Almost all crew members at one point in their cruise ship contract or career will experience homesickness. Whether you are a first time joiner or someone that is nearing the end of their contract, it is normal to miss being at home. Understand what the symptoms are and how to overcome it with proven tips and techniques
What is Homesickness?
Homesickness is the anxiety, depression or feelings one experiences, caused by the separation from the home environment. Although homesickness is most common for kids experiencing separation anxiety at summer camp, the first day of school and sleepovers, adults can also experience homesickness.
For adults, homesickness may occur when travelling. And, working on a cruise ship can exacerbate those feelings about life back at home. Consider the length of time away from home with contracts of 4, 6, 8, and 10 months. We’re not just talking about missing friends and family, but also about the other comforts at home from sleeping in your own bed to favourite foods.
Are you Ready to Work on Cruise Ships?
Cruise line recruiters are very interested in knowing if you are mentally prepared to work on cruise ships. They don’t want you to get onboard and then change your mind because you can’t handle living with a roommate and you miss the comforts of home too much.
Mental preparation is the key in handling homesickness. And, conveying to the interviewer that you understand what cruise ship life is like will set their mind at ease that you have thought out the process and are ready for the challenge.
On the other hand, if you have any doubt at all about committing to being at sea for a number of months, then you should not go. It’s a big decision that will impact your life. Weigh the pros and cons carefully before making the decision to work on ships. You need to be 100% ready mentally.
Symptoms of Homesickness on Cruise Ships
Mild Symptoms – All crew members have felt mildly homesick on every contract. You may experience an increase or decrease in appetite, drinking, smoking or insomnia. You may also have a diminished capacity to think or concentrate. You may just be frustrated that the ship only carries Coke and not Pepsi.
Moderate Symptoms – Some crew members describe their feelings as sadness, depression, anger, or hopelessness. Some find it hard to adjust to this new life onboard (cabin mates, rigidity of ship rules, work schedule, food, etc). Others withdraw from social activities or spend a lot of time emailing or on the phone.
Severe Symptoms – In some very rare incidents, suicidal thoughts may occur. A tragic occurrence still under investigation is the case of the missing crew member from the Coral Princess. Although facts may lead many people to assume that this was a suicide, others may argue otherwise. Regardless, suicides do happen at sea.
Coping with Homesickness
Maintain a Positive Attitude – After all, you are on a cruise ship. Your friends back home are probably envious. And remember how hard you worked to land this dream job. Being positive of how lucky you are will help overcome those negative homesickness feelings.
Bring the Comforts of Home Onboard with You – Bring photos from home to put around your cabin. Some crew members even bring things like their own pillow. Many Australian crew members bring their own Vegemite where as British crew members bring along Marmite.
Experience the Comforts of Home While Abroad – You’d be surprised how excited crew members get when they are able to buy a Cadbury Flakie chocolate bar on the British Virgin Island of Tortola or in the port of Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Others enjoy the spirit of home when watching a football (European) game on satellite TV.
Stay Connected with Family and Friends – Low phone and email rates make it easy and affordable for crew members to stay connected at sea. But, be careful of how much time you spend communicating back home. Although you may think you are missing out on what everyone is doing back home, make sure you spend part of the conversation talking about what you are doing as well.
Receive Mail from Friends and Family – Getting your family and friends to send you letters (or even better a care package full of goodies) is one way to feel you have a new temporary residence. You can get the port address once you are onboard from the Crew Office.
Make New Friends – This is actually easier than one may think. Everyone is in the same boat, so to speak. As everyone has been a new joiner at one point of their contract. That’s right, each contract means making new friends since there is always a new rotation of crew. These new friends are key to getting through the homesickness so don’t be scared to share your feelings and enjoy shipboard life.
Visit the Onboard Personnel Manager – Many cruise ships now employ a Personnel and Training Manager (AKA: PT Manager). If for any reason you need some additional emotional support, this person is a trained to listen and help.
Enjoy Cruise Ship Life – Remember you are travelling so take advantage of the situation when you can. Sunbathe for an hour or two. Find out where the crew hot spots are in each port and go ashore whenever you get the chance. Go for lunch ashore rather than onboard once in a while. Shop in exotic destinations. And, enjoy the new things that make your cruise ship experience unique.
Keep Busy – Whether you are working, having dinner with your colleagues or going to the crew bar, avoid the occasion to isolate yourself. Although once you mastered the homesick feelings, time on your own is often appreciated.
Take Advantage of Relative Travel Rates – Most cruise lines offer special rates (free cruises as well) for friends and family depending on the number of contracts (or years of service for some ranks) you’ve completed. Bringing your family onboard is sure to relieve homesickness.
Homesick During the Holidays – Christmas can be a difficult time for some crew members. Although the cruise ships set up Christmas trees, bring in Santa and serve turkey, there’s no doubt that many crew members will miss being at home. To cope, participate in Secret Santa gift exchanges and departmental Christmas parties (with spiked eggnog) with your new friends and before you know it you’ll really be enjoying the holidays onboard.
Everything in Moderation – Homesickness may lead to excessive smoking or drinking, and the latter could get you fired. Overeating is also typical of homesickness as persons suffering from mild depression experience. Try to eat balanced meals and work exercise into your daily routine.
Homesick to be Back on Cruise Ships
After finishing your contract, you go home for a month or so, and then it happens. You are anxious to get back onboard. You miss those long, hot showers where the hot water doesn’t run out. You miss the Chocolate Souffle served on formal night. You miss not having to cook, clean, or make your bed. You miss your pay check. You miss ship life. You are actually homesick to be back onboard.
For more information about working on cruise ships visit www.WorkOnCruiseShips.com – an extensive website dedicated to providing everything you need to get cruise ship jobs. You will find the latest cruise ship vacancies, contact information, discussion forum, and in-depth articles.