My short bio: I worked for a well-known cruise company for 6 years, and have met some weird and wonderful people and had some great experiences around the world. AMA!

My Proof:

Comments: 95 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

ClutchCity8811 karma

I just got back from a cruise a couple days ago. Why were all the engineers and captain Italian? Every cruise I've been in they seem all to be Italian. Also what is the hierarchy like on a cruise ship? Does the cruise director have more pull than say a 3rd engineer?

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

Hey there, sorry for the late reply. /u/empmccoy gave a pretty good answer there tbh - the cruise directors often like to think they have more pull than they do (actually, as it is a cruise ship, they do have a lot of say about what goes on, but not about the important stuff when it comes to navigation or emergencies).

As /u/empmccoy said, the nationalities vary from company to company. I worked with mainly Dutch and British engineers, with a moderate eastern-european contingent. We didn't have any Italians at all, across the whole fleet.

Edit: Added some more info

SatanBunny7 karma

I'm a paramedic. Just applied to Princess Cruises to be on their medical team.

Are we allowed to bang the guests?

Sirius_55_Polaris4 karma

Nope. I mean, I know people who have done it, but there is a serious business among passengers who come onboard to sleep with crew members and then scream rape for the compensation. For that reason, it's strictly off-limits, and is an offence which will render you liable for instant dismissal.

That said, we do get some very hot guests, so...

SatanBunny3 karma

Holy hell I never would've thought of that in a million years!

Welp, I guess I'll stick to port locals 😂😂

Seriously though, thanks for the reply!

Sirius_55_Polaris7 karma

Nah man, the way to go is crew. There are plenty of singers, dancers, shop staff, etc. onboard. That is allowed. I even took one home!

stuwoo2 karma

Dont forget the Steiners.

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

Nothin' finer than a Steiner.

PlaneCrazy7872 karma

I have read several books that chronicle the life of a cruise ship worker (restaurant staff, entertainers, art auctioneer, etc). The recurrent theme was sex, sex, and more sex. That and the tiny rooms that are the size of a coat closet.

Sirius_55_Polaris1 karma

Yep, there isn't all that much to do and everyone is stuck there with each other - it's inevitable tbh.

sillohollis7 karma

I'm about to start a job on a cruise ship as a scuba instructor!

Do you have any advice for a new employee? Especially one who has never even been on a cruise ship!

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

My advice? If you're a concessionaire, which you are, then make sure you have fun, although do stick to the rules...

My time onboard was great but I didn't get the chance to go ashore and see places as much as the musicians, dancers, photographers, etc. Remember that you're going on a cruise ship for a totally different experience, to see the world and do awesome things. The difference for me was that it's a career and I intend to follow the same path all my life, so I can't really mess around too much.

Internet and phone calls can be very expensive onboard, so use wifi ashore if you can. And please...try not to moan about the drills too much! We hate them just as much as you do...

amberneutrino7 karma

have you ever moved the direction of the ship so that the sun doesn't shine in your eyes?

Sirius_55_Polaris11 karma

All the time, but as I'm the guy that manoeuvres the ship, it's not as big a deal as if I were to, say, call up from the mess room and tell someone else to do it ;)

kiwirenegade6 karma

Do you know captain charles pagler?

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

I'm afraid not

dumbasses4lyfe4 karma

What do you enjoy about your job. Do you like the pay? Is it very stressful?

Sirius_55_Polaris9 karma

I love that I have been able to see the world and get paid for it. The money is good - tax free, which helps - but it would be better if I was working on oil tankers or certain offshore vessels. That means sacrificing the lifestyle, though, and I chose the lifestyle over a few extra numbers in the bank.

It can be extremely stressful in an emergency situation, but thankfully they are rare. Onboard you are a navigation officer, safety officer, firefighter, generally the person that everyone else looks to for answers when something goes wrong.

stoneybalony4 karma

Thanks for doing the AmA. Did you ever encounter a bad storm or a pirate? What is your favorite story?

Sirius_55_Polaris5 karma

Thankfully, no pirates! When we sailed through the Suez canal and the Gulf of Aden, we were fully equipped and prepared for it, but in reality pirates know that it would be almost impossible to take a cruise ship due to their high freeboard and considerable speed. Doesn't mean we weren't shitting a little bit though.

The worst storm I encountered was in the North Sea. We were sailing from Norway to England, and it was so rough that our Captain (he was a particularly nervous Master) slept on the Bridge floor instead of going back to his cabin, which was directly behind the Bridge. No significant damage was caused although there was a lot of seasickness among the passengers and some crew.

TotallyDepraved3 karma

Any major blunders by the crew that went unnoticed by everyone else?

Sirius_55_Polaris3 karma

Hmm...I'm not sure what you'd consider major blunders, but of course - just like in every job, people make mistakes and there is a certain amount of covering up. However, anything that might impact the safety of others is always taken very seriously as there have been far too many accidents in the past with people taking risks and ending up injured or dead. The sea is a very dangerous place to work.

The5amswim3 karma

What's the best gig you've had? Or did you operate mainly on one ship?

Sirius_55_Polaris5 karma

It was between a few ships within the same company over the years. For about 3/4 years, I did repeat contracts on the same ship as it was a great ship to be on.

The best itinerary we did, for me, was the Baltic cruises. 2 weeks sailing out of England, then to Copenhagen, Tallinn, St Petersburg overnight, Helsinki, Stockholm overnight, a couple of other smaller ports in between, and back to England. We had some great times on the overnights in those awesome cities, and the navigation in the baltic straits was some of the most intense and challenging I've experienced, which made the job that much more interesting too.

Worst place would have been Brazil. That sucked.

Georginator20006 karma

Why's that

Sirius_55_Polaris6 karma

Unfortunately, it was at the height of the Zika Virus scare. There had been a few incidents of our passengers getting mugged when they went ashore (I'm sure they weren't observing our advice of not taking jewellery and phones with them when they went out), and the heat and humidity was unbearable.

We spent 6 weeks in Brazil sailing hundreds of miles inland on the Amazon and I'm very glad I got to go there as we went to some incredibly exotic and strange places, and Rio was awesome, but the mood of the entire country felt hostile and negative. It's a shame and it probably isn't representative of the country as a whole but of the 20 or so places we went to, there were very few that felt safe or that could be enjoyed.

OleaC3 karma

I have applied to join the RFA and I am in my fifties. Is there ageism on board? ( as there certainly is on land).

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

Hey there - as far as I've seen, no. We had a couple of guys in college that were around your age and, although you'll certainly be in the minority, I haven't seen it be a problem for anyone.

Due to the type of job it is (hierarchical, respect-based), I think you'll find you are automatically shown a bit more respect than someone younger, which might well work in your favour. Everyone in my experience has always been pretty chilled out regardless of someone's age, gender, race etc. so I would not worry about it at all!

OleaC3 karma

Many thanks for such a well informed, and positive, response. Much appreciated.

Sirius_55_Polaris1 karma

Best of luck to you

xMikeyStyle3 karma

how did you get into your role?

Sirius_55_Polaris6 karma

I'd intended to join the Royal Navy, then was told by my friend's dad (who was in the merchant navy, aka merchant marines in the US), that it was better pay, more time off, and less dangerous. So that was me pretty much sold!

xMikeyStyle2 karma

thanks for the reply!

did you just apply and that was that? was education required?

always wondered how people got a job on the high seas

Sirius_55_Polaris5 karma

The way it works in the UK is that you have to have a sponsoring company before you can attend college. So I applied to a particular company when I was 17, attended and passed the interview, and then made sure I got the appropriate grades in my A-Levels (a high grade in one maths-based subject is a prerequisite for most cruise companies).

Then, it was off to college! My sponsoring company (the cruise line) paid for everything - tuition fees, travel expenses, flights, food accommodation, and they gave me a wage too. I think the 3-year training equates to about £100,000 so you need that sponsoring company to pay for it all as it is very expensive. They are also the company whose ships you go on to train.

17Hongo2 karma

What did you study? Did you have to attend a specific university?

Sirius_55_Polaris4 karma

You're literally there to study to do that job - it's a specific course designed to cover all aspects of the job, things such as chart work, celestial navigation, firefighting, advanced first aid, leadership, meteorology, etc. The qualification you end up with is called a Certificate of Competency (Officer of the Watch), and there are two higher licenses you can attain after working a certain amount of time at sea and completing relevant exams.

In the UK, there are four specialised maritime colleges based around Southampton, Newcastle, Fleetwood, and Glasgow.

LadyBijou3 karma

What was your favorite experience on a cruise ship and what was your worst experience? Do you actually enjoy those "dinners with the captain?"

Sirius_55_Polaris3 karma

My favourite experience would have to be meeting my partner onboard. She was a singer onboard and we have now been living together for two years on land. That, and seeing some really cool places.

As per the Officers' dinners, I can't speak for everyone but I did genuinely enjoy them. You normally get some odd people on your table and it can make it either very interesting or very odd - either way, the wine is free and the food is good and you end up having a good laugh.

The coolest hosting I ever did was with the Chief Engineer for the Space Shuttle. That guy was cool.

LadyBijou3 karma

Thanks for your reply!

Another if you're up for it. Do you as the captain get benefits that others don't such as free wifi/phone calls or much bigger rooms?

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

I'm not Captain unfortunately, but the Captain does get the best cabin onboard. The Staff Captain, Chief Engineer, and Hotel Director get equally good cabins though.

There are many benefits to being Captain but free phonecalls isn't one of them. He has free internet on his computer in his cabin but that is intended for work use only.

LadyBijou3 karma

Ah my bad. :) So no extra goodies for you.

Sirius_55_Polaris3 karma

Haha nah not so much

CommonShank3 karma

Favourite memory from the job?

Sirius_55_Polaris3 karma

Probably the first time I flew out to join a ship as a cadet. I was 18, had never flown on my own, and here I was flying to San Diego from the UK to join a huge cruise ship and begin the biggest adventure of my life. I remember everything about it, it seemed fantastic at the time. Of course, I soon learned that it was going to be a lot of hard work, but that didn't take away from it at all.

Jim1053 karma

Why do Italian captains keep getting into accidents?

Sirius_55_Polaris1 karma

Do they?

Jim1052 karma

Last few times I heard on the news where a Cruise ship accident was on the news, it was by an Italian Captain.

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

Probably just because there are a lot of Italian Captains compared to other nationalities.

Also...they are by far and away the most arrogant, God-complexed people at sea. Yeah.

forava72 karma

Has anyone been left behind before?

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

Yes, quite a few times. Due to the cost of fuel, we can't afford to hang around and burn more fuel trying to make up lost time. Most of the time it's been crew that have been left behind before. If that happens, they are responsible for getting themselves to the next port to join the ship at their own expense, and they'd be disciplined too.

1st_m82 karma

What is the funniest/most bizarre thing you have ever seen a guest/passenger do?

Sirius_55_Polaris6 karma

Well, we had a murder-suicide. That wasn't funny but it was definitely bizarre. A passenger also found his way to the aft mooring deck, drunk, and released the stern anchor while the ship was underway.

I believe it didn't end so well for him though - he got a jail sentence, a huge fine, and his wife subsequently found out that he wasn't on a 'business trip' but was actually on a cruise with his mistress.

Saint_Patrice2 karma

How was he able to release the anchor? Aren't the controls usually on the bridge? Also how much damage did that cause?

Sirius_55_Polaris3 karma

Although there are controls to release the anchors from the Bridge, they are there for emergency use only. The passenger said that he'd got drunk, gone to the mooring deck, and seen that the windlass arrangement for our stern anchor was the same type as that on his yacht, which is plausible as windlass arrangements are very simple (ours was just a much bigger version of the one he had).

All you have to do is release the lashings and devil's claw, unclutch the anchor from the windlass and release the brake. It's really that simple. The anchor ran all the way out but thankfully she held on the bitter end so there was no significant damage. However, if the bitter end hadn't held, the anchor and all of her chain would've parted from the ship and there would have been a quite considerable hole in the ship, which you can imagine would've been extremely dangerous.

I may be mistaken, but I believe he was charged with an act of terrorism or something along those lines but more minor.

Sirius_55_Polaris1 karma

Although there are controls to release the anchors from the Bridge, they are there for emergency use only. The passenger said that he'd got drunk, gone to the mooring deck, and seen that the windlass arrangement for our stern anchor was the same type as that on his yacht, which is plausible as windlass arrangements are very simple (ours was just a much bigger version of the one he had).

All you have to do is release the lashings and devil's claw, unclutch the anchor from the windlass and release the brake. It's really that simple. The anchor ran all the way out but thankfully she held on the bitter end so there was no significant damage. However, if the bitter end hadn't held, the anchor and all of her chain would've parted from the ship and there would have been a quite considerable hole in the ship, which you can imagine would've been extremely dangerous.

I may be mistaken, but I believe he was charged with an act of terrorism or something along those lines but more minor.

stuwoo2 karma

Ha. Someone used to work for Holland America.

Sirius_55_Polaris1 karma


bagpiperjohn2 karma

Has your profession been acurately bepicted in films and tv shows, or was most of it Hollywooded into total bullshit?

Sirius_55_Polaris1 karma

I've only seen a couple of films in which my job is portrayed - Titanic and Captain Phillips. Titanic was actually incredibly well-researched and the Bridge scenes, although a bit outdated to the way things are done now, were as realistic as you could imagine.

Captain Phillips was generally OK, although some stuff was Hollywood bullshit, such as the radar 'beeping' every time it scanned 360degrees. A sonar does that, not a radar.

I tend not to watch films about what I do because I know that it will just annoy me if it's wrong.

mantan1701a2 karma

Are there any captains in your fleet that look like the stereotypical English Captain with the waxed mustache, white beard and drinks tea all the time? Kind of like the Lipton Tea captain, AKA Thomas Lipton?

Sirius_55_Polaris1 karma

I wish there were! There are a couple that do fit the bill really well in terms of personality and style, just without the beard and moustache. We did have one very angry old Dutch engineer who looked like Father Christmas though. Maybe he should've been Captain.

Reddit_User4792 karma

What was the biggest bullet you dodged?

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

Probably managing to not get anyone pregnant while I was onboard.

PlaneCrazy7872 karma

What sort of charts and navigational references do you use? I am familiar with the navigation of aircraft and the use of Jeppesen charts. I work as a flight dispatcher and planning the route for flights is a large component of my job. For instance, aircraft primarily navigate to and from waypoints (either physical ground stations that broadcast a signal or most often, long/lat coordinates which are given names for reference) by way of airways (essentially highways in the sky that are numbers). I'm curious as to how it is done for vessels. I know Jeppesen (one of the two main suppliers of aviation navigational references) does Marine stuff as well.

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

We mainly use ECDIS, but there are some companies that still use paper charts. We use WGS84 datum for most charts, but from my conversations with the Chief Engineer of the Space Shuttle project, its much of the same - one main difference being that we only need a 3-dimensional position fix from the GPS rather than the 4-dimensional fix required for aviation.

Before starting a voyage, a detailed passage plan is created by one of the Navigation Officers onboard, with waypoints being plotted and courses and distances being calculated between them. We then monitor our passage during the voyage using the GPS, visual fixes, and radar. Celestial Navigation is even still taught in all maritime colleges, so if everything failed and we were in the middle of the ocean we could still get ourselves to where we needed to be.

oolala112 karma

I have an important question. I know you can be on a ship for a long time! Have you ever fapped on a ship?

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

Well, we are away for 4 months at a time, so...there isn't very much I haven't done on a ship.

Tranquil-Tempest2 karma

How many medical emergencies have you experienced in those 6 years that made the ship have to make an emergency dock somewhere, or get someone to a hospital?

I've been lucky enough to go cruising for a long time since I was a little girl, and have had maybe one or two ships make an emergency stop or early port somewhere for a medical emergency. Just last year though I was on a week long cruise that had 5 medical emergencies (4 early docks/detours, and 1 emergency helicopter landing on board). I've never seen so many on one ship, and I'm curious if you've ever had something similar happen.

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

Yes, too many to count in total. The worst we had (and it really was awful) was 8 people needing medical evacuation during a Transatlantic crossing. This involved a dual helicopter-fire boat evacuation off the coast of Miami at midnight, for 3 people, then a detour to Barbados to medically evacuate 2 people (one already deceased), and then 3 more were disembarked in the Azores.

It's a hell of a lot of work and stress to do a helicopter evacuation, so we were glad to see the back of that cruise. A lot of bad stuff happened in those two weeks!

Edit: Spelling

Tranquil-Tempest2 karma

Thank you for your response! That's insane, and I thought the five on our trip was bad woo wee I would not want to be there. I imagine the crew have to work hard to keep the cruise in a relax like environment especially after several incidents like that on one trip. I know I felt a little tense after the helicopter landing, but thankfully everyone was kind, and reassured people there was nothing to worry about.

Sirius_55_Polaris2 karma

Thankfully I've never been involved in a medevac that has gone wrong! We tend to make light-hearted jokes about these kinds of incidents to the guests when we can, everyone appreciates a bit of humour to lighten the mood as long as it's not too inappropriate. After all, our guests are on holiday and they need to enjoy themselves!

forava72 karma

if you had to go back to one place, which place would it be and why?

Sirius_55_Polaris1 karma

Hmm...probably Monte Carlo. I've only been there for one day, and I did get to go ashore, but I'd love to spend a couple of days there and visit the casinos. My other favourite places where I've spent a bit of time are Victoria (BC), Stockholm, Copenhagen, Istanbul, and various ports in Greece, Alaska, Egypt...San Diego holds some fond memories too.

dysentience2 karma

How complicated is piloting in cruise ship?

Sirius_55_Polaris1 karma

Not any more complicated than on other ships to be honest. Cruise ships tend to be large but very manoeuvrable so you have thrusters as well as propellers/azipods to manoeuvre.