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Cruise Ship Jobs: cruise line, student cruises, travelercruise
By: Staff (justin) 2012.02.28



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An Interview with Mark Landon

Mark Landon is the author of Cruise Ship Crews (, a resouce book on all the inside details of the cruise industry. He worked on cruise ships for six years, eight different ships, and on four different lines. Mark shares some of his insider tips with us about the high seas.

Student Traveler: Did you have a favorite port of call when on ships?

Mark Landon: Probably Venice, Italy. Pretty much everywhere in the Mediterranean is great because there aren't very many sea days, and there's so much variety. A sea day is when the ship sails all day because the destination ports are too far apart. The Caribbean tends to be all the same, if you've seen one island, I think you've seen them all.

Student Traveler: Especially in reference to the sea days, even though you're traveling, technically, do you really feel as if you get to see these places since you're "on the job"?

Mark Landon: Here's the natural order of things. When the ship is in port, most of the passengers get off the ship, so hotel department and entertainment department services naturally are at a minimum. So people in those departments get time off, which is what most people want. Crew members in deck and engine departments, work the same number of hours everyday regardless of being in port. Hotel and entertainment do get ashore, though not as much time as the passengers. You may only get five or six hours off, but if you visit that port ten times during your contract, you get to know that city pretty well.

Student Traveler: What kind of jobs are available, like in the entertainment department, especially for students or recent graduates?

Mark Landon: Students should avoid a job such as deckhand, bellboy, busboy, dishwasher, and painter. The jobs that are good for students, entry level opportunities, are assistant purser (which is like an administrative assistant), receptionist (like in any hotel), activities director. This is an excellent opportunity for someone with great social skills. This is just a staff of individuals that organize activities for passengers, helps out with any and all lectures, sometimes they work backstage for entertainment shows. They also perform gangway duty, when they have to put on their uniforms and stand at the gangway to greet passengers when they arrive. Another good job would be retail sales assistant in the giftshop. Pretty much a no-brainer. Bar waiter is good too. DJ, believe it or not, even if someone has no DJ skills, is great. Most jobs aren't very difficult, so the cruise line isn't looking for technical details, but social skills.

Student Traveler: Do you get hired for single cruises? or you can be sent anywhere, Alaska one week, the Caribbean the next?

Mark Landon: No, you'll get one contract, on one ship, that lasts three to six months. Sometimes students try to negotiate contract dates to fit scholastic schedules. I would advise anyone to get the shortest contract possible, because some people really can't hack the lifestyle. Other people fall in love with it and get addicted, as I did.

Student Traveler: What parts make it difficult for some, but great for others?

Mark Landon: You have to make some sacrifices in terms of creature comforts. You have to share a cabin. You don't always get to eat exactly what you want, when you want. It can be pretty loud sometimes at night. If you can forego some comforts, you'll be rewarded greatly.

Student Traveler: What are some of the rewards?

Mark Landon: Well, the opportunity to travel, and to work in a multicultural environment, which is a double-edged sword. When you've got 20 or 30 different cultures to blend in with. On the one hand it's exciting to get up close and learn about other cultures, but at the same time you have to be tolerant of things they may do that you don't necessarily believe in.

Student Traveler: How should a student go about trying to get a cruise ship job?

Mark Landon: They have to send a cover letter, a resume, and a photograph. Cruise ship jobs are very competitive, so you've got to get it right, professionally, the first time. The big thing is to stress social skills, present yourself professionally, use some letterhead, make it look like any official correspondence. Demonstrate your skills, your activities and experience that are applicable. Another very important thing for students - don't make the fact that you are a student be the predominant theme of your correspondence. Don't think that because you're a student you'll get any special consideration.

Student Traveler: Where do you send your resume once it's ready?

Mark Landon: Not all jobs are hired by the cruise line. Some jobs are hired through concessionaires. Concessionares are a third party that sets up facilities on the ship, hires their own employees, and shares in the profits with the cruise line. Concessions include the gift shop, the beauty salon, photography services, and the casino. If you were to apply for those jobs with the cruise ships it would be a waste of time. There are about 32 or 33 major cruise lines North Americans would get a chance to work for. Obviously, they are all listed in my book, and on the web. Concessionaires are also in my book, but are difficult to find on your own. One of the big ones is Steiner Group in Miami Beach, FL.

Student Traveler: What are the differences between large and small cruise ships?

Mark Landon: Let's talk in terms of big cruise ships (400-2000 passengers), and adventure class cruise ships (100-200 passengers). The adventure class ships are smaller and can go places the big ships can't access, river ports, etc... The travel experience on an adventure class ship would be better then, for that reason of access. Some of these smaller ships though, would only have 40 or 60 crew memebers. Comraderie is pretty tight. But a small ship doesn't have an entertainment department. For me, the more people, the bigger the ship, the more I like it because there's more things to do.

Student Traveler: What's the pay like?

Mark Landon: The pay for Cruise ship job is similar to land-based jobs. Entry level jobs can pay anywhere from $400-$600 per week. All the bills associated with living on land are gone (rent, food, utilities, car insurance). It's really easy to save money, though I never tried to, but in spite of myself I saved money.

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