Until we went on a Thompson’s cruise I hadn’t realised how complex the running of a cruise ship is. I was privileged to be allowed to interview all the staff and I was amazed at everything that they told me.
The staff is divided into two distinct groups; the hotel staff and the crew. They can all work an average of 16 hours a day. They have a strict fitness regime, and are only allowed one unit of alcohol a day.
The Entertainers, Show Team, Musicians and Sound Engineers are part of the crew. Once recruited they are trained by a specialist agency for months. Apart from learning about 12 different shows, they have to do other tasks like checking arrivals, departures and tickets on coaches. They take several courses, including Sea Survival, Crowd Management, Personal Responsibilities, and Safety.
They can lower and start lifeboats.
There’s a full crew drill weekly, usually when most of the passengers are away on a day trip. An incident is simulated, like an oil spill, a collision, a fire, a bomb scare, piracy or a terrorist attack.
The Entertainments Manager is responsible for all announcements in an emergency, under the Captain’s instruction.
The Welfare and Social Host/Hostess has two jobs. They deal with accidents, taking people to hospital, staying with them and arranging flights home if necessary. They contact the family in the UK and sort out the insurance and any paperwork.
If an emergency happens at home, they arrange flights, etc. through the Cruise Company in the UK.
They also write birthday cards – almost a full-time job on its own! – and arrange Champagne or flowers in the cabin, plus birthday cakes, Solos meetings, coffee mornings, and everything for the following week.
It’s a very involved, non-stop job!
There are usually two Captains per cruise ship; one on duty and one on leave. The Captain really does play an important role in the smooth running of the ship. He creates the atmosphere amongst the crew, which is passed on to the passengers.
The Captain’s family are allowed to visit and stay with him. The ship is his 2nd home.
Cleaning and catering are handled by the hotel staff.
Most chefs and waiting staff are recruited from the Philippines.
Around 59 chefs work in shifts in the huge kitchen. Food is available 24/7.
The kitchen is busy through the night. There’s the Night Baker, the Pastry Chef, room service, plus breakfast to get ready for the following morning.
On an average cruise ship, meals have to be prepared for around 1300 passengers and 500 crew several times a day. The chefs can be away from home for 8 months at a time, with two months off.
All the chefs seem to be happy, singing and joking while they work. And there’s not an F-word to be heard!
It’s a great relief to know that we can relax, unwind and enjoy ourselves at sea without any worries. That’s why we go on a British cruise, isn’t it?