As we head into a new year, we're revisiting some of 2016's most popular Travel stories. This was one of them .....

A cruise ship worker has opened up about the alleged low pay, cramped rooms and incestuous behaviour he experienced at sea.

The employee, known as Blake, worked in the casino of two different boats — one luxury the other budget.

He said one of the most shocking things he discovered was that most of the staff would sleep with each other "and for the most part nobody was loyal to anyone".

He recalled in a candid piece for Thrillist: "I remember there was a couple on one ship everyone was sure were going to get married, and when the guy's contract was up a month before hers was, he took a plane back to Uruguay to wait for her.


"Before he landed, she was with somebody."

Blake said on his first contract as a dealer he was paid NZ$1302 a month but his tips were all counted against his wages.

So, if he made £730 (NZ$1302) in tips, he would not be paid any extra on top of that amount.

But the casino worker said he wasn't the worst off, and he knew some room stewards who were on as little as £150 (NZ$267) a month.

Another thing Blake found difficult to deal with were the cramped living conditions.

He revealed that he shared a 48sq-ft bedroom with another man, which is just over half the size of a regular guest room.

In a bid to save space, he said he learned how to pack light and tight by "stacking, rolling, and stuffing your entire life into a narrow locker".

On the guest front, Blake said he discovered the "super-wealthy can be terrible".


He recalled one incident where he had one US seafood magnate who loved to play dice.

One night a woman accidentally knocked his dice after he threw them, and he lost a few hundred dollars.

Continuing the story, Blake wrote: "He nudged me and says 'Watch, I'm gonna make this b**** cry,' and proceeded to rip into her with a loud, obscenity-laced tirade until she actually started sobbing."

Blake said although the man was "horrible", he did leave a tip — which many passengers failed to do.

Blake isn't alone in his complaints.

One American who tried life on the high seas penned a warts-and-all book about his experiences.

Brian David Bruns now lives in Las Vegas, but before settling down he abandoned everything at the age of 30 to chase a fellow female cruise worker to sea and became the first American in Carnival Cruise Line history to complete a full contract without quitting.

The result of his experience was a tell-all book, Cruise Confidential, documenting what it's really like to work on a ship.

In an interview with MailOnline Travel the best-selling author and former cruise waiter touched on some similar themes to Blake.

He said maintaining a high level of customer service on board a cruise ship was often very testing, especially when it came to those who loved to complain or the "raucous drunks".

While remaining as professional as possible, and flashing that trademark smile, behind closed doors, crew got the chance to let off steam about their daily dealings.

"Different nationalities may have their own pet names, but generally they revolve around how fat Westerners are, in particular Americans," said Bruns.

"In the restaurants we regularly referred to the guests as 'cow animals'. Makes sense because they are very large, very gentle, and stand around eating all day.

"As for passengers' annoying behaviour, I think the only thing that's actually a problem is when they are too drunk. A few still have... social issues, thinking they are a first class passenger on Titanic, but the overwhelming number of passengers are great.

"In my books I do describe how one particularly horrible fat, grotesque family-coupled with the cruise lines' bizarre refusal to treat her medical condition-brought my assistant waitress into a complete mental breakdown in the middle of dinner. It was one of the worst moments of my entire life."

One of Bruns' main concerns is how workers are only recognised as a cog in the machine, which he described as being "owned by the corporation".

He said many cruise ship workers — including himself — would work 100 hours a week for 15 weeks at a time.

"The work is constant and also very menial. In America, for example, we have empowered employees: they have rights, a voice, a modicum of respect. Crew members at sea have none of those things," he said.

"As a waiter on Carnival's Legend I worked over 100 hours a week for 15 straight weeks, after which I stopped counting. Crew work seven days a week without a day off for up to ten months.

"Pay is not commensurate with hours worked, hence the lack of First World crew. Sailing international waters and flying flags of convenience allow cruise ships to break labour laws found in First World nations.

"That's why cruise ship employees are almost unanimously from Third or Second World nations, barring entertainers and a few vendors, such as Steiners.

"Cruise lines claim this as an issue of the past, but 'official' 80-hour weeks ignore the extra work crew must continue in order to avoid being fired.

"On Legend I was given two lunches off every eight days. Otherwise I worked breakfast, lunch, dinner every single day, and sometimes also midnight buffet.

"The worst part of the job is being 'owned' by the corporation. They control what you eat, when you eat, when you can go use the toilet, how cold it is in your cabin, everything. If you've already worked 12 hours that day and they need you for another four, you work it no questions asked.

"Also annoying is how your day is structured: you are never given a full night's sleep in ten months. We averaged four or five hours a night (that's after 12 hours of labour). Most crew will nap when they can because after months of that you're in perpetual zombie-mode."


"The cruise industry's priority for its workforce is their welfare. Staff development and retention are also of great importance as a motivated crew is essential to ensure the continued success of cruising which sees an employee retention rate of around 80 per cent.

"Companies work within a strictly regulated and frequently inspected global industry and adhere to both European and international regulation.

"Cruise lines operate in full accordance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommendations for minimum wages for seafarers and all on board standards such as rest periods are agreed with industry bodies including seafarers' trade unions.

"In addition to their salary, crew are provided with a number of benefits free of charge including room and board and cruise-line sponsored medical care.

"All ships are regularly inspected both by their flag state and at any time by the port authorities in the destinations they visit, to ensure ships meet international labour, safety, security and environmental requirements.

"It is mandatory for shipping companies to maintain individual records of seafarers' hours of work and rest and these records are inspected by port authorities and flag states."