What's it like to be a Crew Member on a Cruise Ship?
Well, this could be a SUPER short blog. I can sum it up in one word.
Just kidding! Although true, there is so much more that goes on.
From the secret crew areas, to my favorite question ‘where do you sleep?’, being a crew member was seriously some of the best times of my life.
My Disney career began back in 2011 performing in Disneyland Paris. The job was taking its toll, and I knew I was ready to move on. Since cruising from a young age, I sort of always knew I would end up working on a cruise ship – it was never really an option not to? I started applying to every cruise line I could. Completely coincidentally, the only people that got back to me, was Disney Cruise Line. Long story short – I left Paris, flew to Miami to meet the ship and started out my journey in the Kids area, as a Youth Activities Counselor. Given my performance background, it wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, but I would start anywhere to get my foot in the door.
The first thing I learnt about ‘crew life’ was that I would probably be hungry for the rest of my contract…Haha. That’s an overreaction of course, but contrary to popular belief, we definitely do NOT get fed the same food as the guests. We have our own dining hall called the ‘mess’, and its specials included white rice, chicken, and more white rice. Having a chronic stomach illness myself, I definitely found it hard to nourish my body and give it the fuel it needed to be working 10/11 hours a day, however I have to give credit where credit is due – the food got considerably better throughout the 7/8 contracts I completed. I remember they would assign a representative from each department to attend monthly meetings where you could provide feedback about the crew mess, and it ended up being super beneficial so I appreciated DCL for that.
Let’s dive right into work schedules. So I really only did around 3/4 contracts in the Kids club, in each age range, before I successfully auditioned and transferred over to the Cruise Staff department, and I absolutely noticed a change in the schedules. I mean, either way, SEA DAYS ARE THE LONGEST of all time, but there was a lot more freedom with Cruise Staff.
Think about it – the Kids clubs are open from 8am-12pm midnight – we have four kids clubs: Oceaneer Club/Lab for ages 3-12, Edge for 11-14 and Vibe for 14-17. All of which have to be staffed for the entire day of activities. It was intense. It was normal to do 11hour sea days and probably the hardest days for crew members. Now it doesn’t sound a lot but remember, our contracts were 4-5months long with absolutely no days off.
Even though Cruise Staff hours were slightly less (9.5/10) it was a different kind of tired. No matter how you felt, how tired or hungry you were, (or even hungover from the crew bar) you still have to get up, show up, and put on that Disney winning smile. (It’s easier to hide those things from kids!)
Working every single day for the entirety of your contract was challenging. I remember waking up one morning and just absolutely refusing to put my uniform on. I was so sick of wearing it…I mean I did in the end, but it was such a strange feeling to be sick of the clothes I had to wear every day. One of my funniest memories, that I wouldn’t dream of doing on land, is have a 30 minute dinner break, running to the mess to shovel down food, and then racing back to my cabin to squeeze in that precious 8 minutes of sleep before changing and heading back to work. Can you imagine if we had to do that in the real world?
I have many friends who have worked for different cruise lines, and I do believe that DCL is one of the only cruise lines that doesn’t give their crew a day off. I could be completely wrong, but DCL is notorious in the cruising world for running the tightest ship (literally).
The rules on Disney are something that I STILL catch myself doing now. In Disney terms, 'on stage’ means you are in guest areas, essentially on show. Eating, drinking, being on your phone, not greeting each guest, are just a few of Disney’s BIG no no's. If you are caught committing these 'crimes', it's not just a slap on the wrist. Disney doesn't take punishment lightly, so although I'm little biased, I do believe that’s why DCL is probably the best in it’s field.
I currently work in a resort a few days a week, mainly to network and meet people since I'm new to the area, and my brain physically will not let me NOT say hello to anyone that walks past me. I hide my phone constantly, and I never have gum in my mouth. I believe I am Disney brain-washed, but I’m kind of okay with it...
Here I am with beautiful Princess Tiana. If you look closely, you can see the red tag on my name badge. If you were a red tag, you were fresh meat, oops I mean 'Earning my ears'.
Part 2 coming soon.