It's not smooth sailing for everyone aboard a cruise ship.
While you're relaxing on the pool deck and sipping on your pina colada, the crew members around you are scrambling to get their job done. Months at sea may seem ideal, but life aboard a ship is actually much rougher than you thought.
Cruise crew members reveal secrets
Cruise crew members reveal secrets
1. Relationships between passengers and crew members are forbidden.
Wrote Chockythechipmunk, "Crew sleeping with passengers is strictly (like, kick you off the next day strictly) forbidden."
Echoed another crew member Heapsgoods, "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 and rape accusations are all too real. 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. It's happens before that a guest claimed she was groped and you couldn't see the crew members hand in the photo (it was on guests back). Luckily there was a security camera that capture them from behind."
2. They're strict about visitors, too.
"I'm sure lawsuits have happened in the past. Sexual harassment and such. All I know is if you're even in the vicinity of a passenger cabin you have to have a sheet of paper on your person that says you're allowed to be there. When my mom came on board the ship and I wanted to visit her, I had a sheet signed by my boss and my boss's boss," ChockytheChipmunk explained on the Reddit thread.
3. Even regular interaction between the crew members and guests is discouraged.
Wrote Reddit user GDH27: "The reason I quit was the relationship between the crew and the guests. We were expected to be ghosts, and couldn't sit anywhere guests were, and would have to move if they wanted to come where we were sitting. I'd see them for their dives and not be acknowledged for the rest of the time except if they wanted something. It's degrading to be honest, and a pain in the arse. Some days I'd be up at work for 3.45, and have to wait until 11 at night for the guests to leave the decks before I could fill the tanks."
"My position shared a bedroom with bunk beds and really small bathrooms. You could shit, shave your legs, and brush your teeth all at the same time. Depending upon your position on board determined if you had guest area privileges. I was allowed in guest areas, but after spending all day with the guests that's the last thing I wanted to do. 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."
Wrote JMPBass, "On both ships, I shared a room with a member of my band. My first ship, I roomed with the keyboardist, who was much older than me. We got along, but it was apples and oranges. I had the top bunk, which ended up being the best because the bottom bunk was coffin-like. He tried to trade me a couple of months in, I said no. On my last ship, I roomed with the guitarist. He and I were a year apart, it was his first time, and he was totally cool with having top bunk. The beds in our room were in an L-shape, so it was great for space. I also had a double bed in that room, which was awesome. Everyone enjoyed coming to our room because we'd just be hanging out in there most days, doing our thing and not really caring about the gossip."
5. Some even described the living conditions as hell.
Wrote Reddit user GDH27, "Living conditions were hell. My "cabin" was a box with a mattress smaller than a standard single, the ceiling was so low I couldn't sit up on the mattress, no fan, no air-conditioning, and just 20 cm on one side for me to store my stuff on."
Complained MirtaGev, "The rooms are tiny, and your shower curtain will always be trying to get to know you Biblically."
Explained another user Puss_ParkersWidow: "We got crammed in a tiny cabin with 3 other employees but you have varying hours, so there's people coming and going when you're somewhat asleep- but you worked hard, so you're tired and you might actually sleep. The engine noise tends to be helpful in that regard."
"Crew members are super hard working and work weeks are 70 hours a week without a single day off for 6-8 months at a time. Most crew members rely on tips for their wages. My position was salaried for $58/a day, I was an officer on board working in the guest services office. Came out to roughly $1400 a month after taxes. No one else is taxed besides Americans on board."
"Paying zero rent or bills is a great deal and I've been incredibly lucky that that is an option, but... the pay is almost always less then what you make on land, and if you lose work on land it can be a wash, some lines also try and suck the crew dry, charging extra for necessities like toilet paper, drinking water or over-charging for internet."
"Most of my friends work for cruises, since we work in technical theatre production, it's an easy hire. Cruises are either a great way to save money or an awful one. Your lodging and food is paid for, and you're getting paid, so that's great. But cruises are BORING. Sure, cheap booze and free travel is great for the first little while. But after a while, it becomes like Squidward in that episode where he finds his perfect down. So routine. So boring. Wifi is usually anywhere from $5/day to $10/hour and there is no cell service. So, when you're not working, you're trying your best to find anything to do. So a lot of the time you'll start spending money on anything new, and then you're not saving or enjoying yourself, so there's little point."
"However, many people still enjoy the life of the routine and the travel, and figure ways around spending money. Just know, it's harder than you expect to be one of those people. But if you can be, it's a great opportunity."
Echoed another employee MirtaGev, "US citizens aren't payed that well, but some countries, where the conversion rate is really good, make some serious bank. South Africa, especially."
7. Despite the long hours, some crew members are in it for the ability to travel.
Explained Too-Tsunami, "It was awesome, though. You travel for free, drink for cheap, and save a lot of money since you aren't really paying for anything unless you want to. I'd suggest it to anyone who has no strings attached, & is willing to work hard for 6-8 months at a time."
Asserted Seastar321, "In 5 years on cruise ships I literally travelled the world. I went to Europe Canada north, south and Central America including Alaska and Hawaii Asia inc China Japan and India Africa. 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, snorkelling 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 so so much more. None of the bullshit you have to put up with on board matters compared to that."
8. Hygiene is a big priority, understandably.
A now-deleted post wrote, "One thing she did tell me is the cruise lines (the well known ones anyway) are very anal about cleanliness. If there's even the hint of a norovirus outbreak, it's all hands on deck and the entire ship is scrubbed down with disinfectant. But while the ship is clean, certain lines will sometimes cut corners when it comes to maintenance of the mechanical systems. Think the infamous "Poop Cruise" from a few years back."
9. There may be a huge discrepancy in pay.
Explained BilliousN, "Totally depends on which country you come from. My wife and I met working on ships. She's Indonesian, worked 10 month contracts without a day off, 12-14 hours a day... and made about $600 bucks a month. Lived in a shared room, ate food that was literally made from the scraps of what passengers didn't eat, never had time to get off ship in port."
"I'm American, worked 4 month contracts, had a solo room, usually worked about 6-10 hours a day, ate with the passengers in the lido, and made around $3000 a month."
"Different roles, but the jobs all have nationalities. On our ships, bartenders were all Filipino EXCEPT the crew and officers bar bartenders were Indonesian."
Echoed Ghotiaroma, "Yup, every ship I have ever been on your job is decided by your nationality. This is one of the reasons no ship I know of registers in the US. They need to be free of any regulations of a civilized world."
10. Yes, there is even an onboard ranking.
Explained Throwawaytheflag, "When it comes to getting assigned to ships, they'll take seniority and relationships into consideration. Once my cousin and another girl with the same job were applying to work on a certain ship that both their bfs had already been assigned to (with this job, it's one person per ship). My cousin got the assignment because she had seniority. But the contracts are about 6-8 months, so it's not the end of the world in most cases."
Wrote SoundTech_157, "It really varies by what position you have on the ships. I worked for 2 cruise lines and worked on 7 ships. There are 3 classes of people on the ship the top rank which is officers. They have their own dining hall and better food gets served there then the other 2 which is staff mess and crew mess. Staff are the entertainment team, child care team, photography and shore excursion any type of non officer management and guest service team. Crew are the shitty jobs like room stewards, deck hands, bartenders, cooks etc."
Asserted JMPBass, "SHIPS ARE A VERY CLASSIST SYSTEM!!! I can't stress that enough. If you're in to social justice, it's a case study worth exploring. Sometimes, the work is exploitative, other times it's demeaning, but these crew have to support their families somehow, and often it's better than what's at home. I've tried to curb my entitlement each time I've been on board."
11. Crew members are given a physical before they're hired. They also have random drug tests.
Wrote SoundTech_157, "They do have random tests for drugs every month but I have never had to do one. You are only supposed to have .08 blood alcohol level while not working. But as long as you are not an asshole drunk, you can drink until you don't remember and security won't bother you."
Explained Daftsnuts, "You have to take a somewhat intense physical before getting on board. This includes a drug test. Random drug tests also happen while on board. Moral of the story? If you want a cruise ship job, stop smoking weed 3 weeks ago."
12. Life aboard becomes mundane.
"We had a saying "Every night is a Friday night and every morning is a Monday morning. Every day is ground hogs day," wrote Rmmyyz.
"The best way to describe no days off is, waking up to your alarm and every single day feels like a Monday morning (for those that actually have normal work weeks)," explained Reddit user Teddersman.
"The thing I remember most from what [my cousin] told me is that there are basically 3-4 channels on the TVs, and they loop the same movies over and over. So you'll end up watching a movie in chunks depending on when you turn your TV on, until they switch out the movies," wrote user Throwawaytheflag.
13. Laundry is hard to come by.
"Laundry is best done on port days, or at odd hours. Musicians work nights, so I could get away with doing my washing at 3AM, no problem," asserted JMPBass.
Wrote MirtaGev, "You will never find a free washer unless you camp out in the laundry room for a few hours. There are usually about 5 to 15 washers/dryers, and anywhere from 1000 to 2500 crew members."
14. Some didn't see mental health as a top priority
Explained JMPBass, " I wanted to get in to mental health on ships. Basically, there is none and 0 support system, and it's unfortunate. People get all riled up, there's drama, closed quarters, etc, and things happen. If there was someone on board that was trustworthy and reliable to help educate, support and guide some of the crew, then ship life wouldn't be as destructive as it can be. I don't want to get in to it, but it's a conversation I've had on almost every ship I've been on."
15. Food and social life are better depending on what line you're on.
Wrote SoundTech_157, "The food is not the same as what the guests eat in both messes. In staff mess we have waiters and if you don't see what you like you can order an egg on a bun or hamburger or something like that. In the crew mess the food is more Asian palate based. Some days there will be fish head soup some days you will have normal cream of mushroom soup. There will always be some sort of chicken that's been sitting out too long and not hot. Some sort of cold cooked veggies, Salad, pasta, dessert and fruit. This does not sound bad and for the first month on board it is not. But it end up being the same food constantly. Ex mondays are fish stick days and Wednesdays are undercooked burger days."
Wrote SirMaximusPowers, "The meals for the crews was pretty bomb, and you could also eat/drink anywhere you wanted on the ship as long as you were off your shift and not in your work clothes. It seemed as if the general consensus was it being a great experience for a short period of time, but it is not something you'd most likely enjoy for more than a few seasons unless that type of lifestyle appeals to you."
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One Reddit user was interested in learning about life in the lower cabins. Thousands responded to Destiny8288's inquiry, revealing some surprising secrets about the social life, meals and daily jobs of these hardworking crew members. From secret relationships to pay discrepancies and cringe-worthy tidbits of their cabins, scroll through above to see what we learned.
Related: Buffet foods to avoid on the ocean
Foods you should never order on a cruise
Foods you should never order on a cruise
Unpasteurized foods, like milk and cheeses, can contain harmful bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and listeria. The incorrect storage of unpasteurized foods makes it even more likely for bacteria to grow.
Stick to bottled water, especially when you get to the ports. Avoid tap water, because of pathogens, when you can.
If hot foods aren't cooked and maintained at 140 degrees, harmful bacteria might not be eliminated.
Condiments and heavy sauces are usually left sitting out for long periods of time, making it easier for bacteria to grow.
Even if it's cooked, eating seafood on cruises is risky because of its quick expiration dates and storage requirements. You might be better off ordering seafood at the local ports because of its freshness -- but use your judgement.
Sushi is usually not stored safely. Raw foods should be stored at at least 40 degrees, but if it's been sitting out all day, you might want to avoid it.