Life on the Ocean Waves

Working onboard a cruise ship is a great way to get a taste of working abroad as the contracts last between six to eight months and the destinations vary so it's a good way to sample each place you visit.

As a crew member your role not only entails your job as a beauty therapist or hairstylist, but each employee onboard the ship has a specific duty in the unlikely event of an emergency. So within the first twenty four hours you will have your safety induction, where you will learn your emergency drill procedure. The motto on board is 'safety first' which means that whatever your work responsibilities are on board your safety duties take precedence.

The living quarters are normally located on decks 2 and 3 and you will find yourself sharing your compact cabin with another spa team member. Inside the cabin will be a bunk bed, wardrobe, cupboard or unit and small bathroom for you to share and on some ships you may have the privilege of a TV and fridge. It will seem strange at first when you arrive to your new home and work place so give yourself a week or two to get use to finding your way around.


Embarkation is the day when the new passengers arrive, this is a very important day as it's the time when you meet your new clients and first impressions count. This is when the spa team will provide tours for the new passengers so the salon is set up in a way that pleases the eye and demonstrates the kind of treatment services available. A hairstylist will be demonstrating an up do, a beauty therapist may be demonstrating a hot stone massage and so another therapist and the spa manager will be conducting the tours and giving the demonstrating therapists a moment to briefly explain the service they are showing. This is the day that you want to sell yourself and the services your providing and so your appearance and professionalism must be impeccable.

Sea Day

The sea day is the day you should be fully booked and make most of your money; it's a very tiring day for all crew onboard so make sure you are well rested the night before. During the sea day you will get to do a one hour slot for your demonstration, so if you're the facial therapist you will need to have planned a talk about one of the facials you do on board. I recommend promoting the most expensive facial as the purpose of the talk is to get bookings so offer an extra something for those passengers who book with you then and there, for instance a scalp or foot massage during the mask.

Port Days

Port days tend to be a lot quieter so it is important to keep yourself motivated, to do this you can plan promotions and go out around the pool and offer express services like scalp massage, foot massage or back massages. Make sure you get a cool shady spot as working in the sun is very draining.

The three main cruise contractors for providing spa personnel are Steiner, Harding Brothers and Carita Sea Spa's. Steiner has contracts mostly with the American super liners and use Elemis, La Therapie and Ionithermie and they have their own Steiner Hair care line. Harding Brothers has mostly British cruise ship passengers. Their main contract is with P & O ships and they use Guinot, Thalgo, Absolute Aromas and Joico. Carita has a contract with Regent seven seas cruise line and use the bespoke Carita products and services.

The benefits of working onboard a cruise ship are;

  • See the world with your own eyes
  • Experience a multi cultural working environment
  • Develop professionally
  • Marketing and promoting your column
  • Excelled confidence (talks/demonstrations)

The downside of ship life is;

  • Costs of medicals, sea survival training, tools/kits, visa's, formal wear are at your own expense
  • Cost of living during training at the academy
  • Targets to reach/ pushed to sell
  • Small cabins/shared cabins
  •  Long working days with one and half days off
  • Crew drills, passenger drills and cabin inspections

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