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Stow Away With a Cruise Ship Job

July 14, 1996|LUCY IZON

Traveling the world and getting paid for it by signing on to the staff of a cruise ship may seem like the ideal opportunity for an adventurer with limited funds. Veteran cruise staffer Sandra Bow helps sort the myth from the reality in her new 190-page guide, "Working on Cruise Ships" (Vacation Work, $22.95).

Bow draws on her decade of experience on a variety of ships to fill you in on the types of positions available, wages, requirements, how to go about applying for work and what sorts of experiences to expect.

The good news is you may be more qualified than you realize. Sure, there are the obvious opportunities, such as waiters, kitchen staff, bar staff, cabin cleaners, etc., but you may also have other skills and valuable experience that you haven't considered. Bow includes a list of more than 200 jobs at sea. Because many of the huge ships operate like floating cities, available positions can range from aerobics instructors and health spa and beauty salon staffers to photographers and librarians. Other opportunities include computer operating, banking, carpentry, child care and retail shop sales.

But what happens when you get to port, but can't get off the ship? Bow's unofficial list for jobs that offer the best opportunities for getting off in port includes gift shop assistant, musician, casino staff, sport/fitness instructor and disc jockey.

The type of ship you sign onto and the route that you sail can also make a big difference in port opportunities. When you work up to seven days a week, share a cabin with up to four people and have to wait a minimum of three months for some shore leave, not only do you want to see something exotic, but those few hours on land can be pretty important.

One drawback to the huge ships is that they often can't dock and must moor off shore and send the passengers and crew ashore on small boats. Paying passengers, of course, get the first opportunities. Space for staff may be limited.

But the large new ships are said to offer the best crew quarters and recreational facilities, and may be a better choice for those worried about seasickness.

If you are on a ship hopping through the Caribbean, stopping almost daily, you'll likely have far more opportunity to get ashore than if you sign on a ship like the QE2 on a transatlantic crossing.

"Working on Cruise Ships" gives readers an indication of wages, but remember, the basic wage is only part of the story. In some positions, such as waiters, bar waiters, busboys and cabin stewards, you can double your income through tips.

Here are some points you should think about when applying to ships or cruise lines.

Find out if you'll have to pay your own way to the ship or if you will be reimbursed at least partially if you stay an agreed amount of time.

Find out what you'll need to pay for. This could include uniforms, evening wear, tools or supplies.

Do you need additional insurance?

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