Have you ever worked with or interviewed a former cruise ship employee? If you haven’t, then you’ve missed out on a treat. Crew members and managers from cruise lines offer character traits that are difficult to find in your normal lot of people because employment for a cruise line, any cruise line has a tendency to bring out the best traits in people. Below are just a few examples of how previous employment on ships mold employees into fantastic workers:
TEAMWORK – A crew member or manager who has previously worked on ships are serious team players. They have worked in environments where no single employee is responsible for success, but instead the team is. A crew member will often find themselves working in multiple teams, teams pertaining to their position, emergency responsibilities, ships they have to work on, and other situations as they arise. Teams are ever changing and cruise ship employees have no other choice but to adapt to their surroundings and make it work.
ADAPTING TO CHANGE – There are few other jobs that requires people to adapt to change as much as working on a cruise ship. Almost daily, managers, supervisors, and crew member’s contracts start and end. The people you work with today, will almost certainly be different next month, next week, and even tomorrow. Also while the ship works on a schedule, you have to adapt to the change in itinerary as things arise, changes in weather, changes in passenger demographics, and changes in procedures. You have to be flexible and able to adapt to changes on the fly. One of the first things new employees have to adapt to when joining a ship is changes to their own personal lifestyle.
TIME MANAGEMENT – Cruise line employees are masters of time management. We aren’t just talking about how many hours a day one must work. When you think about it, a cruise line employee will often work every day from 4, 6, 8, and even up to 10 months straight without a day off. That doesn’t mean that they work non-stop. There are opportunities to take a few hours to half a day off from time to time. But most cruise ship employees are used to working holidays and weekends. I once interviewed with an employer who asked me if I would be available to work 2-3 extra hours more during a weekday and quite possibly on a weekend from time to time. I responded with “hell yeah! I can do that any time….” The future employer couldn’t help, but to grin a little as they checked off a box on their interview sheet. Most crew members are also used to working with complex schedules and achieving desired results in quick turnaround times. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Wednesday, Friday Night, or Sunday. If the task has to be resolved immediately, it will be done.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION – Often times when working on board a ship, employees and managers will often face challenges or conflicts. These will often occur with passengers, other crew members, and managers. Cruise ship employees know that the passenger, crew member, or manager, aren’t going to suddenly disappear without the issue being resolved. Instead they address the situation immediately, and attempt to resolve it in the best manner possible. They know that if the issue is not resolved in a timely manner, it may linger on and become more complex. There are always going to be challenges, but crew members are brilliant at overcoming them.
EMPOWERMENT TO LEARN – Most employees don’t join ships expecting that all they have to do is walk across the gangway and start working. There’s a process, responsibilities, and things to learn. You would think that all you need to know is how to do your job, but that knowledge is not enough. You have to want to learn more about your job and other responsibilities that go along with your job such as Safety, Security, Environmental, and yes job skills. See employees on board ships are often looking to improve both their soft and hard skills. They know that the more skills they learn and apply, the better they will do their job. That is why most cruise lines employ permanent trainers and human resource managers on their ships and spend money to continually develop training programs for all employees on board.
STRESS MANAGEMENT – It’s funny, in the past when I have told friends and family members that I am leaving to join another ship, they often look at me and say, “You lucky guy.” But they have no idea the challenges that employees often have to deal with on board. First, you have to remember that employees do not take their families to work with them on board the ship. Most of the time, they won’t see their families for months at a time. There are exceptions however, some husbands and wives can work together on the same ships. Crew members often work long hours but remain in full compliance to ILO & MLC laws (International Labor Laws). While some employees may have their own cabins, many don’t depending on their position and the cruise line you work for. While cruise ships do spend money to outfit their ships with entertainment for crew (Crew Bar, Crew Gym, Crew Mess, Crew Pool, Crew Hot Tub, Crew Events, and Crew Parties), many of the other things you may do at home to relieve stress may be unavailable, which means that you have to be able to adapt to stressful situations on your own. It’s because of this, that I believe that cruise ship employees are often masters of stress management.
INNOVATIVE – There’s one place that thrives on innovative employees almost daily and that is on a cruise ship. While ships often have rules and regulations that must be followed to the T. There’s also an understanding that Innovation is crucial to success. Managers and Crew Members are always looking for ways to refine a practice or come up with better ways to do a job. Often they must come up with solutions that reduce costs, work, and time, without diminishing the end product. Cruise line employees are great observers and often offer the most amazing ideas.
DIVERSITY – So if you have ever worked on a cruise ship, you would know there are few other jobs out there that offer the level of diversity found on board. Diversity comes in a number of forms on board cruise ships. Often you will find an average of 60 nationalities working on board cruise ships from all over the world (Pilipino, Italian, American, Chinese, Ukrainian, Mexican, British, Australian, South African, etc.…) and amazingly they all get along so well. I have to say if there’s something I love more than anything else, it’s having lunch in the mess. Often you’ll have crew from at least 5 nationalities sitting at your table talking about anything, and the perspectives are brilliant. You have crew from various employment, education, and cultural backgrounds on top of many other forms of diversity that I can’t name, and amazingly enough, they can all work harmoniously together on board a ship. Even better it’s because of this exposure to diversity, they are able to accomplish some of the most amazing things.
CRISIS MANAGEMENT – So have you watched the news lately? There’s almost always something about the cruise industry that makes headlines in the news from accidents, to sickness, to passing through storms. In the end, no matter what happens on board the ship today, the ship must continue to operate tomorrow. Rarely does the operation on a cruise ship come to a halt. When a cruise ship is built, it’s expected to run every minute of every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for at least 35 years. There are few things that run with that kind of efficiency except perhaps the human body. On ships, there will always be crisis, from missed ports, to illness, adverse weather, to emergencies that happen at all hours of the night. Crew members are taught how to deal with crisis, but are also tested often when dealing with them. Crises often create the best employees.
These are just a handful of the traits that shipboard employees have and what makes them so amazing at the work they do. It’s rare to find employees in other fields that have the same kind of work ethic that cruise ship employees have. It’s this work ethic that makes them suitable to handle almost anything that comes their way. I have had the opportunity to work both on and off ships and have to say that working in a land based job rarely measured up to the daily challenges I have encountered while working on a ship. I would go on further to say, I don’t believe I would be as good of an employee if it wasn’t for my experiences working on board cruise ships. So next time you speak to or interview an employee who has worked on a ship, remember that their previous work experience may make them more than qualified to handle anything you can throw at them.
If you have previously worked on a ship, please feel free to chime in with other traits you feel I have missed. I know there are many others out there.