Pros: room and board completely paid for.
Cons: no free time, no privacy, unfair compensation
This was the worst working experiences I have ever had. But it was a great opportunity to learn and grow. This job consists of 14 hour days 7 days a week. You don't get any days off the entire time you are there. The destinations are not that interesting, at least on my boat (New England Islands).
The pay is more than I have made so far in such a short amount of time. But when you compare the hours worked vs. your take home pay, you are barely breaking minimum wage, for incredibly demanding work.
The only thing separating you and managers is a bachelors degree, and often the Stewards have way more on the job experience. It doesn't matter how hard you work or how lazy you are, every steward and deckhand makes the exact same amount. We are not allowed to accept individual tips. So if you do wow a guest and they want to compensate you for it you have to turn that cash over to your manager, who then adds it to the tip pool. Which has the potential to be reasonable. Except most people don't turn over individual tips. So when I was turning over my tips like I was supposed to I really got cheated, and that was frustrating, but realistically there is nothing I could do without compromising my identity, or making people hate me more.
There were a couple of good managers, and a couple of managers that made the decent managers look like saints. But good manager or bad manager it didn't really matter, managers dropped just as often as stewards.
In the 8 weeks I was there I saw 7 stewards and managers fired. Many others quite. This is a small ship cruise which means that turn over rate – more... is incredibly large for what is already a temporary position.
On top of working with these people for 14 hours a day you also have to live with them. It's great that they provide room and board. But just keep in mind that "board" is sharing one large bunk room with 10 other women. (Somehow the men's quarters were better equipped and there was more privacy). Strong personalities inevitably clashed. I found myself consistently bullied, it felt like I was back in high school all over again, yet with no going home to a family that loves you. Putting that on top of rough living conditions,
The entire ship is made out of steal. That includes the beds that you sleep on with smaller than twin size flimsy mattresses. So your back hurts all the time from lack of support during the 6 or 7 hours of sleep you have every night. For the first two weeks I was there my feet were swollen and throbbing constantly. I was actually able to get used to this though.
The food can be really good, but as much as I try to remember the good meals when they are serving terrible inedible meals, it still makes going into dinner service starving really frustrating. Oh and I hope you like fish, because more than occasionally that is your only protein option.
But you do get to eat pretty much all the desserts you want. Sometimes you can snag passenger left overs.
You cannot drink at all the entire time you are working for American Cruise Lines. That is on and off the boat. They can fire you instantly if they catch you drinking. But similar to other expectations that are put forth, it can be a reason to fire you, but almost everyone drinks, managers included. It was the type of rule that I felt like I had to follow, but felt like an idiot for doing so because no one else was. I guess mostly I didn't want to waste what little money I was making of booze.
Oh and also you have to pay for your travel to the ship and home from the ship. You also have to pay for (incredibly over priced) uniforms. They pay to fly you out for a week of training in Connecticut. But that week of training is not paid.
I would really only ever recommend this job to someone that was homeless, and didn't have anything else going for them. But it can be a great way to put your foot in the door in the cruise line industry. They will hire anyone, I was working with a couple of people who had no experience in the hospitality/food/housekeeping industry. It is also a great option for someone who is unemployed and living with there parents.
Everyone on this boat is cheating, if they can even find someone to cheat with. Maybe you can trust your girls, but even the most devoted boyfriend/husband I saw ended up cheating. It's just boat life. So if your doing research on what your significant other is about to go do, think long and hard about the implications for your relationship.
You do get to see different parts of the country. I imagine that other ships had better destinations. You can also go to Alaska, the Mississippi, Maine, Florida, or the Columbus and Snake rivers. But you don't get any say in which ship you want to go on. Unless you want to wait around for a month waiting to get the ship you want.
They tell you that you might leave right after training, so bring everything you need for the trip. That may happen, I know people who got to go to a ship right after training. But after I finished training they gave me an estimated leave time of three weeks. But don't worry! They said, a spot could unexpectedly open up at any moment (first indicator of turn over rate) so be on call and ready to leave for the next three weeks. Again this plan is great if you are already unemployed, and have really flexible living arrangements. But I gave my landlord notice and quite a job in order to take this job. So I was stuck practically homeless with no job or source of income, until one morning they called and asked me to fly out the next day (about a week and a half after I finished training)
Even on their most optimistic timing, you probably won't see any money for at least a month. Your first paycheck mostly goes towards paying for your travel expenses and uniforms. So I hope you have some savings and no bills to pay.
Some people have really great experiences. But no one ever comes back for a second round as a steward. – less