Jobs on a cruise ship are as varied as those you will find in any small city. The skills and knowledge required are also varied. Turnover for many cruise positions is very high, but most cruise lines get thousands of applications weekly, so matching your skills to a ship's needs is one key to getting a job. When cruise lines have openings, they want to fill them quickly. Therefore, your resume must be in their hands at the "right time", and they must be immediately convinced that you (1) understand the job and (2) have the skills and ability to do the job. Most jobs on a cruise ship require that you start at the bottom of the organization chart and work your way up, especially if your prior experience is limited.
The organization chart of a cruise ship looks much like what it is -- a hotel on a ship. There are probably between 150-200 different jobs on most cruise ships! All of the same departments you would find in a resort hotel are present on a cruise ship, along with all the same engine and deck departments you would find on any cargo or transport ship. The captain of the ship is ultimately responsible for all of the ship's personnel. One important fact to note is that many of the personnel on board are not working for the cruise line directly. They work for concessionaires, or subcontractors, whose company contracts with the cruise line to provide certain services for a percentage of the profits. Whether or not a particular job is or is not a concessionaire depends varies from cruise line to cruise line. Understanding the types of positions in each department will help you match your skills to job openings as they come along.
If you've ever vacationed or stayed in a hotel for business, then you are familiar with many of the jobs that fall under the hotel department. This department is the largest and most diverse on the ship, and is run by the hotel manager. The divisions and hierarchy of the department mirror those in a hotel.
Let's start with the most obvious--the cabins or staterooms on a ship. Responsibility for the cabins fall under the steward division, which is similar to the housekeeping department in a hotel. This division is responsible for making passengers comfortable while they are in their rooms, and includes the care of the cabins, room and messenger service, and laundry pick up and delivery. Positions in the steward division include the cabin stewards/stewardesses who clean and do daily maintenance of the cabins and general housekeeping.
A clean ship is important to all cruisers. There is also a separate division that does the general cleaning and maintenance of the common areas around the ship. I shutter when I think of all of those windows that need washing, brass that needs polishing, and areas that need painting! The laundry on a ship must run almost continually. Bed linens, towels, tablecloths, and some crew uniforms must be laundered daily.
Cruise ships pride themselves in their ability to provide a memorable dining experience to hundreds (or even a couple of thousand) of passengers and staff each day. It's not always easy to "run to the store" if the ship has forgotten something, either! The food and beverage division is responsible for all of the dining rooms, bars, the galleys (kitchens), clean up and provisions. There is a food and beverage manager who runs this department.
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