Questions to Ask Before Taking a Job at Sea

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Job at SeaIf you’ve been offered a job at sea, you may be dreaming of all the exotic destinations you’ll be visiting. For many, working on a cruise ship or yacht is a dream come true.

However, there are some important questions you should ask your employer before you accept the job.

Here are a few.

  1. How long is my contract and are there exit clauses? If you’ve never worked on a cruise or yacht before, you may not know what to expect. Many cruise lines and yachts require extended times at sea and abroad. It is important to know exactly the terms of your contract before you sign on the dotted line. What happens if there’s an emergency back home? An exit clause would let you know what consequences you could face for breaking the contract or asking to exit the term of your employment.
  2. Will I share sleeping quarters, and if so, with how many other people? Before you sign on the dotted line, it’s a good idea to ask your employer where you’ll live and sleep on the ship or yacht. Some individuals are comfortable with co-ed arrangements while others are not. You may also want to ask about how roommate disputes or verbal or physical violence between roommates is addressed. Disagreements happen and it is important to know who to turn to if you have difficulty. If you do happen to experience an altercation with another crew member and your employer does nothing about it, don’t be afraid to turn to a maritime attorney for help in filing a claim.
  3. How long will my work days be and how many days off will I have? Cruise lines and yacht charters are known to ask their employees to work long hours with few breaks. You may work seven days a week for much more than 40 hours each week. Understanding the exact nature and length of your weekly commitment will help you decide if working at sea is right for you. Many individuals who dream of visiting the world by working at sea find their dreams dashed when they learn they’ll only get a few days off a month. Luckily, when employers push crew to the extremes, the Jones Act may offer protections.
  4. What amenities on the ship or yacht will I have access to? In many cases, crew have access to different amenities than those accessed by passengers. Don’t count on being able to use the fancy gyms and pools on board.
  5. Will my dietary requirements be accommodated? Because you’ll be at sea, your food choices will likely be restricted to what’s available on the ship. On some ships, crew members can eat for free, however, on others, crew may be responsible for meal expenses. Ask yourself whether you are willing to pay – if need be – for meals and whether or not your potential employer will be willing to accommodate for any special dietary needs, including lactose intolerance or gluten allergies.

At the end of the day, a job at sea can be rewarding—but it’s important to know what to expect. Be clear with your potential employer about what your needs are and understand that you may need to make certain sacrifices. If you do take a crew member position and your employer does not hold up to their end of the contract, remember that you can always turn to an experienced maritime lawyer to protect your seafarer rights.