Regarded as one of the more opulent vacation options available, cruising can be an amazing way to spend a holiday. For many cruising vacationers, nothing spells luxurious relaxation more than splurging on a massage. In addition to top-of-the-line spas, cruise ships typically offer just about anything one could want within one vacation such as:

  • Endless buffets
  • Unique shopping
  • Beautiful ocean views
  • High quality entertainment
  • Pools and hot tubs
  • Visits to several desirable destinations
  • Casino gambling and other types of gaming
  • Sports and other recreational activities

In the ship’s spa, massage therapists are an invaluable part of the staff. Those lucky enough to be a passenger on a cruise ship might consider what it would be like to work on one of these lavishly appointed moving cities. In fact, performing massage on an ocean-going vessel is a dream job for some people. However, the daily life of being a cruise ship staff member can be grueling for others. Before setting your heart on being a massage therapist on board a cruise ship, make sure this lifestyle is for you.

Six Considerations

Having some insight into the reality of working on a cruise ship can make certain that it is worth your effort to land this kind of job. Below are six reasons that you might want to consider or abandon a goal of working for a cruise line:

  1. Hard Work – Because they are on vacation and looking to relax and be pampered, cruise passengers are highly likely to schedule a massage treatment. This translates to a busy schedule for the practicing therapist. For five and a half days a week, back-to-back sessions over a 10 to 12-hour shift is typical for massage therapists on a large ship. Only those who are energized by their work, use proper body mechanics, center themselves between each client and don’t mind repetition can happily survive this type of scheduling.
  2. Rocking Boat – Regardless of how much it may feel like you are in a small city, a ship often traverses rough seas. Big waves cause significant movement on board. In addition to the added challenge of giving a massage while the ground beneath you is rocking, many people on board succumb to motion sickness. Although there are temporary remedies for motion sickness (acupressure wrist bands, scopolamine patches, or over-the-counter medicines such as Dramamine or Bonine), you may not wish to deal with this awful sensation on a regular basis. Some people are particularly prone to motion sickness on a boat while others seem to be hardly affected at all.
  3. Living Quarters – The staterooms for paying passengers can be pretty fancy, including amenities like a balcony, vanity and sitting area. However, accommodations for crew members are far from luxurious. It is typical for ship staff to share a tiny cabin with a fellow employee on the lower decks, possibly without a window and just enough space for sleeping. If you cherish your privacy and are prone to claustrophobia, working on a cruise ship could prove difficult for you. On the other hand, if you are comfortable in tight living quarters and enjoy the social opportunity afforded by a roommate, working on board could be a good career move.
  4. Ports of Call – Unless specifically seeking employment on a cruise-to-nowhere (yes, these do exist), each cruise typically docks in several ports of call. For many of the crew, this is an incredible and inexpensive way to travel and have new experiences. If your day off coincides with the ship being at a port, the destination is yours to explore. However, a lot of the money you were hoping to save can easily be spent in tourist locations. For therapists aiming to build up their finances by working on a cruise ship, restraint on extraneous spending is required.
  5. Commitment – Once hired and trained to work on a cruise ship, a sizeable commitment is required. While some cruise lines hire massage therapists directly, the majority of them contract with Steiner Leisure Ltd. Steiner operates spas and salons on 118 cruise ships, as well as in 52 resort spas and two day spas. Once chosen by Steiner, applicants must complete a mandatory training program and then commit to an eight-month contract. Upon completion of the eight months, massage therapists can sign up for subsequent contracts of shorter length. For those without family and other obligations at home, a guaranteed eight months of work may be greatly appreciated. However, being away for nearly three quarters of a year could be a struggle for others.
  6. Salary – One of the benefits of working on a cruise ship is that your room and board are paid for, leaving any money you make free for other uses. Estimates of the actual earning capacity of massage therapists on cruise ships vary greatly. While reports of massage therapist salaries on a ship have claimed up to $3,500 per month, this appears to be an inflated estimate. Although staff members receive a weekly retainer, the majority of a massage therapist’s income comes from commission via tips or product sales. In addition, the more modalities you are trained in, the more likely you are to be booked. Massage therapists offering sessions beyond Swedish massage, especially sports massage, deep tissue, reflexology, and hot stone massage can book more appointments – and thus earn more money. Don’t forget that while on board, your necessary living expenses are all paid for. If you can refrain from unnecessary spending on the ship or in a port-of-call, are customer service oriented and are comfortable selling related products, massage on a cruise could be very lucrative.

There are benefits and drawbacks to any business venture, and the cruise industry is no different. Massage therapists hoping to travel like paying passengers need not apply for cruise ship employment. If you are game for hard work, not bothered by a rocking boat, comfortable in small, shared living quarters, enjoy traveling for long periods of time without lavish spending, are trained in various modalities and are fueled by commission-based work, performing massage therapy on a cruise ship can be a rewarding, adventurous and profitable venture.