Do Cruise Ship Staff Really Drink That much?

A response to a reader who doubts...

I recently got an email from a disgruntled mother who was concerned after reading my article about life onboard cruise ships. She didn't believe me that cruise ship staff and crew really drink that much. She thinks that the old stereotype of a drunken sailor does not exist. In her defense, she has never worked onboard, so I took the liberty to further explain the whole thing about cruise ship staff and their drinking habits.

While I admit my situation does not represent the whole industry, it does represent what I saw during my 3 years working and living onboard. I am going to go out there on a limb and say that I know what I am talking about.

I am posting this because I think she raises a valid point about what one's son or daughter might be up to during their time at sea. I can only imagine what my parents thought. So, without further explanation, I present to you an email from a concerned mother.

From: Julie V W
Subject: Article is ridiculous
Date: July 6, 2012

Hi Mike,

I just read your article about life on a cruise ship. I think it is ridiculous and very subjective. Just because you're a lush, or so it seems, does not mean every member of the crew is a lush. Surely there are those who do not drink to excess. My son is interviewing for a cruise job and I can only hope tht your article is the gross exaggeration that it seems to be.

What a trashy, tacky article. You make the people who do these jobs look like a bunch of trailer trash drunks.

Personally, it was offensive.


Subject: Re: Life is ridiculous
Date: July 5, 2012

Hi Julie,

Thank you for writing. I am sorry you were offended by my article and I want you to know I meant nothing personal by it. Just a reminder, I worked on ships for 3 years. I worked on 2 different cruise lines and on 7 different ships. I know people who work on Carnival, RCCL, Celebrity and Cunard. I know what life is like across the industry and I have a better idea what life is like onboard than most.

Trailer trash? Not a chance. This is high end 5 star luxury cruise ships. They do not hire trailer trash. They hire professionals in high end jewelry sales, art sales, entertainers, musicians, dancers, technicians, chefs, engineers and more. These are professionals with a college education, not your typical double-wide trailer dwellers. They come from good families. Many work 7 days a week for up to 10 hours a day. They work hard. They play hard. Have you ever heard of an alcoholic pilot, lawyer or politician? Yup, I thought so.

As for me being a lush? Well, I did drink more while working onboard cruise ships than I ever pretended to drink in college. As well, I was rarely the drunkest guy on the ship. 99% percent of ships staff drink. They drink lots.

Yes, there are some people who don't drink and work on ships. Those people rarely last more than one contract and they are the exception, not the rule. My first contract I drank 2-3 times a week. Normal for a 20 year old, right? By the end I drank almost every day. Excessive? Yes, but that is a habit that forms when you work everyday for 4 months or more at a time. It is a coping mechanism as much as it is a lifestyle choice. I wasn't an alcoholic and wasted all day, everyday. We'd have big nights about twice a week, sometimes more, than drink casually the other nights. And we still got our work done.
That's the key; as long as the drinking doesn't get in the way of your work, the officers and management don't care what you do. That's what justifies it.

Like most cruise ship staff who transition back to land life, after leaving ship life the drinking stopped. It's funny like that. Life onboard is nothing like it is on land. You have no idea until you do it. Ask your son when he gets back, unless you're afraid of what he might tell you. I, for one, wouldn't tell my family half of what I got up to onboard so maybe you shouldn't worry after all.

What I really hear when I read your email is a mom who is concerned about the reality that her son will face if he goes to work on ships. There will be a lot of pressure to drink and maybe do other things you wouldn't approve of. Your son is a grown up and if you don't want to know what he might be getting up to, then don't read websites by former cruise ship crew members.

If you want to know what some other lushes think about the staff onboard cruise ships, I suggest you watch this episode of 20/20. Those alcoholics seem to agree with me. As well they should. Here is a video of a crew party onboard. Once or twice a month crew parties provide free alcohol for all staff. Free booze, beer and wine all night. Here's another video. And another. They aren't smiling because they have to work tomorrow. They're smiling because they have been drinking free alcohol and this is their escape from 4-10 months of solid work.

Finally, are you Facebook friends with your son? If so, you should check out his photos from work after a contract or two onboard. I get the feeling he will change your permissions after he gets tagged by a few of his ship mates during these parties.

I will end this email with one final question: What do you get when you combine 300 single outgoing people in their 20's and 30's who have fun jobs, no bills, few worries and access to free alcohol?

Best Regards,

What is it like to work onboard cruise ships - Read the article that (somehow) offended of Julie
cruise ship employment - Want to make the move to ship life? Here is the easiest way

Mike In AlaskaAbout the Author
Mike has been working and traveling abroad since 2005. Recent trips include 12 months in Australia, a month in China and another in Europe followed by a six week USA road trip. Mike isn't rich, just resourceful in finding work abroad. In additon to providing free information on working abroad, and travel photography for sale online, Mike is also available for speaking engagements on the benefits of world travel.

The world is too amazing not to share.

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