The wonderful world of hospitality is truly something to behold. From the glossy commercials of sandy beaches, extravagant hotels and most of all, giant luxury cruise liners, it seems like a holiday that you just can’t afford to miss (and probably can’t afford at all).
A cruise vacation is something that most of us would love to do. After all, who wouldn’t want to cruise around the Mediterranean without a care in the world, having our every need taken care of by a host of (mostly) young and eager to please staff? If you’ve ever been on vacation anywhere, you may have taken it for granted that the staff are always smiling, always doing the best they can to make your holiday a success. It’s easy to forget that they’re paid to do so.
Have you ever wondered what secrets lie behind those bright ‘How can I help you?’ smiles and slightly bleary eyes? If you haven’t, then this is the place to be. A host of cruise ship workers lay bare the ins and outs of ship life that is kept neatly tucked away from the prying eyes of guests. Let me tell you, it’s a sight to behold. On a Reddit thread the conversation got hot and heavy, discussing staff fraternization rules, drinking habits and exactly what they find in your cabin once you’ve jumped ship.
Hop on board and join me as we take a look at 15 Shocking Confessions From Cruise Ship Workers.
15. THE WORKERS KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYONE
While you may only be on board for a week or two, the staff are usually on board for very long and extended periods of time. When you’re living in such close proximity, it’s difficult to not know everyone’s business, even if you don’t mean to. One musician wrote, ‘Remember high school, where everyone knew everything about everyone’s business? Who was macking whom, cheating on so-and-so, doing this-and-that, being a such-and-such? Well, that’s ship life in a nutshell. The bar is where we all congregate, it’s where we all commiserate. Now, let’s add in the jail factor: You’re in a tin can and you can’t leave. Some people can never get off when in port because their jobs don’t allow for it.’
14. THEY MOCK THE GUESTS
This really goes without saying. Although the steward may be outwardly nice to Mr and Mrs Thompson who are going on a boat for the first time, they’re most likely mocking you behind your back. Everything is up for discussion when the crew get together, regardless of if you’re a good tipper or not. It’s not that they’re a mean bunch of people looking to make you feel bad, it’s just that they live in a very isolated world, and frankly – what else are they going to talk about. It’s not just guests, this extends to senior staff too.
13. THEY GET GREAT PERKS (SOMETIMES)
Depending on what role the cruise ship worker has, they can get some pretty impressive job related perks. One Reddit user wrote, ‘A friend of mine was a shopping guide. Pretty prestigious cruise job. She’d give presentations about port side shopping and recommend what shops to go to. This involved making partnerships with the local shops. Those recommendations are obviously very valuable to the shop owners. So in exchange for them, she got to purchase designer clothing and jewelry at or below cost.’ BRB, just contemplating abandoning everything I’ve ever known and jumping on board the nearest clothes – I mean cruise – ship.
12. THEY’VE TOLD THEIR JOKES A MILLION TIMES BEFORE
Do you remember those delightful games you played in the evening on board HMS Dynasty? Well, it may seem like the staff were spouting off joke after hilarious joke off the top of their heads, but unfortunately, they’ve said it a million times before. According to an insider, ‘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.’ All originality goes out the window when you’re living in a giant can.
11. THEY HAVE A LOVE HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR CO-WORKERS
In every job, the team you work with makes a huge difference. If you’re paired up cleaning rooms with Stacey from Idaho who talks about how thrilled she is to be on the ocean 24/7, then it’s going to get pretty tired pretty quickly. Everyone may seem like they get on and are enjoying this amazing experience together, when really, they’re hoping for a man overboard scenario. They’re paid to look happy, regardless if they actually are. ‘Overall the people you live and work with are what makes your experience on board,’ muses one former worker. ‘Some days are worse than others but you somehow manage to get through it.’
10. THEY NEVER GET DECENT SLEEP
Living in someone else’s holiday is exhausting. While you take an afternoon nap or have a lie in on your holiday, workers are often expected to be on call 24/7. If something needs doing, workers can be expected to be woken up in their downtime, meaning that all of the energy they seem to have is probably down to seriously strong coffee and desperation. One worker wrote, ‘You’re always on duty and your supervisors have 24 hour access to you at all times by just ringing your phone and waking you up in your cabin. Sleep was very limited, so every off hour was spent trying to catch up.’
9. A LOT OF TIME IS SPENT HIDING DRUNKEN EMBARRASSMENT
With most jobs in the travel industry, there is a lot of drinking involved. Working on a cruise ship is no different. Depending how friendly you get with the bar tender, the alcohol isn’t always measured, either. Now, remember those times you’ve got completely wasted in the past, and had to work up the courage to face the people that saw you flash your boobs or vomit on the floor? Can you imagine the agony of having to see them every single day with no choice? It’s a dilemma that has seen many a hungover worker hang their head in shame. According to this chap, it’s very awkward. ‘Think of a time you did something embarrassing while drunk at a bar. Now imagine having to see every single person who saw you do that embarrassing drunk thing, every day for months and months. That’s what ship life is like.’
8. THERE IS A STRICT NO FRATERNIZING WITH THE PASSENGERS RULE
And when I say strict, I mean like, law suit strict. ‘I worked on cruise ships for 3 years and have had three friends sent home over this. Essentially you get busted, you have a Masters Hearing and you’re sent home at the next port (on your dime). The cruise companies don’t want to be liable for anything. We aren’t allowed to take elevator rides with guests if you’re the only two people in it either, for the same reason. Also, if you’re taking a photo with a guest both of your hands must be visible.’ So, next time you think that ship bartender looks cute, finish your drink and move along. You don’t want to cost anyone their job.
7. THE PAY IS EITHER REALLY POOR OR REALLY GOOD
For US citizens, the pay isn’t that great. You get free food and accommodation, so really, you don’t need that much to live on. Most cruise ship workers are there because they think it’s a free ride to see the world, which it is in part, but if you’re hoping to take home big bucks then you better be prepared to work for tips. However, if you live in a different country where the conversion rate is good (I’m looking at you South Africa), then you can make some serious cash. It all really depends on where you’re from and what you’re hoping to gain financially by working on a ship.
6. CREW QUARTERS ARE HORRENDOUSLY SMALL
Like, really small. Really, really, small. Most crew quarters are shared quarters, with a bunk bed and very limited space – not even enough to swing a cat in. One commentator wrote, ‘The rooms are tiny, and your shower curtain will always be trying to get to know you biblically.’ Having worked on yachts myself, I have a general idea of the amount of space, and let me tell you, it’s not pretty. Can you imagine a) sharing a room with someone you’ve just met and b) having to take a poop behind a door that’s less than a foot away from said person’s bed? Be prepared to lose any sense of mystery.
5. HOOKING UP HAPPENS, BUT IT’S HARD
Put a bunch of people in a small environment for a long period of time, and of course hormones are going to be raging wilder than the Atlantic Ocean. We all know the saying ‘Don’t dip your nib in the office ink’, but these are desperate times. While it happens, the shared quarters don’t make it easy. There’s usually nowhere to hide – that is, unless you’re lucky enough to have a single room. ‘Girls (and guys) go crazy over you if you have a solo room,’ said one gent. Another user chimed in, ‘Us girls had a way of just knowing who had the single cabins, and there was definitely a point system of which one was the better to aim for.’
4. DRINKS ARE REALLY CHEAP FOR CREW
While you may be paying close to $10 for your G&T, staff are sometimes entitled to specially discounted rates. Some boats even have their own staff bar, to keep the antics of the workers away from the prying eyes of the guests. This is a pretty poor choice really, as it allows workers to get completely hammered for a fraction of the cost. That’s why a lot of staff look bleary eyed. It’s not because of the harsh sea air – they’re just all there to party. Well, not all of them, but it definitely happens. After all, everyone needs to blow off some steam, right?
3. WASHING LAUNDRY IS REALLY DIFFICULT
The state of the laundry room is nothing short of pure chaos. To put it in perspective, depending on the size of the cruise ship, there can be anything from 1,000 to 2,500 staff members and 5-15 washers and dryers. Those odds do not work in your favour and some serious tactical timing is needed if you want to get your laundry done. It’s a struggle for crew members, especially when it comes to washing underwear. Next time you’re on a cruise, think about that when you say hello to that nice young waiter. It’s a sorry state of affairs.
2. IT’S NOT ALL BAD, THEY’RE ALLOWED TO GET OFF SOMETIMES
One Reddit user said, ‘I went to Europe, Canada, South and Central America, Asia, and more. I basically visited every continent except Antarctica, and went to over 75 countries. I took a sled dog ride in Alaska, white water rafting along a river through the jungles of Costa Rica, visited Alcatraz, had an authentic curry in Mumbai, spent a day on a luxury yacht sailing around the Caribbean, snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, visited the great pyramids in Egypt, been to the lost city of Petra, spent days in Barcelona, Athens, Rome, Kiev, and so much more. Nothing you have to put up with on board matters compared to that.’ However, they’re not all as lucky. Depending on your role, you may never get to leave the ship at all. Bummer.
1. THEY TALK ABOUT THE CONTENTS OF YOUR BIN
It’s hard to phase the cleaning crew of any hospitality institution, but don’t think that doesn’t mean they don’t talk about the contents you leave behind. ‘The things I’ve found in guest rooms have turned my stomach, and I like to think I’m pretty strong,’ writes one user. ‘We find used condoms shoved behind headboards and in the weirdest places. I once found a twelve-inch strap on and a pink riding crop underneath the pillow in the bedroom of a really sweet looking elderly couple. The worst thing was, the couple returned the following year. I couldn’t ever look at them the same way.’ When you’re vacating your accommodation, be sure to give your room a through once over, or go down in ship history.
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