Working + living on a Caribbean cruise ship

May 02 2016

Working + living on a Caribbean cruise ship

(diary excerpt, winter 2011-2012)

I just got this amazing job to do a 5 month winter contract aboard a Holland America cruise ship: I will be hosting an internally-broadcast TV cooking show!!!

I’ve had a crazy week so far. It’s been busy, but fun. I’ve been attending all the cooking shows, food/wine demonstration party plans, health/wellness shows, mixology classes all of which I’ll be conducting solely on my own next week. Actually, I’ll be hosting in front of my trainer tomorrow just to practice with the chef behind closed curtains and then I’ll be hosting my own big show on a sea day (the really busy days because we’re at sea and there’s nothing else for people to do).

During these cooking shows, I have a microphone and I’m interviewing the chef, co-hosting. I have to stand behind the stove and do an introduction (very perky- for example: “Helllllo everyone! Welcome to the Culinary Arts Centre! I’m your host, Lisa. Today, seeing as we’re in the Caribbean, I thought we’d do two Caribbean style recipes: orange rum chicken and a grapefruit and jicama salad, but I’m not actually a chef so please help me give a warm welcome to my chef and co-host……. Michhhhhaeeeeelllll!!!!”)

Then at the end I do a conclusion, and throughout the show we’re walking through the recipe and I ask him a bunch of questions about the food, why we choose certain fruits over other ones for example, the difference between regular olive oil and extra virgin olive oil, etc.

I got to run around the beach and enjoy a BBQ on my second day in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (it’s actually a tiny island that belongs to Holland America cruise ships – only about 80 people! So cute.)

The people here are really friendly – there’s quite a lot of Indonesian and Filipino people working on the lower ranked jobs (only Westerners have the officer/higher rank positions like mine. All the dishwashers/cleaners/housekeepers/maintenance/servers are all either Indonesian or Filipino) because apparently they have training centres in each respective country. They are amazing. Even though some of them don’t speak fluent English, I talk to them all the time and they get to practice speaking. They are all very interested in my role – referring to it as the “princess” of the ship even! Ha. As if that won’t go to my head.

I’ve been with my trainer and the old TV host who’s job I’m taking over (when she leaves in a week) all day/every day, getting trained and doing all the job tasks together. It’s only on average of about 5-6 hours of work a day but it alternates depending on whether its a port day (docked at some island or Ft Lauderdale) or its a sea day. The sea days are busier because more guests are looking for things to do.

My room’s super tiny (I knew it would be) but I have a gigantic closet and my own bathroom. Having my own room is a real privilege working on the ship actually. I’m on the same floor as the guests (the main floor, above the water line, and very close to the Entertainment office and Culinary Arts Centre (which is where I work 90% of the time) so it’s a 30 second commute to work! Haha. Next week more crew members are leaving and new people are coming on to replace them so I’m excited to meet them too!

Out of 817 employees, there are 3 Canadians I’ve met so far! It’s super exciting to talk about Tim Hortons and how to set up my Canadian money transfers. The chef co-host that I work with is from BC, Canada. He seems organized and on top of things. He seems a bit shy though, so we’ll see what we’re like on stage together.

Lots of people here have done contract after contract after contract.. gone all over the world. It’s unreal some of the stories they have.
They’ve taken me out for dinner every night (it’s free but we’ve got free drinks too since I’m “training” and need to “taste all the martinis” haha)! I’ve been eating so well; 5 star meals every night. But even if we don’t go out for dinner formally it’s still free meals.

Borrowed one of the girls’ dresses last night for my first formal night. Super fun.

There’s a few secret decks where the view of the stars is fantastic and the wind feels beautiful. Also, there are great private sun decks for during the day.

The big hangout is the O.B. (Officer’s Bar) where all the staff is invited up for drinks (well, “Officer-level staff”). It gets pretty wild in there I’ve heard.

The captain’s control room is amazing! SO many buttons! I do an event with him called the Renewal of Wedding Vows where he does a speech and I do a speech. So it’s like the 2 of us host the event.

I had to do a speech last night actually (in front of 500-600 people in the restaurant, giving a close to the week and introducing everyone. They were really impressed with it.) I stand in the middle of the room and have to wear a ball gown. There’s a parade in the restaurant, all around me, around a spiral staircase. It’s quite entertaining! I will do it weekly.

The pool and spa are beautiful. The ship is a medium size, not huge (2000 people). As long as I get off the ship most of the days that I can, I think I’ll continue to enjoy it. I’m excited for this new challenge!