I Work on a Cruise Ship. It’s a Strange Job but the Perks Are Great.
- Ann Knypl is a 32-year-old cruise ship worker from Quezon City, Philippines.
- Knypl began in housekeeping, moved to the casino, and is now a marketing and communications manager.
- “If I finish work and the ship is docked, I can go explore,” Knypl said. “It’s a lively way to live.”
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ann Knypl, a 32-year-old cruise ship worker from Quezon City, Philippines. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Living and working on a cruise ship isn’t normal. I’ve seen that firsthand, since my mom started working on cruise ships when I was 4 years old.
But even with what a strange life it can be — from working for months on end to sharing rooms with strangers — I still found myself following in my mom’s footsteps.
I didn’t think I would end up working on a cruise ship
When I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in information technology, I couldn’t find a job in my home country that paid well. Around the same time, I was visiting Singapore when my mom’s cruise ship docked there.
She brought me on board for a tour, and I was amazed at how the ship was just one big floating community. A year later, I was hired as a housekeeper.
Housekeeping is not for the faint of heart
It’s difficult work. It was even more difficult for me emotionally, because I knew that I had gone to school and studied hard.
I felt like people were judging me for working in housekeeping. It felt like they were thinking I hadn’t studied hard enough or worked hard enough, but really, I was just trying to climb the ladder of the cruise ship world.
I worked in housekeeping for more than three years
Then I was transferred to a bigger ship, where I started working in the casino. That was five years ago.
Now, I’m a marketing and communications manager. I take care of stuff like guest newsletters and digital signage.
There are plenty of perks of working on a cruise ship
I don’t pay for housing. I can drop my uniform off to get cleaned and pick it up when it’s done. Now that I’m a little higher on the corporate ladder, housekeeping comes to my cabin.
I eat at the buffet, so there’s always food ready and available. I don’t have to go grocery shopping or cook for myself.
My friends work on the ship too, and they’re always close by — ready to go to a bar or a party or an event. If I finish my work and the ship is docked at port, I can go explore for the rest of the day. It’s a lively way to live.
But working on a cruise ship isn’t all positive
It can be difficult, because working on a cruise ship means you’re never not at work. It’s like being on call 24/7. Even when you’re off your shift, you’re on the company-owned ship.
There are rules, like that employees can’t wear flip flops in the corridor and can’t drink for four hours before their shift starts.
You also have a strange schedule
Right now, I have a six-month contract where I work every day then I have a few months off. When I was in housekeeping, my contract was even longer at nine months. Some people higher than me in the company have shorter contracts, like four months.
It can be hard to be away from friends and family for that long. I do worry that as I get older, I’ll have to choose between working on a cruise ship and getting married and having a family.
I want a family, and I know that forming romantic relationships within the cruise ship life can be difficult because there’s always the risk of getting transferred to a different ship.
I do love working on a cruise ship
I also love sharing it to my 500,000 TikTok followers. I’ve even seen comments from people who said my content inspired them to work on a cruise ship themselves, which is just the highest compliment.
I started sharing on TikTok because I was bored during a COVID-19 lockdown. Inspiring people was never part of the plan, but I’m lucky that it happened.