Cruise Ship Youth Worker

A team of Cruise Ship Youth Workers in their uniform and wearing a Christmas hats

A cruise ship youth worker is one of the many hardworking staff one will find on board. I can also say it’s one of the happiest jobs on the ship. Well, this is only true if you have the passion and the patience to work with kids.

As a cruise ship youth worker, I was given an excellent childcare training that further developed my love for children and even honed my teaching skills. I was also rewarded with the fondest memories and valuable lessons that shaped my beliefs and contributed a lot to who I am today.   This has been my job at sea for almost 8 years. I wouldn’t stay this long if I don’t love what I do.

Who Are the Cruise Ship Youth Workers?

On cruise ships, the Youth Team is in charge of the entertainment program for cruising children, teens, and also their families. Youth workers are part of this team. Each of the member has different roles to play.

Youth Team Members

The youth team is headed by the Youth Program Manager who oversees the entire youth program. Most of the time, this program is divided into two. There are separate programs for the young children and for the teenagers. On big cruise ships, they have special rooms and structured activities for infants and toddlers, too.

The Youth Program Manager is helped by the Youth Program Administrator who has other names like Teen Activities Coordinator or simply Teen Coordinator. Whatever the name is, this person is in charge of the teen program on board.

If the ship offers a program for the infants and toddlers, there is usually a Nursery Coordinator who creates and implements the program and manages the people working in the nursery.

A Youth Staff or Youth Counselor works with the young children and reports directly to the Youth Program Manager.

A Teen Staff or Teen Counselor works with the teens and reports directly to the Youth Program Administrator or Teen Activities Coordinator who is still under the supervision of the Youth Program Manager.

A Nursery Attendant works in the nursery with the infants and toddlers usually up to the age of two and reports directly to the Nursery Coordinator who is still under the supervision of the Youth Program Manager.

Team Structure, Nature, and Role

Youth workers are rotated in the children and teen centers on other ships. Sometimes, the youth policy is very strict. The youth worker is evaluated to check where his or her personality and skills fit and in which age group he or she will be more effective. Since the needs and interests of young children and teens are different, the youth worker always has to use different strategies and offer varied activities.     

Nursery attendants usually just works with the babies and toddlers. You cannot work with the babies or anyone in this age group unless you have the special training for it. These youngest members of the youth family are the most sensitive and they require very special care.

A cruise ship youth worker’s job can be permanent in nature, meaning the worker can do a full contract that can last up to 6 months. There are also seasonal cruise ship youth workers who are hired temporarily while the busy cruises are on. Usually, this happens when the children are on school holidays or when there are special celebrations like Christmas, New Year, etc. These are the times when a huge volume of kids and teens invades the ship. You can’t imagine how crazy and busy these times are.

As part of the youth team, it is our duty to create and organize activities that would keep the children, teens, and even babies busy and entertained while they are away from their parents. These activities can be in and out of the youth centers and sometimes outside the ships, too. We also have parties, game shows, and competitions that children can do with their families. Whatever kind of activity we offer, it is also our responsibility to make sure that our children and teens are not just having fun but most importantly everyone is safe.   

My Experience As a Cruise Ship Youth Worker

Youth work on cruise ships is most often associated to childcare and babysitting. Not everybody understands that we do more than watch the kids and teens. We wear many different hats to keep them safe and happy while in our care.

Challenges Encountered

My first contract was in Pacific Dawn, a ship owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by P&O Cruises Australia. This was where I was first introduced to the long list of things we have to do. 

Think of hosting shows in the theater, playing sports and video games, creating themed parties. You can also add teaching arts and crafts, holding competitions, wearing out of this world costumes, and doing circus. There’s always dancing, singing, and acting involved. We take them to movies, scavenger hunts, dinner, pool and discos. There’s a lot to do but as I’ve said before you wouldn’t mind the workload if working with children is your passion.

Mind you though, no matter how much you love them, there are times when you will get really exhausted. Their high level of energy can naturally sap your strength. At times even your voice, too. Your patience will get tested as not all the kids are the same and some won’t listen and behave well. Mentally, this can be very stressful.

It gets more physically demanding when you have the little kids because they can’t take care of themselves yet. You will have to do a lot for them. On the other hand, when you work with the teens, there are disciplinary issues that you would have deal with. As we all know, it’s a special stage they’re in. It’s the time when they are curious to try new things even when these things go against the rules of the ship and their parents.

Rewards Earned

I remember many Christmases I spent on the ship. It is quite sad as you would have guessed. I was always away from families and really good friends. Somehow it was nice this season was our busiest. The jam-packed schedule and so many tasks to finish kept me occupied and made me feel less homesick. We were always doing so many things.

My most favorite among them was wrapping the gifts. It was crazy because we wrapped hundreds. The wrapping usually lasted weeks before our Christmas event. We spent late nights doing nothing but wrapped little tokens of love that brightened up so many children’s faces. On Christmas day, Santa walks around the ship. We would gather all the children so he can personally hand them those special presents.  

I think of the parents, too. No one was perfect. In general, most of the ones I met had been great. I will never forget the kind of love and devotion they gave their families. I can still recall the lovely scene at the theater that happened almost every week. We would bring the children and also the teens together for a big show where people can see their talents. I always said yes whenever I was asked to host it. It didn’t matter how uneasy and nervous I felt.That show would always be one of my favorites.

I can still imagine them singing and dancing, their eyes full of wonder and excitement. And that loud noise that doesn’t seem to end. The clapping and cheering that almost sounded like thunder. The love and joy of proud parents. And it dawned on me, that’s how self-esteem is built. Because behind every young child who believes in himself is a loving parent who believed in the child first.     

How to Become A Cruise Ship Youth Worker?

Do you love kids, too? Do you think this job is for you? The following paragraphs will tell you what you need to do.

Requirements and Qualifications

Since you will work with kids, it is important that you have prior experience working with children. That’s why teachers are the best candidates for this job. A few of my fellow youth workers were also nurses, child psychologists and guidance counselors. If you have experience working in youth camps, that’s also a plus factor since the set up and work environment is similar to that. When I first applied, they asked for my college diploma and teaching license. The minimum required teaching experience then was two years. Prepare yourself and all the important documents and then you can start applying.

High energy is a must. You will play lots of active games with the kids. Creativity will never go out of style. Imagination is the key when entertaining young cruisers whether you are teaching arts and crafts or running an event. Strong microphone skills is a plus factor. There are so many family parties and shows to host. You should be a good team member as you will work with people from different countries. Dedicated and talented people who are working together determines the youth program’s success.

Finally, you should love kids big time. This is what the job is all about. Your love for them will make you want to go the extra mile to give them the best holiday experience in the company of new friends.

Personal and Online Applications

imilar to all other jobs on cruise ships, you need to find local maritime agencies where you can hand in your important employment documents. Make sure the agencies are legal and partner with international cruise lines.

Know that the youth team on board is relatively small. Unlike the food, beverage, and accommodation departments, the demand for youth workers is almost always low. In addition, not all cruise ships are family ships. Family ships are the ones that take in kids. Usually, the need for youth workers only goes up when the busy cruises are on especially during school break.

You can also send online applications if the maritime agency has a website. Some cruise line companies are now accepting direct applications through their websites. First, they will review your documents. Then they will call you when you passed the initial screening process.

Interviews are conducted online if the interviewer from the cruise line company is outside the Philippines. The biggest cruise line companies in the world have main offices in the United States. These companies are looking for the most qualified and highly passionate youth workers. Make sure you will highlight your skills, experience and your love for kids.

Wrapping It Up

And that’s all I know. Hopefully this article will be useful to you so that one day you can go to ships as a youth worker, too. I’ll be happy for you. This job has brought me so much joy.

There was a tiny room I used to go to many years ago. It was old, with walls and floors creatively built from wood. It was a simple room. Whenever I would walk its floor, I would hear the sound of my shoes. Then little feet would rush in and the gentle sound would turn into a wild and crazy noise. My students’ arms would race to give me hugs that were always nice and warm. That was my world for many years. That was the only world I knew and I was happy. Then “this” happened.

From land I was taken to sea. I came to work on ships where I met kids whose eyes, hair, skin, speech and way of life are different. It was uncomfortable at first. And then I thought it was okay. I realized it didn’t matter. Because my love for children will always be the same.

So what do you think? Is this job for you? If your answer is yes, then you can come to the ship. Maybe you’ll world will also change. Just promise me one thing. Promise me you’ll do your best so when those kids meet you, they will find the most amazing friend.

Follow your dreams.