Working on Cruise Ships

Ever wondered how is it like to work on one of the biggest cruise ships in the world? This is my experience, my life and my view as an employee on one of the many cruise ships sailing around the world.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Who wants to join the Housekeeping Department?

There always was a quiet competition between the Housekeeping and Food & Beverage Departments. Every week, when the ratings come in, first thing we do is to compare ours against them and damn it, most of the times they are better! We know they are doing the same because we meet the supervisors on the I95 and they smile and ask us if we saw already the ratings. We pleasantly smile back and say yes, congratulate them and move on, hoping next week we will be the one with the big green on the face.
The Housekeeping Department includes the stateroom attendants and supervisors and the Laundry Division. I am not going to talk about the laundry guys because they are employed as contractors, all I can tell you about them is that they all come from Indonesia and, in my opinion, they do a poor job (unfortunately). They are not really Royal Caribbean employees, they just provide us with the service.
So lets get back to more important things… The Housekeeping Department is one of the most stable one, with a low turnover rate and happy crew. The reasons are many, but the most important ones are:

1. Good money
The Stateroom Attendant is a tip based position meaning that their salary depends entirely on how much the guest tip them at the end of the cruise. The base salary is $50, but don’t get fooled by it, in average, they make $2500-$3000 a month and sometimes even more.
On the other hand, the middle management, the Housekeeping Supervisors, make only around $1800 a month but they have extra perks to keep them happy such as single cabins, access to guest areas etc. The Chief Housekeeper, 1st and 2nd Housekeepers make thousands a month.

2. Not such a hard job
The only really hard day for the Stateroom Attendants is the embarkation day when they need to have the rooms ready by noon for the new guests, they need to get the luggage in the staterooms by evening and meet all their guests. They usually employ a helper that takes off some of their work in the morning. Other than that, on a regular day, they have to do the staterooms in the morning and in the evening, which is pretty easy since during the day the guests are off the ship and in the evening they are in the restaurant having their dinner.

3. Structure
In the Housekeeping Department everyone knows exactly what to do. The organizational chart is pretty much simple and everyone knows who to report to. You can see it in the first picture on this post.
Since the first day you embark until the last one, you are given a section of staterooms that you have to clean. On average, they get a 20 staterooms station, and only the ones who can not make it, the ones who are constantly getting bad rating, get a 15 stateroom station.
There are few who get the officer cabins as an assignment, but don’t pity them, sometimes they make more money than the others and they only need to clean the cabins once a day or every other day (depending on how many stripes has the officers who lives in the cabin).

4. Good management (at least on this ship)
After work, everybody gathers in the Back Deck (ship’s crew bar) for a drink and chat. In my two year career with this company, I never once heard a Stateroom Attendant complaining about his or hers supervisor. They mostly complain about how messy the guests can get, especially the really old ones who cannot make it to the toilet if you know what I mean, or the young ones who cannot hold their liquor. Other than that, they seem pretty happy with the job.
The officers hardly complain about the system, and if you ever hear them complaining, it’s mostly because the company implements all kind of new things, but they never really prepare options in case they don’t work.

5. No competition against each other
Everyone is doing their job in the Housekeeping Department and no one is looking in the neighbors’ back yard to see how is he or she doing. Most of them anyway. Because they get the same section for the entire contract, there’s no competition among the employee, they just have to do good in ratings (meaning they have to make the guest happy) not to be assigned to a smaller section, but that happens very rarely and mostly on request.

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posted by Ariana @ 6:38 PM  
  • At July 2, 2008 at 9:48 PM, Anonymous Beetho said…


    I want to thank you for all the time you gave for this blog. You gave some great informations inside a cruis ship. I went on a vacation cruise in 2006 with the NCL Dawn, and now I now a little better about what's going on inside.

    Thank you again and keep up your good work. Also thank you for your last comments about the IT position.
    I've got one question. I've heard that the first two weeks of a contract is the hardest because of all the training session you have to attend to and the less time to sleep and go ashore, you don't know anyone etc... Since I'll be on my first contract, can you tell me your impression on that. Thanks.
    By the way is everything better with your supervisor ?


  • At July 4, 2008 at 10:15 PM, Blogger Oana said…

    I am happy i can help, i only wish there was some info like this when i first joined the ship life. But it's never too late and i am trying my best to cover the subjects you guys are interested in. Your feedback is always welcomed.

    Yes, you're pretty much right bout the first two weeks, except if you're a girl. Onboard, any girl gets attention, even the ugliest one, so for us, making friends and having company for a drink is never a problem.

    I will later talk about this, once i am done with the departments.

    Me and my manager tolerate eachother now and after a short chat, we both found a middle way. Definitely communication is improved, but still i don't feel confortable telling him my work related problems. I guess it's just one of those personality conflict situations that can never change. We hardly meet anyway, thank God!

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About Me
Name: Ariana
About Me: Born in a small town, ended up working around the world. I love to socialize, see places, make new friends. Always there to help, even when nobody is asking for it :-)And now I am learning graphic design as well, check out my other blogs.
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