Working on cruise lines is as hectic as a job can get. Cruise ship chefs literally live at the office. On board, the hours are long and work is often tiring – imagine feeding as many as 3,000 people or more three meals a day, every day for the duration of your contract!
But there’s always time off, and it depends how you would like to use it. When the ship is sailing, time off work is spent engaging in activities that come to be known as ‘cruise life’ or ‘ship life’. Most crew have three to five hours to themselves every day to do as they please. This excludes the time spent sleeping.
It’s in the belly of the cruise line that memories with colleagues are made when the ship is sailing. Each cruise ship generally has two decks reserved for those who work on board. In the upper crew deck, there’s a mess or dining room where everyone eats. Many cruise ship chefs enjoy time in the game room where there are a host of games such as football and ping pong, and even board games.
Some ships open the cruise Gift Shop to crew members at certain hours where you can buy things at special discounted crew rates. You could also catch up on shopping for necessities such as toothpaste, snacks and even cheap beer. There’s a pool where you can relax or sunbathe and even a 24-hour gym to keep fit, all available to crew free of charge. The crew lounge is where the fun happens with crew events such as karaoke and dances. However, it is important to note that all companies are very strict regarding responsible conduct while on board, and you are expected to turn up for duty on time.
To keep their crew happy, cruise lines often appoint a crew officer who looks after the well-being of everyone under his or her care, organises training programmes, crew changes and quality control. Ships also elect a welfare committee that organises entertainment especially for those working on board, such as movie screenings, games, crew parties, and even friendlies. Some cruise lines even hand out an activity calendar that lists all the events scheduled in solely for crew during each cruise.
While in port, cruise ship chefs can get out and about like many of their other colleagues, based on their work schedule. Many like to make calls to loved ones over the cheaper land-based internet, or go shopping for folks back home if they are due to leave soon. Some go on local tours, relax at a beach nearby depending on the port, or take in the local culture and food by visiting pubs and restaurants.
It offers one of the perks of working on board a traveling hotel – where cruise ship chefs can visit exotic countries as part of their jobs. It is expected of crew to be responsible and report back to the ship well before departure – generally an hour before cast off.