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Cruise Feature Article
How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship
by Sharon Jackson

In the June 1997 issue of K.L. Smith's CruiseLetter, we published a review of Carnival Cruise Line's Ecstasy by Jason DeLeo. If you read this review (You can find the review by clicking on CRUISE REVIEWS in the top navigation bar), you will find the following in our usual "bio" information section at the end of the review:

Jason DeLeo is 25, and has been on 4 cruises. He currently works for the Walt Disney Company in television. Based on his love of the sea, he is currently working with the Disney Cruise Lines to change careers and work on the new Disney Magic.

In May, Jason asked me if I had any advice to give him on how he could get a job on a cruise ship. (I wish I had a US dollar for every time I'm asked that question!) Although then employed by Disney Television in Burbank, California, and thus having a "foot in the door" to work on the new Disney Magic, Jason was a bit impatient and did not like the idea of having to wait for over a year before his chance to work for a cruise line.

My invaluable expert advice. . .ahem. . . to Jason was to direct him to the International Seafarers Exchange Cruise and Maritime Employment Source - a link you will also find in our SeaLetter Links department - and to tell him to "network", if he knew how. And, if he didn't know how to "network", then he should learn really fast!

Well, learn he did! True, it doesn't hurt to have "Walt Disney Television Studios" employment experience on one's resume, but you'll be amazed at Jason's timetable:

May 1997 - Surfed on over to International Seafarers Exchange for the first time
August 1997 - Sent out his first letters and resumes to the cruise lines
October 18, 1997 - First day of work aboard Holland America Line's Veendam

As luck would have it, I managed to find out IN PERSON just how Jason accomplished his goal in such a short period of time. . .

Jason picks up his email each Sunday when the Veendam docks in Ft. Lauderdale. On January 4th, he found an *Email SeaLetter* informing all our subscribers that I would be away for a week sailing on the Veendam. He then checked with the Front Office to find our stateroom and left a note for us under the door. I had no idea Jason was working for ANY cruise line, nor that he would be aboard the same ship I was sailing on! Of course, I still had no idea what he looked like, but armed with the information that he was one of the Cruise Staffers on board, I kept my eyes open and finally ran into him at one of the Team Trivia contests. As the week progressed, Jason and I talked often and we finally sat down for a formal interview on January 9, 1998.

Jason De Leo is 25 years old and hails from Burbank, CA. He is a graduate of the Film Group Institute in Hollywood, CA, where he studied film and television production. Two years ago, two things happened to change the course of Jason's young life:

  1. He began working for Disney in television finance & strategic planning
  2. He decided that he wanted to work on a cruise ship

Last year he talked to Disney about working on one of the new Disney ships, but ultimately decided that he couldn't wait until their ships were completed. He was also a bit unexcited by the "Bahamas...Bahamas...Bahamas..." itineraries. So, Jason decided to take the plunge. . .


May 1997 through July 1997

Local Book Stores: Jason found four books which discussed finding jobs on cruise ships. He learned an awful lot about networking, job titles, how to submit resumes, applications, and references. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember the names of these books during the interview, but then *YOU* should do at least some of the footwork on this. He did recall that he heard of one of the books at the International Seafarer's Exchange.

International Seafarer's Exchange - Jason logged on to the Exchange and read everything he could find. He started to correspond by email with a lot of crew members he found at the Exchange. These folks gave him lots of great advice, but what proved to be the most beneficial were the crew members' descriptions of the various job positions available on cruise ships. They made it clear to Jason that he needed to take this information and do two things with it:

    1. Narrow his list of dream jobs to the types of positions he actually wanted. Otherwise, he might find himself offered the job of shoveling coal in the engine room!
    2. Find out just what the dream job "position" was called and who the position "reported to" at each of the different cruise lines.
Pre-application Process: - Jason decided that he wanted to apply for any of the following five positions:
  1. Cruise Staff
  2. Guest Relations (Front Desk)
  3. Shore Excursion Staff
  4. Purser's Office/financial Staff
  5. HRO or Personnel Management
With this list in one hand, Jason picked up the telephone in the other and began calling each and every cruise line to find out the NAME and TITLE of the person responsible for hiring each of the 5 positions which interested him. If you think you can skip this step in the process, then you will no doubt find yourself next year still working at McDonalds. Simply stated:
If you don't personalize the cover letters and resumes, they won't get read.
Armed with this information, Jason proceeded to
  1. Prepare 5 different resumes - each directed specifically to one of the above 5 positions. If you want to be a Cruise Staffer, highlight all of your social and entertainment-type skills. If you want to work in the Purser's Office, highlight all of your financial and mathematical skills and achievements, etc.
  2. Prepare 5 different cover letters - each addressed specifically to the NAME and TITLE of the person responsible for hiring the position you are applying for.
  3. Get his Photo taken - No, not his Senior Prom or Graduation Picture - a CURRENT "business-like" color photo. When you get to this step, smile. And don't try to fool anyone with a pic of Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts or your "interviews" will last about 30 seconds. See McDonalds above.
  4. Prepare a References/Salary History page - You WILL NOT send this in with your first application. It IS NOT part of your resume or cover letter. You have this ready and, in the cover letter, "offer" to mail or FAX the information if requested.

August 1997

Jason sent out his "applications" consisting of:
  1. Cover Letter
  2. Resume
  3. Photo

September 1997

Within 3 weeks of sending the first "applications", Jason began getting both rejections and telephone calls from interested parties. Three lines showed what might be called some "interest":
  1. Carnival Cruise Lines
  2. Royal Caribbean International
  3. Crystal Cruises
One line "sort of" offered him a position:
  1. Norwegian Cruise Lines
TWO lines actually MADE AN OFFER:
  1. Windjammer Barefoot Cruises
  2. Holland America Line

October 1997

Jason accepts the offer from Holland America Line and, on October 18th joins the Cruise Staff of the Veendam. It is worthy to note here that Jason chose to accept HAL's offer and to look no further due to Holland America Line having a reputation for treating their employees well. And, even though Jason decided to apply for five different positions, he really, really, really wanted a Cruise Staff job. This offer was his dream come true!

The "Job"

On Holland America ships, Cruise Staff are part of the Entertainment Division. The members report to both the Assistant Cruise Director and to the Cruise Director, who reports to the Hotel Manager. Cruise Staffers' "contracts" usually last 4 to 5 months and are "renewable" with the agreement of both the staffer and Holland America Line.

Currently on the Veendam, the Cruise Staff is composed of the Cruise Director, Assistant Cruise Director, Social Hostess, Youth Counselor, and 4 Cruise Staff members. The Cruise Staffers' duties vary - they each do just about everything at one time or another, filling in for each other as they rotate their "days off in port". On port days, one staffer stays on board to conduct all of the activities - trivia contests, galley tours, library desk, bingo, horse-racing - whatever. Jason alternates "weeks" with the other male staffer for "Disc Jockey" honors.

To Jason, his job is "100% fun!" He loves visiting the different ports (Staffers usually get 3 out of every 4 port days off), and "seeing the world". He loves learning the customs of other cultures - especially from the Indonesian crew on board Holland America ships - and the camaraderie and closeness of the crew and staff members. He also loves being "taken care of" - not unlike we passengers are pampered: he eats the same great food most days and he has a room steward who makes his bed and cleans his room daily and even does his laundry.

Of course, being at sea all the time does have its drawbacks. Jason is bothered at times by the constant motion and misses being away from his family, friends and "must see for some" TV. While the food is fantastic, it does get "repetitive at times" and there's too much of it and he has to watch the way he eats. (To Jason: Click Here to read our article "How NOT to Gain Weight on a Cruise!) And, for a guy who "loves to talk to people", even the conversations can get a little old.

As for Jason's future plans, he will be leaving the Veendam the end of February and, after a month's vacation, will be joining the Cruise Staff of the Maasdam in March. Long term, he would like to be a Cruise Director someday. When that day comes, and I have NO DOUBT that it will, we can all say "we knew him when. . ."


As busy as he is these days, Jason DeLeo STILL loves to receive email. Remember, however, that he can only access his email on Sundays and sometimes he cannot reply until the following Sunday. You may contact Jason at: FLOUNDER11@prodigy.net.

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