What It’s Like to Work and Live on a Cruise Ship

  • Alessandro Menegazzi has worked on cruise ships since 1997 and has always felt a call to the sea. 
  • He is now the general manager for the $450-million Regent Seven Seas Explorer.
  • Menegazzi shares what it’s like to work and live abroad what he calls a “floating five-star hotel.”

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Alessandro Menegazzi, the general manager for the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, about his job at sea. It has been edited for length and clarity. 

One of my first jobs in the hotel industry was in Palma de Mallorca – a popular tourist destination in Spain. Working by the waterfront, I would see these massive cruise ships coming in and out of the port. I was transfixed. I remember saying, “one day I will be working on one of those ships.” 

Now I’m the general manager on the $450-million Regent Seven Seas Explorer. 

EXP at Sea

The Regent Seven Seas Explorer is called “the world’s most luxurious” by the cruise line.

Courtesy of Six Star Cruises

The first time I joined a cruise ship crew was in Los Angeles in May 1997. It was a short cruise to Alaska, but the second I stepped onboard, I was amazed. 

I started as a junior purser in reception answering guests’ queries. Over the years, I worked my way up the career ladder. I worked on MSC Cruises for four years until I became food and beverage director for Regent Seven Seas in 2014. 

I’ve always been drawn to the sea

I left the cruise industry a couple of times for hospitality jobs on land. I worked at the iconic hotel Villa D’Este in Lake Como, Italy, but the sea was always calling me back. In Italy, we call it “iron fever” because the ship is like a magnet.

In December 2021, I was promoted to general manager for Regent Seven Seas Explorer. 

Pool deck on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer

The pool deck on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer.

Claire Turrell

On the Explorer, the captain is in charge of sailing and I am responsible for anything related to the hotel side of the ship, from customer service to food and beverage. I oversee about 75% of the 550-member crew. 

The Explorer is a floating 5-star hotel

Our Regent Suite, the most expensive cabin on the ship, is decorated with works by Picasso and a Steinway piano and has an in-suite caviar service. In one of our restaurants, we use Versace tableware, and there are more than 500 crystal chandeliers dotted throughout the ship. 

My office is in the atrium – the beating heart of the ship – where the crew welcomes guests on board with a glass of champagne, and there are sweeping staircases that lead to one of our restaurants.

The atrium in the Regent Seven Seas Explorer

The atrium in the Regent Seven Seas Explorer.

Claire Turrell

The ship does trips all around the world. This year we have traveled around the Mediterranean, through Asia, and are now heading to Australia. From there it will move on to Canada. 

I will be sailing with Explorer for the next two years. You can say which parts of the world you would love to work in, but you can never choose. There are two general managers on Explorer, and we alternate. I work three months on board the ship, and then have three months off. 

I leave the ship in Bangkok in January, then I will fly home to Japan to spend time with my family and enjoy my three-month break. When I go home to Tokyo, my wife and I usually go on vacation. She will sometimes join me on the ship.

I will usually start my day on the ship at 7 a.m.

I always get coffee from the onboard cafe for my breakfast. Then I will go to my office and check my emails. As our headquarters are in Miami, there will be plenty of requests that have come in overnight I need to action. 

However, my job is not 10 hours sitting at a desk. I need to be visible to the guests and crew. I will have meetings with the managers and say hello to the guests. 

In the evening, I will do a lot of hosting with guests, whether that’s at dinner or for welcome drinks. All the senior crew members have to host guests. We will introduce ourselves and then sit down at a table and join them for dinner. We don’t have a captain’s table as such as we have so many restaurants. 

Compass Rose Restaurant in the Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Compass Rose Restaurant in the Regent Seven Seas Explorer.

Claire Turrell

Tomorrow night, we will host a table in the Prime 7 Steakhouse. I don’t tend to finish work until 9 p.m. Even then, I will sometimes go and watch a show in the theater, so I can tell the guests about it. My days are long, but I would rather socialize than sit alone in my cabin. Everyone I meet is interesting.

It’s not easy working aboard a luxury ship 

To work on one, you need to get experience working in a luxury hotel. You also need to have the willingness to live on a ship, it’s not easy. When you work onshore in a hotel, you have your days off, and when you leave the hotel, it’s done. On board a ship, we are on duty 24 hours a day. 

When we pull into port, I usually hop off the ship and go for a jog. I’ll check Google for a good running route if I don’t know the port. 

I have had many amazing experiences working on board the Regent Seven Seas like sailing into Rio De Janeiro and seeing the Sugar Mountains and visiting the company’s private island, Harvest Caye in Belize.

I stay in touch with the guests. We recently had a friendly couple stay in the Regent Suite. They are joining the Explorer in Tokyo in November. I asked them to contact me when they arrive and we will probably have dinner together, as I live there.

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