Cruise Ship Cliques
“I worked on a cruise ship for seven months last year. There were lots of cheap drinks in the officer’s bar. There are basically ‘mafias’ on board the ship, usually run by whoever has the most seniority. It always helps to just be nice and toss a $5 or $10 bill your bartender’s way, as they’re WAY more inclined to give you free stuff. There are lots of people getting it on.
You tend to stick to your own department, unless in the officer’s bar. Entertainers hang out with other entertainers, bridge crew with bridge crew, engineers together, etc. On the ship I was on, if you ever hear everything cut out on the audio (weird when you’re in the middle of a song) and ‘bright star’ gets called, that’s cause someone is in urgent need of medical attention. This ship tends to have an older clientele on ‘smaller’ ships, which are of course still huge.”
“I work at a company that made products used on ships, including cruise ships and had to help install the products on a few occasions.
So labor laws really aren’t a thing on cruise ships. Neither are safety rules really. It’s not uncommon to meet people who have been working over a month without a day off and on at least two places of the ship I had to go from one ladder to another via a piece of wood laying across them. A safety inspector would have a heart attack.
Workers run off all the time when the ships dock in America. The government has to guard the garbage unloading and food loading, but they do a bad job of it.
Despite the news stories, they really do make an effort to be environmentally responsible.
People are constantly slacking off in the engine control room. Like constantly. I am talking nine-hour hangout sessions with one hour of work.
All the workers you don’t see, you don’t see because they can’t speak English or speak it poorly. The departments are broken up by language groups. For anything out of the ordinary, you need to arrange people such that messages can be translated up and down the line. For example, this person speaks Russian and Estonian, this other person speaks English and Estonian. OK, you translate for the Estonians, and the other guy will translate into Russian.
The reason why the buffet is serving Indian food today is because a third of the staff wants Indian food and the cooks want to save some time.
The salary of workers is heavily dependent on the country of citizenship. The Americans on board make bank, but, you know, you spend most of your life at sea.
The Internet is not usually free for staff.
The crew bars are cheaper and better than guest bars. But the guests’ food is better than the crew’s.
I noticed a degree of resentment from a lot of the staff for the guests. A sort of feeling of ‘these people were just born in the right country while I have to work.’ And around me, they let loose about it a few times.”
“There are videos of people getting it on in public places–especially on balconies and in jacuzzis, are often disseminated among crew members. Most of the videos are unfortunately potato-quality, but I’ve seen some pretty interesting ones.”
Sloppy Crews, Clogged Toilets, And Stranded Employees
“I worked on a cruise ship for a few months in the engine room, and have sailed on other commercial ships as well. I will start with the scary stuff that you will probably never see.
The one thing to realize is that most cruise ships sail under a ‘flag of convenience.’ This means that they register the ship under some country that has some really relaxed regulations. For you, the customer, this probably does not mean much. Your waitstaff, shopkeepers, and cleaning staff are really all you ever talk to, so the companies will really focus on training them. They should not be anything for you to worry about. The more concerning part comes with safety. These ships may not be built to last under heavy conditions. The deck and engine departments (who you, the customer, will almost never see) may not be very well-trained, which leads to situations like a recent one where a cruise ship canceled its voyage because of engine failure. The people who work on these foreign-flagged ships are probably not making much in the eyes of the western world, but they may make a good wage for wherever they are from. A lot of workers will also flee the ship by ANY means necessary when they pull into U.S. or European ports. Port security around cruise ships is usually pretty tight.
I worked in the engine room, so I don’t have any juicy passenger interactions of my own. If you think that you don’t have much space in your room then you should see the crew’s quarters. The crew is packed in like corn on a cob. Take that single person room you have, double the size, but now six people are sleeping and living in there. Sanitation is a big issue, and as a result, the crew’s rooms are regularly inspected.
The crew members are getting it on with each other all the time. It honestly amazes me how much whoopy-making there is given that everyone is also sharing rooms. But most employees will be on the ship for eight months out of the year, and all that pent-up tension will get released one way or another.
I’d advise not eating the sushi.
You would be amazed at what people will flush down the toilet. Pool noodles, t-shirts, shoes, and pretty much anything that people don’t want to pack with them when they leave. Cruise ships primarily use vacuum flush systems. These are very efficient but very sensitive. A single object can take out the toilets for everyone above and below your room. Then somebody from the engine department has to start breaking open black water pipes or ripping open pumps to find where your soiled object has managed to stop a whole lot more fluid from flowing. Toilet paper only in the toilets, please.
When the ship pulls in to port they usually hook up a water hose to fill up on potable water from the municipal supply. Once the ship is underway (and away from the nasty port waters) they take water from the sea and distill it to keep the capacity up until they reach the next port. It’s probably a lot cleaner than the water you have at home.
The ship also needs to fuel up (called bunkering), and sometimes passengers are on board while that is going on. No open flames are allowed outside while bunkering is ongoing and this becomes a problem with passengers who want to light up. To get around this they do so in their rooms, which sets off the smoke detectors. There is also a regulation that bunkering must immediately stop if a fire alarm goes off until the hazard of a fire has passed. So somebody from the crew has to go to your room and make sure it isn’t on fire. Then they call down to the engine room to report it’s a false alarm. Then we can start the pumps again. On average, bunkering is usually interrupted three or four times due to this and it’s extremely annoying.
At least the ship I was on, we would have crew parties and events that made things a lot of fun. It really sucks for the people who have to work the customer parties because you know all your crew friends are having a blast.
Excessive fraternization with passengers is against the rules. Simply entering a passenger’s room without a reason is a firing offense.
Speaking of firing, it was not in our contract for the company to pay for your return flight if you get fired in an area where you are a citizen. So let’s say you were hired on the U.S. West Coast by some big cruise company and you get a ship on the East Coast (some people want to change it up a bit if they get tired of the same route). If you get fired on your ship them the return trip is on you. The local fast food place had some ex-cruise ship workers who were saving up money to get home.
Cruise ships are trying to become more environmentally friendly. There are whale zones where they go slower to give whales more time to get out of the way. We install scrubbers in the exhaust stack to help remove excess sulfur and carbon. Companies are now also working on reducing nitrogen oxide emissions through advanced engine timing technology and stack gas treatment. Instead of using harmful chemicals to clean sewage waste we are now using UV and biological systems to break it down. Lubrication oils around the ship are being replaced with biodegradable versions. Pretty soon ballast water will even begin to get treated. These are all new and upcoming improvements to try to reduce the environmental impact these ships have. But they are also 1,000 foot long floating cities which must provide food prep and storage, heating, A/C, lighting, water and sewage, recreational areas, and power for thousands of people while also moving them around on a floating piece of steel. There will be an environmental impact no matter what.”
Sounds Like Something A Pirate Would Get
“Seasickness patches — the prescription strength ones — have a rare but not too rare side effect – temporary loss of mental stability.
When you have a few hundred people wearing them for several days straight, it’s almost guaranteed that one or two of them will have this side effect. Then they have to be hauled down to the infirmary and kept out of the way until the effects wear off, and they regain the ability to form sentences.
A lot of cruise ships warn passengers against using the patches. This is why.”
Guests Are Not The Best
“Cruise ships have multiple crew lounges. Drinks are about $1 each for the crew except for the crew parties that happen every once in a while, normally in cool places like ‘on the bow of the ship.’ That’s where we have the real parties.
People die on ships a lot, due to the lifestyle of excess combined with a lot of guests being older people with poor personal fitness. Sometimes the ship has morgue capacity, but if it happens enough, corpses can be stored with the flowers.
The crewmembers are always messing around with each other. Just… all the time. You work with like, 20 other people in your department, all in this little prison of a job for six months at a time, except every few weeks, two or three of the people might just be swapped out to other people.
We hate the guests SO MUCH. Oh my goodness, guests are the WORST. They’re SO SLOW, and they don’t know where anything is and their response is to just stand there and get in the way of everything.
When you get on or off the ship, it’s the same day that other people are getting on or off. There are no days off or breaks or anything like that for the crew. Some people seem to have an idea that when the cruise is over, the ship takes some time to clean and reset and stuff. Nope. Crew work seven days a week for their contracts.
Yes, the crew gets off in ports. Kind of. A certain percentage of the crew has to stay on the ship for safety reasons, but it’s only like 10 percent. The rest can, if they’re not working, get off in the ports. The great part of this is that crew get to basically tour the world and get paid for it. The less great part is, well, you know how ships will do the same cruises over and over and over and over and over again? Some places are cool the first time you go there, the second time you go there, the third time, maybe even the fourth! Some are only good the first time. On your 20th time through St. Martin, it often becomes ‘maybe I won’t even get off the ship, and if I do I might just go to a bar.'”
The Cruise Doctor
“A former classmate of mine was a cruise ship doctor.
His father was a doctor, and it was always expected that he would follow in dad’s footsteps.
When he couldn’t get into any stateside medical schools, he got his degree on one of the Caribbean islands. Saint Kitts comes to mind, but I’m not 100% certain that was it.
Of course, with his island degree, he couldn’t get a real doctor job in the states, so he went to work for one of the cruise lines.
He tried to be a charmer with the ladies, but he was not an attractive guy – short, very pronounced hook nose, some acne, etc. Also, he was kind of a jerk, so he didn’t do too well with girls when we were in school together.
A few years later, after he started his cruise job, I ran into him and all he wanted to talk about was how many girls he was getting with on the ship as if that was the point of him becoming a doctor.
He wouldn’t ever be the kind of guy I’d entrust with any of my health decisions at home, never mind some emergency situation in a foreign country or on the open seas.”
No More Dumb Questions
“I worked on board a cruise line. Lots of people sleeping around was a prerequisite. There was one guy who slept with men onboard but would go home to his wife and kids. Tons of officers have girlfriends and get it on a lot because they have the single rooms, and in crew quarters, that’s a luxury.
One thing is for sure, passengers ask the dumbest questions. We hated walking in guest areas because we would get asked dumb questions. Passengers were SHOCKED that we lived on board. Once, I was so annoyed one day, I responded that I was a mermaid and just jumped back into the ocean after my shift. The strange part is the person that asked apparently believed me.
Another common question is ‘Excuse me, do these stairs go up?’ — umm, duh. They also go down. I think people turn their thinking caps off when on vacation. Which I guess is normal? My all-time favorite question is, as soon as they step foot on the cruise: WHERE DA FOOD AT?? Ha! Never got old! Oh, the memories.’
You Forgot Something
“People leave anything and everything behind. Forget your curling iron? The crew probably has one. Need a charger? Yep. Toys for your child? You got it. If you ask, while the crew is in-between rooms or cleaning a common area, I’m sure they’d love to help you out.
I used to do wet and dry dock maintenance. We used to find quite a lot of illicit stuff left behind. Passengers thought they found a clever hiding space in the cabin but we would take every inspection hatch off every cabin’s bathroom. There used to be a customs guy in Miami we called Dirty Harry, we just handed it to him. Cool guy. No: we did not use the stuff ourselves.”