When you board a cruise ship, you're instantly greeted by the smiling faces of employees from different countries across the globe. From restaurant waiters to performers, their job is to make your vacation as fun as possible. Of course, it's hard not to wonder what working on a cruise ship is really like behind the scenes. While you're only on board the boat for a week, workers sign contracts to move away from home for four to eight months at a time.
A recent Reddit chat took on this very question, asking cruise ship workers to spill their secrets. From the good to the unbelievable, here are the most shocking responses:
1. They often work long hours.
"We had a saying, 'Every night is a Friday night and every morning is a Monday morning. Every day is Groundhog's Day.'"
2. Crew members party even harder than you do.
"We don't want you to know that we actually have more fun than the guests. Sure we'll work the big white hot party that you're all going to, but once we finish our shift all hell is breaking loose in the crew bar."
3. Workers are usually able to get off at ports.
"I went to Europe, Canada, South and Central America, Asia, and more. I basically visited every continent except Antarctica, and went to over 75 countries. I took a sled dog ride in Alaska, white water rafting along a river through the jungles of Costa Rica, visited Alcatraz, had an authentic curry in Mumbai, spent a day on a luxury yacht sailing around the Caribbean, snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, visited the great pyramids in Egypt, been to the lost city of Petra, spent days in Barcelona, Athens, Rome, Kiev, and so much more. Nothing you have to put up with on board matters compared to that."
4. Doing laundry is a struggle.
"You will never find a free washer unless you camp out in the laundry room for a few hours. There are usually about 5 to 15 washers/dryers, and anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 crew members."
5. Drinks are cheap, but you're not supposed to get too drunk.
"There is a crew only bar, and beers are $1.50. Some ships have a crew only hot tub."
6. Your room can work for or against you—especially when it comes to hooking up.
"Girls (and guys) go crazy over you if you have a solo room," said one man. Another user chimed in, "Us girls had a way of just knowing who had the single cabins, and there was definitely a point system of which one was the better to aim for."
7. But the crew cabins are generally cramped.
"The rooms are tiny, and your shower curtain will always be trying to get to know you biblically."
8. It can be a good or bad financial decision.
"U.S. citizens aren't paid that well, but some countries, where the conversion rate is really good, make some serious bank. South Africa, especially."
9. There are strict rules to prevent crew members from fraternizing with passengers.
"I worked on cruise ships for 3 years and have had three friends sent home over this. Essentially you get busted, you have a Masters Hearing, and you're sent home at the next port (on your dime). The cruise companies don't want to be liable for anything. We aren't allowed to take elevator rides with guests if you're the only two people in it either, for the same reason. Also if you're taking a photo with a guest both of your hands must be visible."
10. But, this can be a good thing if you ever feel threatened by a crew member.
"On the first cruise I went on, one of the crew members repeatedly tried to get with me. I kept telling him I wasn't interested and walked away. At one of the ports he found me and followed me around. I wish I would have reported it," said one former passenger. Another user chimed in, "For anybody else in a similar situation, if you report this to any officer or the front desk (Guest Services on some ships), security footage and logs will be reviewed, and that person will immediately be handled. You will never see them again."
11. You see the same people all the time.
"Think of a time you did something embarrassing while drunk at a bar. Now imagine having to see every single person who saw you do that embarrassing drunk thing, every day for months and months. That's what ship life is like."
12. Work never stops.
"You're always on duty and your supervisors have 24 hour access to you at all times by just ringing your phone and waking you up in your cabin. Sleep was very limited, so every off hour was spent trying to catch up."
13. But like with any job, the people you work with can make your experience better.
"Overall the people you live and work with are what makes your experience on board. Some days are worse than others but you somehow manage to get through it."
14. They repeat themselves from week to week.
"We also don't want you to know that all those funny jokes we tell you at bingo? Yeah ... Same ones are said Every. Single. Cruise. That really funny answer you gave us about your wife during the happy couples game? Heard it. It was said last cruise and the one before that, and the one before that."
15. The perks are different for different positions.
"A friend of mine was a shopping guide. Pretty prestigious cruise job. She'd give presentations about port side shopping and recommend what shops to go to. This involved making partnerships with the local shops. Those recommendations are obviously very valuable to the show owners. So in exchange for them, she got to purchase designer clothing and jewelry at or below cost."
16. They stereotype the guests.
"You deal with 3 types of people: Newlyweds, overfeds and soon-to-be-deads."
17. "Ship life is basically high school mixed with jail,"
claimed one cruise ship musician, who performs in party bands. "Remember high school, where everyone knew everything about everyone's business? Who was macking whom, cheating on so-and-so, doing this-and-that, being a such-and-such? Well, that's ship life in a nutshell. The bar is where we all congregate, it's where we all commiserate. Now, let's add in the jail factor: You're in a tin can and you can't leave. Some people can never get off when in port because their jobs don't allow for it. "
This article originally appeared on WomensDay.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.