Cruise Ship Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Once you’ve received confirmation that you’ve been hired, you’ll want to know more details about airline tickets, travel documents, traveling to the ship, joining the ship, and getting home at the end of your contract. Here are some answers to these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):


Waiting for a Cruise Ship Assignment

Once you’ve been offered a job, you’ll undoubtedly have a lot of questions. You’ve successfully acquired your C1D Visa and your medical certificate. Now you wait for your ship assignment. Royal Caribbean explains in their “Getting Onboard!” employee handbook, ‘the length of time you will wait for your ship assignment can be anywhere between a few days to several months’.

This waiting period is typical with all the cruise lines. It can be a painful wait as you second guess if they have forgotten about you. Continue to follow up with your recruiter during this time. You will understand this process better once you work on board and see how many ‘leavers’ and ‘joiners’ there are on each turnaround day.



The Cruise Line Employment Letter

Although you are given an employment letter when you are first hired, this isn’t necessarily the final Letter of Employment (a.k.a. Letter of Guarantee, Immigration Letter, or Joining Letter) that you are given. Since you may not have a ship assignment immediately or your ship assignment is changed another Letter of Employment will be sent to you.

Typically the letter details the crew member’s data, the name of the ship you will be joining, the port you will be joining, the date you will be joining, and the port agent’s contact information. For some officers this letter may also include all your flight information.

This letter is a very important document and you need to keep it secure. This is one of the documents that immigration officials will need to see at the airport. You will also present this letter once you get to the cruise terminal, then again to the ship’s security at the gangway, and then again to the crew office onboard the ship.


Airline Tickets for Cruise Ship Jobs

For most officers and some crew members (depending on cruise line, rank, country of residency, or concession) the cruise line pays for the airline tickets, hotel accommodations, transfers to the ship, and even some meals. For most other crew, the crew member may have to make all the arrangements to get to their ship by their sign on date. Check with your recruiter for these details.

For example, Royal Caribbean instructs crew members in their ‘Getting Onboard!’ handbook that the cost of the airline ticket must be “paid by the new employee, except for those employees who are assigned to 2-1/2 stripe positions or above, are from the Philippines or work in the Marine department.”

Comparatively, Starboard Cruise Services, a concession that employs gift shop employees, offers this information for their newly hired employees:

“Newly hired crew members must book and purchase a one-way ticket to their first ship assignment. Upon embarkation, $500 is required to be deposited with the Shop Manager. With the successful completion of the six-month contract, the $500 deposit will be reimbursed to the employee and Starboard will arrange the return flight home, paid for by Starboard.”


Really Important Items to Pack

When it’s time to pack your carry-on, make sure you remember all of these items:

  • Passport with C1/D Visa (with validity for at least one year)
  • Letter of Employment
  • Medical certificate
  • Marlins English certificate (if applicable)
  • Professional licences and other training certificates (will be copied by the crew office and kept on file)
  • Two passport-size photographs of yourself (recommended but not necessary)
  • Travel with the equivalent of at least $200 USD
  • A major credit card is convenient for expenses before receiving your first pay


Travel Arrangements for Cruise Ship Crew

As mentioned above, travel arrangements such as hotel and transfers may or may not be paid by your employer. Typically, the cruise employer prefers that all crew and officers join their ship first thing in the morning. For this to happen, the crew member usually spends the night before joining their ship in a hotel designated by the cruise employer.

Whether you need to reimburse the hiring agent or the expenses are prepaid for you, the logistics are pretty standard between cruise lines. You need transportation between the airport and the hotel and also between the hotel and the cruise port. Plus, you need to eat. The letter of employment may include details of these travel arrangements, if not contact your recruiter for more information.

However your travel arrangements pan out, you need to get to the ship for your sign-on date. Although most crew members will not have any issues with the travel arrangements, there are occasions when not everything works out as planned. Make sure you have contact information and emergency phone numbers if required.


Procedures for Joining the Ship as Crew

Often times a handful of crew join on the same date and are escorted by the port agent or other authority to the ship. This is the best case scenario as you just follow everyone else (experienced crew). If this isn’t your case and you find yourself alone trying to get to the cruise terminal you need to know the procedure.

If possible, try to contact the port agent (number on your letter of employment) to organize transportation from the airport or hotel to the cruise terminal. You will need the letter of employment and your passport to enter the secured area of the port. Next you proceed to the ship’s gangway where you will present yourself to the security officer along with the letter of employment and your passport again. You will then be escorted to the crew office to “sign-on”.

At this point you will be given your cabin plus instructions on when to go to orientation and safety training.


End of Contract Procedures for Crew

During the last days of your contract you will be given a final performance appraisal and be informed of your flights home. On the very last day of your contract, you will present yourself to immigration officials then you will ‘sign off’ with the onboard crew office. The term, repatriation, is used to describe when the crewmember must return to their country of residence as per the International Labour Organization C166 – Repatriation of Seafarers.

The onboard crew office will organize your flights home as well as any transfers to the airport that you will need.

Additionally, since the “D” part of the C1/D visa only permits the crew member to remain in the US as long as their vessel (cruise ship) remains in the US, they must fly home immediately if they finish their contract in the US. The only exception is if they have obtained a tourist visa. If you finish your contract in a country other than the US, you also need to obtain a tourist visa.


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