Life On Board as a Crew Member

Life on board as a crew member is always interesting to guests on board as well as friends and family. Usually a crew member will say, “it’s great job if you want to travel the world”, but there is more to that answer. Therefore, this blog will explain in depth of what life is like on board as a crew member.


The number one job for any crew member on board is to successfully perform their safety function. This job overrides the other functions the crew member was originally hired for because safety is the most important thing while on board a ship. The second job for a crew member which is also very important is to make sure the guests on board are happy and satisfied. Guests pay lots of money to cruise and see these faraway places. They deserve to be treated well. You never know the background or story of a guest. You don’t know or where they’ve come from or why they chose this vacation prior to their time on board. They could possibly be a frequent visitor who donates lots of money to the cruise line or could be someone who has never been on a ship before. Regardless, all guests should be treated equally well, enabling each one to enjoy their time on board and cherish the memories. This may seem obvious to some readers, but I chose to share this in the beginning of the blog because this mentality is really is important to keep in the back of your mind every day you are working. Moreover, when a crew member is on board for many months, this ideology can fade away, leaving a negative impression making or breaking a ship’s ratings for a cruise.

To further explain safety functions let me go into more detail about drills. There are three drills a crew member needs to understand and act accordingly to:

1) The General Emergency Alarm

2) First Stage Response Alarm

3) Crew Alert Alarm


Depending on the safety card in your crew life jacket (kept in your cabin), you will have to react to all alarms in different ways. Every crew member is trained once they embark the ship on how to act accordingly to these alarms and they are all required to take multiple safety courses online prior to joining to the ship. My most recent safety function was a Stairway Guide, which directed traffic in a designated stairwell of the ship during a General Emergency Alarm. I had to ensure guests were moving in a calm state to their life boats by communicating with my voice and clear hand gestures. If a guest loses their key card or a child has lost their legal guardian, I had to call on the Muster Control System to report the event and have an assisted crew member (crew member who does not have a specific safety function and is asked to perform a task if needed in a General Emergency Alarm) to aid in the situation. Once all guests have been safely directed to their life boats, the captain announces each safety function crew to report to their designated life rafts, where the commander scans everyone’s key cards into the system to ensure everyone’s presence. If an actual real emergency were to take place, then the life raft commander would direct each group onto the rafts that would then be inflated. There is a blow up slide called a chute that each crew member of the life raft will have to slide down to arrive inside their designated life raft. This step is not practiced on board as the life rafts are only used for real life emergencies and not drills, but the process up the that point is practiced regularly.

For a First Stage Response Alarm, crew and guests need to listen to further announcements over the P.A and ensure that they are not in the location of where an incident is taking place, unless their safety function requires them to act during the alarm. The First Stage Response Alarm is for fires that take place on the ship. The P.A also makes announcements such as “Medical Response, Stretcher Team or Bright Star”, which are all for medical emergencies.

The last alarm is the Crew Alert Alarm, which is a drill that takes place once a cruise, ensuring all crew members are practicing their safety functions correctly in a smooth and calm manner. Every cruise there are different life rafts and life boats chosen to stay after the crew drill to be asked safety questions and review important information in case there are new crew members who have embarked the ship or is any crew member has forgotten the answers. The difference between a life raft an a life boat is that the rafts are for crew and the boats are for guests. There is a commander and assistant commander for each raft and boat but there are also riggers for the boats, which aid in let the boat down into the water.  Furthermore, there are 4-5 crew member in each life boat with guests.


Life on board as a crew member has many perks. We get discounts off liquor and other amenities such as the spa, shops and cafes. Of course, these discounts vary depending on the cruise line one is employed under but generally crew do not pay as much money for things as guests. Another perk for crew is access to internet. The internet is not free on ships but has a discounted price for crew. The final perk for crew in my opinion is that we get to see the ports in the itinerary more than once. Guests generally see these ports once and are limited to only see a few things while on board (unless they stay for more than once cruise or return to the same itinerary in the future). As a crew member, one is able to do multiple things during their multiple visits to ports. We also figure out where the best WIFI is to contact friends and family. One more perk that can sometimes be given to crew members are crew discounts in stores off shore. All it takes is to ask a concierge or clerk if they provide crew discounts in their shop, restaurant, tour and/or business of entertainment.


Some fun in the sun in Cayman Islands, while off duty as a crew member.


Currently working for Holland America Cruise Lines is wonderful because they allow crew to sign up for excursions as an escort. Even though this means helping the travel guide, it still allows you to go off and see things guests pay a lot of money for. When my family came on board, they all paid to go zip lining in Puerto Limon and I got to sign up as an escort so I could join them. It was totally worth it to hold up a sign and count the guests on your bus.


Being an escort for a tour in Puerto Limon, Columbia.


As a crew member many believe that relationships are sporadic and short lasting. Sorry to disappoint the readers but that rumor is far from true. Many crew members on board are usually in a prior relationship (engaged, married, or maybe have a family they need to support) and have no interest in finding a partner. Sometimes there will be some spontaneous romances on board but generally that is not the case. Many crew members meet and date on board and end up staying together over time. If there ever is a problem or something a crew member wants to share in a private manner, there is a human resource manager on board who will listen and advise you of the actions that need to be taken. A human resource manager may not be provided on some cruise lines, but it is really nice to have one on board.

Life on board as a crew member allows you to make many friends by connecting with crew from different departments and job functions. Remembering names can be a challenge but crew always wear name tags (essentially for the guests), which is very helpful to remind you if you forget.

The last thing to share about being a crew member are the crew parties and events. This is probably what makes life as a crew member so much fun to most people. Events such as ice cream nights, noddle nights, basket ball tournaments, themed parties, pool access, spa nights, all you can eat (insert food caption) contests, crew shopping sales, crew tours, crew shows and crew movie nights are all events I have seen happen while I have been on board. These events can be so much fun but I would advise that you attend with friends, as it is not as fun alone. There is strength and fun in numbers.


All dolled up at the Barbie Pool Crew Party.


Life on board as a crew member can definitely hard at times but for the most part is a unique experience and can really help someone grow in a positive way. I do know some who have worked on cruise ships and have absolutely hated it, having a bad experience, but generally most people I know that have worked for cruise ships end up continuing to work on multiple ships. If you consider yourself a wanderlust addict that loves to meet new people then this career path is a perfect choice. Please feel free to contact me at if you have any questions or want to hear more about this subject or another topic. Remember that you’ll never know what working on a cruise ship is like until you have actually tried it! See you soon xo