I love working on a cruise ship. I get free housing and food at the buffet, but it's definitely a strange way to live.
- Ann Knypl is a 32-year-old cruise-ship worker from Quezon City, Philippines.
- Knypl began in housekeeping, moved to the casino, and is now a marketing and communications manager.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ann Knypl, a 32-year-old cruise ship worker from Quezon City, Philippines. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Living and working on a cruise ship isn't normal. I've seen that firsthand, since my mom started working on cruise ships when I was 4 years old.
But even though it can be a strange life — working for months on end and sharing rooms with strangers — I still found myself following in my mom's footsteps.
I didn't think I would end up working on a cruise ship
When I graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in information technology, I couldn't find a job in my home country that paid well. Around the same time, I was visiting Singapore when my mom's cruise ship docked there.
She brought me on board for a tour, and I was amazed at how the ship was just one big floating community. A year later, I was hired as a housekeeper.
Housekeeping is not for the faint of heart
It's difficult work. It was even more difficult for me emotionally, because I knew that I had gone to school and studied hard.
I felt like people were judging me for working in housekeeping. It felt like they were thinking I hadn't studied or worked hard enough, but I was just trying to climb the ladder of the cruise-ship world.
I worked in housekeeping for more than three years
Five years ago, I was transferred to a bigger ship, where I started working in the casino.
Now, I'm a marketing and communications manager. I take care of stuff like guest newsletters and digital signage.
There are plenty of perks to working on a cruise ship
I don't pay for housing. I can drop my uniform off to get cleaned and pick it up when it's done. Now that I'm a little higher on the corporate ladder, housekeeping comes to my cabin.
My friends work on the ship too, and they're always close by — ready to go to a bar, a party, or an event. If I finish my work and the ship is docked at port, I can go explore for the rest of the day. It's a lively way to live.
But working on a cruise ship isn't all positive
It can be difficult, because working on a cruise ship means you're never not at work. It's like being on call 24/7; even when you're off your shift, you're still on the ship.
There are rules, including that employees can't wear flip-flops in the corridor and that they can't drink four hours before their shift starts.
I also have a strange schedule
I have a six-month contract where I work every day and have a few months off. When I was in housekeeping, my contract was even longer at nine months. Some people higher than me in the company have shorter contracts, like four months.
@_super_ann Ship's Karaoke Night #super_ann #sailor_ann #fyp ♬ Funny Laugh no no no - Sound Effect
Being away from friends and family for that long can be hard. I also worry that as I get older, I'll have to choose between working on a cruise ship or settling down to start a family.
I want a family, and I know that forming romantic relationships within the cruise-ship life can be difficult because there's always the risk of getting transferred to a different ship.
I do love working on a cruise ship
I also love sharing it with my 500,000 TikTok followers. I've even seen comments from people who said my content inspired them to work on cruise ships themselves, which is just the highest compliment.
I started sharing my experience on TikTok because I was bored during a COVID-19 lockdown. Inspiring people was never part of the plan, but I'm lucky that it happened.
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