Cruise-ship workers reveal the grueling schedules they must keep while on the job (2023)

Cruise-ship workers reveal the grueling schedules they must keep while on the job (1) Cruise-ship workers reveal the grueling schedules they must keep while on the job (2)

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A job on a cruise ship might seem like an opportunity to work at a relaxed pace, but the unusual contracts employees sign can result in schedules that rival notoriously time-intensive industries like investment banking.

Rather than working traditional five-day weeks, cruise-ship employees often work seven days a week for the duration of their contracts, which can range from about two months to 11 months. Between four and eight months was the most common contract length cited by 31 current and former cruise-ship employees who spoke with Business Insider. Most requested anonymity due to a fear of reprisal from their current or former employers.

The hours can also be intense, from about eight to nearly 20 hours a day. The employees Business Insider spoke with reported an average of about 12 hours.

A former waiter for Carnival Cruise Line who said he worked about 12 hours a day described his schedule as "crazy" and said it led to fatigue and stress.

(Video) Ship Life: Work Week

"We don't get enough sleep," he said.

Carnival did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

Read more: Richard Branson reveals how his new adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, will turn the cruise industry upside down

The flip side of a grueling work schedule is long, uninterrupted blocks of vacation time between contracts, often about two months. That means some employees — like a former Royal Caribbean Cruises first officer who alternated between 10 weeks of work and 10 weeks of vacation — end up working fewer days in a year than those who work five-day weeks.

(Video) 5 Things to Know About Working on Cruise Ships

But others end up working more days than they would on a traditional schedule, like a Cunard Line bar server who works six-month contracts separated by two months of vacation.

Cruise-ship work schedules can be exhausting, but for some employees, the prospect of a 9-to-5 office job is more intimidating than the demands of working on a cruise ship.

Anyone who has worked on a cruise ship for a long time "is generally scared of being on land and being on a 9-to-5 job," said a former Royal Caribbean employee who worked on cruise ships for two decades. "Going into an office and sitting there forever and then leaving and going to your meager little home and having a meal and watching TV and then going to bed — that's just scary to most of us. It's scary to me."

Have you worked on a cruise ship? Do you have a story to share? Email this reporter at



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