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Leslie - Photographer - USA

Cruise Life Experience

I am an American born and raised in the Chicago area. I have a bachelor's degree in Journalism. Sometime in college the idea of working on a cruise ship occurred to me, despite the fact that I had never been on a cruise. After I graduated I applied for photographer positions for every cruise line imaginable. After 11 months I was offered an interview. I flew to Atlanta and interviewed for the job and a week later they offered me a contract!


The main reason I wanted to work on a ship was to travel. Aside from a childhood vacation to Canada, I had never left America, and had rarely left the midwest. I always felt like I didn't quite fit with the people around me, mostly because they had entirely different values and goals than me. I didn't care about having a nice car or lots of money, I wanted experiences and to see all the places in the world and I wanted to meet other people that had the same values as me.


Working on a ship was definitely a love/hate thing for me. I LOVED the social aspect of it. I loved being around people from all over the world. You basically have instant friends as soon as you join the ship since everyone is in the same situation as you and has similar values. I loved seeing all the places. Waking up in a different spot on the globe every day is thrilling. I also loved the convenience of never having to drive anywhere ever (I HATE driving), of having my food cooked for me, and of being 2 minutes away from work. I also liked not having loads of possessions (everything had to fit in a tiny cabin). And I REALLY loved the amazing parties and the inexpensive alcohol (yes that kind of makes me sound like a drunk, but come on, everyone's thinking it)


The best thing for me that came out of my cruise ship contract was that I met my fiance (Cristian Focsa). We've been together for 1.5 years now.


As for the hate things.... I completely despised my job from the moment I started. Why? Because the average cruise ship guest is a complete asshole (sorry if you can't put that word in the book, but it's the most accurate word to describe them). I don't know if this is true across the cruise ship industry, but the guests on my ship were shockingly rude. I couldn't believe that so many people felt absolutely nothing about treating crew members like complete shit. They expect to be weighted on hand and foot. Once time I was eating lunch with my fiance, and a guest demanded we get him a Sprite. My fiance was a casino dealer and I was a photographer... neither position has anything to do with serving beverages. I constantly wanted to ask people why they felt like they could treat people like that, and how would they feel if they were treated like that. But I couldn't, I had to smile and act polite regardless of how shitty people were treating me. Rude guests were hands down the biggest thing that caused me to quit.


Another thing I didn't like was the minimal pay. Coming from a country with a relatively high minimum wage, working for commission was a big adjustment for me. I also strongly disliked sharing a cabin with a stranger.


Advice I would have for an aspiring crew member: First of all make sure you have the work ethic to do it. You will be working 70 hours a week, no questions asked, regardless of how sea sick, moody, sad, or hungover you are. If you aren't able to work that much, for so little money, then cruise life is definitely not for you.


As far as job searching goes, I would say keep in mind that many cruise lines don't hire positions directly, they use concessionaires (ex: Ocean Images for Photo, Steiner for Spa etc). Applying directly to the cruise line for some positions is a waste of time, because they just don't hire some positions themselves.


I worked for cruise ship for 8 months before my contract ended and I quit. However, I miss it more than words can say. I really want to do another contract. Right now I'm 95% sure that when my apartment lease ends in October, I will try to find another ship job (but NOT photo). Hopefully Librarian or an HR job. After living on a ship, being on land is so boring. Adjusting back to land life has definitely been harder than adjusting to ship life was.