This is a message to all employers out there who are hiring. It is my letter to you to urge you to know the value of former cruise ship crew members when they apply to work for you.
I – like most cruise ship employees – have lost my job and 15-year career on-board due to the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. No one knows yet when or how the industry will properly return. So, this means there are thousands of great former cruise employees now on land looking for new jobs or new careers.
Many former cruise ship employees are finding it hard getting into a new, and good, job or career on land. I read an article posted on LinkedIn by Sean Sassoon back in February 2015 about the value of former cruise ship employees and thought this was a great support for ship people. Thank you for this Sean! It definitely helped a lot of people.
Due to the current world situation and so many ship people looking for jobs now, I thought that it was time to write an updated version with my insights and points to make.
So why are we useful? And why are we not always getting offered interviews even?
Everyone who has worked on cruise ships has incredible experience and a varied skill-set, regardless of whatever job they did onboard.
Due to the current lack of jobs available and very high numbers of people applying for every role, I know a lot of people are not even being asked to interview as our job experience doesn’t tick the boxes of having done the same role that we’re applying for now on land for 3-5+ years. But we have so many extremely valuable, transferable skills.
I’m writing this in the hope that any employer who receives a job application from a former cruise ship employee sees them as a valuable commodity and looks at the skills they can bring to the table.
I’m not suggesting you have to hire every crew member who applies. I am suggesting you give them an interview and a chance. It’ll probably be the best decision you ever make.
Covid-19 new safety measures
Before I even begin my list of why crew members make great employees, I’d like to point out that crew are the workers who will be able to deal with new safety measures better, more thoroughly, and without complaining than really any other industry. If you’ve worked or sailed on a cruise ship, you already know hygiene standards are very high.
They always have been. We’ve always provided hand sanitizer throughout the ship, ships are meticulously cleaned multiple times every day everywhere from guest staterooms, to public sociable rooms and theatres, to elevator buttons and hand rails. All these things are being cleaned constantly – by crew.
Our housekeeping teams work 24/7. So anyone who has made any uncouth comment during this crisis about cruise ships being “petri dishes” for spreading the virus need to close their mouths and educate themselves. Anyone who has worked on a ship has – at some time or another – likely dealt with an outbreak of Norovirus onboard. This basically means someone has got a tummy bug and spread it around the ship.
This most often happens from a guest eating or drinking something ashore that their digestive system isn’t used to, or drinking local tap water or ice and getting a bug. That person is supposed to report this straight away to the medical department and get medicine and be isolated until they’re better and not contagious.
This spreads when that person doesn’t do these things they know they should as they don’t want to miss out on 24-48 hours of their vacation. (Crew do report this, as if they don’t do so within a short period written into their contract, they will be fired.)
If this happens, the ship goes on cleaning overdrive, adding to the already very strict regime with “Super-Sanning” the entire ship and public areas over and over with strong disinfectant to kill all bugs.
Many of the new covid-19 regulations look to be similar to precautions we’ve already done for years to prevent Norovirus spreading. And now everyone knows they must have impeccable hygiene levels to keep themselves safe, and I would think and hope would report anything immediately.
The new rules with ships will include having crew members being assigned to make sure hygiene standards are upheld by having people positioned at hand sanitizers and bathroom doors etc. Crew members are used to upholding stricter standards – they’ve done it for years.
And wearing a mask at work – easy! Many crew (myself included) were stuck on a ship for months when the virus hit, and confined to their cabins for weeks or months, only leaving to eat (some not even getting that), and wearing their mask as soon as they left their cabin. So none of us will have any issue at all with whatever standards are brought into workplaces.
My 15 reasons
Here are some of the main skills and traits I think former cruise ship employees bring to the table:
Cruise ship workers are the most flexible employees you’ll ever have. They are used to things changing last minute. They’ve had the whole plan for the day ready and then the ship can’t make it into port due to bad weather. So, their work plans, and likely some fun plans to spend time in port are gone, and instead they have to work longer hours and miss out. This is disappointing, and would probably get to land workers a lot. But for ship people, they shrug it off, get back to work with a smile on their face, and make a plan to have a fun time during the next port instead.
Benefit: This means you don’t need to worry about them stressing about changes to original plans, they can be counted on to keep working with a smile.
2. Unflappability and coolness under pressure
Cruise ship workers have dealt with so many changes, let downs, and things going wrong that they are pretty much unflappable. They stay cool under pressure because they’ve probably been in at least one actual emergency. I’ve personally been on two ships that have had fires, a man overboard situation, a potential murder situation, and when there’s been quite a few deaths (mostly natural and one tragic accident).
Benefit: This means they can handle difficult situations calmly and discreetly.
3. Helpful at all times
Everyone who works on a cruise ship are authorities on customer service. Working on a ship isn’t like a normal job, where you “switch on” as you clock in. As soon as you leave your cabin, you’re “on”. You’re never really “off duty” as you never really leave work. As soon as you’re walking around the ship, you’re with customers – either the main external customers in the guest areas – or the internal customers, the other crew, in the crew areas. You can’t have an off day, or be grumpy if you haven’t had coffee yet or are tired.
Benefit: This means cruise ship workers are used to being polite and very helpful at all times.
4. Best customer service levels
Customer service standards on cruise ships is very high. Most are five star or even above. This means everyone working onboard from a housekeeping attendant to the captain has been trained in this at the highest level, with impeccable manners, patience and listening to what our customers need and giving them that. This is something that we do day in and day out.
Benefit: This means giving excellent customer service is normal, a habit that’s ingrained. So, you can expect any other job they do, they’ll give that level naturally.
5. Excelling at their roles
Standards are very high on cruise ships. And competition for jobs is high. Every role on board is continually assessed and monitored by department management, guest comment cards and ratings. Many roles have targets, which have to be reached every cruise for staff to keep their jobs or be promoted. Every job has ongoing training and development.
Benefit: This means you know that you’ll get someone who is great at their job and committed to continual development to excel at whatever they’re doing.
6. They are internationally-minded
Cruise ships have workers from up to 50+ countries working on each ship at any one time. This means that we’re used to working with people from everywhere and thus means we all have an international mindset. We have to work and live with people from very different backgrounds and in doing so, we learn about their cultures and ways of doing things and become more open in general. This flows into every aspect of life and work attitudes.
Benefit: This means they’re more interested and invested in news from around the world and care about world issues and gain insights from each other’s cultures.
7. They get along with everyone
As well as working with people from everywhere, they have to socialise and live with them. I have seen crew members share a cabin with someone from a country that their country has been – or even still is – at war or in a political situation with. The crew bar is where most of the socialising happens, and with a huge mix of nationalities together, this means everyone shares their culture, music, dancing, jokes and games. This means ship people get along with everyone.
Benefit: This means you know they’ll be great, friendly co-workers who will help be the social gel in the team and will find something they like in everyone.
Crew work in close-knit teams for their departments as well as the team of the ship, the cruise line and the community of cruise ships in general. They are literally in the same boat as each other. Their original families and friends aren’t there, so they form strong bonds quickly with their workmates and feel strongly part of their team. This creates loyalty. Crew looks after crew. In any situation, there’s an unwritten rule to look after each other and they do. They take this attitude into every other role.
Benefit: This means you know you’ll be hiring someone very loyal who, if you treat them well, will work their tails off for you and stay loyal to you for a long time.
9. Language skills
Crew members are from all over the world. Crew from non-native English-speaking countries already speak their own language and English, and maybe even more. But living on ships, even the native English speakers are inspired to take up a second or third language after having good friends or dating people whose first language isn’t English.
Benefit: This means that if you have a crew member applicant, they likely speak another language, which is always useful in every job, no matter the role or industry.
10. Gratefulness and appreciation
Crew members are away from home for a long time. Away from friends and family and loved ones and usually work long hours and rarely have a day off. They have to abide by strict rules and while they overall love having the job for whatever their main motivation is, be it travel, money or career enhancement, they have lots of tough days too. This means they appreciate little kindnesses shown to them. Being nominated for employee of the month, being singled out for a job well done in a meeting, kind words, an ice cream social in the crew mess, a free beer at a crew party, a team pizza night, extra time off in port, a little gift at Christmas time, all mean a lot.
Benefit: This means if you hire a former crew member, they will appreciate any and all little nice things you do for them. They’ll be very grateful for being appreciated.
11. Good attitude to working long or extra hours
Crew members don’t know what a weekend is. They’re used to working possibly seven days a week, and may be working 10 or 12 hours a day. This doesn’t mean its OK to ask them to do this on land. One of the main reasons crew leave working on ships for land is to have a regular work day schedule. But what this does mean is that if you need them to work late or on the weekend for something important, then they understand that important things need extra attention and they’ll help out without complaining. The phrase “that’s not my job” is not in their vocabulary.
Benefit: This means that they will always be there when you need extra help, with a good attitude and get things done.
12. Leadership skills
Everyone who works on a ship, no matter the role, has a part to play in the overall running of the ship. Many people work in leadership roles and are in charge of their teams in their jobs. Everyone has an emergency function. Everyone takes part in the mandatory safety drills for guests at the start of every cruise. Everyone takes part in the (usually weekly) crew training drills and exercises. Many more people are leaders in their safety roles. Safety is paramount onboard cruise ships, so crew are thoroughly and routinely trained. This means most people build on their leadership skills during this training, even if not in their normal job. There is a lot of competition to get a job on a ship, and it takes a certain type of toughness and personality to even apply for a job on the other side of the world away from everyone you know – and then go there to start your new world.
Benefit: This means anyone who has worked on a ship has a level of confidence, toughness and leadership quality about them, so you know they’ll rise to whatever task you give them.
Crew members are very resourceful. They’re used to being stuck onboard for days – or even weeks – longer that they’d planned on. They have reached ships with their luggage still in some airport. They spend months in countries where they aren’t used to the products, shops or they just can’t find practical things they need. They don’t have much good, reliable internet, Netflix, phone signal etc. This means they get resourceful. They share resources onboard and swap things to help each other. And the things they can do with a bowl of instant ramen…
Benefit: They won’t complain about not having everything exactly how they might like it or its been before. They’ll just get along with whatever they have and make the most out of everything.
14. A sunny disposition
Crew members are used to being in front of customers from the moment they leave their bedroom (cabin) until they return there at night. They keep a cheerful character throughout the day, even when they’re tired or having a tough time at home, with co-workers, or in a relationship. They know more than most how to keep themselves totally in the work zone and stay positive and cheery even if they aren’t always truly feeling it.
Benefit: You know crew won’t bring outside issues or problems into their job, and you can rely on them to be cheerful and professional.
15. The hardest-working attitude
The most important trait of all that crew members bring to any role is that they’re the most hard-working people you’ll ever meet or employ. They don’t tire. They don’t complain. They get the job done. You never need to worry about a poor or lazy attitude or having to chase them up on anything. Doing their work well is what they do.
Benefit: They’re the hardest working employees you’ll ever have.
Cruise ship crew are some of the best workers you could hope to employ. Their skill-set, resilience, and overall attitude will make them a great addition to any team. Even old salty sea dogs will happily learn new tricks.
To employers, please check out their transferable skills and your next hire could be the best one you ever made.
To crew members, good luck! You’ve got this.
Karen Worrall is an international sales and marketing manager, content creator and copywriter. Karen writes a diverse range of content and copywriting for publications including National Geographic Traveller (UK), ASTA and ABTA, and is the writer for television travel show ‘Traveling with Denella Ri’chard’. She has a BA in Applied Music, diplomas in copywriting and proofreading and editing, and worked in-house for National Geographic Traveller (UK) as editorial intern in 2018. Karen worked on cruise ships traveling around the world from 2005-2020 for companies including HAL, Princess, and RCCL, in entertainment as cruise director and show band vocalist, then as sales and marketing manager. She created and blogs for Cruiseshipkaren.com. Karen is currently based in Edinburgh, in Scotland where she’s from, and pre-ships worked in France, Spain and Italy and speaks French, Spanish and Italian.