Frequently Asked Questions">Frequently Asked Questions

What types of jobs are available on a cruise ship?

  • There are many different positions on a large mega ship. It can easily be compared to a small town which operates completely independently. This means you will find personnel in charge of the ship on the bridge, as well as staff who maintain the ship, such as engineers and petty officers. Then there’s the hotel personnel whose ultimate responsibility it is to make the guests’ cruise an unforgettable experience, and one they will want to return to again in future.
  • Even though there are so many positions however, it does not mean that the cruise liner companies or owners choose to employ people from your country. Most companies exercise certain preferences, and may decide to hire staff for particular departments only from specific regions for a variety of reasons.
  • The list of positions you will find advertised on our site are what we are contracted to recruit for, and the demand for those position fluctuate from year to year.

How much can I earn?

  • There are two earning categories on board: Tipping (commission or tips as income),  and non-tipping (salary based). A person is employable throughout the fleet of any particular cruise ship company, so the size of the vessel has very little influence on your basic income, since everyone in the fleet is paid the same salary for any position with the same title. The amount earned in addition to your basic income through commission/tips  varies from ship to ship based on the vessel’s size and cruise itinerary.
  • Always remember that most of your income can be saved and brought home. Your biggest expense is yourself – buying snacks and drinks at the crew bar or on land, as well as your own toiletries to stay fresh and presentable whilst on duty.
  • All our available positions are advertised with their respective minimum approximate starting salaries. Salaries are only omitted in cases where it depends on the applicant’s knowledge and experience. (Chefs, for example)

When can I resign from my current employment?

You only resign upon receiving written notification from your agent to do so. The hiring process from application to placement can take months, so it is important that you hold on to your present position and continue to generate an income.

Do cruise ship companies provide benefits such as vacation pay and pension plans?

  • Yes, some companies like Carnival Cruise Lines do provide incentives such as a retirement plan to stay with the company for longer, and then get paid a lump sum for their loyalty at no cost to the crew member, but with strict terms & conditions.
  • Vacation pay is normally included in your pay check while you are working on-board. This may differ from one company to the next.

What are crew members' working hours and living conditions like on-board?

  • You will be expected to work 70 hours per week in accordance with MLC 2006  maritime regulations.
  • Accommodation arrangements on-board may be a little cramped, especially on smaller vessels. And most of the time you will be sharing your cabin with another person of the same sex, which can mean little or no privacy. Bathrooms are either shared between cabins or located in a communal ablution area. Most people find the experience similar to a dorm room scenario in college or university. Usually staff have their own dining room (crew mess), crew bar and gymnasium to frequent during time off – away from the passenger areas. Only certain positions and more senior employees enjoy single cabins and the privilege to hang out by the pool, sunbathe, or use the spa. Most ships provide extra amenities for employees, such as televisions & DVD players for each cabin, internet and other recreation facilities, and events to keep employees happy and in high spirits.

Will I be able to explore the destinations my ship goes to?

  • The amount of time you spend off the ship depends on three main factors:
    1.) The contract you hold with your employer
    2.) The amount of time your ship allows passengers to visit ports.
    3.) Your position on the cruise ship.
  • Crew members working in departments and positions that are quiet or closed when a ship is in port, generally have more free time in each port. When your ship stops at ports most crew members are allowed (and in most cases encouraged) to get off the ship and explore. Generally, crew members are allowed to be out in port until one hour prior to departure (unless they are on duty of course!).

If hired, do I need to buy my own uniform?

  • It depends on the cruise line and position. You may be required to purchase non-logo items yourself such as shoes, socks, shirts etc., while the company will supply the logo items (clothing reflecting the company name) either at a cost or provided free of charge – you will be advised of this at your interview. Make sure you determine what the company policy is on uniforms prior to accepting a position.

Are crew members allowed to use guest amenities?

  • Only officers and staff are allowed access to guest privileges with discretion, as guests enjoy priority to all amenities. Crew members (dining room, bar, housekeeping, utility and galley positions) have to ask permission to go to guest areas, usually also with the condition that they will be presentable and or in uniform. The facilities for crew members are plentiful however, and usually meets everyone’s needs.

What happens if I decide not to complete my contract, or break it?

  • Your first contract serves as your probation time and will determine whether the company invites you back for another contract and/or promotion. So our advice is always to keep your head down, do a good job and complete your time.
  • If you choose to break your contract for personal reasons, such as deciding cruise ship life is not for you, the cruise ship company is responsible for your repatriation back to your home country and city. Breaking your contract is never a good idea, as you will disqualify yourself from returning to the cruise ship industry again in future, as the company will list you as not eligible for re-hire – which will come up in a future application as status checks are conducted between cruise ship companies.

What happens if I become really sick or injured on the ship?

  • While you are working on board a cruise ship you are 100% covered by the cruise line for any medical attention you may need. So if you are at sea and become ill, you may see the nurse and/or doctor for free in the ship’s infirmary. If you become so ill or injured that you are no longer able to perform your duties or finish your contract, the company will arrange for you to be disembarked and continue to provide for your medical care at home until maximum medical care has been achieved. In some cases  you may have to carry the costs of ongoing treatment yourself and submit the invoices to head office for reimbursement – similar to medical aid provider.
  • It is always advised to inquire about the medical coverage you will receive prior to accepting a contract. If the company you are going to work for does not offer comprehensive health insurance, you may want to keep (or get) your own health insurance policy, or take out a traveler’s insurance policy through a private company.

Do I need to undergo any ship training prior to joining?

  • Upon joining  your vessel you will receive intensive safety and emergency training on an ongoing basis, so it is not necessary for you to seek this out beforehand.
  • There may however be instances where some of our clients will expect you to obtain basic seaman’s training, or STCW training prior to joining. This type of training includes compulsory modules such as crowd management, fire fighting & prevention, personal survival techniques, social responsibility & First Aid at Sea, and is normally conducted in Boksburg, Cape Town and/ or Durban with registered SAMSA approved and accredited companies.

What happens if I miss the ship when I'm in port?

  • This is never a good idea and normally results in dismissal and repatriation at your expense. Most companies require their crew to be on-board an hour prior to departure. Pay close attention to the sailing schedule and keep an eye on the time. If you do however, for some good reason (i.e. medical emeregency, transport failure etc.) miss the ship, the company may help you re-join the ship and board again at another port.

Can I choose which ship I want to work on?

  • It is highly unlikely that you would be able to choose a specific ship on your first contract.  Only returning crew members can request specific ships, but this request will only be considered if a vacancy is available.

Can I work on the same ship as my spouse, family or friend?

  • There is no guarantee for any 2 people joining for the first time that they will be placed together on a vessel. Both parties must qualify for any of the positions we have to offer, and they will most likely be placed in different departments / ships or even companies. Being linked together with someone only becomes possible after you have both completed your first contract.

How Can I Stay in touch with my world back home?

  • You may keep in touch with people from back home through e-mail, cellular phones, phone cards and mail. Many cruise ships offer internet connections (WI FI) for laptop computers and also have a computer lounge for those without computers (however there may be a fee for both of these options). If the cost is more than you want to pay, it is common for crew members to visit one of the many cheaper internet cafes that are in each of the ports of call. Online banking, shopping and correspondence can keep your life up and running. Mail goes to the company agents in various ports and is delivered to ships when they dock there and distributed on board. Mail delivery may take longer than normal so do not expect a letter back from someone in a couple days.

What happens If I get sea sick?

  • Most cruise ships are large and seasickness is usually not a problem.  You can obtain generic over the counter medicine that can help you with seasickness, but most people find that getting some fresh air on a deck that is in the middle of the ship sorts them right out. Additionally, many find that their seasickness goes away after their body has had some time to adapt. You can also get treatment or remedies from your infirmary on-board.

Is there an age restriction for working on a cruise ship?

  • Due to strict international rules and regulations, our minimum age requirement is 21 for all advertised positions. There is no maximum age – it all depends on the level of the position applied for and its fitness requirements. Our agency does reserve the right to be selective (based on criteria from the cruise ship companies), and we will invite qualified persons for initial interview at our discretion.

Which official documents are needed to obtain cruise ship employment?

  • You require a valid passport, and a C1D U.S. seaman’s visa, which you can obtain from your U.S. consulate in Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town when you get your contract of employment from your future employer (the cost of the VISA will be reimbursed to you upon presentation of the receipt once you board your vessel).  It takes a couple of weeks to prepare since you have to make an appointment at the US Consulate and complete the forms online. All nationalities except US citizens & Canadians need a C1D VISA.It is fairly easy to obtain and is usually valid for 5 years from issue date.

Do I need previous cruise ship experience to work on a cruise ship?

  • In most cases you do not need to have any previous cruise ship experience. For skilled jobs you must however, have the relevant experience for a job on a cruise ship, regardless of what the position is. There are also positions available for non-skilled workers. You may view the requirements for each position on our Vacancies page.

Do I have to pay for my own flight? And how do I get from the airport to the hotel or ship upon arrival in the joining city/port?

  • In most cases, new hires are required to purchase their own one-way flight ticket to meet the ships anywhere in the world. The company will usually then supply the returning ticket to your home country after successful completion of the contract.
  • Most of the cruise companies will pay for one night stay at a hotel before boarding the ship the next day. This includes transportation instructions before departure and or instructions to get to the hotel. In some ports/countries, a port agent will meet you at the airport, due to immigration laws, and make sure you get to your hotel or ship safely.

What are the health/medical criteria for working on a cruise ship?

  • Since the cruise ship company covers each crew member’s medical insurance, they require that every new hire (once scheduled with a sign-on date), must complete a very intensive PEME (Pre-Employment Medical Exam).
  • The cost of the medical is at the new hire’s own expense and totals approximately R5000.00. If you have a medical aid provider they may cover all or part of the costs. Just check with them prior to undergoing the exam.
  • The complete PEME includes a list of blood chemistry tests, chest X-rays, proof of Yellow fever & MMR vaccinations, liver function, EKG and a list of other tests. The cruise ship company must then approve the medical before the new hire can purchase their flight ticket, since any person can still be cancelled based on the medical requirements.
  • Only partial dental care is included in the insurance that the company provides.
  • It is important to note that the PEME is carried out by specifically authorized medical physicians, and not your regular GP. Your agent will provide the list of approved doctors in your area.

What are the Tax laws regarding income earned while working on an International cruise ship?

  • The same rules apply for anyone working abroad. You are sailing international waters, and if you spend a certain period of time abroad (more than 6 months), you become tax exempt. Please check with your local authorities for changes in the laws for foreign income.
  • Money can be transferred from the ship to your bank account, and or other countries.

Is food and accommodation free for crew members?

  • Yes, you live for free. Your food, linen and board is all paid for by the cruise line. Your only expense is yourself.
  • Only senior management enjoy single cabins, but the vast majority of crew members share cabins, normally 2 people in a cabin with someone from the same department/position and gender.
  • Your cabin normally also includes a TV & DVD player, along with shower & toilet. There are people who clean crew cabins to earn extra, and for a small tip at the end of the week. This way, you can enjoy some of the luxuries you had at home.

Are crew members allowed to purchase goods on board, and do they enjoy discounts?

  • Yes, as employees crew members can get discounts at the duty free shops on-board, as well as special rates for close family to cruise with the company. Check with your manager about these privileges, as it differs from one company to the next.

Are crew members expected to perform other duties in addition to the job they were hired for?

  • Yes, you will take part in weekly boat drills as required by Maritime law, as well as perform certain side jobs in your department/position.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of working on board a cruise ship?

  • Cruise Ship Employment is not suitable for everyone. There is a certain amount of discipline and hard work required. Applicants should be “team players” and enjoy working with people; be able to live and share relatively limited space with fellow crew members; work away from home for a long period of time (a few months) and be highly service orientated. There is nothing more important than the quality of service on-board a cruise ship. Passengers are always right, even when they are wrong.
  • On the other hand there are numerous advantages to working on cruise ships. Saving substantial amounts of money for a short period of time, travelling around the world, meeting people from over a hundred different nationalities and cultures, developing professional skills and gaining working experience or building a career.

What is the average contract length for working on a cruise ship?

  • This varies from position to company. Contracts normally run from 6-8 months and are renewable indefinitely, as long as you perform to the company’s requirements and are invited back.

What if there is an emergency back home and I have to leave the ship early?

Emergency leave is allowed only in extreme cases such as a death in the family. The matter needs to be taken up with your superior on board and you may be requested to provide proof of said emergency.

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