“Be prepared for people dying." 6 things you wouldn't know about working on a cruise ship.


Admittedly, before writing this piece I envisioned working on a cruise ship being like the television show, The Love Boat.

It turns out, probably not so surprisingly, this is in fact a misconception.

Mamamia spoke with past and present cruise ship workers about the reality of working on the high seas.

1. There is NO privacy.

Amelia, a singer and dancer who worked on cruise ships on and off for three years, said that there is a severe lack of privacy on cruise ships. Everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s like being on Big Brother!

“Often we have to share cabins with others so you get to know people pretty well,” says Rachel*, who currently works as a waitress on a cruise ship.

Side note – there are two types of people when it comes to packing a holiday suitcase. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

2. Workplace politics and issues are also found on board cruise ships.

“You do get really sucked into the politics of ship life. I found that people in high up positions were on power trips a lot of the time so you have to learn how to deal with all sorts of people,” Amelia tells Mamamia.


“There was one occasion when the crew mess provided milk for tea and coffee all day from a fridge. All of a sudden they locked the fridges which took away us being able to have milk because it wasn’t during ‘meal times’ which meant we couldn’t have milk in our coffee or tea during the day. It seems silly now but at the time it was so frustrating and just petty!”

Nick*, a casino slots manager who worked on cruise ships for a decade agreed with this:

“There’s a clear hierarchy that exists at sea which can be difficult. And there are is a big problem with suicide and mental health on these ships, which nobody ever talks about,” he says.

3. It is not all fun, it is hard work.

“The biggest misconception about working on cruise ships is that it is all fun and you will see a vast amount of the world,” Nick tells Mamamia.

“It is very hard work generally speaking and the amount of the world you will actually see depends upon a number of things namely; the cruise line and ship you work on with regard to the itinerary, the job you do on board which has a direct impact on time off to enjoy destinations and the number of contracts you do.”

“There are long days and often long nights so it can be quite taxing. Often too you will be exposed to whatever sickness is going around the ship, including the dreaded gastro which can sometimes make you cabin bound,” Rachel explains.

4. It can be addictive.

“You can get really stuck working on ships – once you’re in, and if you’re enjoying it even a little bit, it’s very hard to escape and come back to land. I know this to be especially true for a lot of people in the entertainment industry. It’s really hard to start again when you get home so it’s just easier to sign up for another contract. Hence why I did it three times,” Amelia tells Mamamia.

working on cruise ship
"It's really hard to start again when you get home so it's just easier to sign up for another contract. Hence why I did it three times!” Image: Getty

5. Your fellow workmates become family.

For Amelia, her cruise ship friends became like family, something she says is quite common in the industry.


“I love the people that I met and who I am still very close with to this day. You become a family very quickly with the people you work with because you only really have each other to lean on and understand what you're going through at the time," she said.

"I love that I was able to work with some stupidly talented musicians, dancers and singers from all over the world. This unique experience has undoubtedly helped me to understand the people management skills required (as well as the talent!), now successfully running my own wedding entertainment business.”

6. You need to be prepared for the worst.

“Be prepared for people dying. Passengers dying of old age, crew dying from accidents or suicide, these can have a short term and longer-term impact on your mental well-being,” says Nick.

Rachel added, "I've been involved with many emergency situations as crew, four engine room fires, five total power losses, one cinema fire, one cabin fire which I put out, many experiences of very rough weather with one incident where we had been trying to avoid a hurricane, when we got back to dry land the majority of paint had come off a very large section of the bow due to the crashing waves."

Shona Hendley, Mother of Goats, Cats and Humans is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. She is an animal lover and advocate, with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies. You can follow her on Instagram.