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Tell me a little bit about yourself?
I'm from Johannesburg, South Africa. I have a degree in Drama and Film from Wits University and worked as an actress and a writer before working on cruise ships.
What made you want to work in the cruise industry?
I really wanted to travel and auditioned as a singer for both Costa Cruises and Royal Caribbean but was unsuccessful due to a lack of experience. I also cruised the Mediterranean as a guest on the Superstar Virgo in 2006. It was my first time overseas and I was enthralled by the idea of "ship life." I decided that I had to work onboard and started applying for "social host" / "cruise staff" positions as soon as I got back.
What's your job title?
Group Services Coordinator. It falls under Guest Services and involves taking care of large groups of people and coordinating events.
What were the job requirements set forth by the employer?
You had to be over the age of 21 and have at least 2 years of experience in a related field.
Did you receive any special training or preparation for this job?
In Guest Services people usually start out as Guest Services Associates and receive one month training at an onboard college but because there is only one Groups Coordinator per ship, we receive on the job training from the people we are taking over from. I received 2 weeks of training onboard but most people receive more than this.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
As a Groups Coordinator you are there to liaise between the group leader or travel agent, the land-based personnel and the different departments onboard to make sure that the guests get what they want for their groups and events, and that everything goes smoothly. When things don't go well or when there is miscommunication, it is directed at you to resolve and this can be quite challenging.
What are your day to day responsibilities?
At the beginning of the cruise I would contact all my Group Leaders and Travel Agents to go through the schedule of events and make sure our details were correct. I would have to be at all the events about an hour before they started to make sure that they went as planned. I would also arrange more events on board if guests requested, such as Renewal of Marriage Vows, which were very popular.
In the office there was also a fair amount of office work to do to plan for future cruises and report back from the previous cruise.
What are the terms of your employment?
Each contract is about 6-8 months. I had to work 7 days a week with no days off.
When your contract is up, how do you line up more work?
Once you complete a contract they automatically inform you of your next ship and buy you a flight to that ship from your home country. You get about a 2 month vacation between contracts.
Do you have a career path?
It is very much a career and not a job. As a Groups Coordinator you can't really be promoted but you can change positions and work your way up in the company if that's what you want to do. I've seen many friends get promoted up the ranks and there are great benefits for people who choose to do this long term.
Are there any personal qualities you would need in order to get into this department?
You absolutely need to be positive. In Guest Services a lot of complaints are directed to you and if you cannot maintain a positive disposition you will not go far. Secondly you have to have a very strong work ethic. You do not get a day off and so you have to be able to keep going 7 days a week for over 6 months without stopping. It is quite grueling if you're not used to it.
What are the best pieces of advice you would give a friend who's about to start applying for cruise line jobs?
Be careful. I have friends who have been scammed out of their money by applying for these jobs. Sometimes there is a large admin fee but, in my experience, if the company is legitimate they won't ask for it until you have an official letter of employment from the Cruise Line. (Read More as a Member)
What would be your number one tip to give to anyone who is trying to get a job on a cruise ship right now?
Be persistent. It didn't come easily for me. It took about 3 years of applying and looking for jobs to finally get work. You might have to apply a few times before you land a job.