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The Ins And Outs Of Dating On A Cruise Ship

After four and half contracts (two years) of working on a cruise ship I get asked lots of questions. One of the favorites seems to be about how crew members hook up or date while working on board. Yes it does happen, a lot. Here are some things I've learned about dating on a cruise ship.

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One would not think to look for a relationship while working on board a cruise ship. Long hours and no off days take a toll on you and in the middle of the day nothing seems more glorious than a nap. Anything from a twenty minute shut eye to something as great as a four hour nap can be more satisfying than a normal person's regular sleep cycle. Rest is hard to come by, so it's difficult to think why you would spend that time any other way.

Relationships between crew members are not like everyday boy meets girl. You work with these people. You eat with these people. You go to the crew bar and party with these people. It's hard not to see these people everyday unless you go to great lengths to avoid them. There is no escape, especially if you are team members in the same department. You know the old saying, "Don't dip your pen in the company ink?", well that expression has no meaning on a cruise ship because you work with everybody. The one exception to that expression is if you work in the same department.

Dating a Team Member

For example, the Entertainment Department can cover everything from Stage Performers, Youth Activities, Cruise Staff, Technicians and Tour Operations. If someone in Youth Activities dates someone in Cruise Staff, they might not actually see each other that much during the day. However if a Cruise Staff member dates another Cruise Staff member, then you might as well glue yourself together. And you can't help falling for a team member. You get to know each other pretty quick due to tight quarters and the amount of time you spend working.

Not only will you work directly with each other everyday, but you know when each others breaks are. So we have two hours off together, great let's hang out. We finish at the same time tonight, great let's hang out. You end up working, eating, partying and sleeping together everyday. Again sounds great if you're crazy, madly in love but if you're just starting out or you're not so invested in this person then it's too much. You'll start arguing about mundane things like how you answer the wave phone, "Hello?" , "What do you mean HELLO???". God forbid you have a nasty break up.

A bit of distance can do the heart wonders, but on the flip side...

Long Distance

Long distance relationships are hard enough as it is. With new technology though it's easier now than just a few years ago. You have the advantages of at least seeing each other on Skype or FaceTime. Great right? Not so much if you are on a ship. Internet packages are available but you are relying on the mercy of a satellite and you being in the middle of the ocean. Service is not always quality. Also these internet packages cost money. Twenty dollars for two hundred minutes, sure that will last a while. Then you check your crew account and by the second month of your lover's absence you've spent $600 on internet alone.

And it is going to happen. You're contracts are not always going to match up. You will face more distance than you want. Your port days will be spent chatting with your significant other rather than spending those precious moments of freedom doing anything else. If you love someone enough this wont matter. Sometimes however it does become rather frustrating when all your friends are going to swim with dolphins and you're looking for a Burger King because their wi-fi is slightly better than the local coffee shop.


On a ship you become very close friends with several different people. You're all stranded in the same sardine can. You work and socialize with each other. This means you have a lot of friends of the opposite sex, but you don't necessarily want to sleep with all of them. So when you start dating someone new who is outside your circle of friends, they are going to be jealous. This tends to happen less frequent on land. When I'm home it's just the bros. If there is a girl hanging around us, she's probably somebody's girlfriend or wife.

Would you date a girl with more guy friends than you had? It's human nature to be somewhat jealous of that kind of situation. By the end of it all though you learn how to be secure in a relationship. Having said that, don't be naive either. Cheating is very ramped on ships. There is a lot of temptation, especially if your significant other is not around. Out of sight out of mind. Jealousy without foundation is one thing, but jealousy with zero trust and you start asking yourself, why bother?

Not So One Night Stands

So if ship relationships are so difficult to manage why not just partake in one night stands instead. This notion is a fun solution and works for a plethora of cruise ship crew members. You get to try delicacies from all over the world that would normally not otherwise be available to sample. The other side to this is you better protect yourself. There's nothing more embarrassing than calling your manager in the morning or going to medical because you have Bulgarian crabs. You then see the doctor down the I-95 as you try and duck into a corridor. Complementary condoms are available, use them. Is she on birth control? Who knows, do you want a baby that lives in South Africa?

Random hookups are so appealing as well because if you're a guy, and you're straight, and you are somewhat decent looking, you'll probably hook up. If you are a girl, any girl, guess what, you'll hook up. And at least once you'll hook up with somebody way out of your league, which means you'll also sleep with a troll. You think beer goggles are bad, try on a pair of ship goggles.

There is only so long a person can go in that type of closed encounter environment before everything starts to look tasty. Imagine you are stranded on an island with no food. One day a jar of pigs feet washes up on shore. That shit is going to look better than Red Robin to a fat kid. You'll scarf it down, you're starving. You'll do the same on the ship, you're hungry and those one dollar beers are going down too easy.

Then There's Regret

There are a couple things you have to keep in mind after a one night stand on a ship though. It's not a one night stand. You will see this stranger again and sooner than you want, because guess what? YOU WORK ON THE SAME SHIP, YOU EAT TOGETHER ON THE SAME SHIP. THERE'S ONLY THE ONE BAR, GUESS WHERE, ON THE SAME SHIP. It's something you don't think about when you're chugging a three dollar bottle of wine.

Also the walk of shame is ten times as worse than on land. There is only one way to get back to your room and that's down the I-95. The I-95 is a stretch of hallway that all your co-workers and friends have to take to get anywhere on the ship. If spotted the gossip and rumors will spread faster than a gastrointestinal virus on board. And just because you walk with your head down, it doesn't mean you are invisible. God help you if there was a theme the night before.

Lastly, the roommate that you pissed off, the one you thought was asleep. They are literally only a foot above or below you. They heard you, passed out, then woke up again when you and your hook up started taking a shower and flooded the bathroom.

It's Just a "ship thing"

Then there's the "ship relationship" or "ship thing". The ones in this dating scenario don't expect to see each other after their contracts are finished. Some couples go to great lengths to prove that it's not just a "ship thing". Others just accept it as they accept the fact that they have to work a 13 hour shift the next day. A "ship relationship" is like having a friend with benefits on land. Usually it doesn't work out and somebody is going to be in tears at the end of it all.

Everybody gets to a point when enough is enough and you just want somebody to hold and cuddle at night. A friend to go have a laugh and hold hands with in port. However you only want it when it's convenient for you. It's selfish, but it's ship life. It can be lonely.

You find somebody who falls for you knowing that it will be the very definition of a "ship relationship". It happened on the ship and it will stay on the ship. You two will not exist in the real world. It's like the first few stages of dating someone when everything is beautiful and young. It's summer love when you're a kid at camp. It's an explosion of feelings that drift in the air like sparks from a fire. The sparks eventually reach too high and fade away, summer turns into fall and you will only see each other again on Facebook. Such is a "ship relationship".

The Break Up

There's two types of break ups on ships. You are either both stuck on the same vessel during the break up or one of you is leaving the ship. Ship life and ship relationships are only for the strong willed ones. You have to get use to the idea that your heart will leave you at the end of a contract and go to a country you've only visited in books. Or the notion that you will be stuck in a place full of memories with this person who broke your heart. You see their friends everyday, you are reminded of the time that you enjoyed a short lived break by the pool. Maybe you walk out into the night and reminisce about the time you watched the moon reflect some hidden piece of the ocean that was special for only the two of you. You slept in a bunk bed together, you ate gruel together. Now it's over.

It's even worse if you break up on the ship while you both still have time to serve. You break up and you will see them everywhere. Even if you never saw them on a regular basis before, now you will see them at the most random and inconvenient times. You can try avoiding them at the cost of missing out on crew events or time at the bar. This however hinders an amazing experience of being a part of a cruise liner.

Everything is heightened for a crew member. Time doesn't really exist and drama is more prominent than at a spoiled thirteen year old girl's birthday party. There is no juncture for grieving, you have to get right back to work and put your best Joker smile on. You know that moment when you find out an ex is hooking up with someone new? Your stomach turns as if somebody is making dough out of it. Yeah get use to that. The turn around rate on a ship is short.

On the other side though you will be stronger for it. Walk on to some hidden paradise, sip on a Mojito and think to yourself, life could be worse. Also every week or two you get some new recruits. Hence the quick turn around time.

It Works

And then sometimes it just works. You two click and you have these amazing stories of how you fell in love on a cruise ship while traveling the world. You'll have pictures of you two on a snowy mountain in Alaska or on a sunny beach in the Caribbean. At dinner parties everybody will actually be interested in how you two met. Maybe you live near each other back home, maybe you are worlds apart, but it doesn't matter. You make it work. At the end of the day whether you're stuck in the middle of the ocean or in an urban city cubicle, love finds a way.

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