Cruise ship worker reveals how she got hired after applying to all of them.

@zoiemadigan/TikTok Khairil Azhar Junos/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘You can work your way up from the inside’: Cruise ship worker reveals how she got hired—and why she chose Norwegian over Royal Caribbean

'You can work your way up from the inside.'


Jack Alban


Posted on Dec 24, 2023   Updated on Dec 24, 2023, 11:03 am CST

While TikTok is filled with advertisements and videos masquerading as personal reviews, joy-less dance routines, and questionable health advice, people also share their own first-hand experiences in undertakings. One example is sharing what it’s like to work for a specific company.

Zoie Madigan (@zoiemadigan) is one such user on the app who has a ton of content highlighting what it’s like working on a cruise ship. In her clip, which has accumulated over 357,000 views as of Sunday, she shares why she ultimately chose to work for the popular company Norwegian over another big cruise business, Royal Caribbean.

While she went in-depth about the hiring processes of both companies in her three-and-a-half-minute clip, Norwegian’s training programs, along with the fact that its business model is rooted in U.S. Federal labor practices, seemed to be the biggest selling points to Madigan.

The creator adds that anyone looking to become a staff member on a cruise ship should learn to adopt one personality trait above all else: patience, claiming that the entire process took about five months in total before she embarked on her first voyage.

Madigan begins her clip by speaking into the camera as she applies makeup to her face, “So I started applying in the early spring of 2022, this is when cruise ships were just now starting to talk about reopening after COVID.”

Intent on working for a cruise company, Madigan says she adopted a shotgun approach to applying and threw her name in the hat for every major company there was. Two main businesses ultimately responded to her inquiries: Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

“So it was maybe March, April of 2022 I applied to every single big line I could think of because I wanted to have a job that I could travel,” she says. “So I applied and basically forgot about it for a month, maybe six weeks. And then I started getting emails back from two companies. Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.”

From the onset, Norwegian seemed like it would’ve been the better option of the two to ultimately work for.

“So I went through the interview process for both of them and then I found out that the ship I was applying for, the Norwegian Pride of America, that it was an not internationally flagged ship and so if I went to work with Royal Caribbean, you’re in international waters,” she says. “And the Pride of America is U.S.-base[d] so we get, you know federal overtime and federal minimum pay all these things that are just such benefits that most cruise lines do not get.”

@zoiemadigan Every hiring process is different for the ships but this is how I got hired! #cruiseship #cruisetok #cruiseshipcrew #cruiseshipemployee #belowdeck #travelcrew #cruiseshipcrewlife #traveltiktok #fyp #cruiseshiplife ♬ original sound – Zoie | Cruise ship life 🛳️

After discovering this knowledge, Madigan says that she stopped pursuing Royal Caribbean as a candidate.

“As much fun as it would be to sail through the Mediterranean for six months at a time, I wanted to get paid more,” she says. “So I continued my hiring process with Norwegian.

She explains how she had to get medical clearance, background checks, and lots of paperwork.

“Then they send you off to a one-week training to get your STCW certification, which is also only necessary for these U.S. ships,” she says.

Although the process for getting on-boarded with Norwegian seemed like a lengthier proposition, Madigan seemed excited about securing her STCW certification and waiting to get on board for what seemed like a better work environment and pay structure than immediately starting with R.C.

“Like if I was gonna take the job with Royal they were trying to just immediately fly me to Texas and put me on the next ship that left out,” she shares. “I ended up finally leaving for the one week of training in August of 2022 and then I came immediately straight to the ship after that. So it was maybe…five month hiring process, but this was also while they’re trying to re-staff the boat directly after COVID.”

The TikToker also highlights some of the difficulties that were associated with first coming to work after COVID-19 social distancing and safety protocols were being lifted.

“So when I first came on we were still, you know, 50% occupancy, everyone had to wear masks…all the crew members had to wear masks, and the guests had to be COVID…tested and vaccinated before they came on board,” she explains. “The crew count was so low when I first came on we were running like bare bones operation, like most of our restaurants weren’t open it was crazy times.”

But these days it seems like she has way more help aboard the vessel and things are running more smoothly.

“Now, over a year later it’s back to fully staffed and I know a lot of people ask me on every video I post is like how do you get a job here, but, you just have to apply on the website and be extremely patient because even when they desperately needed people, it still took me five months to get on board,” she says.

As for getting a job with a cruise line, Madigan’s advice is pretty simple: apply online and be patient. Also, she says that career mobility between different roles is possible and just getting one’s foot in the door in any job is recommended if you plan on working on cruise ships for the long haul.

“It’s a revolving door,” she says. “They’re always gonna be hiring for some position so even if you get on board as just a very like started position you can work your way up from the inside.”

Several commenters said that they would love for the opportunity to work on a cruise liner if circumstances allowed for it.

“I wish i could work on a cruise ship or have a job that i could travel but i love my cat too much,” someone wrote.

“If I didn’t have kids I would def do this – ugh lol,” another shared.

According to Madigan, who replied to one TikToker, she didn’t need to do anything special before getting the job. “No they will send you to training after you get the job,” she said.

According to Indeed employee reviews (1,761 of them as of this writing), Norwegian holds a 3.8 out of 5-star ratings from folks who said they’ve worked for the cruise line.

As one commenter said, the pay at Norwegian is good and there’s plenty of work for folks to do on board once they’re there.

Someone else called it a “fun, challenging, and stressful workplace” in their 3-star assessment of the liner, while another called Norwegian’s work environment “excellent” and slapped it with a 5-star review.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Madigan via TikTok comment and Norwegian via email.

Share this article
*First Published: Dec 24, 2023, 4:00 pm CST