Before I went on my cruise, a lot of people said they wouldn’t cruise because of their poor labor practices. Cruises exploit workers, they said. I’ve heard about the long hours and low pay that most cruise workers endure, but rather than assume, I turned to Wandering Earl, who for a number of years worked on cruise ships as a tour director. Earl and I spoke about what it’s really like to be a member of the “crew” on a cruise ship.
Nomadic Matt: How did you end up working on a cruise ship?
Wandering Earl: Back in 2000, I met a fellow traveler who told me about his experiences working on board cruise ships. I was intrigued by his stories of waking up one morning in Jamaica, the next morning in Barbados, and the next in Costa Rica. I also liked the idea of more travel and vacation time.
He spoke of working with hundreds of crew members from around the world, of crew parties, of free activities in every port, and of a working/living/social environment that seemed like something I wanted to experience.
Tell us about your job(s) over the years. What do you do exactly?
I began as an assistant tour manager, but during my first contract I was promoted to tour manager, a position I held for the remaining 4.5 years I worked on ships. As a tour manager I was in charge of the tour office, which is the department that organizes land excursions for passengers in all the ports of call.
For me, my schedule involved being the first person off the ship in the morning, dispatching the tours for a few hours, enjoying some free time in port, then returning to the office in the evening, where I would continue organizing the excursions for the following ports and complete the necessary daily reports to be sent to the head office.
On days when the ship wasn’t in port, I would be in my office still communicating with the tour operators, organizing the tours for future voyages, and dealing with any number of unexpected situations that would arise.
During sea days, I would also give presentations in the main theater, where I would talk about the ports the ship was scheduled to visit and which excursions we offered. [Editor’s note: I don’t remember any of these on my cruise!]