Like a baby in a cradle, the seas gently rock workers on the MSC Divina asleep every night…and every afternoon, or evening, or basically any time anyone has the chance to sleep. After all, sleep, when one is working on a cruise line, is a very, very valuable asset.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to try to describe the schedule of an employee of the seas. After all, a “regular day” is often not consistent at all to other “regular days.” There are many departments, positions, and jobs on board, but for perspective basis, I am going to be speaking in reference to what I know best-What the life of a cruise staff employee looks like.
Side Note: This article is biased towards what I personally experienced on my first contract. It is potentially no way consistent to anyone else's experience on board. If anyone has different thoughts or has felt similar things, please comment! I would love to hear more!
Average Day Onboard
Onboard, there are no longer weekdays or weekends. We don’t have Mondays or Fridays. Of course, there are no off days either. Instead, we have sea days and port days. Port days are the dream for my team and I. Since everyone leaves the ship during a certain set of hours to explore the new port of call, we no longer have to provide entertainment for the ghost ship.
Aside from the occasional cleaning, organizing, rehearsal or meeting, most of us get the time in port off. Time used to either explore or more importantly sleep to catch up for the lack of sleep from the previous days.
When I first started I did not want to stay on the ship one second longer than I had to, but after a few weeks I found out that naps are crucial for survival. Not even a joking matter, sleeping through the port sometimes keeps you from being sick or too exhausted to perform your duties the following day. Often, we do not finish events or parties from the night until like 1:30 or 2. That makes 6 am the next morning to help with disembarkation a hard transition. Nonetheless, port days remind me constantly of how blessed I am with my job.
Sea days are difficult and LONG for every single crewmember. As animators, we need to keep upwards to 4,500 passengers constantly entertained, smiling and out of boredoms reach. However, no matter how many events we plan or cater to different personalities, some will still complain that there is nothing to ever do on board. Those are the kinds of people who don’t enjoy sunsets either but I digress. We all are very much cross-trained and if we do not know how to run a certain activity, we learn fast before it begins.
My typical sea day usually starts with arts and crafts-postcards, paper flowers, origami…anything we can make out of construction paper, old glue and markers. While I enjoy my typically more relaxing mornings, my whole team is split across the ship running trivia’s, sports tournaments, pool games, and dance lessons. By the afternoon, I typically join a few of them on the pool to run some games as well. If I’m lucky, I get arts and crafts again and get time to genuinely talk with my regular crafties. We really only see the other teammates in passing or for a quick lunch break if possible, but for the first half of the workday, we fly around the ship like bees in a hive without stopping.
Luckily for us, the evenings slow down just a slight bit. At 19:00 the first show starts for the night, people are getting ready for dinner or simply very content sitting in a lounge listening to music while having pre-dinner cocktails. Once again we split to go into the lounges to dance or talk with the passengers. This is sometimes the most fun as it’s the time purposefully set out to get to know the passengers better-and sometimes the most challenging-language barriers are more present in some cruises than others.
This is also when we get to talk about whatever even we have planned for the evening. Time to sell the evening’s dance party because of the fewer people there, the harder our job is. Full dance floor equivalents to a successful even in most scenarios. Outside of social time, some of us greet on the way into the theatre or run a couple of events still scheduled in the evening.
Finally, it’s showtime for us. Karaoke, quests, themed dance nights and of course, multitudes of other shows hosted and run as a team. This typically becomes the main event for the day and our whole team is finally working as one for the rest of the evening. Later we might again split to multiple lounges.
You cannot just have one party when you have thousands of guests from different cultures, countries all with different music and dance preferences…our goal is to cater to as many as possible in one cruise-Harder than it sounds. As the party starts to die, we know our days will soon too. We get our schedules for the following day and typically are done around 1 or 2 am. Then most of us go to eat pizza at the midnight buffet. After all, after you’ve been dancing for 5 hours, wind down time AND pizza is necessary.
For me, downtime is used for one of three things, sleeping, eating or socializing. If I don’t have desperate needs for food or rest, I try to use as much time as possible to go to our crew coffee shop or bar to talk to people outside of my department that I do not get to be around every day all the time like my team.
Every once in a while, I still like to sit and read, write or chill and watch a movie, but once I’ve stopped moving and interacting to that extent I usually fall asleep anyways and it turns into my nap for the day or the week. Typically, when I’m stuck on board with time off work I try to re-energize. I would rather use my time off board snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding or just exploring with my friends, than use port time to re-charge. Although, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes it is simply necessary.
This category does not exist. Rest when your contract is over.
Additional Thoughts on Random Categories
(For the couple people who were wondering)
They say that everyone gets seasick once badly and then is fine for the rest of their time on the ship. However, we have been through some pretty rough storms and even though I cannot always walk in a straight line, I have not had any problems with nausea. I attribute that to one thing-Lack of a center of gravity.
Now hear me out! I know that sounds crazy but let’s jump back in time two cruises to the storm that hit our floating city on our way to St. Thomas. The waves were big and consuming. The wind was so strong we closed our passenger decks and the boat was jerking so tremendously, we had to cancel all of our evening shows for the safety of our dancers, acrobats, and performers. Our entire cruise route had to be rescheduled and passengers were throwing up in every bathroom and the not so lucky ones in the dining rooms.
There was only one group, not vomiting-the kids. At such a young age, the balance has its effects and a full center of gravity has not always been developed in young minds. Therefore, the movement has less of an effect on them as the solid foundation that an adult has developed from their own environments, has not been rocked.
Even though I am definitely full-grown and at this point, should have developed the same center of gravity, if anyone has seen me play sports, I’m sure you as well disagree. So no, I have yet to get seasick.
Does anyone remember in college where you were treated like an adult to a degree, but due to this freedom, everyone still was kind of crazy? That’s how it feels like on board. Sometimes I even feel like I’ve been sent all the way back to high school. Something about working with, traveling with, living with, partying with and dating all the same people tends to create its own set of issues.
Oh, and I’m sure the mass amount of working hours does not de-stress people either. Knowing that you’ll only be working alongside most of these people for designated amounts of time before one of your contracts end-makes people a little less….let’s say romantic, and a lot more honest. You’re in a constant state of a weird work/vacation mix for 7 months. In college when you said, “ ehhhh we can sleep when we’re dead.”…yah that very much applies here as well. The excuse I hear daily is “eh, ship life” and it is taken to heart.
I have absolutely loved both of my roommates so far. Really, great girls. What I have found though is that you do not typically stay with the same person very long. Peoples contracts end and living adjustments are made constantly.
Here soon I’ll transfer a get my third roommate in less than 3 months working on board if that helps explain how often things are moving on the seas. Good sometimes as you don’t have the chance to really get super tired of any one person. Sad sometimes when you love the person you room with.
Would you do it again?
Ask me at the end of the contract.
Edit: I don't know how I'll ever live completely on land again. Cruising has such a big piece of my heart and the people, places and experiences....I will struggle when it's time for my final "ciao ciao". So grateful for the love and life working on the sea has filled me with.
Have you or anyone you know ever worked onboard a cruise ship? What's a typical work day look like for you? If you enjoyed this article, want to learn more or just want to stay in the loop with all things travel, make sure to subscribe to my blog to get all the updates.
If you want to know anything else about life on the seas, check out some of my more recent articles, 10 Things Not to Ask a Crewmember on Your Next Cruise, 15 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise, or What it Actually Feels Like to Work on a Cruise Ship.
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