Crew Appraisals and Disciplinary Action


Disciplinary Action and Appraisals

Securing future contracts on board is the result of positive performance appraisals and the absence of disciplinary action. What happens to crew members that don’t follow the policies and procedures of the cruise ship? Here are some facts about disciplinary action and appraisals for cruise ship crew.


Cruise Ship Crew Performance Standards

When joining a cruise ship to work onboard, crewmembers must read and sign their contract and a booklet that discusses the cruise line’s policies and procedures. These policies and procedures include a strict code of conduct and performance expectations that employees must confirm in writing that they understand.

The code of conduct and other rules for cruise ship crew covers appearance standards, personal behaviour, dealings with fellow crew members, interactions with guests, and basically what you can and cannot do onboard. In addition, how well you do your job in terms of what is expected of you will be reflected in your end of contract performance appraisal. If you fall below the standard or violate any of the ship’s policies and procedures, it could be grounds for dismissal.


Probationary Period for New Crew

Many cruise lines have a probationary period for new employees. Royal Caribbean states in their Getting Onboard employee handbook that the probationary period for new employees is 90 days on the job. “The company may end your employment at any time during this period if you perform your job duties below expected standards,” states their booklet.

Also, keep in mind that you are working a contract. If the cruise line you are working for is not 100% happy with your performance, they don’t have to hire you back for a second contract. Each contract is separate term of employment.


Progressive Discipline Levels

Depending on the severity of the infraction or lack of performance, your supervisor or department head may administer some type of discipline. Most cruise lines have a progressive discipline process to help improve the performance of the crewmember as well as warn the employee about the severity of their actions.


  • Verbal Counselling – This is the first step that is typically taken when an employee is not meeting performance expectations. The supervisor discusses with the crewmember what he/she has done wrong. Maybe they are late for a shift or maybe they made an error in their work. This can also be called an informal verbal warning. The crewmember may be informed that their future actions and performance will be closely monitored.
  • Informal Written Warning – In this case, the actions of the crewmember are typically more serious or maybe it was the second time that the employee has done the same thing wrong. This warrants that the supervisor gives the crewmember a written warning. It is still considered informal because the warning is not passed on to head office.
  • Formal Written Warning – A formal written warning is given when the crewmember’s actions or performance is serious enough to let shoreside management know as well. The case may be that the employee has previously been written up with similar poor performance one too many times. Alternatively, the actions of the crewmember are so severe that the supervisor has chosen to issue formal warning straight away.
  • HR Review – Failure to improve performance after written warnings have been given typically results in the employee facing an HR Review. In this case, the department head brings the crewmember’s actions or performance documentation to the attention of the onboard human resources manager. A Master’s Hearing is normally scheduled at this point to decide the fate of the crewmember.
  • Master’s Hearing – Generally when the disciplining of the crew member must be presented in front of the Captain, the actions are pretty serious. During this hearing, the performance documentation or actions of the crewmember are reviewed by the Captain. Beyond performance issues, possibly there has been a case of drunkenness, drugs, sexual harassment, theft or fighting. The Captain may dismiss the employee for violating company policies or failure to improve performance.


Crew Performance Appraisals

When working for a cruise line or concession, each contract that you work will be evaluated near its completion with a performance appraisal. If you want to secure a second contract, you must complete your current contract with a successful performance appraisal.

Although each cruise line has its own evaluations and rating scales, the concept is similar. Performance appraisals are intended to encourage crewmembers to become aware of their individual strengths and weaknesses. It also enables the cruise line’s shoreside management team to monitor the performance of the crewmember.

Performance appraisals for cruise line employment evaluate a number of different criteria using a rating system. From failing to meet required standards to consistently exceeding performance requirements, the employee’s performance is evaluated. Department supervisors assess the professional technical skills of the crewmember as well as evaluating other skills.

Other professional skills that may be assessed in an appraisal are how the employee relates with guests, personal and organizational skills, management and leadership skills, communication skills, and health and safety awareness.

The main objective of a cruise line’s employee appraisal is not only to encourage career development but to also determine re-employment at the end of a crewmember’s contract. Continuously low ratings on a performance appraisal could lead to not being asked to come back for another contract.


Cruise Ship Crew Recognition

One way of boosting the scores of your performance appraisal is by having guests and crew make positive comments about you. Some cruise lines have a formal method in place for guests or crew to give specific crewmembers recognition for exceeding expectations in their work performance.

Passengers may complete questionnaires and comment cards regarding crew that have gone above and beyond what is expected of them. This may even lead to an employee being recognized as an employee of the month. This type of recognition looks great in your employee file as it promotes your likelihood of future contracts and career development.


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