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[Table] IAmA: I used to work on cruise ships, AMA!

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Date: 2012-04-04
Link to submission (Has self-text)
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Questions Answers
Dose the crew have wild sex orgies below deck? None that I knew, although I heard some funny stories. One time we got to NYC, and two (crew) guys were led off the ship in handcuffs. I guess they had made some porno in their cabin with a 17 year old girl who's parents were less than impressed. Statutory rape all around for them...not a good scene.
But, as someone with my own cabin, who has no problem talking to girls...I did okay. Better than okay...not gonna lie. It was pretty awesome. Hard to have real relationships though...
Level any of them up to anal? Relevant username upvote...no comment.
Although, I do remember being in my cabin once with my roommate and we heard people banging away in the next room (walls are pretty thin, you hear everything), and we were like "wow...she's really screaming"
And then we remembered that the two guys in that room were gay. That was kind of an OMG moment.
Big Gay Frank...I could write a hell of a book about that guy, but I'd probably get sued.
Epic. Did you give him a high five? No, we fucking hated that guy. We messed with his shit so much. It was actually pretty cruel. It wasn't because he way gay, just to be straight (see what I did there?), because there are more than enough gay guys on ships...but it was because he was an ASSHOLE.
I remember one April Fools, we turned his toilet off from outside his cabin (from a lockbox in the hall) all day, and eventually he came out and complained about it...so we told him to go down and file a report. While he was doing that, we turned it back on so it worked when the guys came to fix it. They chewed him out, and left, and he went inside. We turned it off again. This happened more than twice.
We also once taped him to a pole in the theatre with carpet tape during drydock. We had these big rolls of plastic that we'd cover the carpets with, and we just held him against a pole, taped him up, and left him there. We got in shit for that. We also got in shit for taping his door shut from the outside so he was trapped in his cabin.
But the best Big Gay Frank story was one that took weeks to plan. We thought it up one night drunk in the crew bar. The second day every cruise we hold a "Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail" party for everyone, and I recorded what the bridge camera sees during that time that day. The next week, the night before we did it again, I put in the tape from the week before (during the afternoon, 12 hours off). It was like 5am, but we had footage from 5pm the week before. We called him, and convinced him he had slept all day, and was missing Captain's Cocktail. He told us we were full of shit, so we said "check the damn bridge channel if you don't believe us". He did. He freaked out, jumped into his suit and ran out the door. We were all waiting outside...drunk as fuck. That was awesome.
We also turned off his alarm clock (cut power to his room) a lot. He got in shit...but he was just a prick to everyone, so we justified it that way.
I upvoted this halfway through, knowing it was just going to continue to be awesome. We were so mean to that guy.
What was the craziest thing you did on the ship and got away with? Fell in love with a guest. We met on a cruise. She had just gotten out of college, and was celebrating, and we hit it off immediately. We were so inseperable that I actually brought back with me on a later cruise because she fell in love with me...and then she cried the whole day when that was over (the last day we ever saw each other).
We both knew it was against the rules, but we didn't even try to hide it. I remember sitting in the theatre one night the first week with her watching a show, and we were really cozy. One of my friends came by and was like "you're not even trying to hide it...are you trying to get fired?".
If it happened, I wouldn't have been sad about it. It was amazing. She was amazing.
And it never happened (me getting fired). They were so cool about it that they actually allowed me to bring her back on as a guest a month later. We still talk. She's married, and super happy...and I'm super happy for her, but I think it might have been the most romantic two weeks in both of our lives. Just wasn't meant to be...too much distance.
That was the craziest two weeks of my cruising life for sure. Bermuda cruises are probably the best party cruises for the crews, because you actually get overnights in ports.
Wow. Cool story. Thanks for sharing. Yeah...no worries. That was a great two weeks. Sometimes that's all you get. I'm not sad because it's over...just glad that it happened. I have photos (even the cheesy onboard ones of us in our suits/dresses).
Would have been a cooler story if it ended like Titanic. With credits?
Yay you did one! One question, how much of the boat is never seen by patrons? I assume it takes an army to run ships of thy size. Lots of crew spaces onboard, and most crew only see upstairs when they're working, so we need lots of space downstairs for everyone. Usually the ships have anywhere from 700-1500 crew on them...depending on size.
Unrelated question, what is the length and diameter of your penis? Speaking of unrelated size...um...hmm. RAMPART!
What do all these people do on their downtime (if there even is any) Do you get to hang out on the boat? I imagine you're talking about crew. The crew do a lot of working out, watching movies, drinking, hanging out in the crew badayroom, etc.
I was lucky, I had a good position, so I was allowed in guest areas when I wasn't working...so I used to go check out the shows, eat in the dining rooms, go to the lounges, sit up on the deck looking at stars (never seen stars like that...nothing can prepare you for how many stars there are at sea, until you're out there...wow), and lots of stuff. I really enjoyed it, but we all worked really hard. I averaged 90 hours a week.
How many possibilities are there for crew to go above deck, or are you mainly cooped up in hallways / rooms while you're there? Do you get your own cabins? Some crew members get their own cabins, and those are the same ones who are allowed upstairs. Usually crew share, and they're only allowed up when they're working.
That actually sounds really damn cool. But holy shit! 90 hours? Do you get paid by the hour or one fixed rate. Fixed rate. I worked it out one month, and I was working for $8.50/hr. We worked like dogs, but we played like animals.
Dogs are animals. Checkmate. Then we partied like dogs that like to party.
It's only fun if you get free beer and daiquiris And by extension, it's all gun and games until someone gets AIDS. Crew welfare had to throw one party a month, with free alcohol. They were awesome parties. I used to DJ some of them, and wow...sweaty.
Christmas Eve 2009 was pretty sweet. I was working in Brazil doing a fill in (couple of months), and had just been dumped by my girlfriend at home (over the phone after 4 years...sucked). I was dj-ing in the crew bar that night, and it went until 4am, and then it went back to my place until me and a girl from brazil and a girl from england kicked everyone out of my room. karma is beautiful.
And nobody got aids.
How did you become a cruise-ship employee? What is the term of service like for that kind of employment? I answered an ad in the weekly newspaper and had an interview with a hiring agent. It wasn't that hard to get work...I had already had a lot of experience, so it wasn't a stretch.
Usually for people like me the contracts are either 6 months on / 6 weeks off (unpaid), or 4 months on / 2 months off (paid). It all depends on the company. Crew usually work anywhere from 6-9 months, and officers usually work 10 weeks on / 10 weeks off (paid).
What's it take to become an officer? Not a lot...some navigation/safety courses, and then you start out as a second officer.
Ohh so many questions..! It seems you've worked onboard SP and MJ - which ship is your favorite and why? Favorite port / itinerary and why? Did you get to interact with the guests much? How did the entertainment-crew like yourself go along with the rest of the crew, say engine and hotel? Assuming you had your own company email-address as a productions manager? If yes, on avarage how many emails did you receive each day? :) What happens onboard stays onboard? Is partnering with other crew-members common? SP and MJ...do you work for Royal Caribbean?
What are the hours like for most people working on a cruise ship? I can't imagine the standard 9-5 Monday-Friday would fit the average employee. What is the hierarchy like aboard the ship for employees? How much control does the captain really have? I worked 10 hours a day, minimum, everyday for 6 months. Usually worked out to about 90 hrs a week. It's a crushing workload, but after ships...everything else seems easy. My job now feels like a holiday. It's a class system onboard ships. Crew at the bottom, hotel staff next, and then officers at the top. It's totally messed up, because the officers are usually the least trained people onboard, and have no transferrable job skills on land...but somehow they're gods on ships. Many hotel staff have more formal training for their jobs, but no respect from the officers...and I'd rather have a crew member save my life in an emergency than an officer.
officers are usually the least trained people on-board? What about the training they get all those years at school? It's more like months, and then they work their way up onboard. They do basic training and certification, and then start as second officers. Most of what they learn is onboard. I had more formal schooling than all of the Captains I worked with.
Did you ever get to enjoy any of the places the ship went? After the 6 months of work, you had 6 weeks unpaid off, correct? Did you go home? What did you do in those 6 weeks? I was lucky...I was usually first off the ship, and last on the ship. I saw EVERYTHING. I can't believe how lucky I got...I'm glad I took photos. I have 20,000 photos that I'll love looking at on my deathbed ;)
I usually went home for vacations. I tried to do as little as possible. Slept in, was lazy, didn't answer my phone, took a time out. Ship life is hard...I needed the break.
I did go to Montreal once on vacation to hang out with a girl I met...that was cool.
Formal schooling has very little relevance to seamanship. They have almost the same training we do. i find it interesting that in most sea disasters, it's never the officers who help...it's usually the crew/staff. the officers are usually nowhere to be seen.
"but somehow they're gods on ships." Just because you're trained to read a chart, or use a navigation computer, doesn't mean you're a god...by any stretch.
Because they are trained to run the ships. You're not. I could do any job on the bridge, with less than a year's training.
SP and MJ...do you work for Royal Caribbean? Favorite Royal Caribbean ship was the RD. Spent 2 whole years of my life on that ship.
Favorite port was usually Vancouver, because I could go home. But, as far as places that weren't home...wow...that's a tough one. I'll think about it on my way home from work and let you know later.
I was paid to be around guests...I was really lucky. I met some amazing people running around with my camera. I had a great job and lots of days where I was like "I can't believe I'm getting paid for this".
Usually the entertainment dep't got along really well...we were all outgoing, and partied pretty hard, so we knew everyone. People used to hate on the singers/dancers because they hardly worked, but they always forgot how many years it took them to get to that position, and the extra month they spend rehearsing before they even get on the ships.
I had an email...got tons. Not sure if there was an average, but it was a lot. A lot more than I get now.
Since crew can't hook up with guests, yeah, we all hooked up with each other. I dated a lot of other crew members, and even tried to start a life with one once we decided we wanted to go back to life on land. Didn't work out though...hard to maintain a normal life when your first date was the Great Wall Of China. We kind of fizzled...ship relationships are hard to maintain, because they're so good when they start. It's hard to top the Great Wall when you work 9-5 at a normal job.
Thanks so much for your answers! I'm so excited to hear your version, almost all is pretty much identical with the stories I've heard from crew working for other cruise liners, even down to relationship with other crew members :-) The girls in the entertainment dept are hot commodity in the other departments onboard, as I've heard.. :-) I didn't notice any footage from the RD? And yes, I've heard she's a nice ship.. Btw, I work in freight forwarding, I move orders from rccl's suppliers to the ships, so I regularly email with miami and various crew onboard the ships. I know there's a lot of emails in that company.. Always fun to see the chief engineer desperate for a bolt and gasket while hotel need their wine and entertainment need their costumes and lighting, all yesterday.. Last question - did you attend any drydocks? If yes, I assume your task was to document it all? Thanks again! Cruise ships are a big operation, that's for sure. It blew me away once I started to see what really goes into (and off of) those ships in each port. I remember a line of gas trucks in Ushuaia (Argentina) that lasted all day once. I couldn't believe we could hold that much gas. Truck after truck, after truck, after truck. From when we got there, until we left. I made this video with my own gear again, in my cabin while I was onboard. Didn't have space on the video gear upstairs, so after the drydock I put it together in my cabin whenever I had time. Sorry about the voiceover quality, it was a cheap mic, in a loud room (my cabin), on a ship. You can't get away from noise on a ship. Drydocks...intense. Other than a newbuild, it doesn't get any rawer than that on cruise ships. Those were pretty memorable experiences...almost more memorable than any experiences with guests.
What kind of personal time were you given to explore the places that the cruise visited? I had lots of personal time. For me, I worked when the ship was at sea. When the ship was docked, as long as the TV channels were running and the satellite dishes were tracking, I could go off and explore. I did everything I could. I knew it was my once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I went for it. Usually I was the first person off, last person on...and I tried to get as far from the ship as I could. Went to the pyramids, on safari, diving, rented jeeps and cars, stayed in resorts, stayed up all night partying (all over the world).
It was awesome. I'm so glad I did it.
What advice do you have for people who want to leave the little port "bubble" that the ships usually take you to? I did this in Cozumel and found a dive bar with cheap local beer and homemade guacamole. The only problem with that, is if something happens...nobody is going to wait. We used to leave people behind in Cozumel every week, because they wouldn't make it back to the ship in time. If you're on a ship tour, the ship waits...if not, you're on your own.
I'd love to do it again, but I'm a little intimidated because I have no idea what is beyond the port or how safe things are beyond the bubble. Any recommendations in general about doing this, or specific to Belize would be great. Not sure about Belize...never been.
Thanks for the reply, and thanks for doing this AMA. Your responses have been top notch! I've got a stomach flu...haha.
For people who plan on going onto a cruise in the near future, what are a few things you think we should know before booking one? Such as stay away from this or do that etc etc... Go on the tours, meet as many people as you can onboard, try to get cabins away from the public spaces/lifeboats, and realize that the longer the cruise...the older the clientele.
Also...don't forget to tip people...a lot of times, that's most of their wages.
What happens to criminals on the ships? If I murdered a passenger would I be put in the brig? Did they even have a brig? Would I be arrested at the next place the ship docked? We have security onboard. Yes, yes and yes. It's happened...a few times. Not while I was onboard, but I've heard stories.
I heard this story from one ship that a guy killed his wife in his room, threw her off the balcony and didn't throw hard enough...she landed on the boat deck, right outside of the dining room while people were eating dinner. They went up to the room, and the whole place was covered in blood. Craazy.
If the ship is say, in Norway, would they be charged/arrested by Norway's laws? They're usually ushered out of the country and then dealt with at home (or in the US), if it's something that happened on the ship. Local laws don't really have anything to do with crime onboard. But, if it's off the ship, then they deal with local laws.
Do you get to eat the food that cruise ship guests get to eat or do they give you something completely different? Both.
I was able to eat in the guest dining rooms (if I signed up to eat in there and paid tips), and I was able to eat in the speciality restaurants (discount). Most crew can, but most crew don't. There's an unspoken rule on ships that crew don't eat in guest areas, even when they're allowed. It sucks that it's that way...they're usually allowed (if they sign up and pay) but it's frowned on when it happens...so it never happens.
The crew food is actually pretty good. In some cases better. It's realy international, and it's healthier. We don't waste as much, and we don't have the fatty sweet stuff they have upstairs.
You could always tell when we got hard ice cream in the mess that a lot of people had died that cruise, because they used our cold storage for bodies when the morgue was full. Happened a few times...always on Panama Canal cruises. Creepy, but true.
What...the actual fuck... I know, eh?
Not sure if kidding... Not kidding at all. No joke. I know it sounds hard to believe, but yeah...Panama Canal cruises are killers. People go there because it's a "bucket list" thing, and the demographics on that cruise are way older than almost any other cruise. It's a big deal for old people.
People always end up spending too much time outside on canal day, and people always die. We try to go around and keep people hydrated and out of the sun, but if they're on their balcony...not much we can do. We don't know until they're gone.
You could always tell when we got hard ice cream in the mess that a lot of people had died that cruise, because they used our cold storage for bodies when the morgue was full. Happened a few times...always on Panama Canal cruises. Creepy, but true. Yep. And someone always dies canal day. Always. My first week onboard ships, I was sitting in the crew bar with the trumpet player in the orchestra, and he was "i'll bet you $5 someone dies canal day". I was like "fuck, are you kidding? that's sick...i'm not betting you". Sure enough someone died. I think 3 people died that day. People always die on Panama Canal cruises...they actually go on the cruise to die. I can't remember a Costa Rica port day, or a Curacao port day (either side of the canal) that we weren't met at the pier with a hearse.
Wat.
What was the highest mortality rate for any one cruise? Are there seriously fully functioning morgues on these cruises?That can perform autopsy and everything? No, they just store people. they don't get into that. i'd say 5 people on a panama cruise once. that was a bad week. other than that, there was one or two a few times. it was fairly regular...they are big communities. shit happens.
I remember on one Panama cruise, someone died in the gym bench pressing. The captain got called and showed up and said "that's why i don't work out". Haha...awesome. Probably not the smartest thing to say, but he didn't care. I'm just bummed I never got to play "Panama" on the ship's PA when we were going through the canal. I played it on the pool deck once, and that was fun...but I wanted to blast it everywhere.
Moving a ship that big between the oceans requires a human's lifeforce to make the trip successfully or what? We used to joke that we ran the ship of the power of masturbation, and the broken dreams of third world children. people on ships are pretty dark and jaded. ;)
Why Panama? Yellow Fever, malaria? No...it's old people, and exposure/dehydration usually. or just old people and natural causes. it's a bucket list cruise.
One thing that always puzzled me is how cheap these cruises are. So my guess is they make money off of casinos, drinks and food? Yep...you nailed it. Casinos, drinks, food, tours, and shopping programs all equal $$$. People spend as much on the ship as they do on their cruise ticket usually. One ship I worked on did $1mil/week in the Casino.
Thanks for the confirmation :) Which cruise lines do you recommend for first timers if you can pick any one of them and time/location is not a factor and on a typical/average budget? How old are you and what do you like doing? That matters a lot.
Well.. crap.. I don't know what you do for work, so I don't know. It all depends on what you do. There are lots of different jobs on ships. If you're a graphic designer, then I'd say it's not a great job, but if you're a Frank Sinatra impersonator, then it's a great job. Every country has hiring agents, and the big lines have websites that you can apply to, but I think they still use agents for interviews, so it's better just to find out who they are and go straight to them. As far as an interesting thing to do to find out about the world...hell ya. If you're young and you have nothing tying you down...it's awesome. Better than any backpacking I've ever done (and I've done lots). You get paid to freaking travel, and hang out with cool young people who have enough personality to leave home and explore the world. You might meet people in high school, and you might think they're your friends, but the people you meet on ships...they're forever. The best people I've ever met worked on ships.
Oh and, I was thinking of doing some work on a cruise ship after (danish) college, can you recommend this line of work?
How about 25 years old. Live in the US. I like all sorts of adventure sports. Cost isn't necessarily an issue. I don't want to waste money though. Sports staff would be cool. Work on the flowriders on the big ships. I know a couple guys from Brazil that installed a few of them. Fun job. You work on the rock climbing wall, the sports deck, and the waterpark. Some other bs mixed in there during down time to get your 10 hrs a day, but it's one of the more-fun jobs for sure. One of my good friends did that, and we used to take the rock climbing gear off the ship with us in Alaska and go rock climbing on our own. So.Much.Fun. I skateboard/surf, but haven't been on a ship with a flowrider...when i take a cruise, i'll do one of those ships for sure...just for that.
A couple of questions, 1) What kind of work did you do on the ship? 1 - I started as Stage Staff (theatre flunkie), and then got promoted to Sound & Light Tech. After that, I was promoted again to Video Tech, and then again to Head Video Tech. I did that for a few years, changed companies and worked as the Stage/Broadcast Manager on a ship. I worked there for a year, and then took a break from ships. In 2009, I went back to the first company as a Head Video Tech again and worked for a year. I'm off ships now...boring!
2)Do people ever fall off of the boats? 2 - Only Oscar falls off the ship. Nobody falls out of the boats. You only get into the boats when the ship is sinking though ;)
3) Also is the music in your video from a Grand Turismo game? 3 - No, the music is from a great band from the 90s called Slide Five. Wish they were still around...they were really great.
Going from doing sound to doing video is not a promotion! It is if that's what you went to school for, and want to do with your life.
Also, how expensive are the crew bars? Is it expensive as shit like it is for guests, or are the prices more "normal"? $1.25 for a beer $2 for mixed drinks/wine...last time I was on a ship. Might have gone up a bit by now.
What do you do now that you are off of the ship? High-end corporate A/V. Basically, I'm a professional mover. If you need someone to move your whole living room into a cube van and then set it up somewhere, and then put it all back in the van, and bring it back to you...then I'm your guy. That was a nice thing about working A/V on ships...everything stays in one place, and doesn't move. So nice to work a night, and then not have to pack everything up. I could set a band up, and leave them setup for 6 months. If you've ever done sound, you know how nice that must sound, eh?
I have. Did some pyro work, so I know how much of a PITA loading up road cases can be. Know any info on the IT for the ship? Do they manage every aspect of IT (POS, terminals, network, communication, etc...) or do they just manage the intranet? They manage it all...IT really is a good job.
Where would you recommend someone go to relax and enjoy the warmth? I like brazil, hawaii, thailand, eastern caribbean...those are all great.
Have you ever been to grand turk? I was just there with my family a couple days ago and it was beautiful. No one tried to sell you anything either like the other ports we went to. No...always wanted to go there. I'm Canadian, so I really want to see it. I think at some point we were going to help them out and it was going to become part of Canada (but it never happened)...and I've been curious about it since then. Flew over it once...looked nice.
The eastern Caribbean is beautiful...all of it.
People try to sell you stuff in every port...but some are better than others.
So eastern carribean is not the same as the carribeans everyone hears about? It's smaller scale, and not as intense. i think when most people think "caribbean", they're actually thinking Jamaica or Trinidad.
What is the punishment for drugs on the ship? if youre caught smoking marijuana for example, will they hand you ever to the cops once the cruise ends? Yep, and then you're fucked.
What was your favorite place traveling through, or rather 'cruising' through? Just to cruise? Alaska...by far. There aren't cruises like that anywhere else in the world, except Norway and New Zealand...which are also pretty cool, but Alaska is something else. The Inside Passage is phenomenal, and a ship is the only way you can see it.
As far as tropical destinations...Seychelles is heaven on Earth.
Seychelles is heaven on Earth. Sounds interesting, tell us more. It's just amazing. Beautiful island, great people, isolated, clearest water I've ever swam in...it's just perfect.
Anyone ever fall overboard? If so, what happens? Also, what are the captains like? are the cool or do they have God complexes? Only Oscar falls overbord.
American and Scandinavian captains are usually pretty cool, and Greek and Italian ones are usually not pretty cool. Exceptions to both rules.
They ALL have God complexes, and they all like really young women. I remember one captain brought his wife onboard, and we were all like "hey, you brought your granddaughter...that's cool!" Not cool.
What's the best way to sneak alcohol aboard? From what i've seen working on ships, it's NOT in your carry-on luggage. Especially once the cruise starts. You're searched every time you get on the ship, and so much booze is confiscated, it's ridiculous. You get it back at the end of the cruise, but they catch so many people.
Security is pretty tight, and these days they open everything. I've had all my bags ripped open so many times, that you know it's going to happen...so you can't just put a bottle in a bag.
The best way I've heard so far is to put it in a bag (in something not-so-obvious, and maybe not shaped like a bottle), and then in the most obvious place you can find in the bag (the place someone would see first when they open it), put a HUGE dildo right there. They'll see that, get embarrassed, close the bag, and you're good. Smile at him or her like you know where it's going tonight, and you're on your way.
Worked for a friend, but you never know...that takes dedication to pull off.
Maybe just get to know your cabin attendant, and persuade him to go buy some booze for you at the crew bar. Ya never know.
Did I just say that out loud? No...don't do that.
What are the best and most fun jobs on a cruise ship? How can one score 'deals' related to booking cruise ships? I would say the best job on a ship is a feature entertainer, but as far as the "real" jobs on a ship...I'd say the bridge or hotel technical/admin jobs are the best, followed by the cruise staff/activities managecruise director path. They have a blast.
If you have a university degree and are good with kids, Youth Staff is a GREAT job. Met some really cool Youth Staff on ships...they have fun.
Youth Activities Managers...sometimes not so fun. I remember my girlfriend on one ship was a YAM, and she came home one day...covered in food and asked me "you make the same amount I make, right?" I'm like "uh huh"...she's like "I hate you."
Deals on ships...check their websites for last minute deals. Those are the best deals on ships.
Which are the jobs that'd allow you access to the guest facilities and most contact with the guests? Anything in the hotel/entertainment dep't. they have the most contact with the guests, and the most privileges in that sense.
What are the worst jobs? Bartenders, waitresses, cabin attendants, deck & engine crew (we call them blueboys)...those are shitty jobs.
But again, they don't think of it that way. North Americans are spoiled people...we don't have as good an attitude about life as they do. They seem okay, and in their countries they're still making better money than they would at home (and a lot send most of their money home).
We piss it away on crap in ports, and complain about having to do tour loads in the morning. We suck.
Does for example, light/sound tech count as entertainment? Or does it only go as far as singers/dancers/comedians? Light/sound is entertainment, and they have a lot of contact with guests.
Last updated: 2012-04-09 06:23 UTC
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