Once you arrive onboard the cruise ship for the first day of your contract, you understand that this is no ordinary job. Whether it’s your first contract or your fifth contract, what happens on your first day can be overwhelming. As a first time crewmember, get to know what to expect on your first day working on a cruise ship.
Crew Boarding Procedures
You may arrive at the cruise terminal with a busload of other crew or on your own as initially described in the Cruise Ship Crew FAQ. Now what? Every cruise terminal around the world has a different layout and varying degrees of security. Generally you will arrive at a security gate which may or not be close to the ship. Some cruise ports are humungous with dozens of ships while others are tiny.
You will show your passport and employment letter to the port security and then they will let you proceed to the ship. Some cruise ports have cruise terminal buildings while others may not. This is sometimes an additional step as you may need to have your luggage screened and your passport checked again in the terminal building before proceeding to the ship’s gangway.
(This is where you realize if you’ve brought too much luggage or not. Generally there is no one to help you pull or carry all your bags. There are no luggage carts either. You must be self sufficient until you get onboard and to your cabin.)
Once at the security at the bottom of the gangway, you will need to show your employment letter and passport again before being let on the ship by the security officer. Someone from the crew office typically meets the new joiners at the bottom of the gangway (or in the crew terminal building) and escorts them to the crew office.
Crew Office on Cruise Ship
As you follow the Crew Manager to the crew office, you see what happens on a turnaround day. You pass crew loading on provisions. You see forklifts within the ship moving around cages full of passengers’ luggage. It’s a busy and noisy place as you head to the crew office.
At the crew office you sign the Ship’s Articles, a large book which is a legal document containing signatures of all leavers and joiners. You fill out other information such as a declaration of your personal effects. This will be used for customs purposes that will prove what you came to the ship with and what you are leaving with when you go home. You will also give your passport to the crew office to keep for your whole contract.
You will be given items such as a ship’s map and information pertaining to training that you must attend. You may get your cabin assignment at this point or you may be given this once you meet your supervisor. You may also be instructed when and where you will get your ship’s ID (photo identification that replaces your passport while you work onboard).
You will understand that the crew office is where you will be paid your salary, where you will pay your shipboard account, and where you will report if your luggage has been delayed by the airlines.
Cruise Ship Crew Cabin Assignment
Once you leave the crew office, you need to figure out where to go next. Although your crew map will show where most places are around the ship, the maps typically aren’t very detailed when it comes to finding your cabin. Many crew areas that are devoted to cabin space feel like a maze until you get used to them.
You may not be able to put your luggage into your cabin right away because the leaver (that you are replacing) might not have left yet. If you have to share a cabin, you may not get to meet your cabin mate at this point either since he/she is probably working. Your cabin mate will generally be someone from your department.
Get to Know the Cruise Ship
Once you know where your cabin is it’s time to get familiar with other parts of the ship. If you’re prepared, you would have researched the rest of the ship’s layout before you left home. (All ship deck plans are available on the cruise lines’ website). Before you start wandering around the ship, take note of when and where you need to be for all your orientation and safety inductions. Organize everything else around these very important times.
Depending on your rank will determine if you need to put your uniform on before meeting your supervisor. You may already have your uniforms, or you may have to go to the uniform store on the ship to get them. You will soon find out that the uniform store has specific hours of operation, too. Next you need to find out where and when you can get alterations done if necessary.
At some point you will meet your supervisor and find out where and when you will need to report to your shift, and where you are allowed to eat. Take any extra time you have before starting to get familiar with the ship. Understand forward, aft, port and starboard as well as any other areas that are pertinent to your cruise job.
Safety Inductions and Training
During your first day onboard, you will be expected to attend some safety training. Read the instructions carefully that the crew office (or your supervisor) has given you as to what you need to bring (ie. life jacket and a card that explains your emergency duty). Learn more about safety training in the article, The Crew’s Role in Cruise Ship Emergencies.
Your First Shift on a Cruise Ship
Your first day on a cruise ship can be very overwhelming even before you actually start working. Once you do start your first shift onboard, make sure you understand what is expected of you. Don’t be afraid to clarify with your supervisor anything you are unsure of. You will probably find that your colleagues will help you adjust because they remember what it was like on their first day working on a cruise ship.