Natalie Brown’s onboard lifeBy The International Hotel School Mar 14, 2013 6:03AM UTC
Natalie Brown studied Hotel, Food and Beverage Management at The International Hotel School (IHS) and graduated in 2010. At the age of 24, this Durban girl has visited over 150 countries while working on a cruise ship. Natalie shares her insight into Seabourn life…
What have you learnt since leaving IHS?
To an extent, the foundation was definitely laid during my studies – the basic knowledge and understanding. Every operation runs differently and I have had to learn how to apply the knowledge I have and adapt it to different systems and procedures. I have also learnt that no matter how much paperwork you have behind your name in this industry, your experience speaks volumes for you, which is what I’m focusing on now.
AMAZING!!! Arriving at my first destination, I was such a tourist, taking photos of everything. We were in the Caribbean, on one of the exclusive beaches where the guests have a beach BBQ. The smell of food cooking, sunshine and drinking out of coconuts while sitting in the warm ocean was one of the best days I have had while I have been onboard.
You don’t realise just how much the world has to offer until you set foot on beaches like Bora Bora or walk the streets of Hong Kong, spend an overnight along the wharf in Australia, and see sunsets in Turkey. I have a few favourites: New Zealand, Bora Bora, Cadiz in Spain, and Barcelona. Sometimes you are on the same itinerary for a few months which can be limiting but then again, you become like a local in the ports that you stop at and get to know the ins and outs of the city.
Is the work quite challenging?
It is a tough adjustment in the beginning. You’re on your own, and you have to learn to sink or swim in a very short space of time. The demands of the guests and maintaining a constant standard of service can be challenging. When you’re at home and land based, work is work and you leave home behind you, but on the ship, both are so closely entwined that you have to learn to leave your emotions in your cabin and focus at work because it is very easy to bring those feelings to the office.
Every department has their own definition of hard and demanding but it is equally as tiring. In housekeeping, it is physically tiring and you work against the clock to get finished. As an Assistant, it was a combination of mentally challenging and physical because you’re still expected to be on the floor. In Guest Services I have found that it is mentally and emotionally stressful. You have the phones going, e-mails coming in and out, your normal routine admin to take care of as well as upset guests venting at you because we’re normally the first point of contact for them when they want to make a complaint.
How easy was it to make friends?
If you’re open minded and accept that different people will have different ways of living and working, then it is very easy to get along. You need to adjust, but it’s the mixture nationalities that makes the ‘ship life’ that much more fun!
The travelling is definitely a high point but the people you work with and meet are very special. You become like a family onboard, you laugh together, cry together and share memories with each other that will always be treasured. Your crew members make the majority of your contract fun, going ashore together and the friendships you make all the hard work so worth it.
What do people need to know when considering cruise ship work?
Be ready to leave at the drop of a hat the first time you get called to join the ship. Buy the most comfortable shoes you can find and don’t worry too much about the price. No amount of pain or blisters is worth a cheap pair of shoes! Pack lightly because you are going to double your wardrobe onboard.
Be prepared to work long hours and to be on your feet for a large amount of your day. The hard work you put in does pay off and there will be days when you wonder why you’re in this industry but the fulfillment of the guest satisfaction wins every time.
You need a lot of patience, perseverance, and be prepared to work hard to go above and beyond the guest’s expectations. You will also need to be flexible and remember that while you get to travel, you’re here to work and that might mean sacrificing shore time. Being willing to learn is important and even when you make mistakes, realise that it will only help you better yourself in the future.
What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully I will have some stripes on my shoulders before I leave the ships. I would like to become a Crew Purser but that does take a few years to climb the ladder. I would like to be part of a chain of hotels or cruise liners in the future and run the operations side of things and still get to travel to the different properties or ships. I think it would be my dream to work for myself and have my own name on the entrance door.
What’s the best advice you can give?
Live for today, don’t worry about the things that have happened and you cannot change – live and learn. Make every experience count. In front of every door of opportunity is someone that has helped make that door easier to open – don’t forget who they are because when you are successful and where you want to be in life, they were the ones that helped you get to where you are.
Follow this link -