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Q: “How can I get a job on a cruise ship?”

Like most dreams of a lifetime, working on a cruise ship is attainable for any massage therapist who’s hard-working and flexible – and willing to jump through the necessary hoops.

Steiner TransOcean manages the personnel for about half of the 225 cruise ships running in the world, by recruiting, hiring and training massage therapists, beauticians, nail technicians and most other personnel for cruise-ship positions. Hiring information for the remaining cruise lines must be attained through the individual ships.

John Roseby, the personnel manager for Steiner Training Ltd. (the training arm of Steiner TransOcean) in London, England, explains that they are looking for experienced, upbeat therapists.

“We’re looking to take anyone who has the qualifications to work as a massage therapist in the United States,” Roseby says. “We’re not looking to do a lot of training; they should come to us qualified [to do] different techniques.”

Roseby says therapists who are accepted receive training in the Elemis system of massage, which includes a specific product line of oils not available on land. The oils are used in a 75-minute massage that incorporates mind and body relaxation. Therapists are taught how to work on pressure points, shiatsu techniques, hand and face treatments, and reflexology.

Experience working on a cruise ship isn’t necessary, but Roseby says that many therapists who initially try a cruise ship job “just as a different experience” turn it into a career.

A good attitude is a big plus. “[We want] a smiley personality,” Roseby says. “Our guests on the ship are on holiday and we don’t want them to see a miserable person.”

Another qualification is the ability to sell. Steiner’s massage therapists are expected to sell the Elemis products, and a large part of their income is dependent upon these sales.

The length of assignments ranges from four to eight months depending upon your country of origin and your contract.

After sending in a professional resume that describes your technique expertise and offers proof of your certification or licensure, you will be contacted by Steiner if they choose to conduct an initial interview and trial massage. Interviews and trial massages are conducted on cruise ships when they are docked in U.S. ports, usually around Florida.

Once accepted, you fly to London (this is the only expense you incur) to the training office. Roseby says training lasts from two to 10 weeks depending upon how qualified the therapist is and how quickly she/he catches on to the Elemis system. Lodging for shipboard-therapists-in-training is paid for by Steiner. Therapists are then flown directly to the assigned vessel from England. From that flight forward, Steiner picks up all expenses, including the flight to the ship; room and board, including food; and the return flight home at the conclusion of the assignment.

Roseby is quite frank in explaining that working conditions are hard. 

“Our therapists work from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., sometimes with back-to-back appointments,” he says. “You are expected to be on duty for 12 hours. You get one and a half days off per week and then you are free to do anything you’d like, just like a passenger, which includes going into port when we land.”

On-board massage therapists are considered crew members and are ultimately responsible to the captain.

Staff has full deck privileges when not on duty. Your actual paycheck is very low (around $50 per week) but money is also made from the percentage of sales of the Elemis products and from tips. In general, pay can range from $300 to $800 per week.

For more information, contact Jan Green, Human Resources Department, Steiner TransOcean, Steiner Training Ltd., 65 Broadway, Stanmor Middlesex, London, England, UK, HA7 4DU or via e-mail:

To contact other cruise lines to find out how they hire, you can call a travel agent for the names and phone numbers of the lines. For example, Silver Seas, a cruise line that primarily sails to Asia, does their own in-house hiring.

-Charlotte Michael Versagi, L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is a journalist and a massage therapist who specializes in manual lymph drainage and work with clients with cancer.

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