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Cruise Ship Crew

What does a Cruise Ship Crew do?

As part of a cruise ship crew, your job is to look after passengers either as a masseuse, an activity instructor or one of many other positions. Getting a job on a cruise liner can be a challenge, however there are methods and institutions that can make scoring a job that much easier.

Working on a cruise ship means you will only have one true job: looking after the passengers. Typically, crew members work 8-10 hour days, seven days a week. There will be shifts off but not full days off the entire assignment rotation. When the ship is in port, many crew members take the opportunity to go ashore to tour, shop, dine, call home and so on. Your boss will be the head or supervisor of the department. The captain of the ship is the commander of all and the final decision-maker.

Onboard most cruise liners you will get paid monthly via Ocean Pay card. This is a bank card that you can use to make purchases as well as do internet banking. 


What qualifications do I need?

As there are many different industries represented on a cruise ship, ranging from health and beauty to catering and entertainment, there is no one specific qualification that will get you on board. A tried-and-tested route is to apply for a job through a recruitment agency that specialises in cruise ship work. Training for a qualification in an industry on a cruise ship is another good option. Recruitment agencies from international cruise liners often visit the campuses of, for instance, health and beauty schools in search of candidates. Alternatively, you can apply directly to a cruise line or to a concessioner, i.e. a company contracted to operate a spa, retail shop or entertainment on the ship.

What subjects do I need?

Additional foreign language
Life Sciences
Life Orientation


Where can I study?

International Hotel School
Management of Food and Beverage Operations

International Hotel School
Diploma in Hospitality Management

International Hotel School
Higher Certificate in Hospitality Management

Where can I get more info?

ITF Seafarers - www.itfseafarers.org/
Cruise Jobs South Africa - www.cruisejobssouthafrica.co.za/


Interview with a Cruise Ship Crew




Why did you choose this line of work? 
I studied Art History at uni and this also offered me the opportunity to realise a life-long dream of travelling the world. 

Please explain what you do
Basically, what we do is sell art aboard cruise ships through direct sales and live art auctions.

What training did you undergo?
All candidates go for a short, two-week sales training course in Miami. 

Describe a typical day
On port days we only start work when the ship sails away, which can be anywhere from 4-6pm. This means we have most of the day to explore a foreign port. Back onboard, the work involves promoting the art programme until about 11pm. On days when the ship is at sea for the entire day, we host our art auctions. Set-up starts at about 6am and the auction is typically held at noon. After a lunch break, we do the admin for the art sold at the auction and this also goes on until about 11pm.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love literally waking up in a different country every day, all while introducing people to something I am passionate about.

What don’t you like?
When you are on duty but there isn’t much work to do. It feels like someone is stealing your time – time that you could use to pursue a hobby or further your skills and knowledge in areas that might further your professional career.

What hurdles have you had to overcome?
I had to force myself out of my shell. I used to be a very shy person, but the environment on cruise ships and sales requires you to engage with people on a regular basis. Everything else I had to simply take in my stride.

What’s been the highlight of your career?
On a personal level, a highlight has certainly been travelling to 47 countries and the wonderful friendships I made along the way. Professionally, it’s the valuable skills I gained that I will be able to draw on throughout my career.

Experience vs formal training?
Having formal training is certainly more appealing, but not essential. Those who work on cruise ships and the art programme come from many types of backgrounds.

Is there a type of personality best suited to working on a cruise ship?
If you are resilient, then you will do well on ships.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Leave all your expectations of what employment is like on land at home. Living and working on cruise ships is very different from working a 9 to 5 on land.

Your job in three words
Travel. Friendship. Growth.

Interview date: May 2022