SELLING YOURSELF, GET THE CRUISE SHIP JOB
So you've decided you want to pursue a job working for a cruise line. You've considered all the pros and cons of cruise ship life, investigated the different types of jobs available working for a cruise line, either on board the cruise ships or shoreside, and made your decision. Now it's time to dive into the choppy (yet navigable) waters of finding your cruise ship job.
Over the last four years, over 40,000 new cruise industry jobs have been created. Although there are lots of jobs available, cruise lines receive hundreds of applications every week. The desks of cruise line personnel managers and department heads are often cluttered with resumes that never get a second look. It is critical you learn the ways to cut through this clutter. What does it take? We have interviewed lots of people in the business and found that hiring practices can vary widely. Your chances of getting hired depend a lot on when you apply, your qualifications, current openings, persistence, timing and following a proven strategy.
APPLY FOR SPECIFIC CRUISE SHIP JOBS
Most people applying for jobs at cruise companies ask for any job on board. Unfortunately this usually tells the hiring manager that you're interested in cruising, not working a real job. To avoid being left in the rejection pile, make sure you apply for specific positions, and let your resume and cover letter show that you have the experience or aptitude for the job. Try calling the cruise line ahead of time-many major cruise lines have separate job lines you can call to see which jobs are available.
Where can somebody find information about individual cruise companies? There is a lot of information to be found. Start with the detailed company profiles in the Members Section of Cruise Job Finder. Another possible source is the library. Many libraries have a place for material pertaining to general employment. Look up annual reports on the larger companies such as Holland America and Princess Cruises. Financial reports provide a lot of good, general information on the company. Do all of these things prior to leaving for your interview. People who have done their homework always feel better about their chances or landing a cruise ship job.
THE CRUISE SHIP HIRING MANAGER INTERVIEW
Bernard Stolberg worked as the manager of vessel services at Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises in Seattle. He began working in the cruise line industry as a waiter many years ago and has worked his way up the corporate ladder. Bernard took some time out of his busy schedule to reflect on what it takes to succeed in this industry and what it's like working for a small cruise company such as Glacier Bay.
I interview and hire a lot of young people, and I see a lot of people who are looking for the experience of being away from home. They want to travel-that's a large percentage of our applicants. People want to travel and experience Alaska, or experience the Pacific Northwest, or wherever the vessel operates.
When I'm interviewing job candidates, I look for someone who has met challenges before, someone who is outgoing and a go-getter. Especially in our sector of the cruise industry, with the small ships. It is vital that people can talk and are willing to get along and meet new people. The cruise industry right now is really competitive, but I think it's still fairly easy to get a job, especially if you have background experience. A lot of times the background experience is in the hospitality industry-working for a restaurant or hotel. Those industries are key because of the customer service and guest experience you learn.
Applicants can have little in the way of experience, but still be successful with the kind of qualities they do have, the people skills, determination, and work ethic. On a smaller cruise line such as Glacier Bay, you have to work on your own and be independent. You become, in a sense, your own manager. It's the one thing I always talk to people about when I'm hiring. It's to your benefit to demonstrate that you have an excellent work ethic and to be able to quickly do an efficient job while maintaining standards of quality.
We're not a formal ship. Our crews are small and more tight-knit, like a family. When the passengers come on board, they become part of the family. Our niche as a small cruise operator is the family-oriented experience. Our company is going more toward the eco-tourism and adventure cruising. For the past nine years we've developed the Wilderness Explorer vessel program; it's a soft adventure program. Well, now that vessel's becoming an active adventure trip, which is going to promote our floating base camp. And the Wilderness Adventure, the vessel we've just acquired, will promote the soft adventure cruising.
The difference with adventure cruising is, instead of going on a shore excursion to a big city such as Ketchikan, the emphasis is on getting out in a kayak, or hiking. We do stop at Ketchikan, too, but our focus is on experiencing the wilderness of Alaska. It's one of the benefits of the small ship: We can go places where the big ships can't. So, you're getting out, you're experiencing wildlife, you're doing a lot of hiking and kayaking, those are the focus points of our trip. And being on a small cruise ship, crew members get to do a little bit of everything. So there'll be times when we say, "OK, why don't you get out and kayak with the passengers? Why don't you lead this expedition trip and take them on a shore walk?" What's really neat, is that when you're kayaking along the shore, you can be within ten feet of a bear. Recently, we were cruising on one of our small vessels and as we got close to the shore a moose swam about three feet away from the boat! It was pretty remarkable.
Working on a cruise ship is a unique life. It can be very rewarding, but at the same time, it can be challenging because you're working twelve hours a day, and many times it's a split shift. But there are a lot of benefits, especially with a small cruise ship. You develop very close, personal relationships with, not only crew members, but also with passengers. They become your family. And they say the pay's not good, but I think the pay is excellent, especially in the hospitality end of things. For the majority of jobs [working for Glacier Bay], you get paid a daily rate, and also tips on top of that. The tips are based on the quality of the work you do and the atmosphere that you present to the guest. So you're making anywhere from $80 to $100 a day, which is both tips and your daily wage.
Normally you're working six weeks on, twelve to fourteen hours a day, and two weeks off. To put it another way, you work every day for six weeks, but then you get two whole weeks off. That's pretty much a standard for the industry. That's why it's unique; somebody can either do it or they can't. That's one of the biggest things I miss about boat life, is that I don't get two weeks off every six weeks.
The cruise industry is growing and hiring continuously. You read the stories about the big ships that are coming out, and the smaller cruise lines they're finding their niches, like ours. In fact, over the last four years there have been 64 new cruise ships launched!
Adventure cruising, eco-tourism - we keep expanding because that whole niche is expanding. So there are many opportunities in the cruise line industry!