Rules and Regulations for Cruise Ships Jobs

Before continuing with the tour of ship's jobs, a very important issue has to be addressed: The cruise ship has laws, rules, and regulations.

The rules applying to staff are what you'd expect from any job, with a few exceptions.

These are fundamental to job conditions, and terms of employment. Anyone thinking of taking a job on a cruise ship needs to know and understand these rules.

You will be informed by the employer and give information regarding the rules. But you would be well advised, in any case where you're not sure, to ask a senior officer or staff member before doing anything where you're not clear on what the rules are.

Remember that these are contract jobs, and the contract defines how you're employed. It's a standard requirement of any job contract that any laws or rules are complied with.

Rules do vary from ship to ship, and from employer to employer, but these are basic:

  • Generally speaking the proper use of facilities and tidiness are fundamental rules, enforced by all cruise ships. (This has safety implications, too, on a ship- misuse of facilities can create serious problems.)
  • A cruise ship does have to maintain standards of dress and conduct, and these are mandatory, no exceptions.
  • Disciplinary procedures for infringements work on a warning system. Repeated infringements of rules will almost inevitably result in being fired.
  • Rules like 'not taking a passenger into your cabin' have legal implications, where the ship can be held liable for the conduct of crew or staff.
  • Smoking is sometimes banned, depending on the ship or the company policy.
  • Drugs and drunkenness can get you fired.
  • Drugs can get you fired and charged with a crime.

It needs to be understood that cruise ships are obliged to act in accordance with any law which applies to them, like on land.

(There are good reasons for wanting ship's crew sober on the job. In the case of the Exxon Valdez, drunkenness on board was part of the reason for the major oil spill and environmental disaster off Alaska which cost Exxon billions in fines.)

Some rules have to be learned.

One example of a rule which isn't obvious is 'no naked flame in an accommodation area'.

This could be a fondue set, a gas jet, or other cooking method.

What it means is 'fire hazards'. Even a candle can start a big fire, to say nothing of flaming gas under pressure. Most cooking flames generate a lot of heat, and can start fires easily.

The reason for this rule is that fires on board ship can do tremendous damage to operating systems. A fire can cripple a ship. Millions of dollars worth of equipment, property, and people's lives, can be put at risk.

It's a very sensible rule, created for a very good reason. If you've seen what a fire can do to a big ship, you'll appreciate that it's a really necessary safety precaution.

If a ship's rules say 'Don't do something' they mean, Don't Do It.

  • Learn the rules.
  • Ask when you're not sure.
  • Know what to do if you see a rule being broken.

Crew and staff rules

Crew and staff have job-based rules, too. These are fairly straightforward and predictable, but on ships they have extra rules.

On duty

When on duty, (which can also mean in a public area, used by passengers), all staff are considered 'on the job'. Everything, including you, works as per contract, all the time.

Shifts and hours

Like any job, punctuality is important. On ships, it's even more important, because there's only so many people who can do certain jobs. Being late on the job doesn't have a lot of good excuses, like being held up in traffic, and there are obligations to other staff, too. It also reflects on how well you do your job. Take it seriously, just be on time.


On some ships, staff are required to be out of passenger areas at certain hours. These hours are set by the employer, it's a ship's rule, and it must be followed. This sort of rule isn't negotiable, it applies to everyone.

'Missing the ship'

This is one of the unforgivable sins. Not being on board in time for departure isn't easy to achieve, and it's very avoidable. Staff are required to be in attendance, at the time stipulated. No ifs, buts, or maybes.

Fraternizing with passengers

Fraternizing means 'association', either friendly or personal business. This isn't part of the job, and it's necessary to understand what's meant by 'fraternization', and how the ship interprets and enforces its rules in this area.

On duty, you just don't do it.

You're at work, remember?

On a ship, even with thousands of people on board, you're in close contact with many people. People meet. Relationships sometimes create themselves.

But- You need to know where the line is drawn. Fraternization, as an issue, has had its share of controversy in the industry, and some rules are stricter than others, but the basic rule is ironclad.

The fact is that some relationships cause problems. In some cases rules for passengers are bent into pretzels as a result of relationships where staff do things they're not supposed to do for a friend. That can cause major issues for the ship, complaints about service or preferential treatment, lawsuits, criminal charges, the list is long.

The employer doesn't need this, and nor do you.

The other fact for staff is that you're working for the employer, not a passenger or two. There's a basic conflict of interest.

There's also the issue that while you're 'relating', you're not doing much else.

The story here is 'Keep It Professional'.

You can marry whoever it is later.

Just not on the job.

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