Canadians Living On Cruise Ships

While I myself am Canadian, I wanted to get another opinion from another maple-syrup eating, cold-weather tolerating, plaid-wearing Canuck to corroborate my experiences working and living on a cruise ship – so I asked my good friend Stephanie.
Steph and I both worked as Youth Counselors together aboard our first ship before we got sent away to different continents (a story all too common amongst cruise ship friends). While finishing up one of her contracts, I asked her to write me a few sentences with her limited internet on her experience aboard as a Canadian. Here’s what she had to say.


What made you decide to work on a cruise ship?

My decision to work on ships was not planned at all.  A few weeks after I finished my Bachelor of Ed. I was deciding what I was going to do next, career wise.  I was applying to school boards and independent schools, but I was also considering abroad options.  I was interested in teaching in Colombia or Brazil for a year.  I was inquiring about these opportunities with the career counsellor at my university, and then gathered that my finances were not in check.  Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to sustain myself over there.  I still had student loans from the previous 5 years and needed to find a job that could allow me to save money and help to pay-off my debt.  I was still intrigued with the idea of travelling and working abroad, but needed to find a more cost effective option, besides going to South America.  I did some research and looked into working for cruise companies in the youth department.  


What do you do on the ship? Are you treated well as a crew member?

For my first two contracts (6 months each) I worked as a Youth Counsellor in the youth department.  During my most recent contract, I began as a Youth Counsellor and then received a promotion to become Teen Counsellor.  I was a Teen Counsellor for a total of 6 months and it was amazing!  At first, I was working on a team of 4.  When I got transferred to a different ship, I was working alone in the teen centre because it was a smaller vessel.

Yes, I was treated well as a crew member.  The company covered my accommodations and flights and I felt valued as a Canadian and multi-language speaker (Stephanie speaks English, French, and Spanish).  In terms of my work, I progressed a lot and had opportunities for further growth and development.  I attended new-management trainings and later received the promotion I was hoping for.         


What has been an experience working on the ship that you couldn’t have gotten in Canada?

I managed to visit 16 different countries in 20 months, which is pretty incredible.  I had the chance to visit the majority of Europe, Alaska, and the Caribbean.   I definitely would not have been able to accomplish that much travelling in such a short amount of time if I stayed at home and worked a land-based job. Since working on ships, I have this dire need  to travel….the coined addiction “travel bug”. I love the idea of constantly moving around and seeing new sights and cities every day.  There’s something thrilling and unique about an experience like that.     


Are there other Canadians that work on the ship with you? What are their jobs generally? What are they like?

When I was stationed in Europe, I barely met any Canadian crew members.  I might have met between 1-3 of them, but we were definitely a rare breed of individuals.  When I was stationed in Alaska and the Caribbean, I met a few more Canadians than expected.  A few of them were in the production cast and the others were either youth counsellors or stage technicians, working the shows.

These fellow Canadians I met were amazing! So welcoming, kind, and full of energy and positivity.  Also, they were extremely flexible and easy to work with.  Nationality definitely comes into play, considering when we were the loudest and drunkest ones during Canada Day celebrations.        


What is the process like for getting a job on a cruise ship as a Canadian?

I happened to do a few “google” searches one day and stumbled upon a few cruise line sites.  I decided to apply to a few recruiting agencies and submitted my CV and Cover Letter.  Within a few days, I heard back from a couple agencies interested in interviewing me.  I had some skype interviews with these recruiters and they decided that I was fit for the job as Youth Counsellor.  After those preliminary interviews, I had interviews with the employee relations representatives for these cruise companies.  They asked me questions about my work experiences, education, and personality and professional characteristics.  I had three different cruise lines interested in hiring me as a Youth Counsellor.  It was just a matter of making a “pros” and “cons” list and deciding which company  was going to be my best option.

Read more about how to get a job on a cruise ship.


Compared to a job on land, would you say that the ship is a well-paying job for a Canadian fresh out of school?

It’s not a well paying job, but it is definitely worth all the experiences and travel opportunities you will receive. If you are smart with your money and expenses, you could easily save around $10,000 US by the end of a 6-month contract.  I managed to pay-off my student debt after my first contract, which was a huge burden released.  Also, once you complete the conversion of dollars, you end up making a bit of money with the exchange.  When it’s all broken down, you realize that you save quite a bit in terms of travelling.  You don’t need to worry about paying for international flights, medical expenses, accommodations, or food.  The only expenses you will endure would be personal ones, including tours and shopping. I feel that considering ships for employment after post-secondary would be a reasonable option for most 20 somethings, especially if you’re interested in doing some travelling.           


What do you miss the most about Canada when you’re away on the high seas?

I missed a lot of things at first, but you learn to quickly adjust to the new lifestyle and busy work schedule.  I missed home cooked food and fresh veggies and fruits, of course. Eating in the crew messes wasn’t easy all the time.  I got bored of the food quickly and wasn’t very impressed with the quality.  But, you learn to enjoy all the good food you can get in the ports, especially in Italy, France, and Spain.


Do you have any advice for anyone (Canadians in particular) who would like to work on a ship?

Enjoy every second of it! Don’t let the little things stress you, including the sea days or complaints.  Just focus on your own body and mind, go to the gym, eat healthy, and spend time with good company.

You will meet people from all over the world and some of them will become your greatest friends.  When you work and live with the same people for months at a time, they become a part of your life and you will never forget them.  

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