Sunday, 20 May 2012 10:54

Life onboard

Work is generally seasonal although, in some ports in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, cruise ships visit all year round. Larger ships can cope with the problems of bad weather and sea sickness.

Operations are concentrated on short cruises, often lasting only one week. The frequent change of passengers has a significant effect on the workload of the crew.

Ship calls are generally between 8.00 and 17.00. Overnight calls are rare as there is no commercial interest in allowing passengers to spend their evenings in bars and restaurants ashore.

The ISPS code requires at least 30% of staff to remain onboard for safety reasons. Crew members whose names are on the list cannot go ashore even though they are not actually on watch.

Hotel staff form the majority of the crew, divided into three departments: Restaurant, Cabins and Kitchen. Strict schedules mean that several hundred crew come on and off shift at the same time.

Ship schedules are largely the same everywhere: breakfast from 6.00 to 10.00, lunch from noon to 15.00, and dinner, drinking and entertainment lasting late into the night.

Crew work 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Contract lengths range from four to six months for Europeans and up to eight months for workers from other parts of the world.

Free time for hotel staff is 'almost non-existent' as they are required to provide services for passengers onboard and prepare cabins for new passengers. As one welfare worker observed:

"If you work onboard a cruise ship, most of the time you don't even know where you are."

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