Food and Beverage Department – Working as a Cruise Ship Waiter

Windjammer - Serenade on the Seas

Food and Beverage Department – All You Need to Know About the Restaurant Department

Special thanks to Rishi Patil, Waiter onboard Royal Caribbean International

Rishi’s Story – How It All Began

Hello everyone! My name is Rishi. I am coming from Mumbai, the business capital of India, often known as “Bombay” in the Western countries.

I have been working in the cruise industry for almost five years now and it has been my best work experience so far! After I graduated from the Hospitality Institute, I had a couple of land jobs but soon after that, I started exploring opportunities available all over the globe.

A few of my colleagues mentioned working on cruise ships, and after some thinking, I thought: “Why not give it a shot – if it doesn’t work out, I can always come back home…”. And now look at me, after 5 years I still can’t get enough of the sea!

Within five years of my career, I have worked for two companies. First, I worked for Costa Cruises. Applying there was quite easy. I just went to their registered office in Mumbai and dropped my CV. On the same day, I had an interview with HR for the job position of Assistant Waiter.

Even though they asked me some technical questions that I honestly wasn’t prepared for, the interview went quite smoothly. The next day I received my contract. I can’t put into words how lucky I felt on that day because I knew that the onboarding process could be very long.

After that, the agency representatives guided me through the entire process from getting my STCW certification, Seaman’s Discharge Certificate, Visa, Medical Certificate, and other paperwork, as my joining date was within a month.

Read about the detailed paperwork you need for joining a cruise ship as a crew member in the article Working on a Cruise Ship: How to Apply for a Cruise Ship Job.

However, please be informed that due to the Covid-19 pandemic there might be additional paperwork and requirements for joining a cruise ship.

Once you join the ship as a new hire in Food and Beverage department, there are plenty of trainings that you have to complete including PDST (pre-departure safety training), PSF (passenger ship familiarization), and many others. The ship is like a maze and once you start to know it, you will feel as if you were at home. It took me a week to remember just where my cabin (room) was! But everyone around me was so helpful until I got familiar with the ship.

I worked one year for Costa Cruises, after which I got an opportunity to work for Royal Caribbean International (RCCL) The interview process was almost the same, except that I had one more interview with the company’s representative. After finishing one contract here in RCCL, I had an interview on board to get promoted to waiter.

Food and Beverage Department: How to Apply for a Waiter?

If you want to apply for any of the cruise ship job positions, you can either contact third-party companies or you can apply straight on the company’s careers webpage. Both ways are equally good, and you are guided through the onboarding process by the hiring partner/company representative so the overall process is quite smooth.

To apply for a position in Food and Beverage Department, it is usually required to have 2 years of experience working in the F&B department on land or a cruise ship. You will also be required to have some decent communication skills. The technical knowledge and your confidence will help you grow in the company and get promoted later.

Please note that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the cruise companies might require additional paperwork and a mandatory vaccination record. Please refer to the hiring partners and company policies for more information. 

Find the cruise company’s official careers webpages in the article: Working on a Cruise Ship: How to Apply for a Cruise Ship Job?

Windjammer buffet food
Photo courtesy of Srdjan Stefanovic.

Restaurant Department Job Positions

Let’s start from the highest to the lowest:

1. Maitre’D or Restaurant Manager

Overall, Maitre’d is in charge of the dining rooms, buffets, and specialty restaurants onboard a cruise ship. They ensure that everything is in order, and keep the eating and dining experience to a high standard for all guests.

2. Assistant Maitre’D

The assistant Maitre’d is in charge of the individual dining venue on a cruise ship. They ensure that everything is in order, assign the wait staff to their sections of the restaurants, and keep the eating and dining experience to a high standard for all guests.

3. Head Waiter

The head waiter is in charge of one section of the dining room. They ensure that everything is in order, assign the wait staff to their sections of the restaurants, and make sure that the eating and dining experience is kept to a high standard for all guests.

4. Restaurant Supervisor

This is a multitasking position. They will get assigned to different areas such as host or reception, supervising the buffet, room service supervisor, etc. Restaurant attendants report to him and he reports to AMD (Assistant Maitre’d).

5. Waiter

Waiters set up tables, explain menus, take orders, serve food and beverages, and clean tables in their assigned areas. They must know menu items and ingredients to be able to promote the items being served and answer guests’ questions. Waiters are fully responsible for ensuring the satisfaction of guests in their stations. They also coordinate service with the Assistant Waiter according to service procedures.

6. Assistant Waiter

The Assistant Waiter will work with other Waiters to serve meals and take care of our diners. You will set up tables, take orders, serve food and drinks, and clean tables. You must also become familiar with menu descriptions and wine lists, and work in various food and beverage areas. They also work in buffets in breakfast or lunch shifts.

Cruise ship waiters and assistant waiters get a contracted salary of $1000 to $1700. Including the tips and gratuities, it can vary from $2000 to $2500. On the ship, there is the point system. Every cruise passenger/guest rates you for the service provided, increasing or decreasing your point value.

From my own experience, you can easily make $2500 a month, and you can earn extra depending on your skills.

7. Restaurant Attendant

Restaurant Attendants work closely with the Restaurant Supervisor or Head Waiter to perform food service functions in various dining venues onboard. They normally work in buffets and room service.

Restaurant attendant has a contracted salary 800$ to 1000$. On top of that, they get tips that mostly depend on their skills and the area they are working in.

I would like to mention that every job position comes with its responsibilities and some side duties. The side duties are mostly related to updating and maintenance of inventory like glassware, silverware, linen, condiments, and dry store.

Suggested articles:

11 Things You Would Never Expect to Be Part of Your Cruise Ship Job

New Hire? This is How the First Day on a Cruise Ship Looks Like

10 Things You Should Know Before Applying for Cruise Ship Jobs

Contract Length

The contract length is almost the same for all positions – 7 months. You also have an unpaid vacation of 6 weeks. There is no guarantee that you will get the same ship for the next contract, as it all depends on the availability and the business’ needs.

Chef's Table onboard Independence of the Seas
Chef’s Table dining experience onboard Independence of the Seas

Life Onboard a Cruise Ship (Restaurant Department Crew)

Every organization or workplace comes with its pros and cons.

Onboard a cruise ship, restaurant department crew members work seven days a week, 9 to 12 hours a day. You will most likely work in the break shift. It is quite hectic and varies from the itinerary to the itinerary, but once you get used to the routine it will be fine.

Waiters normally work in the breakfast and dinner shifts, so you have almost 6 hours in between the shift. You can use this time to go out and explore the ports of call. At dinner time, the work usually finishes before 11 pm.

Apart from work, there are plenty of crew recreational areas that you can enjoy, like crew bar(s) crew back deck/night club, crew arcade, crew gym, and so on. Every month HR arranges crew parties and events that are the best part of crew members’ life, although this can also vary from company to company.

The main advantages of working on a cruise ship (Restaurant department):

  • Free accommodation: You have to share a room with one of your colleagues.
  • Free food: There are 2 to 3 crew restaurants (crew mess/staff mess), depending on the ship size. The food is buffet-style and includes delicacies from all over the globe.
  • Laundry service: There are dedicated days for free laundry service for your uniform. You can also wash your personal clothes in dedicated laundry machines that are operational 24 hours.
  • Crew bar and nightclub: When the HR organizes crew parties, free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included. The rest of the day (evening) will be a minimum charge, like $1.5 for a beer.
  • Crew shop/slop chest: You can buy daily essentials, toiletries, and snacks at the crew shop. However, the prices are not that cheap so sometimes it’s better to buy things outside in port.
  • Crew gym: Almost every ship has a crew gym open 24/7. You can choose your time to work out, according to your convenience.

There are disadvantages as well, including a huge amount of stress, long working hours, no day off, difficulties in dealing with guests, coworkers and supervisors… but all of this is compensated by the experience we get and of course, the salary we earn.

To Conclude

To conclude, I must say that working on a cruise ship is fun and exciting. You share your living space with over 60 different nationalities, you get to know different cultures, food, languages, and mentalities.

Long working hours and pressure of delivering the service are immense, long contracts can sometimes be demotivating but to compensate for all of this, there are plenty of recreational activities, healthy working environment and generally a great onboard atmosphere.

Each destination you visit will give you the memories of a lifetime, and that’s something that can’t be compared to any other life experience.

Cruise Ship Hiring Agencies in India

Check out this YouTube channel for cruise industry updates, job vacancies, information on how to apply for cruise jobs:

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  4. Working on Cruise Ships: How to Apply for Cruise Ship Jobs
  5. 10 Things You Need to Know Before Applying for a Cruise Ship Job

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