From Hotel Kitchen to Cruise Ship Kitchen

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Mega cruise ships hire dozens of people to work in their kitchens - cooks, sous chefs, pastry chefs, and others. Read this interview excerpt to learn ways you can launch your own cruise industry job search.

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Cruise Line worked for: Crystal Cruises / ICMA
Length of service: 12 years
Position Title: Senior Sous Chef

See Part II of the interview, which talks much more about positions in a cruise ship galley.

Personal Background

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

I am born and bred in Muizenberg, Cape Town, and started my apprenticeship at the Cape Sun Inter-Continental in buffet chef photo After I graduated, I became a Chef de Partie in the Banqueting Kitchen. In 1998 I left the Cape Sun and moved to Monte Carlo for a year where I worked for the SBM hotel group at the Hotel de Paris and the Hotel Hermitage.

What made you want to work in the cruise industry?

While in Monte Carlo I saw my first cruise ship and thought it would be nice to do it for a year or two.

Which cruise line do you work for and which ship do you work on?

At the moment I am taking a hiatus for a few months, but I worked for Crystal Cruises and on the Symphony and Serenity with the Serenity being my most recent.

What's your job title?

I had a relief position of Chef de Cuisine and I am currently employed as a Senior Sous Chef.

Did you apply for this job specifically or for several different opportunities all at once?

I applied to work in the galley, and at the time I applied to all the cruise companies that I could find. Two got back to me - Disney said I did not have enough experience and Radisson wanted me to start the following week.

Describe your work schedule?

My usual day at sea is as follows:

  • 7am - Check in
  • I make sure that the breakfast servers are ready for the main dining room breakfast that starts at 7:30am. We usually do between 150 and 300 servings in the dining room. The breakfast on the lido deck is very popular and they do the bulk of the breakfast and lunch business.
  • From 8am the rest of the galley starts, and I will make sure they have all that they require for the day's work.
  • Breakfast finishes at 9:30am - I will usually take a walk down to Provisions to make sure we have everything for the upcoming menus, and if not we can change the menus or get the Provision Master to order the items for collection at the next port.
  • At 10am I will take a 20-30 minute break, at 10:30 I will check that the rest of the "stations" are on track for lunch and dinner service.
  • Lunch is from 12pm - 1:30pm.
  • 2pm - Break Time.
  • We are back at 4:30pm where we put the finishing touches on the dinner service which is 2 seatings.
  • The 1st seating is from 6pm until 7:30pm and the 2nd seating is from 8:30pm until 10pm.
  • I usually leave the galley at 10:30pm at the latest.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

I am one of 3 Senior Sous Chefs in the Hot Galley, so I am responsible for the breakfast team, as well as the Saucier Station and the soup cook.

What are the terms of your employment?

I work on a 4 month contract and 2 month vacation, only paid while on board. Flights to and from the vessel to my home airport are paid for.

When your contract is up how do you line up more work?

When I am at home I don't do anything except be on vacation, because when I leave the ship I already have a return date, and after working 7 days a week for 4 months, sometimes longer, you need the time off.

Do you have a career path that can be followed?

Yes in the galley you can. I started as a commis chef and worked in all the sections and positions of the galley, and you can do that in other departments if you want to do this for a significant period of time. Unfortunately in the cruise industry a lot of people usually do 1 or 2 contracts and then go back to shore side and continue their career there.

Would you mind giving us a good idea of the typical pay you can expect to earn in this position? Is it a basic salary plus commission/tips?

For Crystal Cruises entry level in the galley is $3,200 for a Chef de Partie. As a Senior Sous Chef I earn $4575. With Crystal Cruises, after 24 months of being employed (time on the vessel), you get Merit Pay of $100 a month, which increases every 12 months by $50.

Job Search Advice

I would guess that you've talked to others about how they got their jobs. Can you share some of what you've heard? Is there a common theme suggesting how one might go about getting a job for the first time?

You must just apply and keep applying and be tenacious and make sure about what you are looking for from the cruise liner - do your research. Everyone stands a chance of getting a call because the cruise industry has a high turnover of staff so don't give up.

What would be your number one tip to give to anyone who is trying to get a job on a cruise ship right now?

Know what you want to do and have the relevant qualifications and experience.

Don't Miss the Rest of this Interview!

Other tips and advice given in this exclusive interview:

  • How to avoid bogus staffing agencies
  • Top advice for your first cruise job search
  • Preferred experience
  • Description of the ideal cruise ship candidate
  • And a lot more...


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