Working on a cruise ship is a fun and unique way to work and travel the world for free. You get to live onboard, have a fun job and travel the world without spending a dime and you’ll be making money too – what’s not to love?
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
But how do you even get the job? Where would you sleep? What are the hours like?
I had never considered doing a job like this before I started looking for ways to work and travel for free and working on a cruise ship seemed like an ideal situation!
I wanted to know what it’s really like working on a cruise ship so I’ve interviewed Amanda, from amandaclaise.com, to get the inside scoop (lol) and share her experience working on a cruise ship with us.
She worked on a cruise ship for 9 months as a performer (singer) and has a wealth of knowledge about working on a cruise ship!
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How did you get a job on a cruise ship?
I’m an entertainer and there are many ways to apply online for an entertainment position on a ship.
On their websites, performers can also find casting calls where the company will hold a large audition in a city allowing anyone who registers to try out.
I found an opening through a casting website and submitted my material. This consisted of my headshot, resume, and video reel.
A few days later, I had received a message asking me to film more songs for them. I submitted those and a few days later, and the rest is history!
For non-performers, there are also websites online that allow you to submit your resume to work in locations such as the kid’s area or foods.
It’s about the same process as a normal land job application, but if you get hired you have an extensive medical check.
I was friends with some of the art gallery workers on my ship and they were hired by a company named Park West. Some were hired through friend referrals, but many apply online through the Park West website.
What was your job really like?
It was seriously a dream! We had 3 production shows and a couple of mini- shows that we would perform in the foyer of the ship.
On a typical show day, we would do a run-through around 2pm and be done about 3:30 or 4pm. The run-through was to refresh the shows in our minds and to check the lights and sound were functioning appropriately.
We would meet back in the theater around 7pm and have 2 shows that evening at 8pm and 10pm.
If it was not a show day, we would wake up whenever we wanted and get off of the ship to explore!
Occasionally, we would have backstage tours on sea days. These tours were done by performers and typically lasted 30 minutes. We had a rotation, so each performer knew what day they were in charge of a tour. I think I gave 5 tours my entire contract.
Where have you traveled while working on the cruise ship?
The ship I was on started with a tour of the Caribbean. Our home port was in Fort Lauderdale; this is where we unloaded guests from the previous cruise and picked up the new guests for the next one.
From February to April, I visited Barbados, Belize, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Dominica, Grand Cayman, St. Kitts, St. Martin and St. Thomas.
I was able to get off the ship in each of these ports and go on excursions, go to the beach, or grab a bite to eat while soaking up the Wi-Fi.
At the end of April, my ship crossed the Atlantic in a Transatlantic Cruise; this cruise involves several sea days and very few ports.
Once I was in Europe, my ship stayed there until mid-October. While I was there, I was able to see most of the Mediterranean countries and several other European countries.
This list includes the Canary Islands, Croatia, Montenegro, Malta, Gibraltar, Portugal, the Azores, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, and Turkey. To say this job, was the opportunity of a lifetime is an understatement!
What is the pay like?
To be honest, pay really depends on what company you work for and what your exact position is.
Singers typically get paid more than dancers and specialty acts get paid more than singers.
I would say anywhere from $2,000 to $3,500 a month is a potential offer, but would strongly suggest asking around to see what the average is for that specific company.
For other positions on board ships, the job listing will usually say an approximate pay range for the position.
What was your room like?
The size and location of an employee’s cabin are based on the position they hold on the ship.
In a sense, it’s basically a class system. The more specified or “glorious” your position is, the better living situation you have on the ship.
A cruise director will have a large cabin near the front of the ship on one of the upper floors. Their cabin is often like a decent-sized hotel room with a bed, couch, and bathroom.
On the flip side, employees who work in “hidden” areas of the ship such as maintenance, laundry, and housekeeping, will live on the lower floors of the ship. These rooms are often double occupation with bunk beds and either a single bathroom or shared bathroom with another room.
All other staff falls somewhere in between. The “in-between” occupations would be jobs like entertainment, hospitality, art gallery, spa, casino, and the youth staff.
As a production singer, I was on floor 3 of the ship and had my own room and bathroom. The 3rd floor is often the floor right above sea level.
My room was slightly larger than a typical American bathroom and the bathroom was about the size of a coat closet. Needless to say, it was tight! But I actually didn’t mind the size and understood I had a much better setup than others.
How long did you work on the ship and why did you stop?
I was in rehearsals in Florida for 1 month and on the ship for 9 months. After such a long contract, I really wanted to have time with my family, so I didn’t audition again for a few months.
Unfortunately, the contracts I’ve been offered since then have conflicted with both of my best friend’s weddings and there isn’t anything that would keep me from being there for them.
I loved my time on the ship and wanted to do another contract, but I realized that I couldn’t give up the important moments in my friends’ lives and my siblings’ lives, as they were more important to me.
Most performance contracts are not as long as mine. They are typically 6 or 7 months long. Other positions on the ship can be anywhere from 3-9 months, depending on if you extend.
What were the best parts of working on a cruise ship?
Definitely traveling and experiencing so much culture! I loved waking up in a new country every day!
I was able to see 25 countries before I turned 25 years old. That was something I didn’t even know was on my bucket list. Now, I want to stay above my age in countries for as long as I can! As of today, I am 27 years old and have been to 29 countries.
This isn’t the typical performer contract, but I definitely worked fewer days than I explored!
We only performed each show one night of the cruise. So if it was a 10-day cruise, I worked 3-5 days out of the 10. If it was a 16-day cruise, I worked 3-5 days out of the 16!! We were living the life!
What were the worst parts?
Being away from my family for so long was really difficult. You have a contract and you can’t break it.
So if someone in your family becomes really ill, you can’t leave and expect to come back to your job. If someone passes away, that’s a different story, but I want to be there before they pass away…not after.
We had a lot of sickness on my ship during my contract and were required to help clean the entire ship on several turnover days.
A turnover day is when guests from the first cruise leave the ship, and guests for the second cruise board. Guests would get off of the ship, we would sanitize everything, and then new guests would come on.
We were sanitizing the minibars, flipping mattresses, sterilizing elevator buttons. You name it. We cleaned it!
The first time it was funny, but after we did it so many times we couldn’t wait to be done with our contract. I’ve never heard of this happening to any of my friends on other ships though, so this was definitely an uncommon situation.
Would you recommend cruise life?
ABSOLUTELY!!! I think it’s an excellent way to travel the world, while still earning an income. You don’t pay for rent, gas, or food on the ship.
This allows you to save SO much money and see SO many places you may have never experienced otherwise!
The biggest expense of any trip is the flights, while you can use these tips to get cheap flights to anywhere, it’s still an expense.
Working on a ship allows you to have free transportation to destinations and each day you’ll wake up in a new country – completely free of charge!
The guests are constantly changing, so you’re able to meet a lot of different people. I have even made a few new Facebook friends who were guests on my ship and we still keep in touch!
It’s a really cool experience to make friendships like that.
If someone isn’t a performer and is wanting to work on a ship specifically for traveling, I would tell them to apply for one of the “in-between” jobs that I mentioned earlier like something in entertainment, hospitality, the art gallery, spa, casino, or working with children.
I think these jobs have the best living conditions, the most privileges on the ship, and have the most opportunity to leave the ship on port days.
Amanda Claise lives in Western Kentucky with her husband/high school sweetheart, Nick. Amanda is passionate about singing, traveling, and ice cream. She blogs at amandaclaise.com about her past and current travels around the world and hopes to encourage others to lead a more adventurous life.
I really wish I knew about working on a cruise ship earlier, it really sounds amazing!
Free transportation, days off to explore all while earning an income, it really sounds like the dream!
There are so many ways to work and travel for free that I simply never knew about, or simply never even considered!
Would you ever work on a cruise ship? Is there anything else you want to know about it?
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