Beauty on board: Cruising the world as a spa manager

Months at sea are worth it for Katie Walsh when scuba diving or climbing the Great Wall of China on days off

Katie Walsh getting ready to set sail on another cruise ship adventure

Katie Walsh getting ready to set sail on another cruise ship adventure

 

Katie Walsh works as a spa manager on a cruise ship owned by Windstar Cruises. She tells us about finding her sea legs, and what it is like to spend months on the water. 

What do you do and what does your job involve?
I work for a luxury cruise line called Windstar Cruises. At the moment I am a spa manager, so I deal with all things beauty-related. I am also the only facialist on my ship, so I deal with all skin concerns while doing facials, which are very popular with holidaymakers. The most popular treatment onboard is massage as a lot of guests want to relax, but there is also a beauty salon which does  nails, hair, teeth whitening and barbering.

I am hoping to become a guest services manager, so this would involve the day-to-day running of the ship, and dealing with guests and guest queries, dealing with VIP guests, cabin allocations and running the reception desk.

Where are you currently located and what routing is your ship following?
I am currently home on my vacation for a few months, after the ship  finished a route around Iceland, which was amazing. I left Ireland two and a half years ago because I wanted to meet new people and see what the world has to offer. I commute from home every few months, between contracts. My next contract could be anywhere in the world, so I am waiting to hear where I will be visiting next.

Working on a cruise ship can offer plenty of opportunities to sightsee
Working on a cruise ship can offer plenty of opportunities to sightsee

What other cruise itineraries have you worked?
I previously cruised around Asia, the Caribbean and  the Mediterranean. I really enjoyed Asia, as there is just so much to see and do, and the weather was a bonus.  Windstar Cruises recently launched an Asia route so fingers crossed I can revisit there.

What is it like living and working on board a cruise ship?
I have only one word to explain the experience – incredible. It is like a floating home, and I live and work there for months on end. Everything is at your finger tips. It is like a mini city, the ship has everything from a casino, a library , restaurants and of course, bars. You meet wonderful people and your friends on board soon become your ship family.

Accommodation and meals are free for crew members, and there are also a lot of tours available to us. Contracts on board a cruise ship can be anything between four and nine months, depending on your role. For a spa manager it is always nine months.

Do you ever get cabin fever?
Never. I spend so little time in my cabin that I only sleep and shower there. The rest of the time I am working, or out exploring a new country on my time off. You can fall asleep in Iceland and wake up in Norway.

How do you spend your time off when you are away working?
I spend my days off seeing new places, going on adventures and getting some picture perfect photo opportunities, learning about different cultures and food and meeting new people. Every day I have off, I get off the ship to explore.

Food seems to be a big part of the cruise ship experience for holidaymakers. What is the staff food like?
Food is a big part of crew life also. Just imagine a buffet, available anytime you like, with unlimited cakes and desserts. It is tough to stay in shape because the food is so tempting. Luckily we can use the gym on board.

Days off can be spent exploring new places, before returning to the cruise ship
Days off can be spent exploring new places, before returning to the cruise ship

Are there many Irish people working on the ship?
I have been working in the industry for a few years and I have only met one other Irish person working on a ship. It just doesn’t seem to be popular with the Irish and I have no idea why – they are missing out.

What are the job opportunities like?
Endless; most jobs on land are needed on a ship too, so the list is long for potential careers at sea. I have been really lucky; the company I work for is excellent for progression, so for me the job opportunities are good for the future. For anyone interested in working on a cruise ship, the best way to apply is online. For spa jobs you can apply through theonboardspa.com and for other jobs on board Windstar Cruises, it is vikingrecruitment.com.

Have you thought about returning to Ireland to live and work?
I have thought about it, but the perks are too good to decline working on a ship. Not many other jobs would pay me to travel the world like this; I get to see so much and it doesn’t cost me a cent.

Is there anything you miss about being in Ireland?
I miss my family and friends, and little things like cups of tea and a catch up. I also miss things like weddings, funerals, birthdays and so on, as sometimes I am so far away that hopping on a plane home is not easy. Working at sea you do have sacrifices to make, but it is all worth it when I am scuba diving with turtles or climbing the Great Wall of China on a day off work.

  • If you work in an interesting job overseas and would like to share your experiences, email abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about yourself and what you do.
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