Staying healthy whilst working on a cruise ship; easier said than done. Living, working, and socializing in the same half-kilometre stretch of metal, separated from the outside world for days at a time isn’t exactly natural, so it’s going to take your body some time to adjust to the difference. We used to measure health by the absence of disease, but today there are many different aspects of health and wellness, and it’s important you recognize, and strive to keep them all in top shape. It’s not just about going to the gym and eating healthy, but maintaining relationships, a sense of purpose, and good intellectual health. With all that being said, here are my top tips and tricks on how to stay healthy while working on a cruise ship.

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1. Do you even lift? Physical Health

Obviously going to the gym, or doing some sort of physical activity is going to be on the list. Depending on your position however, you might get enough physical activity from your day to day routine. If you’re not a dancer, or running around the engine room all day, you might want a bit of physical activity to keep you in shape.

Many cruise ships have crew-only gyms aboard where you can work out without being bothered by passengers, though these gyms don’t always have the best equipment. Depending on your position onboard, you might have the opportunity to use the passenger gym during low times – take advantage of it. Quite often, crew all-aboard time is well before passenger all-aboard time – this can give you a good hour to burn off that ice cream sundae you devoured in port.

Check out other ways on your ship to get involve too. Quite often you can sit in on passenger fitness classes, or do body weight routines. If you’re committed, you’ll find a way to do it. Just remember the number one rule of physical activity (and learning languages, coincidently): don’t be lazy.

2. The only home we’ve ever known. Spiritual Health

Got a religion? Great! You still have the opportunity to stay in touch with it during your time aboard – just ask around and you’ll find plenty of services. Spiritual health, however, is a lot more than having a religion – and is important regardless if you have one or not. It’s about your sense of purpose, and finding meaning in your life. Take some personal time to meditate, or reflect on your life aboard – how the things you’re learning can be transmitted into life lessons. Write a blog, read a book, listen to music with a glass of red wine.

My personal favourite activity, however, is stargazing. Being hundreds of kilometres away from shore gives us the perfect view of the night sky. Bring warm clothing and good friends to the top deck, and gaze upon lights that have fascinated our kind for millennia.

3. The mess, isn’t always best. Physical Health

You’re going to be spending a lot of your time eating in a place called ‘the mess’. There’s no way to spin this one positively – it’s not always going to have the best, or healthiest food, so check your diet every day. Be sure you’re making regular trips to the salad bar. Mind your portions of the “good” stuff like pizza or french fries, and eat lots of fruit and vegetables. If you do get the opportunity to eat in one of the passenger restaurants, take advantage of it. Just last night I had a free steak dinner in one of the fancy restaurants. It’s not always going to happen, but for the sake of your mental health, take the opportunity.

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4. I get by with a little help from my friends. Social Health

Friends and family on board have no separate distinctions. You’re with these people 24 hours a day, so you’re going to find best friends within a week. The onboard atmosphere is friendly, but unfortunately lends itself often to gossip. Distance yourself from the negatives, find a few friends you can trust, and throw a cabin party now and again, head on down to the crew bar on a quiet night. Even if you’re the most introverted person in the world, you still need someone to talk to now and again, and it helps if they know exactly what you’re going through.

5. Washy Washy Physical Health

Getting sick on a ship is one of the worst experiences you’ll have in your life. All those comforts of home you’re used to? Forget about it. You do recover, but it takes a while, and your life is miserable for that week. The best thing you can do is prevent it from happening. In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, make sure you’re constantly washing, or sanitizing your hands – especially if you’re working with children. Be mindful of the amount of times you touch your face, and stay up to date with your flu shots and general vaccinations. As a special note to my co-workers, the flu shot does not give you the flu. Stop telling people that, you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.

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6. Hablas Español?  Intellectual Health

Once again, depending on your position, and with all due respect, you may or may not be intellectually challenged at work. Bring an e-reader aboard; you can store many books without taking up luggage space. If you run out of books to read you can always download more in port. If books aren’t your forte, perhaps try learning a new language. A cruise ship is one of the most multicultural environments on the planet. You can’t go an hour without hearing another language spoken around you, so ask for friends and colleagues to teach you a few phrases. You won’t be the first crew member to walk off the ship speaking a completely different language. A year from now, you’ll wish you started today.


  1. Hi, the first of all on most of the cruise ships is 0% Alcohol policy, that mean that you cannot consume alcohol either during your shifts, either while off. if you go ashore and come back under influence of alcohol, you most likely to face a disciplinary action.
    There is a very limited amount of cruise lines allowing the crew to use guests facilities.
    Some cruise lines adopted a split shifts, which mean you will have no days off and will be working 11-12 hours a day in split shifts. Hours will depend on your position and onboard policies.

    1. Hi Irina,

      Some good points there! I was fortunate enough to work aboard a cruise line which did not implement a zero-tolerance policy towards alcohol. For a brief period of time aboard my ship, managers were not allowed to drink, but it was quickly repealed.

      Some of my friends were indeed fired from coming back to the ship too drunk, but a drink or two in port was the norm from when I was spending my time ashore. Once again, I think a lot of it depends on your cruise line, and your specific position on the ship.

      The same goes for cruise lines allowing crew to use guest facilities. On our ships, it was extremely position-dependent. In general, only staff members who regularly interacted with passengers (cruise staff, youth staff, recreation, photographers, etc.) were generally permitted to use guest facilities, and only during times where there was low guest traffic. I was able to use the guest gym, but never during sea-days or any time it was generally busy with passengers.

      Thanks for your insight!

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