- Apr 16, 2018
I once worked as the resident photographer of a luxury cruise ship. Before that, I worked a typical 9 to 5 office job. But after a few years sitting in my cramped cubicle, I started craving adventure. I wanted a job that paid well, but also gave me the opportunity to travel, which is something I never had time for while working my old job.
That was when I met my friend who worked in the engineering department of a ship. The dude spent most of his time below decks, but he still had a helluva great time out at sea. Shore leave also gave him the chance to see other countries and experience different cultures. I was jealous!
After hearing his stories, I decided to look for a job on a cruise ship. Since there weren’t any openings in his ship, I went job hunting online. There are lots of shady, or downright illegal, recruiters out there. Thanks to some research and due diligence, I was able to separate the legit ones from the scammers.
If you’re looking for a career that’s different from your typical desk job, you may want to look into getting a job on a ship. Accommodations can get cramped, and you may not always like the company, but it was still one of the most experiences I’ve had.
To help you on your own job hunt, I’ve provided some information, as well as a list some legit websites. Check ‘em out!
As much as I was doing this for the adventure, I also had to pay my bills and save money. My official title was Cruise Ship Photographer (not the most creative title) and my pay started at $1,200 a month. My pay was bumped up after about six months, after my boss received positive feedback about my services.
The starting salary may not appear super-high, and it isn’t, but remember, you’ll be living on the ship. You won’t be paying rent and utilities because the cruise company will already have that covered. So I pretty much pocketed the entire amount. (Although I had to fight the temptation to splurge during shore leave)
Another cool thing about my job was that I had a staff position. I could use the pool, stay in the common lounges, and even try the buffet. Not that these perks were specific to my job and company, so your mileage may vary.
How Long Was I Employed?
I was employed on a contractual basis, and each contract was for ten months. I had two months out of the year free, but one of those months was spent preparing for the next voyage. So in effect, I had one month of “real” free time.
Contract renewal depends on your employer’s your appraisal and performance. I was lucky to have my contract renewed five times before I moved on to another career. Another guy on the ship, who works in housekeeping, has been working for twenty years. That’s hardcore!
Keep in mind that shipping companies are usually eager to re-sign people. That’s because it’s difficult to find people to spend ten months out in the ocean.
How Tough was the Job?
Not difficult at all! As an in-house photographer, I usually took photos of passengers. I would sometimes have to take pictures in a room full of rowdy kids and the occasional drunk uncle, but it’s not the most difficult assignment a photographer could have. I also took lots (and I mean LOTS) of pictures of sunsets.
But what is difficult is homesickness. I took this job eager to get away from it all, but there were still moments out at sea that I longed for dry land. And you will also have to deal with other people’s homesickness as well. There’s an unspoken rule on the ship that you must never brush off a fellow crew member when they come to you for support.
It doesn’t matter if you’re close to that person or not; you’re all literally in the same boat. I’ve shared many a drink with a homesick colleague whose name I can’t even remember!
But that’s pretty much the worst of it. I still think the adventure and fun more than make up for the bad. You just need to have the heart for this kind of job.
Where to Find Work
Here are the websites I found. If you’re keen on this type of job, you can start your search with these sites.
I’m listing Image Group because this is the company that gave me my break. They’re a “photography concessionaire” meaning they supply photographers to cruise ships. They’re not a cruise company themselves.
If you want to work as a photographer, give this company a shot. The company operates on a whopping 42 ships, and are market leaders in their field.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line has been operating for over half a century. The company is considered one of the pillars of the shipping industry.
Their fleet consists of a whopping 17 luxury vessels. There’s a high demand for workers, and there’s a big chance you can find employment in any one of those ships.
Princess Cruises is another mainstay in the luxury cruise industry, and has a wide range of destinations. It includes Alaska, Japan, and the South Pacific among its destinations.
Prince Cruises accommodates over 1.7 million guests a year, so I’m pretty sure they’re always looking for skilled people to join their team.
The Verdict: Legit or Scam?
The sites I listed above are totally legit places to start your adventure. Working on a cruise ship was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I learned so much, saw great sites, and experienced many different cultures. If you want to live a life less ordinary, give this a shot!
This review is based on my own experiences working as a photographer on a cruise ship. Now it’s your turn to share. Have you also worked on a ship? What department did you work for, and how long were you at the job?
Let’s hear your stories!