Welcome to Part 2 of How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship! In Part 1, I described how to find a job, how to apply, and what the interview process is like. Now, you’ve gotten the job offer, you’re ready to begin your new adventure – but especially if you’re trying to get onto the American-flagged cruise ship, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, you still have a long way to go.
1. Medical Exam
As far as I know, whether you’re going to work on an international ship or the PoA, you still need to get a full medical exam done. At Norwegian, they will pay for it to be done, thank goodness, because I think the final price can end up being around $1k. The morning that I got the call about booking an appointment, I booked one for 2 hours later, and got it all done that day.
Don’t be too worried about this; they essentially test every fluid (and solid) your body creates for anything abnormal, like drugs, diseases, pregnancy, etc, and then they clear you for I believe the next two years. It takes a few hours, and for certain jobs there may be a part you have to take home and do from there, but overall, it’s pretty straightforward.
Next up, if you’re going to the Pride of America, you will need to apply for a TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential). This is the ID you will need to show to get back onto the ship if you ever leave (which you will if you want to maintain your sanity), so it’s very important that you never lose it. It’s probably the easiest thing to get on this journey; you can google “where to get a TWIC”, which is generally the same places you would get TSA PreCheck, and then either make an appointment or just show up. Personally, I just showed up, and I had my TWIC within 15 minutes of arriving. They just take your personal info and fingerprints and you’re outta there!
One thing you will need to decide is whether you want your TWIC to be sent to your personal address or to the address NCL gives you in Hawaii. I sent it to the one in Hawaii, and it ended up getting there a month before me. I would personally recommend just sending it to your personal address, as it will probably get there before you leave. If you do have to go get it in Hawaii, you will have to use a very small gap of time in port to get to the center where it’s held. In addition, the center has very sporadic hours; it took Connor three weeks to get his, whereas I was lucky and got mine my first week there.
Finally, you will need to apply for your Merchant Mariner Credential, or MMC. This little red passport-looking thing is the document that lets you work on an American ship in general, not just a cruise ship. Based on my experience and from what I’ve heard in general, this is probably going to be the bane of your existence.
To give you an idea of how long this process will take, I sent in my full application for the MMC to my Recruitment Coordinator on October 28th, the Coast Guard received it in Baltimore on December 16th, and it was approved and mailed to NCL on December 20th. This may not be how long it takes for most people, and I have no idea whether the holdup was with NCL or the Coast Guard (either way it’s forgivable, they have to go through a lot of these), but either way, you should know that even once you’ve gotten hired, you may have a couple more months until you make it to the ship. So don’t quit your day job – yet!
And there we have it, the paperwork portion is over! Now it’s time to move onto our final, and probably most fun part of pre-ship life, STCW Training!
Find out all about how you’ll get to fight fires and float in Gumby suits in Part 3!