The Shortest and the Longest Working Contracts Among Cruise Ship Crew

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a large control room with many monitors

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When working on a cruise ship, each position onboard comes with a set batch of ranks, entitlements, rooming rights and contract lengths. In an ideal world, candidates would inquire or be advised by their hiring agent of everything the position entails.

Cruise job contracts can be as short as 1 month long, but only in cases when seasonal staff are needed, for example, when school kids are on vacation, meaning a larger than normal amount of children will be onboard for a few sailings and children’s facilities will need extra people. In cases like these, it would not make a lot of sense to keep a large staff longer than needed.

Then, there’s the Bridge and Engine departments, where most higher-ranked positions, all the way to the Captain, will stay onboard for about 2.5 months at a time.

Otherwise, most managerial positions are on a 4-month contract. Most supervisors will be part of this arrangement as well.

Most of the crew you will encounter in public areas, aside from Bar, Restaurant and Housekeeping, are on a 6-month contract. This is particularly ideal due to the amount of time these crew work while standing.

 

a view of the ocean from a deck of a ship

Then, on to Bar, Restaurant and Housekeeping. These amazingly hard-working crew (and please keep in mind this fact the next time you sail, or feel the need to go “Karen” on them) work 9-month contracts.

Considering that, regardless of how long your contract is, vacation time will always range from 6 to 10 weeks, you can understand how a 9-month contract might feel when you’re only just beginning.

Cruise lines don’t force crew members to retire upon reaching a particular age, but allow them to do it only once they have reached a preset age AND have worked for the company for a certain amount of years, only then are they able to apply to the cruise line’s version of retirement, which, unlike land jobs, is generally a lump sum, as opposed to a monthly payment.

a cruise ship sailing in the water

On the flip side, the minimum age to work on a cruise ship is 18 years old. If the cruise line is based in the US, that means crew members 18 to 20 are in fact not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages anywhere on the ship (yes, that includes the Crew Bar), and anyone caught buying alcohol for such a crew member would be in serious trouble.

While it’s not unusual to find married couples working onboard, ideally on the same ship, you don’t often see crew members whose parents work onboard as well. I’ve probably known of about 2 such cases in the over 15 years I’ve been working on cruise ships. There is, however, something strangely sweet about that idea. – ThatGuy (onboard)

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. @That Guy – I had no idea that the cruise lines offered any sort of retirement incentive for employees that have worked onboard for a long time. I’m pleasantly surprised by this. I’m assuming this is a reason for crew to avoid hopping from cruise line to cruise line with each contract. What’s the typical amount of time a crew member has to spend in order to qualify?

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