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How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship and Travel the World for Free

by Amanda Hathorn-Geary Jan 2, 2018

If you are 21 or over and would love to travel the world for free — and get paid to do it — then working on a cruise ship is for you! You can apply to work with any of the numerous cruise lines worldwide. Read through and implement the following steps and you could be well on your way to a life at sea within a few short weeks!

How to get a job on a cruise ship:

1. Figure out if a life at sea is for you.
2. Assess which cruise line you would like to work for and which onboard position would be most suitable for you.
3. Create your customized cover letter and associated resume.
4. Apply.
5. Interview.
6. Get your first offer of contract, celebrate, and join your first ship!

1. Figure out if a life at sea is for you.

There are three main questions you need to ask yourself before making the choice to pursue a life at sea.

  • Do you enjoy meeting and working with diverse groups of people?
  • Are you flexible and adaptable?
  • Do you thrive in an ever-changing environment?

While working on a cruise ship is truly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and pretty luxurious (imagine port time off in Tahiti one day and an overnight in Maui a few days later), it is still a “job.”

If you show up expecting to get weekends off and to see each and every port, you will be disappointed. Prepare yourself for 7-day work-weeks, lots of split shifts, and being “on” all the time when in passenger areas.

But, if you love to travel, want to save a ton of money, and like the idea of working with people from around the world, then working on a cruise ship will be one of the best career moves you will ever make.

To gain some clarity, take the free “Are cruise ships right for me?” quiz to find out if a life at sea is for you in 2 minutes or less.

2. Assess which cruise line you would like to work for and which onboard position would be most suitable for you.

There is a lot of information online regarding cruise ship employment — some good, some not so great. Look for valid cruise ship recruitment and crew content. For example, check out YouTube for some awesome cruise line channels:

Additionally, many of the major cruise brands also have their own YouTube Channels. Be sure to check these out regarding branding, mission statements, cruise itinerary options, etc.

Choosing a Cruise Line

  • Each cruise line is different, caters to a specific market, provides a certain level of customer service, and has varying crew amenities and associated benefits.
  • Select lines that you feel match the type of service you want to provide to guests and what type of experience you are hoping for. For example, larger lines will offer broader itinerary/travel options and smaller lines will offer a more “tight-knit” crew atmosphere.
  • Go to each cruise line’s main webpage and search for their employment links. Keep in mind that crew employment links and official application pages are often difficult to locate as each cruise line’s website is designed with the passenger user experience in mind versus the prospective crewmember. Often prospective crew information can be found in the site’s footer.
  • For an easy, one-stop-shop for this info check out the How the Heck to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship guide, with over 50 pages of great cruise application information including all major cruise line contact details, step-by-step application information, etc. Use the promo code: getpaidtotravel for 50% off!

Determine which position(s) you are best suited for.

  • Look at all of your past employment, volunteer, and/or educational experience. Most cruise lines will require 1-2 years of relevant experience for their onboard roles, i.e. if you are interested in an onboard retail shop position, it will often require at least 1-2 years of retails experience in a luxury/high-end shop ashore.
  • If you’re not sure what onboard position would best suit you, speak with a cruise ship employment specialist for a free discovery call or check out the cruise ship jobs 101 course which includes information on all onboard positions, contract lengths, requirements, duties, salaries, catering your resume, and everything else you need to know about getting started with your life onboard.

3. Create your customized cover letter and associated resume.

    • Most cruise ship recruiters will initially only spend about 5-10 seconds skimming your resume when they first open your application email. It is imperative that you stand out from the sea of other applicants vying for the same position as you.
    • To do so, it is vital that you cater your cover letter and resume specifically for each cruise line that you are applying to.

4. Apply

  • Some cruise lines prefer that you apply directly to their main offices while others prefer that you apply via their official hiring partners in your home country. Some lines may require that you go through a specific concession agency. Application information can be found via each cruise lines career or employment section on their websites. Again, keep in mind that you may have to go on a bit of hunt through the cruise line’s site to locate this info.
  • Be sure to check out episode 8 on the Get a Life at Sea YouTube channel for great cruise line application tips and information!
  • Also review the How the Heck to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship guide which includes all required cruise application information, including major cruise line contact details, step-by-step application information plus loads more.

Note: Candidates who are of interest to a cruise line typically will have their applications processed within 30-90 days and be invited for an interview shortly thereafter. Your interview invite will often arrive via email. Be sure that your email is in good working order and that you also check your spam and trash filters and folders regularly. If you have not heard from a cruise line or associated partner within 30-90 days from the date of your application, it may be time to implement the 3 R’s: re-strategize, re-format (your documents), and re-apply.

5. Interview and wait.

If you are successful in receiving an invite for an interview, congratulations! Many cruise lines, and their official recruitment partners, now utilize Skype to interview candidates they are interested in. It is vital that you include your Skype information on your cover letter and resume and also have a good working knowledge of how to utilize this software when you start your application process.

    • You will usually hear back from a cruise line only if you have been successful in passing your interview. Keep an eye on your spam and trash folders for at least 1-3 weeks after your interview.
    • If you have not heard back from a line within 30 days after your interview date it is acceptable to then check in with your interviewer regarding the status of your application. Keep in mind that your interviewer will only be able to provide information as to whether or not your application/interview was successful and will not be able to provide you with details as to why you may not have passed the selection process. If you are not successful with one line, don’t panic, there are dozens of other lines out there. Sometimes the process for a candidate is quick and easy, other times it can take a year or more to go through the full hiring process prior to joining your first ship.
    • The key to the cruise line application process is to never ever give up — stay positive and keep going.
    • For in person and Skype cruise line interview tips check out Episodes 9-11 on the Get a Life at Sea You Tube channel or review info in the How the Heck to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship guide.

6. When you get your first offer of contract celebrate and get ready to join your first ship!

You’re hired – Congrats!

Before you go:

  • Ask your administrator or recruiter any and all questions that you may have.
  • Read all documents sent to you at least twice! Especially your contract.
  • Documentation: What do you need to provide? Pre-employment medical check (vaccinations), criminal records check, visas, seaman’s book, and passport?
  • Ask your admin if you are reimbursed for your medical and criminal checks, visas, luggage fees, and/or flight transportation to the ship.

You’re onboard! Are you having fun yet?

Give yourself time to adjust. The first two weeks are VERY difficult for most new crew members. You’re getting used to a new environment, you’re lost most of the time, and you have a new roommate and new job that you’re still learning. Most new joiners think about going home at some time during this period. If you can make it through the first few weeks, you will get to know your job, make new friends, and enjoy ports of call around the world. Soon, you won’t remember what it was like to work ashore.

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