Would you like to know more about cooking at sea?
Cruise ships are very much like large floating hotels. There are all kinds of job positions available that pull from the full spectrum of the “Hotel & Restaurant Industry.”
Some of these jobs require highly developed skills, others don’t. So there is a vast amount of job opportunities for skilled and unskilled employment. The focus of this post will be culinary-oriented jobs and chef opportunities on cruise lines. There are numerous jobs in the galley (kitchen department), many of which require prior restaurant or cruise ship experience.
The Galley is usually divided into “hot” and “cold” sections into cruise lines, similar to the set up of large hotel kitchens. The hot side would include the cooking of vegetables, fish, meats, soups, pasta, hot side dishes, and grilled items to name a few. The cold galley consists of all baking, pastry, buffets preparation, ice carvings, and garde manger (salad and cold food items.)
These positions are filled with men and women from all over the world, which allows great opportunities for employment regardless of your nationality. The career of a “cruise line chef” can be a very rewarding one, if in fact travel and constantly being away from home is not an issue for you in your life.
Cruise line chef work is extremely demanding, can be full of challenges, become subject to the conditions at sea, and is an all-consuming job. Meaning a cruise line chef, eats, breaths, and lives for the job while on assignment. These jobs are held in high esteem by the culinary industry due in part to the total dedication that one must completely dedicate to the job, in order to complete a contractual work assignment successfully. Most of the cruise lines serve passengers round the clock. There are no days off at sea, it is a seven-day work week!
This places a tremendous workload on the chef and his kitchen team. The average workday is approximately eleven hours. This is definitely not a job for clock watchers, those that can’t stand too long on their feet or have back problems. This is an all-consuming type of job, and it is your life for the duration of your employment contract, which could be anywhere from 4 to 8 months depending on your position.
To become a chef on a cruise ship, candidates require special training, go through a rigorous physical examination, and must possess broad cooking experience, strong culinary knowledge, along with a keen interest in the field of “Culinary Arts.”
The number of passengers on a ship may vary from as little as 500 to as many as 3,000. Therefore, each cruise is equipped with a fully staffed kitchen to serve food to its passengers 24/7. Employers hire chefs that have a previous working experience of around 3-5 years at a hotel, luxury resort, or restaurant.
The kitchens are manned by men and women from various countries from around the world. The chef and his culinary team have the duty to make sure all men and women cooking in the galley are cooking and seasoning in accordance with the companies culinary vision and company standard, and most definitely not their own. This is the daily challenge of cooking with an international staff.
To become a culinary candidate for employment on a cruise ship, one should possess a cooking degree acquired from an accredited culinary school and obtain 3-5 years experience cooking at well-established hotels and restaurants on land first.
Galleys on a ship are a very intense place at times. Landing a position in one with little to no experience would be a waste of time for you as well as for the cruise line, not to mention that this is also a dangerous place to be for those with little to zero experience.
If hired, you will be staying on the cruise ship for several months, so employers are always on the lookout for professionals who have sound health. This is due to the fact that acute illness conditions can prove fatal while on a cruise ship. While these acute illnesses can be easily treated or controlled in an emergency room if, on land, it is not easy on a cruise ship.
Therefore the chef and culinary professionals who work on a cruise ship must be in good health and maintain good health through the duration of a work contract.
Physical, mental, and even sometimes dental examinations are part of the recruitment procedure to hire culinary professionals.
Most of the huge cruise lines and mid-seized cruise lines have employment application forms available online. You can easily send your resume online to apply for the chef and culinary positions. In my experience, on-line application hiring for cruise lines generally produced little to no results. Agencies, that hire for various cruise lines is the way to go and produce results.
All cruise lines use hiring agents in addition to their online employment sites. These agencies will walk you through the hiring process and send you all documentation needed to get hired properly and in a timely manner.
Finding a real and legit hiring agent is the tricky part. Any on-line agents that you stumble across on the internet that are asking for money or charging a fee to connect you to an agent are bogus and I highly suggest not to send any money for services that they promise to provide.
The ones I have used along with many fellow culinary professionals are listed below.
Employment opportunities for chefs, cooks, and culinary professionals in general that have the desire to work at sea, I highly suggest for you to look into ALL the sites below.
It may take quite some time before you actually get a call from the cruise line. I personally suggest that if you really want to work and cook at sea that you be persistent and follow-up as much as possible with these hiring agencies.
They are super busy and deal with hundreds of applications daily, persistence and follow-up prior to landing the job are key.
Here’s the bottom line: Depending on your skillset, experience, and availability you may eventually be called for an interview. Phone interviews via ‘Skype’ are usually the way initial interviews are conducted.
Remember the cruise line recruitment officers most likely will be based out of various European countries, such as France, Austria, Italy, England and Sweden. So, phone interviews are the only way to begin the hiring process. Coinciding times to talk is also a crucial factor, one needs to keep the time difference in mind when orchestrating these very important over sea phone interviews.
During these interviews, I also suggest that you clearly express your culinary, cooking capabilities, and formal training to make an impression on the interviewer. This may very well be the only chance you get to impress and possibly land a position with a cruise line. So, confidence, knowledge, and an overall appreciation for the opportunity should be expressed to the interviewer.
As mentioned above, a medical examination is mandatory to obtain a cruise line job. So, if you get past the interviewing processes, be prepared for it. Drugs and alcohol abuse is a huge no-no and will be tested for prior to hiring.
Besides the financial rewards that can be had from working on a cruise ship, you also have the opportunity of experiencing and seeing many wonderful and exciting places around the world making the overall job experience a very unforgettable one.
This kind of job is not for everyone, and may only be a job for just for growing and learning experience only. Others may find the cruise line chef job to be a perfect fit and a wonderful career path to follow.
Whatever the case may be, working at sea is a wonderful overall experience. Cooking at sea is a fantastic way to see the world make international friends, create memories that last a lifetime and build your resume.
Some of the hardest working men and women I have ever worked with were the men and women I worked with on cruise lines. It is a respectful and rewarding job. Culinary Arts at sea is a whole different ball game than on land. It is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that keeps growing.
Jobs and opportunities are plentiful and with the world economy the way it is today the cruise line industry offers an enormous amount of job opportunities for those in need of employment, especially to those in the Hotel and Restaurant Industry.
Click here to read my post on New Theory Magazine about the cruise line industry in a post-Covid-19 world.