plate the next day. If it was still uneaten on the third day, it became "Boob Food". Someone squirted a little areola of a whipped-cream like, edible oil product on the top, and placed a single raspberry on top. They disappeared after the 4th day.
Officer's Food - This is for anyone three stripes and above. It's basically dining room food on the same rotation. Monday is chicken, Tuesday is steak, Wednesday is pork tenderloin...etc. The officer's mess will sometimes cook custom goodies in exchange for favors from the officers.
We're probably drunk, hungover, or on our way to drunk. We work 7 days a week, sometimes only 4-6 hours, but most of the time between 10-16 hours. We're salaried, so there's no OT. To make up for this, Corona or Heineken cost $0.50/ea. Wine was $3 a bottle. We'd bring on booze from shore as well. Back deck parties happen every night, and crew hallway parties are even more common. Folks would buy me drinks and send them to the DJ booth. On the Voyager of the Seas, I had an enclosed booth, so waiters and waitresses would duck in for a quick smoke and would bring me a rye and coke to buy my silence. I have a picture of a small row of drinks waiting for me to drink them. Went looking for it, but I can't find it ATM.
Most of us are single. Aside from the very rare married couple working on ships, most folks are unattached. Several people came onboard with a bf or gf on shore, and within a month they were happily shacked up with someone from the ship.
We will f--- with you. A favorite was while in a passenger area say to another crew member, loud enough to be heard by pax, "Meet you in the bowling alley tonight!" Then we'd wait for the comment cards to come in: "Why do crew get a bowling alley when we don't?"
We've seen the worst of the traveling public. Be nice. I learned the following stereotypes:
People from SoCal think they're famous because they live close to LA. They're the cattiest people I've ever met. Nice to your face, but will complain to your superiors behind your back.
New Yorkers will let you know how they feel about you within minutes of meeting you, and will rarely change their minds.
Nobody is from Florida. They live there now, but nobody is from Florida.
Mid-westerners and Texans are some of the friendliest people around. Not the most liberal, but if you're a white male, you're d--ned good people.
Rich Mexicans are the second worst for snobbery.
Rich Puerto Ricans are the worst. Also, they don't like being called American.
There must be something wrong with the water in Arizona.
We get off the ship whenever we can, and get as far away from you as possible. The exception to this was Papa's & Beer in Ensenada. We'd go there to see pax get topless, and we tipped the staff well to make sure they only "spun" the hot ones. Spinning happened when a staff member of Papa's came up behind the pax and blew his whistle. He'd then lean in from behind her and offer her a shot. If she took the shot, he'd pour it down her throat, pick her up, spin her once around and lift up her shirt. There'd be a line of tourist girls waiting to get spun about 10 minutes into arriving there...and it wasn't even noon."
"Ex cruise ship employee here, we get absolutely s---faced below deck. Everyone f---s each other, all over the ship. My girlfriend at the time and I had a competition with an officer and his lady for the riskiest place to have sex. I thought we had won with the bow of the ship in the middle of the night. Nope, him being an officer stopped the elevator midway, his lady and him jumped on top of the elevator while it was stopped and proceeded to ride the elevator and get it on as guests were getting on and off the elevator beneath them. The officer was not alone in his efforts, from what I know he had a friend of his on the bridge stopping the elevator for him, so they could get "in position" if you will. I assume he was also making sure the elevator did not crush them as well. He could've been lying, but for the stories sake I like to think that's how it went down. Secondly, I was a dancer in the cast onboard, and had a lot more free time than most being all I did was perform in the shows. I do suggest working on ships for anyone who is curious, it's a great way to see the world, make lifelong friends, and get laid!! I know many couples who met on a ship and are married with kids now etc. it really sets the stage for a nice fling, or love, depending on where you're coming from and what you're ready for. The crew bar was absolutely a place of drunken adventures, cheap booze, and smoke, EVERYONE smoked. Crew members were from all over the world, and each night was themed to a different cultures music etc. I loved it, being an 18 yr old from Texas, I learned more from the international crew than I ever could have imagined, and am very thankful for the experience. All in all, I highly recommend it, at least for one contract. If you don't like it, chalk it up as free travel, free accommodations, and a job."
"I did a 6 month contract on a pretty popular cruise line... I was appalled at the way that employees were treated.
First off, the class system is abhorrent. There is crew, then staff, then officer. I had it easy because I was an officer (and being American also helped a lot). Crew members had their own mess hall... and could not go to any of the other ones. Staff could go to their own or go "down" to the crew mess. Officers had free range. The differences in food between the three were impressive. The Crew mess had mostly rice and left over meat, whereas the officer's mess had all kinds of great food and variety.
The room stewards and assistant waiters work their a--es off... usually 14-16 hours a day if not more. We, as officers, were instructed to alter time cards in order to keep above the marine time laws. They also only get paid $200-300 a month... that doesn't even cover their airfare to get to the cruise ship, nor does it cover their uniform costs. The "charged to the room card" tips that are given to these hard working individuals do not actually go into their pocket - the majority goes to their bosses who sit in their office all day.
I personally had an issue with a guy that wouldn't leave me alone. He was a cook and would sit outside my room, yelling things like how we were meant to be together and blah blah blah. He said that if we couldn't be together than I couldn't come out of my room. I called HR and security and they basically told me that I had done something to deserve this. Believe be, I am all for a dude making me his princess but this was extreme. I legit started to fear for my safety and the cruiseline did nothing.
I was in the entertainment staff and managed all of the productions. Unless there was a broken bone, the dancers had to perform every single night, usually 2-3 shows a night, regardless of how much pain they were in. We had to video tape every show and send it to corporate... and if they deemed a dancer didn't "give it their all" (even if they had a high ankle sprain that made their leg 3 times its size), they faced termination.
Speaking of termination, I went off at a port with one of my friends from the Philippines... He was a room steward and never got a day off so it was a big deal. We were out in Cozumel, having a great time, when it was finally time to go back to the ship. When we got there, he wasn't allowed to board. When we asked why, we were told he had been fired. He asked to board so he could get all of his stuff from the room and retrieve his PASSPORT from the ship but was denied. He asked how the f--- he was supposed to get home without his passport... and was told that they would ship all of his belongings and passport home and they could, in turn, send it to him wherever he ended up in Cozumel... So, basically, the guy was homeless and stranded in Mexico until the ship got around to sending his passport home to the Philippines and his family managed to ship it back to him. f'ing ridiculous.
Tons of sex. Those jokes are said every time. During my cruise, we did "Dancing With The Stripes" every cruise and it was the same songs and I did the same "routine" every week. Beers and cigarettes are dirt cheap for us, hence why basically every single crew member is probably trashed. Crew bar never closes.
So... Yeah... there were some good parts of it but definitely not worth going to work for. If you ever go as a passenger, tip your waiters and room stewards in cash so they can keep it... and maybe give them money to buy a $20 phone card that will get them a 5 minute phone call home."
"I'm in a dutch maritime academy and I did my first internship on a Holland America Line cruise ship (august 2012-february 2013). Although I heard a lot of stories from the other officers and engineers things where generally pretty good. No fights, no drama just people drinking a beer at night and working most of the day.
The days where pretty long +/- 12 hours for crew regardless of rank. I slept with a roommate in a bunkbed and so did the filipino an indonesian crew. The officers and engineers get their own cabin.
Although I didn't get a lot of free time in ports I had some pretty good days. I had a good time.
The only reason I won't be going back is the 4 months on 2 months of working schedule."
"It was the worst job I've ever had in my life. Some bullet points- if you get fired, the line I worked for would kick you off on whatever island they docked at next. Sounds fair- but some of these kids had just started working and had no money saved up that could get them home. I did not have a single day off my entire five month contract and not only that- we worked split shifts. Anywhere from 12-17 hours a day. You saw these amazing places from a porthole. I got off the ship like three times.
But- yes. Everyone banged. The percentage of people with an std triples when you compare entry vs. exit tests. Lotsa freakiness. I hooked up with a girl in one bunk while her roomie did the same with my buddy. Lots of drinking."
"My dad worked as chief of security on cruise ships for 5 years, and I spent several months traveling with him while he was employed.
Most captain's are pompous a--holes who treat the many foreign workers like s---, and often don't respect the officers either unless they're from the same county(usually Dutch).
The majority of staff are Filipinos and Indonesians, and are very nice but overworked. The quarters for staff who aren't officers are very cramped and they often spend 8 or more months out on a ship with a bunk bed in a 4 person room.
The crew aren't allowed to eat with guests (officers can), and have a separate mess hall with lower quality food (still not bad though). Most officers choose to eat in the officers lounge to avoid guests, and they can have food from the main dining hall delivered to the officers lounge.
Even as an officer the amount of time of you get is very low, you don't get to go out and see the ports very much. Days are usually at least 10 hours of work for months on end."
"I worked on ships for 5 years. Some things you should know... 1. We party harder than guests. Every night. For 8 months strait.
2. We pay less for booze. About a dollar for a beer and a buck fifty for liquor. 3. Like everyone else...We are in it for the money. I don't give a f--- if you enjoy your cruise vacation. I'm here to get paid and that's it. 4. If you're an a--hole, cabin stewards will drop your toothbrush into the toilet. Don't be an a--hole. 5. When we have "all crew drills" most of us are still drunk from the night before. 6. The pretty girl from some exotic country is most likely a whore whose slept with 10 guys in 2 weeks. 7. The handsome guy whose hand you shook probably just jerked off 30 minutes before that and hasn't washed his hands. 8. Every crew member hates The Black Eyed Peas' "Tonight's Going to be a Good Night." We're forced to listen and dance to it multiple times a week. We hate the song and you for loving it. 9. I don't want to talk to you in port. I don't f'ing know you. This is the only time off we have all week, and you're forcing me to smile and pretend I give a s--- about your twelve year old getting her hair braided or your husband getting "lost" while you were shopping in Mexico. We both know he was at a brothel. 10. Your special week is just a repeat of last week for us. We saw and do the same s--- over and over and over...and most of it you eat it up like the 10,000 calories you consume on our ships every day. 11. The food has an extra bit of oil and fat in it to make your s--- soft. This is done to reduce the stain on the ship's plumbing."
"I had a solid gig playing on a cruise line for a couple summers as a jazz musician. I played with a house quartet every night for three months. Here are some things you may not know about the job:
Almost EVERY employee smoked weed. When we weren't performing or sleeping, we were toking like there was no tomorrow, it was a great way to pass the time.
Disease spreads incredibly fast. There were a couple episodes of a stomach flu taking over the ship. It was so bad I thought we were going to have to get the CDC to disinfect the ship.
Overall it was a really fun job for the summer. Pay wasn't spectacular, but I got to go to awesome places, meet new people, and play nightly gigs."
"Seven years on cruise ships here, I've seen it all.
Common misconceptions and questions I get ALL the time from friends/family:
YES, we do get to get off the ship. Depending on your job (I'm a musician onboard), if you have free time while in port, you get to get off the ship and explore, just be back 30 minutes before the ship leaves or else your a-- is fired.
Waiters, galley, etc do not have as much free time.
NO, we do not eat the same food as the passengers. Most two stripe employees can eat at the specialty restaurants and buffets for a price, but the food we get in the mess in a bit lower quality.
The companies are allocated $X/per employee per day, and it's something like $.30.
They buy in bulk, they cook in bulk, they feed us in bulk. It's a win-win for the company.
The employees are really just a number to the company. And it's getting worse and worse by the year. Cruise ships are cutting corners and investors will threaten to sell of their shares if X amount of money doesn't get saved every month, so we're becoming more and more of a commodity.
"Can this position net us X amount of money? No? Okay, get rid of them. Oh and by the way, to compensate, we need to make this position do their work."
Which is why a lot of the time you'll see casino staff greeting guests as they come back onboard, a position originally set for Cruise Staff, but if there are three less cruise staff per ship, and they are busy with onboard activities, then they need to fill the gaps.
Truth be told, it's an ugly business.
I have a buddy from India who works 12 hours a day for $650/month washing the crew members dishes. Moving up the corporate ladder is almost impossible for him, since he's from India.
Labor laws are non-existent. We're in international waters, so anything goes.
We can't do drugs, we can't bring them onboard (although people DO get away with it).
Cruise lines are getting more and more strict with the alcohol policies. We are no longer allowed to bring alcohol back onboard from port, we used to be able to do this. Now we are forced to buy alcohol onboard, so essentially, the crew members have become a source of income for the company.
There is so so so much more, but in the end, it's just like everything else, it's just as s--tty as it is great. It's a great way to get paid to travel, socialize, network, etc. Great mind-broadening experience that's for sure."
"I currently work as a housekeeper (seasonal / summer).
People leave anything and everything behind. Forget your curling iron? We probably have one. Need a charger? Yep. Toys for your child? You got it. If you ask, while we're in-between rooms or cleaning a common area, we'd love to help you out. No one really asks..."
"My dad is an Electrical engineer on Allure of the Seas, the largest passenger vessel ever built.
What many people don't know is that modern cruise ships are often very maneuverable despite their size. My dad's ship has Azipods and forward bow thrusts, giving it the ability to move in any direction, even side to side and backwards without tug boats.
Because of this maneuverability, the ship can does not have to lower its anchor for short periods of time, it has a system that monitors it's locations (GPS) and autonomously make corrections so it will not drift away.
There is almost no swaying on the ship. It's gross tonnage is 225,000 tons, so it is rather massive. In rough seas, it can extend fins below the water line that act like wings on airplanes. Gyroscopes monitor for any swaying, and the fins make corrections so the ship is nearly unaffected in even the largest waves."