I worked on a cruise ship – STDs were like a badge of honour and peeping Toms would creep around below deck

MANY people dream of travelling to paradise locations on a cruise ship – but one woman has revealed how she did it for six years.

Sharon Waugh, 39, found life on board “addictive” but there were some rather gruesome secrets.

The South Africa-based writer worked for one cruise line from 2009 – 2010 as a groups coordinator, and another one from 2013 – 2018 as an entertainment host.

Speaking to the media , Sharon said: “Cruise ship life is very addictive and I never rule out the option of going back. “I absolutely loved hosting game shows in my job as an entertainment host and the fact it was literally my job to attend parties almost every night.”

Sharon said she was forced to share cabins on most of her cruise ships, and that led to some interesting stories.

She explained: “I worked on eight ships and I had to share a cabin on six of them. “I had one roommate who would invite her boyfriend to sleepover without telling me. “Each bunk had a curtain around it for privacy. 

“I would be mid-way through undressing before realising that there was a man behind her curtain who could pop out at any time or could possibly be watching me through a gap in that curtain.”And it was fairly common for staff to hook-up or get into relationships and for sexually transmitted infections to be a badge of honour.

Sharon continued: “You would have thought that STDs were precious collectables. “However, I know quite a few people who met their spouses while working on cruise ships. “A number of them are still very happily married years later.”

While staff hooked up below down, it was frowned upon for them to have a romantic encounter with a guest. She added: “It was definitely not allowed, but it did happen occasionally. 

“You would be fired if caught doing this.” Sharon said that living on a cruise ship was a good way to save, as most expenses were covered on board.

She added: “Once we were on board, most things were covered such as food, accommodation and medical expenses. “We would just need to tip our room stewards if we had them (depending on your job ranking).

“We could save the rest if we wanted or spend it on food, transport or anything else in port.”

Sharon visited a range of incredible places on her cruises, including the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada and Norway. But it wasn’t all glamorous.

Sharon explained: “We have both a morgue and a prison (brig) on each cruise ship and we would use them both far more often than people would think. 

“People die fairly often on cruise ships, usually from natural causes, i.e. heart attacks. “There were a couple of suicides too. 

“Cruise ships have protocol for everything.  “Often if someone passed away more suddenly, they would be moved to the morgue and their family informed but most guests would have no idea.”

And badly-behaved guests were swiftly dealt with. She explained: “On a number of US itineraries, guests didn’t need to have a passport but could travel on just a drivers licence. 

“They were often under the misperception that this meant they could violate parole and get away with it.  “When we arrived back in a US port, arrests were fairly common.”

Meanwhile, guests who missed getting back on board at ports got left behind. She explained: “This is very common. There are certain situations where the ship will wait for guests if they don’t make it back on board on time. 

“But often we would leave guests behind.  “There is a port agent in each port who helps the guests who are left behind to make arrangements to meet up with the ship in the next port or send them home. “

Meanwhile, Sharon shared what happened when her ship nearly crashed. She said: “During my first contract, while my ship was pulling out of port, a strong wind blew the ship into another ship. 

“I was aware that there was a ship behind me not far away from mine, but I thought there was a pier between us. “Then I heard someone shout ‘We’re going to hit.’

“A girl in front of me looked out the window behind me, screamed and jumped over the guest services front desk away from me. “I turned to look, got the fright of my life and followed her over the desk as the ships collided.

“It was just a bumper bashing on a very large scale. I was convinced we were going to sink. “After the hull was inspected by divers, we continued on our way with a few scrapes and twisted metal.”

Sharon, who previously studied drama at university, said she first got the idea to work on a cruise ship after going on one with her mum.

She explained: “It was her dream to go on a cruise and we managed to find a good deal. “When I discovered that the job of cruise staff existed and one could get paid to entertain people while travelling the world, I started applying right away.

“I originally stopped working on cruise ships to be with my family while my father was in the final stages of cancer.  “Then the pandemic happened so going back wasn’t an option for a long while. 

Editor’s note : Sharon now works as a content writer and I freelance as a travel writer for various publications in addition to writing for her blog The Sharonicles.


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