1. What kinds of documents are required in order to work for a cruise line?
You need a passport which is valid for at least 12 months. For vessels going to U.S. ports you will need to obtain a C1/D Visa at the US Embassy in your country of residence (we will advise you accordingly once you have been selected for a job). Besides that you always need to provide a Criminal Background Check and some cruise lines require an STCW95 certificate.
2. What is an STCW 95 certificate?
STCW stands for “Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers”. To obtain an STCW95 certificate you have to attend courses in Basic Safety Training, Crowd and Crisis Management, Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting and a Passenger Safety.
The courses can be done in the S.T.A.R. Service Office in Rostock, Germany.
3. What does USPH mean?
This stands for United States Public Health and all passenger ships arriving at U.S. ports are subject to unannounced inspections under the voluntary cooperative inspection program.
4. What are the health requirements onboard a cruise line?
Once you have been offered a position onboard a cruise ship you must pass a medical examination (some cruise lines have specially assigned physicians who carry out these examinations). There is a great variety of tests which differ from cruise line to cruise line. In most cases you will be responsible for the costs of the examination, but some cruise lines reimburse the costs after joining the vessel. Depending on the cruise line and the itinerary you may have to get vaccinated.
5. What about healthcare and insurance while onboard a ship?
There is a P&I (protection and indemnity) health coverage onboard the ship. However, it is recommended to arrange a travel medical insurance before joining because not everything is included, e.g. dentist, eye specialist or other specialized doctors are not included as well as treatment for pre-existing conditions.
6. Are Crewmembers responsible for travel arrangements to and from the ship?
This varies from cruise line to cruise line and also depends on the position. Most of the time cruise lines arrange and pay for transportation after completing the first contract.
7. Is food and accommodation free for crewmembers?
Yes, both are provided free of charge for crewmembers which allows you to save a lot of money.
8. What are the living arrangements onboard?
Living arrangements vary from cruise line to cruise line, but mostly depend on your position. In general two employees share a cabin. In middle, upper and top management positions you usually have a single cabin.
9. What about the uniform requirements? Are uniforms provided onboard?
Yes, there are uniform requirements and most of the time they are provided by the cruise lines. Normally you will get the uniform onboard – either for free or to buy.
Our advice is to also bring (depending on your position) 1 or 2 sets of private working clothes.
In some countries it can be difficult to buy the right shoes so it will be better to bring comfortable shoes with you.
10. What kind of clothes do I need onboard?
This also depends on your position.
If you work in the hotel department you usually have to wear your uniform in public areas. Your private clothes can be worn only if you go ashore or in the Crew area.
If you work in the entertainment department you will sometimes need your own clothes in the evening for the public area, mainly semi formal and formal meaning evening gowns/ tuxedo/black dress etc.
11. What is the normal length of contract?
Most contracts are for about six months, depending on the cruise line and/or position.
12. How can I clean my clothes?
The laundry will clean your uniform free of charge. For private clothes the service will be charged to you (crew discount) or you can wash them yourself. Most ships have special facilities with washing machine, dryer and iron. It is absolutely forbidden to use your own iron in your cabin.
13. Do I have to bring my own towels and linen?
No – everything will be provided onboard.
14. Is it possible to purchase some items onboard?
Yes – on bigger ships crewmembers may buy items like beverages, cigarettes, snacks, cosmetics etc. at special crew prices.
15. What crew facilities or recreational areas are onboard?
Usually the ships have a crew gym or some even a jogging track, a crew bar and some also a crew deck where you can enjoy your free time. The bigger the ships the more varied the crew facilities will probably be.
16. Whom will I be working with?
This depends on the cruise line’s identity, so for example this may be people from Europe in the catering department, Asians in the utility positions and Americans in the entertainment department etc. Usually you will work together with more the 50 different nationalities.
17. How many hours will I have to work on a normal working day?
In General you will work between 10 and 13 hours a day depending on the position and the shift
18. How many days will I work per week?
You will be working seven days a week for the entire period of your contract.
19. Will I stay on one vessel all the time or will I be transferred?
Most of the time you will stay on one vessel for the complete contract, but the cruise line may also transfer you to another vessel if there is any need to do so.
20. Can I go ashore in the ports the ship is visiting?
When you are “off duty“, which means in your free time, you can go ashore to explore the different countries. Leisure time depends on your position and your working schedule.
21. Can I smoke onboard?
Yes, but only in designated areas and not in your cabin.
22. Are there any vegetarian menus onboard?
Yes, in general there will be no problem in getting vegetarian dishes.
23. How can I stay in contact with my family and friends?
You may ask the crew purser for the ship’s phone and fax number and also for the mailing address. You can also check and write emails because most ships have the possibility to access the internet (on some you may only do this at certain times). Nearly every port provides internet facilities close to the pier. Of course you can use your cell phone but getting a connection depends on the country you are in.
24. Can family and friends visit me onboard?
Sometimes cruise line offer special rates and conditions for your family and friends to travel with them. You should check this individually.
25. Can I send money home and how payment work in general?
Usually you get paid cash while you are onboard. You can then transfer your money home either – if possible – directly from the ship or from a bank in port. While you are onboard you can leave your money in a safety deposit box.
26. Can I take electrical items?
There is no problem for laptops, CD -or tape players. It might be difficult to get a radio reception though.
27. Should I pack a suitcase or travel bag? How much luggage can I carry with me?
Most of the cabins are very small and a travel bag is easier to stow away than big luggage, e.g. a suitcase. Usually you travel on so called “Seaman’s tickets” (please check this beforehand) which allow you to take about 40 kg with. Of course you should not attempt to pack this much since the space in the cabin is very limited.