For job seekers bitten by the travel bug, the idea of living and working aboard a cruise ship can be an adventurous way to see the world. Depending on the type and size of the cruise line, employment processes vary. Researching cruise ship employment is a time consuming process. Knowing the online hiring practices for the major cruise lines can help you figure out where to focus your job search.
Carnival Corporation is the largest cruise company in the industry. They are publicly traded and their major holdings include Carnival Cruise Lines as well as Princess, Holland America & Cunard Cruise Lines, just to name a few. They also own operations for land based tour companies and cruise port facilities. They have a tricky application process, using third party companies to fill restaurant and hotel operations jobs, mostly with international applicants.
Carnival Cruise Lines
There are several ways to apply for employment with Carnival Cruise Lines, including applying directly with the company and its recruiting partners. For U.S. applicants, prospective employees often attend hiring events. They have a spot on their career website to sign up and be notified when recruitment events are happening in a local area. The company also places newspaper and online job board ads when they are recruiting in a specific region of the country.
Carnival UK oversees P&O and Cunard. Their careers website includes information on jobs with their land based operations as well as onboard careers. Search for open positions, as well as get dates for shipboard recruiting events.
Other Carnival Opportunities
Carnival Corporation also owns Costa, Seabourn, AIDA and Ibero Cruise Lines. Each of these individual lines is responsible for staffing its ships. Requirements vary, and you can connect directly with their individual careers websites via the Carnival Corporation careers page.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is an established company that holds the Royal Caribbean Cruise line, as well as Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and a few smaller international brands. They began in 1968, and this fleet contains 42 ships total, with eight new ones under contract for construction. For those looking to work aboard a ship, the company provides an easy process for applying.
The US corporate office is located in Miami, Florida, and job listings for this office and international corporate positions are available, for review, along with employee testimonials. Each listing contains a full job description and you can apply directly online.
RCL maintains a separate webpage for shipboard jobs. They give information on the hiring companies they use, and how to apply. They also list jobs currently in high demand, including any specialty positions. They encourage applicants to apply online, and users can create a free profile to apply for multiple positions.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line is a major cruise line employer. They operate four ships: the Dream, the Fantasy, the Magic and the Wonder. Their application process is much like Carnival's, with a third party hiring company providing most of the shipboard employees. Disney Cruise Line requires all applicants to be 21 years of age or older, with a genuine interest in Disney.
Information about positions both on land and at sea can be accessed through their hiring website, though Disney Cruise Line does not accept applications directly. The site contains overview videos of many of the positions and overall life aboard ship, as well as a database that allows you to search job opportunities. They also have information online about contracts, and interview preparation.
To be considered for a position with Disney Cruise Lines, you will need to apply with one of their third party hiring companies. These firms are referred to as procurement allies and are assigned by geographic location of the applicant.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is also a major player in the cruise industry, with 13 ships in its fleet. The newest vessels, which are also their largest, are the Epic, Getaway and Breakaway. They hire for some positions directly, work with third party hiring companies for many onboard jobs.
For employment at the corporate office in Miami, Florida or the call center in Mesa Arizona, NCL maintains an online career center. Each available job is posted, and applicants can submit a resume online. Specific experience needed does vary for each position, but all require some level of customer service experience.
Shipboard positions are also posted online. NCL reviews resumes for these positions from around the world, as long as job seekers have the required background, training or experience. Bartender applicants, for example, need experience with high volume bar operations, customer service skills and some experience in Molecular Mixology is preferred.
Third party hiring companies are used to recruit for positions not listed on the company's websites. The companies used for each region of the world are summarized in the how to apply section of NCL's career site.
Positions With NCL America
NCL is unique in that their MS Pride of America (POA) ship sails under a U.S. flag and, therefore, must be staffed by a predominantly U.S. crew - which is encouraging news for job seekers from the United States. This ship has a single itinerary, which consists of seven day sailings sailing around the Hawaiian Islands. They have formed an offshoot company called NCL America to oversee hiring and training for this ship.
- The ship is required to adhere to U.S. and Hawaii wage and hour laws, like minimum hourly wages and extra pay for overtime in excess of 40 hours per week.
- To apply, NCL America offers an email address for direct employment inquiries/submissions. They require a current resume, cover letter and salary requirements.
As a former cruise ship crew member, I worked aboard the POA in 2006/2007 and was hired from a career fair in my area. The job fair schedule is posted online and updated regularly.
Watch Out for Cruise Ship Employment Scams
While it's true that some cruise line companies hire directly and some use third party companies to recruit for specialty positions, there are also for-profit companies selling tip and tricks to ensure employment aboard a ship. Such companies are not official representatives of cruise lines, and any that claim to offer a guarantee of employment are scams.
While it is up to you to decide if you want to pay for this type of information, you should realize that it will not substitute for applying with cruise lines and/or the third part companies they use for recruiting services. Employers and reputable third party staffing companies never charge an application fee, nor do they sell information on how to apply for jobs.
As an example, Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD, posts a warning about online scams to letting prospective employees know that they never ask for credit card information as part of the online application process. Be smart about online companies and research carefully before providing personal information to anyone on the web.
Myths About Cruise Ship Employment
There are some common myths about cruise ship jobs that are just not true. Two such myths include the idea that Americans are never hired to work aboard cruise ships and that people who work onboard cruise ships work 20 hours per day.
The reality is:
- Employees are drawn and recruited from all over the world, including the U.S.
- The hours are very long in some departments, and may stagger throughout the day, but usually total 10 to 12 hours a day.
- A cabin steward is responsible for cleaning, refreshing and turndown services all of which happen at different times.
- Restaurant staff generally work two to three shifts a day, which always includes a longer dinner shift, and a shorter breakfast, lunch or midnight buffet shift.
- Entertainers usually perform once or, at most, twice per day.
Working on a cruise ship may not be for you, but don't base your decision on incorrect myths. Paul Motter's article on Working on a Cruise Ship on Cruisemates.com, is an an honest look at the realities of the job.
Deciding to Apply
Although the hiring game differs for each of the major players, finding legitimate work aboard a cruise ship is possible with smart planning and careful research. Being paid to travel the world is one perk worth the hassle of the application and training process. Working aboard is more than just a job, it is a life-changing experience.