Promotions and Careers in the Cruise Industry


Although not everyone wants to have a career at sea, many job seekers have already set their sights on an advancing career in the cruise industry. There are some common questions for those that are starting out with their first job on a cruise ship. How and when can you expect to be promoted and what skills do you need to achieve a promising career in the cruise industry?


Entry Level Cruise Ship Jobs

Most people that begin their careers at sea have started in an entry level job. There are some crew members that are happy with the one job that they were hired to do and continue with the same position for years. There are also crew members that choose to work on cruise ships as a break from “real world” jobs and want to do this type of life for a couple of contracts of travel and fun.

Others aren’t so content to stay in the same position for too long, with ambitions to go ahead with their career as quick as possible. Some start in their entry level job with only limited experience, but with lots of drive. Others may be over qualified but have proven to a recruiter that they can take direction and be managed.


Importance of Shipboard Experience

Once you work onboard, you’ll understand the importance of shipboard experience. When you read the various cruise ship job descriptions, it is evident that all supervisory or management positions require or prefer the job seeker to have previous shipboard experience. The main reason is that working on a cruise ship is quite different than many other industries.

When you have shipboard experience it means that you understand the seven day work week. It also means that you have an in depth knowledge of emergency training, possibly with additional training certificates. Furthermore, the understanding of how a cruise ship operates in terms of how all the departments interact, hierarchy onboard, and daily operations is important.


Choosing a Career Path in the Cruise Industry

The career path of a crew member isn’t always direct. A crew member may start in an entry level position in one department but may show enough skills to be transferred to another department. With the right training, skills, experience, personality, drive, and opportunity, a person can quickly rise through the ranks.

For example, a crew member may start as a Buffet Steward then after a couple of contracts change departments and work as a Guest Services Associate. A few contracts later, this same crew member may be promoted to Crew Agent, a one-striped officer position. After a few years and some additional training, this person may then be promoted to Crew Manager. It won’t be long before this employee may be qualified to be a Human Resources Manager.

Such a career path may not be for everyone. The title of supervisor, manager or senior officer not only means a bigger pay check and more responsibility it also means less free time, less time ashore, and less socializing. Yet, this may be exactly what you want to get yourself into.


Training and Skills Required for Promotions

To be offered a promotion to the next level or to a different department, the candidate needs the best combination of training and skills. Although cruise lines tend to promote more frequently from within, they on occasion choose an applicant from outside the cruise industry. Either way, to be considered for a promotion, you need to understand which skills and training is required.

Depending on the department will determine which skills are the most sought after as a requirement for promotion. Speaking more than one language is one of those skills that can be a tie breaker when it comes to a manager making a decision for which person to promote. Proven managerial skills, customer service and sales experience is also valuable for many departments.

Emergency training is also important when it comes to selecting who should be promoted. Courses such as Basic Firefighting and CPSC (Certificate of Proficiency in Survival Craft) are usually required before a person can be promoted to a managerial position.

Many courses are offered onboard whereas many cruise lines may pay for some employees to take additional course while they are on their leave. Even if the company doesn’t pay for additional training, if you are serious about getting a promotion, have the right training is required.


Competition for Promotions in the Cruise Industry

Even with all the right training, experience and skills, there is still so much competition for supervisory and management positions. More and more crew members are being hired with higher education and plenty of work experience and skills. Everyone must wait their turn and prove themselves before getting the opportunity for a promotion.

The best thing that a crew member can do for themselves is to continue with getting more training and skills. Be flexible, rarely say no, go above and beyond your responsibilities, get along with everyone, and make sure that the passengers love you as well. Being at the right place at the right time doesn’t hurt either.


An Ugly Truth About Cruise Ship Promotions

Unfortunately, just as in land based jobs, the cruise industry is guilty of promoting some people that aren’t as deserving as others. Whether it’s based on nationality, “kissing up” to a supervisor, being at the right place at the right time, or knowing someone in head office, it’s a fact that some crew are promoted for the wrong reasons.

Some crew complain that there are “mafias” onboard and if you aren’t part of the “mafia” then it’s difficult to go ahead with your career.  Just like shore-based jobs, a supervisor may give a promotion based on a friendship they have with a crew member. Furthermore, some crew feel that a person may get promoted because they are a “sapo” (Spanish term for “informer” or “snitch.”)


Do You Really Want a Cruise Ship Career?

For those that want to work hard and have the determination to make a cruise ship job a career, it is rewarding. Plus, the skills, training and experience that you gain from working on a cruise ship will be transferrable to plenty of other jobs you apply for in the future. Even if you only have a short career on a cruise ship, the fact is that it will look great on a resume.


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