It’s common knowledge that behind the glamour and excitement of every cruise is a hardworking crew making sure that every voyage is smooth sailing.
Whilst you may only come to know a few by name, the megaships can have over a thousand crew and staff members onboard, but what goes on behind the closed doors of the crew quarters?
We discovered some juicy crew secrets that the cruise lines won’t tell you; here’s what only the inside eyes and ears could know about…
1-Staff vs. Crew
Yep there’s a difference, and get it wrong at your peril! Crew members like waiters, barmen and cleaners are different to staff members like entertainers, managers, shop workers and officers.
What sort of job you have will affect what kind of life you’ll have on-board. Everyone is treated fairly obviously but where you are on-board, and where you’re allowed to go, will depend on what rung of the ladder you are on…
One example of the on-ship hierarchy at work is that crew members will typically live on the ‘B-deck’, which can be found just below the water line.
They’ll share dorm-style rooms and at least nowadays they will usually have their own bathroom, rather than having to share one with all sorts of neighbours like they have had to in the past!
Staff members and officers will live on ‘A-deck’, which is just above the water line. Most staff will have their own room which means a lot more privacy!
Crew members don’t typically expect a fluffy bathrobe and slippers.
It is more expected that the cabins have between one and four bunk beds, a desk and chair, a small space for clothes and maybe a regular TV and telephone.
Space is always tight, so messy crew members are going to be unpopular! Although it seems not all cabins are created as equal…
Lisa commented on our Facebook page to say: “Celebrity was the best cabins I had. Flat screen TV at the foot of your bunk with movies and games and modern style. Royal Caribbean cabins were okay too only 2 maximum to a cabin!”
4-Private Pools and Secret Sunbathing Areas
It’s on A deck where you’ll usually find all of the crew and staff facilities, like the crew store and the ever popular crew bar (strictly no passengers allowed.)
Often, there will be outdoor space as well and on some liners nowadays, employees’ own swimming pool and sunbathing areas.
This is perfect for unwinding between shifts and essential when you consider that crew members are usually forbidden from the public areas.
Staff and officers have more freedom around the ship, being able to mingle in public areas, watch a show (when they’re not working) and often even dine at the buffet!
5-No Days Off
You think you have it bad when you have to work five or six days a week? On most cruises, there are no days off for crew members!
Not even Sunday is a day of rest and that’s on a contract that will typically be nine months long. It’s not all work and no play however, as staff and crew tend to work every day on a rotational basis.
So, instead of a full day off, workers get time to themselves every day when they’re not on shift. That’s where the private pool and crew bar comes in…
Many Brits complain at the end of a 40-hour week, but imagine how a crewmember must feel with so many more hours on top of this every single week!
During their contract onboard a cruise ship, they’ll work long hour shifts with a few hours in between in which to sleep, eat, socialise, chill out and if they’re lucky, step off the ship in the port to explore the ship’s destinations.
The hours might be long but crew members and staff do get good benefits to compensate.
We’ve heard Carnival treats its staff and crew particularly well, providing them with accommodation facilities, food, drink, healthcare and the best bit, crew parties!
Most cruise liners have a social/entertainment programme for employees to avoid the cabin fever we all go on cruises to avoid!
8-Cash to Splash
Because accommodation and food comes as part of the remuneration package for cruise employees, money is only needed onboard for things like treats, internet access, laundry, phone cards and anything bought whilst off the ship.
This means that expenses are minimal so, whilst they don’t make a fortune, the wages and tips that staff and crew make can be saved (or sent back home if they have family to care for).
For those who have the opportunity to earn them, tips and gratuities are what will make up the bulk of the wage on most cruises!
The salary that you get paid if you’re in a tipping position isn’t as impressive as the tips themselves can be.
So, if you’re after a job on a cruise line and you’re a bubbly, vibrant personality who has top-notch people skills, you’ll be rolling in it.
10-Amazing Tips, For All
On most cruise liners, there’s a mandatory gratuity too which is divided up amongst all the employees! This means that even the crew members that don’t receive too many tips in the course of their work won’t go without.
11-The Lucky Ones Can See the World
Seeing the various destinations that the ship docks in will depend on your job role and your hours on that particular day, but it does happen!
If you’re in charge of breakfast, lunch or dinner, chances of you being able to hop off the ship to explore the ports for a full day are slim, but you may be able to grab a couple of hours sightseeing between shifts.
AineMoira, one of our loyal Facebook followers, agrees: “At the end of the day we got to travel the world and see amazing places and not to mention meet amazing people….the cabins were the least of my worries x”
Jonathan added:“Some of the best years of my life. Changed my whole outlook on life and made me the person I am today”…sounds right up our street!
12-They Eat the Leftovers
Not your food exactly but if something doesn’t leave the galley, for whatever reason, the crewmembers may be allowed to eat it at the end of the shift or whilst on a break and a Marco Pierre White masterpiece will never not go down a treat!
However, if a crewmember was to order something for themselves or they were to smuggle a profiterole from the dessert trolley they’d need to make sure they’re weren’t caught because some cruise lines look upon this is theft and a dismissible offence!
13-Naps are Essential
Ever wonder how the staff members that you see during the morning and the evening are never like walking zombies? Naps are the secret!
As soon as their first shift ends, most workers will nip off for a quick power nap before their second shift starts.
It’s an intrinsic part of cruise ship survival and stops them from being dead on their feet come dinner time.
14-The Crew Dictionary
Cruise ship employees have their very own language that enables them to talk amongst themselves without denting their ever-present professionalism…
As well as their own terms for guests and other workers, there are also plenty of slang terms floating around for various parts of the ship, activities and more.
Living and working in multinational, close quarters is bound to create a whole new life, culture and dictionary!
It is supposedly ‘banana’, for someone that’s a particularly bad tipper so you won’t want to hear that one…
15-Message In A Bottle?
You might wonder how crew members stay in touch with loved ones back home, but cruise ships get a mail service just like every where else.
It’s typically only once a week but it still means that they don’t need to rely on sending messages in a bottle!
There’s also internet access onboard, either for a fee or for the lucky ones, for free, with crew internet cafes on Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
On Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, all crew members are being given a tablet to enable them to stay better connected with home…we know which cruise line we’d like to work for!
16-Romancing The Crew
Consider how many regular land employees meet their partners at work then add to the mix the close quarters and 24/7 nature of working on a cruise ship. It’s pretty obvious that inter-crew romances are going to happen…
Most cruise lines allow these romances but bed hopping will be frowned upon- especially by your cabin mates if you’re in a four bunk room!
17-Romancing The Cruisers
Romance between crew members and passengers however is strictly forbidden, and even the highest officers on the ship are not allowed in passenger cabins unless there is an official reason.
That’s not to say that it never happens though! Love could be blossoming on the ocean waves, especially with solo cruisers…
18-What Happens In The Crew Bar…
…stays in the crew bar.
Crew, and staff work hard but they can play even harder.
The crew parties that take place twice a month onboard Carnival ships are a great chance for all of the workers to let their hair down- and what does go on below deck in the dedicated crew bar tends to stay well below the radar.
As long as they are ship-shape for work the following day, it’s a case of ‘worse things happen at sea’.
So what do you think of these 18 crew secrets? Which ones shocked you the most? Did you know any already? What else would you like to know? Leave us your comments!
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