Working on a Cruise Ship: The Inside Scoop

people scuba divingWorking on a cruise ship seems like fun, right? You get to travel the world, meet new people and explore places that you might otherwise never get to see. But if you have been aboard a ship as a passenger, you know that the crew works absurdly hard and in reality, gets little time off.  Tanya Zaufi has written a memoir, All Over The Map, recounting her experiences. I recently sat down with her for a chat, and the full video is below.

At 24 years old, and on somewhat of a lark, Tanya Zaufi applied for a job with Princess Cruises. To her surprise, she was offered a job, and with no idea what to expect, passport in hand, she flew to San Juan to meet the ship. The Regal Princess would be her home for the duration of her contract.

First order of business on any ship – for both crew and passengers -is the obligatory lifeboat drill. After a few wrong turns, Tanya found her way to the muster station and saw a cute guy. Later that night, they met again at the crew bar. But how would the story play out? After all, this was only day one.

During the first few days, Tanya and her roommate enjoyed sightseeing, shopping, and beaches. It hardly seemed like work. Living in a passenger cabin (a crew cabin was not yet available for them), and touring Caribbean ports, while doing very little work, seemed like a dream job. Eventually, the real work began working in Guest Services.

people travelingWhile her roommate was out partying a lot, Tanya found herself thinking about Josef. All. The. Time. Their story takes many twists and turns, and All Over The Map is a wonderful recounting of a ten-year romance in the making. Over the years, they worked aboard different ships, lived in different countries, dated other people, and somehow found their way back.

There are so many wonderful stories in the book, and I will not share them all, but I have a few favorites for you.

Lesson 1: Always learn what you are saying

Tanya stayed with Josef in Austria for several months. Several weeks before Christmas, the traditional Krampuses take to the streets. Dressed in fur and skins, wearing masks, the half-goat-half-demon Krampuses whip people into behaving for Christmas. Josef was working, so Tanya went out with a friend. Before leaving the house, Josef gave her a saying in German should she be approached by a Krampus.

It worked. She avoided the whipping. The very next day, while working at a coffee shop, a co-worker congratulated her and asked when she was due. With a confused look, she wanted to know why they were asking. Apparently, her German avoidance of the Krampuses was to announce that she was pregnant. Oops.

wedding photoLesson 2: Manage the details

Tanya and Josef’s story took a decade through many ups and downs. Moving to another country is no easy feat, and getting a visa to move to Canada was no easy feat for Josef. When he finally moved to Canada, getting his belongings in the country was another hurdle. Josef’s beloved Harley was stuck in customs because there was dirt on the tire. Austrian dirt. On a motorcycle. Go figure. Eventually they got the bike into the country, but not before the customs officers threatened to burn the custom made motorcycle.

Lesson 3:  Keep the faith and embrace the traditions

A ten year, multi-ship, multi-country romance is no easy feat. If you really want something, stick with it until you make it happen. Also, you can have two weddings and only one marriage. Pro tip: When getting married somewhere other than your home country, read up on the local traditions first. (See the interview for more details!)


Tanya is fun and engaging, and it was a pleasure to talk with her about the book. You can see the entire conversation below. Also, pick up a copy of her book – even if you are not traveling now, the book will make you feel like you are on vacation.