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

Sun and Snow

How do you like the sound of summer learning to surf, water ski and lazing in the sun and the winters learning to ski and snowboard? Well travel operators like Mark Warner and Scott Dunn, recruit beauty and hair staff for their summer and winter seasons. These positions again include accommodations and meals on duty, and contracts last for the season so about six months is the length of service required. With only one day off per week you need to make the most of it and use of facilities are normally complimentary for the staff which is an added bonus.

International Therapists

Finding employment broad is becoming easier than ever before. Before taking the plunge and going to work abroad you need to find out about the countries your interested in, like the law of the land, vaccinations needed, crime rates, amongst other things .The most likely countries to recruit hairstylists and beauty therapists are the Arabic countries like Saudi Arabia (UAE), Dubai (UAE), Muscat (Oman), this is because they are Muslim countries and woman are not encouraged to work and men would not be allowed to see a woman without a head dress or barely clothed for a body service, so they recruit from abroad.

The Arabic world would be a culture shock for most western therapists/stylists, and so you must be aware of the protocol and try to blend into the environment you're in by adapting a more conservative dress, although prior to accepting a job offer employers will provide you with a guideline about the country of employment.

Countries with a skill's shortage in the hair and beauty sector include Australia, New Zealand and Bermuda. These countries are similar to the UK as they are english speaking, of a christian denomination and the fashion tends to be the same.

Most countries work to the rule that if there is a native who can do the job why bring in a foreigner so it's a lot harder to find work in places like America, Canada and South Africa to name a few. You could try for hair and beauty jobs in South Africa.

Employers will want the following information prior to applying for a work permit; medical certificate and chest x-ray, police report, a least 3 previous employment references, 2 character references and copies of your professional qualifications to be notarised by a qualified lawyer. Working abroad is a lot different from joining a ship as you are expected to give at least two years service and often don't get to visit home until one years service is complete.

Benefits of working abroad

  • Experience different culture, people and work environment
  • Develop new skills and treatments provided in the spa
  • Making of new friends and colleagues from an international community
  • Increase professional knowledge and experience

Downside of working abroad

  • Not seeing friends and family
  • Missing occasions (weddings, christenings, births ....)
  • Missing 'english' things and home comforts
  • Cost of travelling home
  • Rights as a foreign worker, are different from UK


It's not easy to work abroad or onboard it sounds very glamorous and exciting but when it comes to the crunch, it takes a lot of guts to actually do and leave everything you know behind. Give yourself time, time to adjust to your new surrounding and new people and after one year you will wonder where the time went and when it comes to making a decision to return home or not you will probably decide to stay a while longer. You will definitely be glad that you took the courage to work abroad and may look for a new adventure in a new land. Working abroad opens your eyes, and you will meet some wonderful people with whom you will be friends for life. One thing is for sure though, you won't ever regret it.