Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Life as a waiter

As a waiter onboard you will probably work harder than anyone else and have less free time.

If that hasn’t put you off then maybe this will, you will likely work 12-14 hour days with no off days and only apx 6 hours sleep per night!

But, as a waiter you will interact with your guests much more than anyone else. You will see the same faces at your table each night and by the end of the cruise, if you have been a pleasant and smiley character, you will often get a rather large tip, especially from American guests.

Working as a waiter varies greatly depending on which cruise line you work for, some cruise lines, for example Cunard, will take on people with no experience and train them in the onboard academy. Here you will recieve only a minimum wage while you are being trained but the advantage is that you don not need any experience. Others such as Seabourn (usually the 5 star luxury yachts and ships) are looking only for waiters with a lot of experience, a good command of English and a friendly and proffessional disposition.

Since working as a waiter can vary greatly this blog entry will concentrate on working as a waiter for Seabourn. Anyone with experience of working on oher ships is more than welcome to write a blog entry, it doesn’t need to be a lot just the mimium information that wil help others.


Because of the size of the Seabourn Ships (apx 200 guests) it is very unlikely to get any days off. If you are lucky and win some of the competitions (more info later) you may be lucky enough to recieve a lunch off in a port where many guests go ashore or have signed up for an all day tour. If you are unlucky then you are looking at working for 4 straight months, breakfast,lunch and dinner!

Breakfast is usually staggered, so a few waiters will start earlier than the others, with everyone working during the busiest time. Those that started early will finish first, the others will have to stay until it has gone fairly quiet and everything is packed away. Those that have been in trouble (maybe held a cabin party and got caught) will suffer and be made to stay right til the end of the breakfast hours, even if there are no guests. If there are no guests your time will be spent cleaning and polishing.

Lunch starts apx an 1.5 hours after breakfast has finished. Again the waiters on the early shift will start first but lunch is usually busy with many guests returning from being ashore to eat on the boat. Some eat int he Veranda cafe and some in the dining room. Although there are set hours, if the guest wishes to remain at the table you will have to stay and serve them, that is all part of the 5 star service!

Dinner starts at 7pm but as a waiter you will start at 5.30pm. This will involove a lengthy discussion about the food, you will have to know the menu by heart and then you will prepare for dinner, setting tables, refilling salt and pepper, folding napkins and much more.

Dinner on Seabourn is an open seating arrangement, Guests can sit where they like unless they have recieved and acceptedan invitation from the Captain or another high ranking officer, then of course a place will be reserved for them.

The dining room is divided into 4-5 sections, each section having 3 waiters ( a runner, second man and a frontman). The runner is the newest and has the least experience, the second man severs food and the front man is in charge of the section, helping the second man and sorting any out any problems.

Since guests can sit at a different table every night you may well have a new face in your section every night! Why is this a problem….because you need to know the guests name. You have to address them as ”Mr or Mrs …….(Smith)…” This means that you will need to learn all the names of the guests onboard just in case you have to wait on them. How do you do this? Well first o fal the guests are always amazed that they are addressed by name and they really like it. It never ceases to amaze new guests how you know their name, returning guest think you remember them (which only usually happens if they were a pain). During embarkation the photographer takes a photo of all the guests as they board the ship, these photos ae then put up on display and are for sale. It doesn’t really matter if they sell or not as the whole resaon for this is so that copies of the photos are distributed to staff so we can learn their names. Although everyone should learn the names it is usually only the wiaters who it is most impotant for as they are the ones with most contact with the guests. On the second night before dinner all waiters have to do a name test, they recieve a sheet with the photos and have to write the names next to the pics. The one with the most names right usually gets a lunch off.

Guests can also eat in the Veranda, an open air restaurant at the back of the ship. It often has specail themed nights and the atmosphere is much more relaxed here than the dining room. If you are lucky enough to get placed here your life will be much more easier and you will be able to enjoy the sights whilst sailing. The down side is that you wil need to bring food from the kitchen up 3 decks. There is a lift but sometimes it does not work!

Since dinner can finsih as late as 9.30, sometimes 10, it is unsual to be finished much before 12. The dining room has to be cleaned, tables set again, sometimes there is another meeting (usually only when there is a dickhead Maitre’D, but unfortunatley there are far to many of them). With breakfast starting as early as 6 am you may only be looking at 5-6 hours sleep.

Which means during the breaks between breakfast and lunch you will usually want to catch up on some sleep. If you can get ashore then it is likely to be for a few hours durig the afternoon, after 2pm.

Seabourn promotes itself as having a no tipping policy but many guest will still insist on giving a tip. The guest is always right and if they wish to tip you take it.

Although it is hard work the pay is very good, with a full ship you can easily earn apx 2500 USD per month, not including tips. Seabourn pay for flights and uniform and you get 6-8 weeks off every 4 -5 months.


Anonymous said...

I think that the cruise crew that earns most on a cruise ship are those in the service or hospitality category. Those that have direct contact with the passengers. because they have their salary and surely will receive some tips as well.

Unknown said...

Nice topics & article posted on blog. I like these tips.
This is great! i have always wanted to know where all the yummy Vegan places were and now i can easily eat out at these place or order in! thanks so much!

You can visit my site. cruise line work

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thanida said...

Thanks for taking the time to discuss that, I feel strongly about this and so really like getting to know more on this kind of field. 

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