I gave myself two years after college to have adventures, and after living in the mountains for a year it was time to see the world. I found Park West Art Gallery through my college’s career website and thought, “what the hell.” My knowledge about art was basically zero, and I couldn’t tell a Monet from a Rembrandt, but figured I was in for an excellent adventure! After one phone interview and one video interview, during which I gave a presentation, I was offered the job.
In January, I flew to Miami to start training as an art auctioneer! The training was interesting and very well done. While I wasn’t a savant, my art knowledge and appreciation grew exponentially during the week and a half in Miami Lakes. They gave us information to study before arriving, and I am thrilled that I furiously learned the information. Shortly after arrival, a test was administered, and the person who failed the test was actually sent back home. After training, I was assigned to my first of four ships.
On my first ship, I encountered the best and worst of people. I met people who had a zest for life and enjoyed every moment of their adventures. I also met people who became suffocated by the mirage of cruising and forgot that yes, it was still real life. The first auctioneer that I worked for was the perfect example of number two, as her actions were illegal, abusive and downright mean. She forgot that there was a bigger world outside of ships. Upon meeting her, I said, “hello, I hope you slept well.” Her reply was, “I’m not your friend, don’t act like I am.” This “warm” welcoming was just the start of the horror of working for this woman. At night she would lock us in our cabins and put tape on the door to ensure that we did not try to leave. Remember, we are grown ups working on our own volition. Fortunately, the company did come to our aid and remedied the situation. The first rule of cruising, make sure you have a contact at corporate that you can rely on. It is important to remember that there is a bigger world outside of the ship, and that demeaning and illegal actions are never to be tolerated. I am happy to say that she was, by far, the worst person I encountered on ships.
Working on ships can be exhilarating and exciting, but also lonely and repetitive. While at first, I loved cruising and reviled in each new day, I became disillusioned with the experience and very lonely. As days passed, I yearned for human connection and consistency. Everyone on ships is on a different contract which starts and ends at different times. While you might have only been on the boat for two weeks, your friends might be just finishing up their contract. I felt like I was continually having to make new friends and once I was comfortable, change happened. On the ship, there is no cell phone service and using the internet is extremely expensive. Thus, although we went to unique places, most of the employees’ primary goal on land was to find internet and connect with those at home.
Cruise ships are very hierarchical, and much of what you can do and your quality of life onboard depends on your rank. I was fortunate to be “staff” which meant that I could be in guest areas when I was not working and could utilize most of the guest facilities. I could hang out at the bar, and eat at the many fabulous restaurants. While my room tended to be small, I only had one roommate, as opposed to “crew” who sometimes had as many as five. If you are “crew,” you can only eat in the crew cafeteria and cannot be in the guest areas when you are not working.
Life on board the ship consists of A LOT of working and drinking. You hang out at the crew bar (and drink), go to the comedy shows (and drink), dance at the club (and drink), you get the picture…drinking is frequent. The drinks in the crew bar are very cheap and only about $1 per beverage. Rooms are tiny and shared space, so you don’t tend to just “hang out” in your room or have movie nights. However, having roommates did not diminish the co-ed sleepovers that people had (wink wink). The crew spends a lot of time together, and romances frequently develop. Word of warning: a lot of people on ships are married. Don’t be shocked if your cruise boyfriend “forgets” to mention his wife who is living at home with their children (I saw this happen frequently). If an inter-ship romance is going to happen, the officers do get private cabins, just saying…
As an art auctioneer, or someone in sales on ships, you can’t sell while on land, but there is indeed never a lack of work to do. You don’t have internet or a lot of distractions onboard; thus, the working hours tend to be very long especially on sea days.
While there are some negatives to cruising, I saw some amazing places and had adventures that I could never have experienced without this job. I earned $1,000 a month before the commission, and did not have any expenses. Thus, I could eat like a queen, travel the world and even save some money while making a little more than $12,000 annually. I interacted with people from all over the world and learned invaluable lessons about myself and grew immensely as a person.
If you love to travel, don’t mind small spaces or hard work, then consider cruising.
Happy cruising the world!