I worked on cruise ships for six years and used to wish passengers knew more about the crew.
The comment cards in cruisers' rooms can help employees get raises and promotions.
Even if a guest enjoys spending time with crew members, they should respect the workers' free time.
Throughout my six years working on cruise ships — first in guest services, then in onboard entertainment — I came across many different types of guests.
Some made my job easier by calmly communicating their needs and respecting the crew's boundaries, but others did not. I've seen passengers ask for exceptions to ship-wide rules and raise their voices at minor inconveniences. Through it all, the crew always has to remain polite and professional.
Here are the things I wish more cruisers knew about crew members before boarding ships.
Responding to inconveniences with kindness instead of aggression will probably get you further
Things don't always go smoothly on cruises. Luggage gets left behind, itineraries change on the fly, and plumbing issues can soak the carpets.
During my time working in guest services, I encountered many cruisers who were kind and patient regardless of how inconvenienced they were. I was always inspired to go above and beyond to address and make up for the issues affecting them.
On the other hand, some people reacted to mishaps with anger, raising their voices and demanding compensation for every detail that went wrong. Being rude, aggressive, and belligerent didn't get them very far on the ships where I worked.
I always empathized when things went wrong and guests had bad experiences. The kinder you are to the staff, the more likely they are to go above and beyond to help you.
Some crew members may not get a share of the tips even if they work closely with guests
Many major cruise lines charge gratuity to guests' onboard accounts. Passengers often assume each crew member gets a cut, but on the ships where I worked, the housekeeping stewards and dining-room staff split it.
Some crew members had roles that weren't tip-eligible and didn't receive a portion of the pool, regardless of how hard they worked.
Of course, the tipping structure varies between cruise lines. But if a crew member has gone above and beyond, feel free to give them an extra cash tip. They'll almost always appreciate it.
Comment cards can help some employees get promotions and raises
At the end of a cruise, guests usually find comment cards in their rooms or at guest services. These cards give passengers the opportunity to praise crew members who did an exceptional job.
My supervisors didn't always get a chance to see how hard I worked, so acknowledgment from passengers helped prove I was doing a good job. These comment cards were particularly useful when I was working toward a promotion or a raise.
Some crew members might not feel comfortable talking about politics or personal matters
My coworkers came from around the world, representing over 60 different countries, and that's often the case on cruise ships.
Many people love to talk about their home, culture, and background, but I recommend that guests avoid political topics while in conversation with crew members. They shouldn't assume the staff agrees with their ideological beliefs, and some employees might not feel comfortable discussing these topics in a work environment.
Passengers also never know what cruise workers are dealing with behind the scenes. They're often away from home for months at a time, which can take an emotional toll on them. In my case, my dad was sick with stage IV cancer while I was working on the ships, and I also lost a beloved family pet.
The staff almost always tries to keep conversation topics professional, and the passengers should respect that.
Onboard rules are in place for a reason, and they usually can't be changed for one person
Some people try to work their way up the chain of command — requesting to speak to a crew member's supervisor, then maybe that supervisor's supervisor — to overrule instructions they don't like.
For example, I've seen parents get upset about strict age-group policies at kids clubs. Some tried to get around this rule so their children were in the same group, but none succeeded. These rules are in place for a reason.
If cruise ships have a policy in place, there's most likely an explanation behind it. Before you waste your energy trying to get around rules, try to understand why they exist in the first place.
Guests and staff members aren't usually allowed in each other's rooms
Although my coworkers and I were encouraged to socialize and interact with guests, we always had to maintain a professional distance.
Employees have very little free time, so cruisers shouldn't infringe upon it
Part of my job as an entertainment host was to socialize with guests. I would occasionally build a great rapport with them, which led some to ask if they could join me during my free time in port.
Answering this question was always awkward. I felt like a bad person for declining their invitation but also felt like I had to be on duty — acting as an unofficial, unpaid tour guide — if I accepted it.
Crew members tend to work more hours than most people think
Pretty much any cruiser will tell you crew members work hard, and that's just based on what they see. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes, away from the ships' public spaces.
I worked about 10 hours a day, seven days a week, for six to nine months at a time. In addition to working with guests, I also had a range of safety duties, which involved ongoing training and a weekly crew drill.
Guests often assumed that the rest of the crew and I had a day off between the end of one cruise and the beginning of another to restock the ship and recoup. In reality, we usually set sail just a few hours after the last disembarkation.
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