Either you’ve met each other on board during one of your contracts or you’ve managed to both get hired after being a couple ashore. You will soon find out that the dynamics of your contracts together as a couple onboard is much different than working or living together on land.
Will you be able to adjust to a new set of challenges?
What the Naysayers are Saying
Experienced crewmembers know that the majority of shipboard relationships don’t last. The fact is that many relationships that start onboard don’t last more than one contract. It is difficult to get placed on the same ship together as well as it is difficult to get a contract with the same length. Furthermore, couples that end up on separate ships find it impossible to communicate with each other, without spending tons of money. Then during your leave, can you live successfully on land together, too?
Separate Jobs Means Separate Contracts
One of the biggest challenges of working onboard together is to be assigned the same ship during the same period onboard. It’s tricky for a manning office to find a ship with a position in each of the desired departments for you and your partner to join together. Then there’s the issue of different contract lengths. One person may have a contract of four months while the other has a contract of six or eight months. In many cases, you many even have to deal with two different manning offices. Possibly one is in Miami while the other one is in the UK or elsewhere. Will you be prepared to extend your contract? Will you be prepared to stay onboard while your boyfriend/girlfriend goes home?
Managing Your Career
Cruise lines still treat you as two separate employees with their own jobs to do. And with this comes opportunities for advancement for each person. Unfortunately, sometimes one person ends up sacrificing his/her career for the other person to move ahead. For example, a promotion may make it more difficult to be placed on the same ship and during the same period because of fewer positions available. There’s also the issue if you work in the same department together. The company doesn’t look too highly on a couple that is in the same department, especially in a supervisor/subordinate relationship. It may even be against company policy.
Enjoying Time Together
What time together? Seriously, there isn’t a lot of time that is spent together as a couple. Both of you will be working seven days a week, and not necessarily during the same hours. There are no weekends off. Don’t expect to have dinner every night with your spouse. Don’t expect to spend the morning snuggling in bed together. Don’t expect to get ashore every day together, either. With different schedules this is a huge challenge for couples. Of course, you do need to make an effort to spend time together in the hours off that you do share.
Having a Social Life
First of all, there is a world-wide assumption that the life onboard is one big party for crew members. This is partly true. Yes, there are crew bars, officer wardrooms, crew discos, corridor parties and other social events. One must also remember that the cruise lines all have strict alcohol policies, meaning if you are caught drinking too much, you could end up fired. Many couples find that they have outgrown the party atmosphere of ship life anyway and tend to avoid it. Instead, dinners with friends or a cabin cocktail party is more the norm.
Shipboard relationships require a considerable amount of trust. Do you know each other’s friends and colleagues (and do you like them)? Do you trust that your partner may be having dinner with someone other than you? In many instances, when a person is finished their shift/watch, they will generally have lunch/dinner with the people they work with. Unless you have compatible schedules, this is just something you will need to get used to. Same for going ashore, different schedules mean you won’t be going ashore everyday with your partner.
Other Relationship Tips
Blending your work life and personal life requires a strong couple with similar interests. The fact that you both want to work at sea shows that you have at least one common interest. But having the same interests in what to do on your hours off together and an enjoyment of each other’s friends will make life onboard easier. Learning how to fight/disagree is also an asset when working onboard together. You need to be emotionally disciplined to let go of disagreements and be supportive of each other’s complaints.
Getting a Cabin Together
In all cases, the first day of your contract you are assigned a cabin based on the department you work in. Shoppies share cabins, JAPs (Junior Assistant Pursers) share cabins, photographers share cabins, and so on. The higher you go in rank will also entitle you to your own cabin. So, when you and your partner join together (usually not on the same day) you must find a way to get other crew members to switch around in order for you to have a cabin together. The best case scenario is if one of you is entitled to their own cabin.
Living in Close Quarters
This can be difficult for those that are not used to having only a little space. Everything about the cabin is small – tiny bathroom, few drawers and a small wardrobe. You need to be respectful of each other’s space. This means making an attempt to keep it clean and organized. But it also means watching TV when your partner needs to rest is not a good idea. Here are some positive points – you don’t have to wash your linens, you’ll never run out of hot water and someone else cooks for you.
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