If you’ve never worked on a cruise ship and you’re wondering just how long you have to be at sea, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, contract lengths can vary from as little as a couple of weeks to as long as 9 months (or in rare cases even longer). For those who are starting out it’s generally expected that you complete a “full” contract before you can later negotiate with your agent and/or company something shorter.
A full contract generally equals 6/7 months total. I have friends who have been on board for 3 months and some who have come and gone in 6 weeks. The way it works is basically availability. If a particular ship needs a drummer in a week and they are desperate, chances are they will be more willing to take someone for less than a full contract. Generally though things are a little (not always) more organised and if you’re not prepared to take on a full contract you may be placed in the waiting list as someone else with the skills and the availably will be more valuable to the company.
Personally I’ve completed a 6 month contract and am currently on on my way to finishing a 7 month contract. It’s a long time to be away from home and a lot can change from where you left your life prior to embarking. This could be relationships breaking down, family illnesses, weddings, friends moving aboard (you get the picture). For some people, this can be really challenging.
I will follow up with a post sometime which will include my tips on how to survive a 7 month contract, as it can be a taxing adventure if you are not prepped with the right tools. I also feel the time away from “the real world” can be one of the most valuable things in establishing your personal habits and reactive tendencies to situations, as with the lack of distraction (be it traffic, rent and family) leaves no room but yourself to blame for your behaviour.