The Real Experience of Living on a Cruise Ship

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This is Part II of our interview with Sharon Waugh, who has worked for Carnival Cruise Lines as a Guest Services Coordinator. Learn more about passenger services jobs on cruise ships in See Part I of this interview.

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Living On Board

Approximately how many crewmembers are on the ship?

There were about 1,000 on each ship.

Describe the living arrangements and how you deal with sharing space, living in a small accommodation.

Being 'staff' you share a fairly small cabin with one other person. There is one bathroom per cabin.sunny day topside photo There is a curtain around your bed for a little bit of privacy but people tend to be quite considerate of each other.

What are your colleagues like, both in your department and in general?

I was surprised by how many South Africans there were onboard but obviously I made friends with people from all over the world. It's not uncommon for cultural differences to cause problems and misunderstandings but on the whole you inevitably find people you connect with and through the experience that is ‘ship life' you bond and they become like family.

What is your favorite port and why?

I absolutely loved Half Moon Cay. It is a private island in the Bahamas and stepping onto it is like stepping into a Brochure.

Cozumel, Mexico will also always have a special place in my heart. There is a crew bar there called “The No Name Bar” and if any other ships are docked there you will inevitably run into friends from previous contracts at this place.

How did you spend your leisure time off duty?

I absolutely loved getting off the ship in port, going to the beach and shopping with friends. On board there is also a lot of fun to be had. Sometimes it's nice to hang out in the crew bar, and on formal nights we often visited the guest disco. The crew parties were great fun too.

Do you go on any excursions? If so, what was your favorite one?

I went on as many excursions as I could. I kissed stingrays in the Cayman Islands, I went parasailing in the Bahamas and I visited the Mayan Ruins of Tulum in Mexico, but my favorite excursion was probably when I got to swim with dolphins in Roatan, Honduras.

Would you recommend this line of work to others, and if so, why?

I would. It's not for everyone but if you don't mind being away from home and working really hard, it is a great job.

What's the best advice anyone gave you about working in this industry, whether it relates to finding a job for the first time or making the most of the experience?

Make the most out of every experience. Some people work so hard that they choose to sleep or stay in when they have time off, but I think that if you can get off the ship and have some fun you will probably be more inspired to give your best to the job.

What are the passengers like? How do you handle working with guests for so many hours?

Some guests are really nice, some are not so nice. Inevitably you will encounter self-entitled people with unrealistic expectations. The best way to deal with them is to not get uptight or defensive (even if they are being unreasonable) but to sympathize and try and stay positive and polite.

What personal benefits/rewards do you find from working on a cruise ship?

It is a great way of life. It's a great way to travel. While you are working your food, accommodation and medical expenses are all covered so it's a great way to save money. I met the most amazing people and had the most unforgettable experiences.

If you could do any job onboard, then what would it be and why?

I would still love to be a social host. Based on my acting background I think this is more in my line of work and I think I would be really good at it. One day I just might...

Do you think working on cruise ships has or will help your career on land, and has it developed you as a person?

I feel like a different person to the girl I was before I started. Having learned to cope well under extenuating circumstances, it takes a lot to faze me these days. I'm a much calmer and more confident person now.


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