Before I began working on Cruise Ships, the only advice I was given was that from a printed document from my employer stating that I shouldn’t pack too many of my own clothes, as I’d mainly be wearing my uniform – WRONG! What about time ashore with your friends, or crew bar/cabin parties, and those one-off evenings when you get a night off work and need a formal outfit to wear on passenger decks? I struggled to piece outfits together for the first two months of my contract until my family managed to post more out to me.
In order to prevent others from the same fate, I’ve created this little list of items that I recommend all future Cruise Ship workers take on board with them. I’m sure there are plenty more items that others will recommend, but from my own experience here is what I absolutely needed on my first contract. You’ll probably adapt this list to suit your own needs in time.
1. Spare money. It will vary for each company what currency you should take (Most are American, British, Norweigan and Australian), but having that spare bit of cash on me allowed me to top up my on board spending account to buy drinks at the crew bar, and change it into other currencies at the crew office to buy souvenirs in different countries until my first monthly pay check came through. I met so many new crew members that hadn’t a dime on them as they had assumed everything on board was free for crew, and spent the first week frantically calling their family to send them money, meanwhile borrowing it from other kind crew members.
2. Clothes, and plenty of them. You’re leaving home for 6-10 months at a time and you’re going to want some choices. Think of all the on board parties you’ll have and days you’ll spend ashore. Do you really want to be seen in the same 3 outfits? Roll up your clothes to fit more in your suitcase, and be sure to take a minimum of (Sorry lads, this bit’s mainly tailored to girls) 5 dresses, 3 shorts, 2 skirts, 3 jeans, 8 tops, 1 jumper and 2 bikinis. Shoe-wise I’d recommend one pair of trainers, one pair of heels, 2-3 flats and you should be set. Just don’t forget your Uniform… You might want to sit on your suitcase to close it.
3. Printed photographs of your loved ones. Everyone decorates their cabins in order to feel less home sick and more comfortable in their surroundings. It’s important to remember that internet in 2016 isn’t free on board Cruise Ships (At least it wasn’t on mine) and unless you want to spend a fortune on internet cards to see your loved ones, a handful of photos with some blue tac will help you to feel better for less.
4. A sturdy backpack. It will become your new best friend ashore, don’t take anything fancier as you just won’t use it. A designer hand bag might look nice in photos, but you need a bag that can stand all weathers and carry things safely zipped up such as your camera, purse full of many currencies, passport, crew card, phone and any other items you desire on your day out. For backpacks similar to mine that you can iron/sew patches onto, I found that eBay is your best bet. Take a look at my other article on how design your own patchwork bag.
5. A suitable phone contract. Although you can purchase calling cards on board to contact home through the phone in your cabin, most people look for the best deal they can find to call their family from multiple countries by one provider. Some of them even come with a certain amount of internet included in the package. It’s important to also keep in mind that being in rough seas can mean you lose signal and won’t be able to get through to your loved ones twenty-four seven, even with the most expensive contract. The one most of my friends used was GiffGaff. I remember it being quite affordable and provided a fairly good signal, but this was just over a year ago and packages from other providers might have greatly improved since then. Be sure to shop around.
6. Your own bed sheets. This one’s not a necessity but not only does it brighten up your cabin and personalise your bed, it also guarantees that you’ll sleep in clean sheets your first evening. Who knows what kind of person slept there before you did. Although all rooms are usually inspected by managers upon a crew members depart, you cannot always guarantee they’ve actually washed them ready for your arrival. Who wants a pillow case with someone else’s drool crusted into it? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
7. Washing tablets and fabric softener. Following on from the previous point, you might want to take a small sized box and bottle of these two to fully clean any items left to you, be that bed sheets, bathroom towels or shower curtains. Most of the time when I joined a ship, the previous owner had left me the rest of their washing stash, but it couldn’t hurt to buy your own just in case they don’t.
8. Moisturisers and conditioners. Both your hair and your skin will get drier the longer you are on board as the water stored in the ship has chlorine put into it to keep it clean. The lighter your hair the more damage you are prone to have (Take it from someone who by the second year on board had cut her hair to half the length it was to try to recover the condition), so use these products from the very beginning to prevent it from happening.
9. Some of your favourite snacks. This might sound a little crazy to anyone new to sea, as you’re promised plenty of food on board in the Crew Mess. Some even have the privilege of eating in the passenger areas. No-matter which area of the ship you are allowed to eat in, you soon get tired of the same weekly dishes, and will be running to the shops on turnaround days for pot noodles and chocolate bars. Whatever your favourites are be sure to take some with you. They could help break the ice with your colleagues or cabin mates on your arrival.
10. A good quality camera. This is one of the most important things you will take. If you want to record your travels to show your friends and family back home all of the great memories you made along the way, you’ll want to invest in a good quality camera. Although they might take a little longer to upload to the computer, edit and put online, it’ll be worth it to have photos that aren’t out of focus, underexposed or are too small. If you’re not a pro at photography but want something a little more advanced than a point and shoot, I’d recommend a Bridge camera. They have both automatic and manual settings so that you can experiment and improve. If you’re unsure, you can always ask your on board Photographer friends to help you out.
So there you have it, my list of ten recommendations for your first time at sea. Did any of you take anything else that was an absolute must? Packing a suitcase with 6 months worth of stuff is a challenge to say the least! If you liked my post get in touch, I’d like to hear from you!
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