Everything You Need to Know about Work on River Cruise Ships

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Those who follow my MiliMundo know that I used to work on river cruise ships as a restaurant server and that my blog also focuses on this topic. Therefore, I created a section called CRUISE DIARY where you can read all the articles about my personal experiences with cruise ship job. However, day by day I still receive emails from you asking me questions about work on river cruise ships. That is why I decided to write this article which will answer all your questions and gives you everything you need to know about work on river cruise ships.

HOW TO GET CRUISE SHIP JOB

Depends where you are from, which nationality you have. You may apply directly on a website of individual cruise ship companies or you can get a job through the agency which arranges cruise ship jobs. In Slovakia I used services of BackUp Jobs Agency which arranges my cruise job experience without any fees.

WHICH JOB POSITIONS YOU CAN APPLY FOR

Job positions on river cruises are limited especially compared to huge ocean liners where you can get a job as a photographer or in casino. On river cruise ships you can apply for jobs in kitchen as chef, sous-chef, cooks or dishwashers. In restaurant and bar as waiter, bartender or bar manager and restaurant manager. Then you can easily apply for a job at the reception, in housekeeping or as a sailor.

The most appealing and challenging job position seems to be “PD” – program director who is responsible for smooth running of everyday program for passengers. 🙂

WHAT LANGUAGES YOU NEED TO KNOW

In most companies you need to speak English at least on fluent level in order to be able to understand your managers. If you are in “front office” jobs and you speak directly to guests and passengers during your work, you have to have really good English at least on level B2/C1. There are also few cruise companies which do not require English, but German. For example company called A-Rosa.  

SEASON OF RIVER CRUISES

Season on river cruises usually starts in the middle of March and ends in November. Few companies run Christmas cruises so you can get extra money even in December. Your contract usually cover the whole season, however, you can start working on river cruise ships even in the middle of the season as not everybody from the staff will be able to finish the contract.  


SALARY ON RIVER CRUISES

It also depends on cruise companies. Some offer fixed salary of 800 euro net, some 1200 euro. Apart of fixed salary, you get part of so called “general tips” which are shared among every employee of the ship. On positions of waiters and housekeeping people, you can get extra personal tips which are given to you directly by satisfied guests.

My monthly fixed salary was around 1250 euro net and my monthly gratuities were around the same amount. Sometimes more, sometimes less. In two months of working on cruise ship I was able to save around 5000 euro.   

DAY OFF & PAID VACATION

In most river cruises there is NO DAY OFF at all. It means you work average 9 to 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, months straight without day off. I know. It´s crazy but it is as it is. Some companies give you a benefit of paid vacation, some don´t. I was lucky to have such company. In 2014 I got 10 weeks of paid vacation throughout the whole contract. In 2017 it was only 4 weeks but I started to work later. In 2014 there was no day off on my cruise ship, however, in 2017 I got lucky and I had one day off once in three weeks. Not enough but better than none. 🙂

DESTINATIONS OF RIVER CRUISES

Each company offers different destinations especially in Europe. In 2014 I was working on cruise ship which was sailing along two rivers in southern France (Avignon, Lyon). In 2017 I spent on month on river Douro in France and the rest of my contract we were sailing in Rhine river from Switzerland, across Germany to the Netherlands. Very popular cruise is the Danube one – from Budapest, across Bratislava to German Passau.  

Germany

PROS & CONS OF WORKING ON RIVER CRUISES

ADVANTAGES

  • possibility of HIGH SALARY including tips from customers
  • possibility of SAVING LARGE AMOUNT OF MONEY IN VERY SHORT TIME (as the accommodation, food and sometimes even travel expenses are reimbursed and/or paid) – from the money I saved in 2014 I travelled almost whole South America, Thailand and some European capitals
  • opportunity to travel the world (especially if it comes to ocean liners)
  • getting to know new people and cultures as most people on board (customers and crew) are from the whole world
  • an awesome life lesson which will make you stronger and more resistant to any life situation which may come up in the future

DISADVANTAGES

  • working 10 – 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, months straight is not a dream job for everyone
  •  everyday routine will (may) possibly make you crazy after couple of months of everyday work
  • harsh physical and mental exhaustion (already after 7th, 8th week)
  • so called “submarine disease” on cruise ships truly exists – even for people you really like
  • forget about comfortable clothes – you will get strict uniform followed by strict appearance rules etc …

 

Is there anything else you would like to know about work on river cruise ships? If yes, please, ask the question in the comments below and I will add it to my article and answer it as well as I can. 🙂

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And if you are interested in articles on CENTRAL AMERICA – click HERE. On SOUTH AMERICA click HERE. 🙂

PS: Looking for great travel insurance with great prices? Insurance which you can book even when your journey has already started? Have a look at The True Traveller. I am more than happy with them. 🙂

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15 Responses

    • Hi Tarryn, I haven´t been on any river cruise ship that would have shops. River cruise ships are usually pretty small with around 150 to 200 passengers, 1 restaurant and 1 bar. Not enough space for shops onboard.

  • On Grand Circle, they put out different merchandise every day and offer a 15% discount. Items such as jackets, t-shirts, sweatshirts w/ the ship’s logo. Christmas items, jewelry, scarves, etc. etc. etc.

  • Osobně mám velice negativní zkušenost s prací na malé (kapacita 98 cestujících) říční lodi v Holandsku. Fixní plat 1000 eur čistého měsíčně. Posléze se ukázalo, že ač slibovali, že všechny srážky z platu budou podle zákona, společnost z našich platů neodvedla ani cent na dani. Takže daň jsem později musela doplatit v ČR při podání daňového přiznání.

    Spropitné, po rozdělení mezi celou posádku, bylo pouhých 30-50 eur na týden, většinou 40 eur. Personal tips – pokud nám někdo z klientů náhodou podstrčil – jsme měli zakázané si nechávat, mělo se odevzdávat do kasičky s general tips. Samozřejmě ho nikdo neodevzdával, ale stejně se stalo opravdu málokdy, že bych nějaký takový tip dostala.

    Dovolená – měli jsme nárok na 1 placený den dovolené za každý odpracovaný týden na lodi.

    Tuto práci mi zprostředkovala česká agentura Crew Jobs, které jsem za to zaplatila 6000 Kč, a opravdu NIKOMU bych tuto agenturu ani loď nedororučila.

    Mám na Tebe otázku – jakou smlouvu (jaké země) jsi oficiálně měla? Já byla oficiálně zaměstnaná na Kypru, s kyperskou smlouvou a podle kyperských zákonů. Přestože jsem na Kypru nikdy v životě nebyla – plavili jsme se jen v Holandsku, Německu a Belgii. Slyšela jsem ale, že smlouvy bývají nejčastěji kyperské nebo maltské, protože pro společnosti je to nejvýhodnější (a pro zaměstnance nejméně výhodné).

    • Tak hoci boli pre mňa podmienky práce na lodi veľmi náročné, v porovnaní s tebou som to mala určite lepšie (minimálne po finančnej stránke – ja som mala sprepitné na týždeň aj 200eur a niekedy personal tips tiež 200 euro – záležalo od hostí a mojej nálady 🙂 ). Mala som švajčiarsku zmluvu pri oboch sezónach a bola som nadpriemerne spokojná (až na tú drinu samozrejme). A spoločnosť, čo mi to sprostredkovala (Back Up Agency) mi prišla veeeľmi spoľahlivá a žiadne poplatky. Proste super. Tak či onak na loď by som sa už vrátiť nechcela, dve sezóny bohate stačili. 🙂

  • Hi, I was wondering if you know how the workdays usually look like for the galley/kitchen personnel on a river cruise? When do they usually start working/do they have some free time during the day? I have only worked on a cruise ship before(going between Finland and Sweden), and would really like to try working on a river cruise. This blog has been really interesting and helpful so thank you for writing this blog!

    • Hi Pauline, well it depends on many factors but at my ships people from galley had similar schedule as us servers, however, thes spend some more time in the kitchen preparing food so they usually started earlier than us. But they also got some free time during the day as we did 🙂 not sure which position is more stressful though – both of them are pretty intense 🙂

  • Ahoj Mili, chcela by som sa spytat, ci praca chyznej na riecnej lodi zahrna aj umyvanie riadu a pomoc pri nakladani/vykladani laundry alebo bicyklov. Ci sa izby upratuju dvakrat denne (rano a vecer) a ci su pracovne pozicie vekovo obmedzene. Dakujem 🙂

    • Ahoj Danka, v nasej spolocnosti praca chyznej urcite NEZAHRNOVALA umyvanie riadu, na to sme mali poziciu tzv “dishwasher”. Housekeeping avsak pracoval v laundry a pradlo robili aj zamestancom. Izby sa upratovali niekolkokrat denne a chyzne sa taktiez podielali pri vykladani tovaru (raz do tyzdna), no na tom sa podielali vsetci zamestatnci lode (bol to tzv. loading day). A ci je to vekovo obmedzene? To si uz zisti priamo cez pracovne agentury, napr BackUp Agency. Vela stastia. 🙂

  • Hi there.
    Am looking for a river cruise w shorter contracts… (like 4 weeks on, 2 off, or something similar). Can you tell me wich company as the higher salaries?
    Thank you

    • First of all, I don´t know about any company which would give you short contracts … I heard that well paid companies are Crystal and Viking. Good luck 🙂

    • Good question. There is something called “a crew mess” which represents more of a kitchen for a staff where people can cook for themselves, watch movies and drink, however, no real bar for crew unfortunately.

    • Hi Laura, contracts on rivers are usually from March till November. Cabins were small, shared among two people usually but on some ships even among 4 people. However, we had our own bathroom, TV and fridge 🙂

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