Joe Ferroni is the former Cruise Director of the Regal Empress and a Canadian television personality. He is the current host of "FYI" on TVCogeco.

Canadian television personality and former Cruise Director of the Regal Empress Joe Ferroni discusses his experience working in the cruise industry, and why setting sail on the high seas could be your next great career move.

For any recent grad looking into the future, the prospect of city-hopping is often a desire but rarely considered a possibility.  What if you could see incredible sights, interact with new people every day, and gain valuable career experience while having the time of your life?  Joe Ferroni, host of “FYI” on Canada’s TVCogeco, dishes the details of his cruise industry experience and offers advice for anyone considering life on the high seas.

RSJ: When you were searching career opportunities, why did you ultimately choose the cruise industry?

Joe Ferroni (JF):  I was really lucky growing up that my family loved taking cruises.  As I got older and travelled with my family on cruises, I began talking a lot to the guys that worked on the Cruise Staff (sometimes called Entertainment Staff). I LOVED the idea of being able to travel and get paid for it!  And I always looked great in a blazer anyways!

After University, I spent a year travelling on my own and absolutely loved it.  However, I soon realized that money was running out and I needed to be earning as well as travelling.  That’s when I started contacting cruise lines directly, and hiring agencies that placed people on ships.

Kusadasi, Turkey. Talk about an office with an oceanview.

RSJ: Over the course of your career, what cruise lines did you work with and in what capacity?

JF:  FYI – It was usually 4-6 months living onboard the ship, 1-2 months off on vacation.
2002-2003 NCL (Sky) Shore Excursions Manager
2002 Regal Cruises (Regal Empress) Cruise Director

2001 Renaissance Cruises (R8) Assistant Cruise Director
2000-2001 Regal Cruises (Regal Empress) Port Lecturer, Shore Excursions Manager

RSJ: What were some of the best aspects of working in the cruise industry?

JF:  The travel above all is the best.  I don’t know how or if I’d ever have the chance to travel all throughout Scandinavia, Russia, Northern Europe, and the Med if I didn’t do it while working on a ship.  Also, it’s very easy to save money working on ships.  All of your expenses are mainly paid for (food, accommodations, etc).  All you need is a few dollars per night for duty free beers in the crew bar! 

RSJ:  What were the unexpected challenges of life aboard a ship? Did you have trouble with living conditions, the food, getting your sea legs?

JF: I was lucky having a highly-ranked staff position onboard, in that I never had to share a cabin while working on ships.  That is not always the case, however.  Many times staff members must share a room with another.  It was nothing like the horror stories of the crew members living 4 per room in a closet under the water line.  But you may very well be sharing a room with one other person.  However, if you lived in residence in University, this shouldn’t be too intimidating.

"The biggest challenge for me was learning to live in the moment and appreciate what I had when I was doing it."

The biggest challenge for me was learning to live in the moment and appreciate what I had when I was doing it.  It is definitely a big change from the complete freedom one has when travelling the world solo.  However, it is a very fair trade-off in that you are making money and never have to worry about how you’re getting to the next destination.  But I would caution someone to change their mindset in order to truly enjoy the entire experience.  

I’ll give you an example:  two crew members got the afternoon off once when the ship docked in Aruba.  They both went to the same beach.  One of them was having fun, but kept complaining that she had to be back onboard the ship in a short 3 hours (to be on the pool deck mingling with passengers during the “sail away party”).  The other crew member was also having fun and truly loved her day.  She realized that she was getting paid to sit on a beach in Aruba, even if for only 3 hours.  She also thought to herself that her “job” was to put on white shorts and a blue golf shirt and attend a party on a pool deck where she had to act like the host, without serving any of the guests.  Now, you tell me…which crew member is getting the most out of her experience?

RSJ:  How would you suggest pursuing cruise industry opportunities?  What are the factors that a good candidate demonstrates?  Do you have to join a union or take specific training?

JF:  This one I’ve struggled with the answer to, as it has been over 10 years since I started applying to work on ships.  I can image that a lot has changed on the inside of the industry since then.  Back then, there were head-hunters down in Florida that specialized in placing people aboard ships.  I don’t think that happens anymore as most of the ships now have pretty large HR departments and hiring is done in-house.

But, I can give some advice.  Cruise lines want to ensure that the people they hire will be successful.  That means (as is the case with all industries) experience counts.  Obviously, someone who has worked on ships before has A LOT more opportunities at openings.  However, that is not to say that they don’t give people opportunities if they’ve never been on ships.  My biggest advice to someone that wants to get a first job on a ship is to paint the picture that you are responsible and reliable.  
You know when to have fun and when to work.  It goes without saying that you are a people-person that is a hyper-extrovert.  But the HR department wants some assurance that you’re not going to be partying in Cozumel at Carlos & Charlies with the 4 hours off you have, drink too much tequila and miss the ship.  
Or worse yet, board the ship and do something inappropriate while drunk in front of passengers.  If you can somehow convince them that’s not you, you’ve overcome the biggest challenge to being considered for a career at sea.

Joe met his wife Marianne while they were both working for Regal Cruises.

RSJ:  What were your best & worst memories at sea?

JF:  Best memory was meeting my Canadian wife, of course!!!  And I would love the overnight dockings we’d have in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Usually ships only dock in port during the day, so you get some time off but you know you always have to be back on the ship to work that evening.  When the ship docks overnight, the crew is usually free to be off the ship and in port through the night.  It is such an exciting and refreshing change of pace!  I also loved the friendships made among the crew members.  It really does feel like a family and that definitely helps if you’re ever feeling too far from home.

Worst memory at sea was probably the random US Coast Guard drills that we would have to participate in.  Actually all of the drills sucked, but as we’ve seen recently with the Costa disaster, they are absolutely necessary to ensure safety.  When it’s a gorgeous day in the Caribbean and you just want to be lying on the sand for a few hours with part of your day, and instead you find yourself wearing a giant life vest and being lowered in a lifeboat onto the water, it’s not one of the best days at sea.  But, this usually only happens a few times per month, depending on what your saftey duties are.

You can learn more about Joe Ferroni’s television appearances on his website.  Would you consider life onboard as your next career move? We want to hear in the comments below!