11 Things You Don't Understand About Working on Cruise Ships (Unless You've Worked on One)

If you've ever watched (reruns of) The Love Boat, then you know that working on a cruise ship is about the best job ever. All witty banter, hilarious hijinks, and sage romantic advice from Captain Stubing. While traveling around the world!

But what's it really like to work aboard a cruise ship? Do they put in crazy hours? Hit on passengers? Throw giant frat parties in the middle of the night? 

We wanted to know, so we asked three cruise industry veterans for the dirty details about real life on the high seas.

flickr/jenni konrad

1. We have an awesome secret part of the boat all to ourselves

Sure, we sleep in closet-sized rooms waaaaay below deck, but we spend most of our time enjoying the blissfully uncrowded, crew-only amenities. We're talking private sun decks, hot tubs, gyms, bars, and dining rooms. 


2. We throw insane parties while you're asleep

Seriously, it's like that scene in Titanic, but without the Irish fiddles and weird table dancing. Working on a ship is pretty much like being in college -- we work hard, we play hard, and we throw crazy parties that go well into the night.

3. We're constantly hooking up with each other... and with passengers

Literally, everyone is doing it, and all of the time. The ship is like an international buffet of bodies, and no one is leaving hungry. On top of that, we guarantee at least one passenger-crew affair on every single cruise. Or your money back. Gopher would be proud.

Flickr/Dennis S Hurd

4. We don't get a day off... for eight months!

You read correctly: Zero. Zilch. We work seven days a week for the duration of our contract, which is typically eight-months long. That's right, eight straight months without a day off. Bet you didn't get that from watching the Love Boat. Instead, we have random breaks scattered throughout our day.

5. The hours can be crazy

Because we're on duty whenever the ship calls, it isn't unheard of to work 100 hours a week for 15 weeks straight.

flickr/401(K) 2012

6. But... it's a great way to bank mad cash

While this totally depends on what job you're doing, some crew positions can make a lot of money. Not only that, but we often make a salary similar to what you'd make on shore, and we don't pay for food. Or rent. Or utilities. That's right, we pretty much have ZERO expenses.

7. We don't eat the same food as guests

A lot of people think that crew members eat the same food as the passengers, but we have separate dining rooms with less glamorous cuisine.

flickr/oliver beale

8. The UN's got nothing on us

If you've ever dreamed of living, working, and partying with people from all over the world, well, welcome aboard. Some crews have over 60 different nationalities represented, and learning about different cultures is one of the best parts of working on a cruise ship. Also, we mentioned that we're all hooking up, right?

9. The ship's crew is segregated by rank

There are three kinds of cruise ship workers: officers; staff members (like dancers, musicians, black jack dealers, the gift shop cashier); and general crew (bartenders, wait staff, and cabin stewards). Each group is afforded different privileges. For example, officers are free to see shows, mingle with passengers, and explore ports, while ranked crew aren't allowed to disembark, or even enter any non-crew areas unless they're on the clock.

flickr/john prieur

10. We are insanely efficient

No restaurant on shore can do what we do. Not even close. Because we seat everyone at the same time, dining rooms basically go from empty to 900 people in 15 minutes flat. And since every ship has two dining rooms, and each has two serving times, we basically feed 3,500 passengers in less than five hours.

11. And can turn around a 4,000-passenger ship in mere hours

Ditto for turning around the ship between cruises. Sometimes, we have as few as three hours in port to unload thousands of passengers, clean the boat, switch crews, and welcome aboard an entire new group of folks.

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.