5 Downsides to Working on a Cruise Ship

I kicked off this series with a call to action for everyone to quit their day-jobs . However, while I think the pros of working on a cruise ship do outweigh the cons, there are some pretty significant drawbacks to #shiplife. For instance:

You work every. single. day.

That’s right. Your schedule will largely depend on your position, but there is no such thing as a day off. Who would cover your duties, out there in the middle of the sea? There’s no one on-call. In fact, there was an unspoken† rule in our department that, unless your leg had fallen off, you did not take a sick day for the sniffles. You work through the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.

“Fine, but for how long?” you ask. A long time. If you’re joining the ranks and working your way from the bottom up, you’re looking at at least a couple of months, if not a half of a year entirely (mine was 7 months). It was an accepted truth that, by month 3 or 4, you would hit The Wall, i.e.: “There’s no way I can do this anymore.” But, you either adapt†† to the chaos or rage quit.

†Just kidding, we were a catty bunch. We were very vocal about our displeasure when someone was excused from work by the medical bay.

††This is just a different word for ‘Drinking at the crew bar every night.’

You vs. Plantar Fasciitis

Read that in a scary voice. Anyway, remember in my last post how I said I was walking 20k steps a day? Invest in a good pair of shoes and now. You’ll 100% need it. I’m talking orthotics grade & whatever the nurses are currently wearing. I opted for a pair of $15 Chucks knock-offs from Target simply because it fit (ha) what I needed for my uniform. Bad choice. They, almost literally, disintegrated after only three months. And, replacing them wasn’t easy since I was limited by what I could physically find in stores/malls while we were in port. I ended up with a second pair of the same, horrible shoes.

They wreaked absolute havoc on my arches. No support whatsoever, and my gel inserts did nothing. My feet were in excruciating pain nearly every second of the day and sometimes woke me up at night. Toward the end of my contract, I was worried I’d done serious, lasting damage (I didn’t, but for the first six weeks after my contract, I could barely walk in the morning because my arches were so tight. I mostly hobbled around on the outsides of my feet).

Yes, I’m aware that this was exclusively my fault via improper planning and lacking common sense. But, even with good shoes, prepare to be sore for a while if you suddenly double your average number of steps and stairs overnight.

The friggin’ inconvenience of it all

Life gets uncomfortable sometimes, and how you deal with it says a lot about your character. For me, the inconvenience factor manifested a few ways.

A.) My house back home. It sat empty for a month before the property management company rented it out. As it so happens with anything even tangentially related to home-owning/renting, there were approximately a million papers to sign—and always urgently. Imagine the fun of trying to take care of this remotely with severely limited (and not at all cheap) Internet.

B.) Credit cards. I thought I was thinking ahead by setting travel notices on all my cards— “It’s not fraudulent! I’m just a glamorous jet-setter, Bank of America,” I said, flipping my hair. That worked… but only for 90 days. Whoops, I’d missed the fine print that these were temporary adjustments. As soon as my travel notices expired (unbeknownst to me), my cards were canceled. It took over a month to get the replacement cards, as they went to my parents, who then forwarded them to the ship. Getting mail on the ship was a process in and of itself: I had to wait until we were actually in our home-port to pick up mail, which was only once per week, and then I had to wait until the office where we collected mail was open, which never seemed to be when I was free.

C.) Credit cards, again. When I did manage to use my cards, there was a foreign transaction fee on every purchase. Use cash, you say? Well, if you want to avoid the fees, good luck finding your bank’s ATM in the middle of the Caribbean (or wherever you are). The fees you pay on withdrawing your own money in a foreign country are exorbitant, to say the least. It was cheaper to pay the foreign transaction fees than the ATM fees, in the end.

Fried hair

Maybe not surprisingly, but when you’re sailing through large bodies of salt water, fresh water for your daily needs might come with some restrictions. On my ships, that meant that the water coming from the showers was heavily chlorinated. No matter how thickly I glooped on my conditioner, my hair perpetually had the texture of Doritos, and I started snowing dandruff on my shoulders all the time. It was gross. Other girls on the ship took to washing their hair with bottled water and copious amounts of dry shampoo. I ran out of my one can of dry shampoo within a month†, and I tried the bottled-water-hair-wash, but holy f**k. It takes a battle of wills to repeatedly pour cold water on yourself just for the sake of uncrunchy hair.

It was frizz city, every day—a few times, my manager sent me away to go brush my hair. Luckily, she gave up on that lost cause. At home, a keratin treatment set me back to normal, but it was a long seven months for my hair.

† “Why didn’t you pack more?” I hear you ask. Though it may go without saying, working on a cruise ship is not a vacation. You try and pack seven months of daily living into one suitcase and one carry-on. Just try.

Motion sickness

Luckily, I avoided this outright. Out of my two cruise ships, the second one was huge and had stabilizers, so I never really felt the rocking and rollings. My first ship swayed like crazy, though, and while I was never sick from it, I did have to learn pretty quickly how to adjust my walking so as to not run into things (read: I knocked over a table onto a guest). At night, however, the motion of the ocean (heh) gently rocked me to sleep, and I’d never felt cozier.

Most of the crew were used to it, but there were a few who kept a steady supply of Dramamine on hand. The medical bay gave them out for free—you could grab them by the fistfuls, if you needed them. Regardless, seven months is a long time and longer still is you’re seasick throughout.


Scared? Don’t be. It’s still worth it, I say. Working on a cruise ship beats out an office job, any day of the weak.

Want to read more about #shiplife? Click here for ALL of my blogs about life on a cruise ship.

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