When doing your research, determine which job appeals to you. Don't just send in an application for "any position available." The cruise line will think that you are only looking for fun and not take your application seriously. Try to match your skills and interests to a specific job on a ship.
Some jobs are often only available to those who have worked on cruise ships previously. For example, bar tender, purser, and tour staff are very popular jobs on board. Cruise ships like to reward employees who have demonstrated the skills needed to work with demanding passengers by filling these jobs from within the current list of outstanding crew members. Therefore, just because you worked as a bar tender or a waiter ashore does not necessarily mean you will be able to easily secure one of these jobs on board. You may have to start out as a room steward (or stewardess) and work up to waiter, bar tender or office staff.
Jobs in the engine room or on deck are also sometimes difficult to obtain unless you are of the same nationality as the ship's officers. When doing your research, determine what the nationality of the ship's crew is. If your background doesn't match, it will be difficult to get a job in the engine room or on deck. Most ship's officers are Norwegian, Greek, or Italian, with a handful of British and American ships. In addition, many of the technical crew jobs in the engine room or on deck are staffed with Filipinos.
The cruise lines are very particular about the job application process. If your resume, curriculum vitae (CV) or application package is inaccurate, incomplete, poorly written, or goes to the wrong person, you have wasted your time and money. Each different cruise line job may require a different contract or a different application process. Be sure to read carefully when applying.
Beware that there is a lot of incorrect information available for free and for sale regarding cruise line employment. Don't purchase anything without checking it out first. Read everything available on the "free" sites first. You may not need to purchase any information to get started on finding that cruise job you are seeking.
Since most cruises ships cater to Americans and other English-speaking travelers, it is important that you speak English. All cruise ship workers need a valid passport and probably a work visa. If you are from a Western European country, you will need a C1/D1 Visa from the United States Embassy. This visa is for seamen and allows you to work in United States' ports for a limited number of hours/days. If you are from Asia or elsewhere, you need to check with the cruise line or agency to see what the specific visa requirements are for your country of origin. In summary, finding a job on a cruise ship requires lots of research, time, and the right qualifications. It also requires the applicant to properly complete the necessary paperwork and to have the correct work visas and passport. Cruise ship jobs are difficult and require lots of long hours. However, you do get PAID to see the world and get the opportunity to develop collegial work relationships that might last a lifetime!