Sunday, December 12, 2010

How I Started Sailing the World and Getting Paid For It!

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

Do you love to cruise?  Ever wonder what goes on in the crew quarters?  Ever wonder what it is like to be on the same ship for 6 months?  This blog is for you!  If you've even been on a cruise on a megaliner like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Holland America, P&O, Cunard or others - you've only seen HALF what goes down on a ship.

I've never blogged before and I laugh every time I hear Barney from "How I Met Your Mother" talk about how cool his blog is (while everyone snickers.) Recently a friend of mine shared how much he enjoyed blogging and that people halfway around the world seemed fascinated with his life.  There are many reasons why blogging could be a good idea, but really the 2 main reasons for me right now is that it isn't bedtime yet and HBO's Boardwalk Empire just had its season finale, and I got knocked out of my poker tournaments I was playing online.  That means my Sunday nights have just opened up!

Haha - I held you hostage with boring information.  If you are reading this you are probably interested yourself on sailing the seven seas with the wind in your hair, your arms in the air, and a well-to-do redhead with a diamond the size of a doorknob gazing into your eyes. You basically want to be King of the World. OK - here comes your chance.  Before I give your the magic secret on how to do it, though, I wanted to encourage you to add my blog to your favorites or "follow me" or whatever.  Guess what - I've never read one blog in my life and don't even know how RSS works.  I know, I truly am lame.  One could also argue that I'm pretty darn cool if blogs are dorky, at least that's how I sleep at night.  No please follow these stories becasue if you want to get a job on a ship, you will and there will be many stories in here which will prepare you for that world.

Anyway, my blog is actually the only blog in the world that is NOT dorky, so thanks for tuning in.  And if you are my Mom reading this, none of this really happened and I really did just graduate with my PhD from the very prestigious University of Phoenix where I've been living on campus for the last 12 years.  I have NOT been goofing around, playing music, partying like a rock star, getting lost in European cities and kite surfing in Venezuela.

So - "How did I get a job on the cruise ship?"  There's a few things you need to know.  First of all, the cruise industry was growing when I was hired in 1999.  It is still growing.  There are bigger and bigger ships and more and more people taking cruises.  Imagine the new ships that come out that have 2600 passengers.  The Oasis I think has 5000!  I worked on a ship, the Voyager of the Seas that had a CREW of 1250!  WIth such growth there is one thing that is inevitable - they need workers.  So I have surprising news for you - ANYONE can get a job on cruise ship.  It is not hard and not difficult.  If you have a pulse and the will to travel I promise it is possible.

When I was in college my friend wanted to look to do something for the summer.  He was a piano player and I was a trumpet player.  He bought a book and I think it was called: How to get a job on a Cruise Ship.  I don't know if this title is the exact one we used, but I found one on Amazon if you are looking (see link below paragraph). The one feature that made the book he used amazing: if you bought the book and did NOT get a job on a ship withing 6 months, they would refund your money!  Look online to see if that deal still exists.  I remember he paid $50.00 for the book in 99.  You should also get a recent one as contacts and hirers have changed.

Well, he bought the book.  Within weeks he was hired and did not need the book anymore, so he gave it to me.  Now I was a pretty lousy trumpet player and still I got hired.  "Musos" out there: there is a story of a sax player who calls up a cruise ship company to get a gig.

Sax Player: Hello, are you looking for sax players?
Agent: Well, we have a hiring process.  Normally we interview over the phone and audition at a later date.
Sax Player: I just graduated from college and I'm looking for work.
Agent: Do you own a saxophone?
Sax Player: Yes
Agent: What color is it?
Sax Player: Gold
Agent: What are you doing Thursday?

Sooner or later, if you are trying to get a job on a cruise ship this situation will happen to you.  I owe my career to the fact that most trumpet players on the ship would get really, really drunk.  My first gig the trumpet player (was his name Lee?) fell down in the shower and broke his arm.  After that short stint I had another gig because the trumpet player was carry a case on Heineken down the stairs and the ship listed, or rolled.  Instead of grabbing the railing at the peril or smashing his precious suds he fell, cushioning the case with his collar bone, which broke.  The story goes that he downed a few before going to the medical center.  I tell these stories to let the reader know in any vocation, there will be accidents, incidents, and more importantly EMERGENCIES that require the staffing of a position fast. So how do you take advantage of this?

It's simple: be a pest.  Cruise lines will never tell you to bug off.  They will never deny your application for employment.  It's not like a real job where you are hired or not. Of course, the exact day you call they will not need someone the first time.  That's why you hound them.  Find your hiring agent in your book and when you call, make sure they are the correct hiring agent that works for the cruise line.  Never go with an agent or contracter - they take 8%-12% of your pay and you won't be making much.  PLUS, they tie you into a contract that says after you finish your job you have to pay them if you work for any other cruise line.  Why do you think they do that?  Because once you get on the ship you realize how darn easy it would be to get a job anywhere else and cut them out of your earnings!  Always work directly for the line.

So, basically you just find your contacts at 5-6 different cruise lines.  Call them once a week and politely ask if they have any openings.  At first they will tell you "no" or in "6 months" to get you off the phone.  After a few weeks they realize you are serious and if something comes up - they WON'T call you!  You have to hound them.  This way, when that job opens and you call, you are a familiar voice.

To make a long story long, I used the book and was hired by a very small company: Premier Cruise Line (now out of business).  I passed the book onto another "muso" (musician) who, in turn, also got a job.  I would see my piano player friend who gave me the book in port a few times.  I was amazed at the style of life out there.  The crew bar was such an interesting experience - you HAVE to hear about it!  The passenger were all drunken nut jobs. And some of the things that happened on that rust-bucket (built in 19-forty-something) were very bizarre.  Stayed tuned if you want to find out!