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If you love to travel, you can use your own skills or knowledge to score cruises for free. Here are tips on how to work on a cruise ship…

I started cruising for free as a face-painting artist.  

I had started my “Clown” business about a year prior and got wind that a cruise line was doing a trial-run to see if face-painting would be a hit with their guests. I called the entertainment company for Royal Caribbean, Sixth-Star Entertainment, and submitted all the required documentation:  A resume, a photo of me and of my work, background check information, and a short biography. After Sixth-Star approved me, I was able to access the entertainer portion of their website to see which cruises were open for professional face-painting artists.

After picking a five-day Bahamas cruise, I called the coordinator, and he submitted my request for that cruise.  After Royal Caribbean looked over my information and accepted me for the cruise, Sixth-Star sent a lot of paperwork to read and some to fill out and send back.  

There are rules and regulations to read and follow, information about the artist and the passenger the artist is bringing for free, your and your passenger’s boarding letter (don’t forget to bring that!), and general information. Here are some tips on how to work on a cruise ship if you decide to try it for yourself:

1. Make a list and pack your essentials yourself. 

When packing for my first trip, I asked my daughter to put my face-painting kit in my suitcase.  In the hustle and bustle, I forgot to double-check, and when I got to the hotel in Florida the day before the cruise there were NO face-painting supplies at all!  I called home and found out my kit was sitting safe and sound in my living-room – which brings me to number two:

2. Network!

I was saved because I had friends in the clowning business just a few miles from where I was staying in Florida. They came to the rescue with fresh paint just in time for my boarding of the ship. It’s great to have friends in your line of work!

3. Be flexible.

While the entertainment company will tell you how your time will be divided on the ship, remember that the cruise line entertainment director has the ultimate say on each particular cruise.  I have done several cruises and no two have been close to the same. Let them do their thing. Be prepared to rearrange your plans. And don’t get upset about it if you want to be invited back.

4. Follow directions.

Your actions on the cruise directly affect all other “edutainment” staff. For example:  I brought my youngest daughter, who was 14 at the time, as my guest.  Not only was she extremely well behaved and obeyed all the rules, but she was also a professionally trained artist with many years of experience.  I introduced her to the entertainment director and had his permission for her to help out.  It worked perfectly, especially when one morning I woke up very sick.  I called the director and asked if he would like to have my daughter take over that one shift.  He was very happy to have her do it as he had seen her working with me at all of my previous shifts and knew she was professional. Unfortunately, not long after that cruise, they changed the rules that all guests must be 21 years old, as some of the “edutainment” staff had brought misbehaving children on their cruise. So don’t ruin things for yourself and definitely don’t ruin them for others.

5. The same rules that apply to passengers also apply to you as staff.

The rules are not just for guests. Your cruise ship reserves the right to throw you off the boat at any port without supplying a way home – getting home is up to the rule-breaker! As “edutainment” guest/staff, we have the best of both worlds. We get to experience all the fun and pampering of being a full-paid cruise guest and also get to make friends with and experience a taste of what life is like for full-time cruise staff.  We still keep in touch with friends that we met from the different islands (including our tour bus driver!) and friends we made from the ship staff. Don’t get thrown off!

6. Tip your servers!  

Even though we are guest/staff and don’t “officially” get tips (each cruise director will tell you the rules for accepting gratuities on that particular cruise), the full-time ship staff depend on gratuities for a large portion of his/her pay.  They work hard, and the entertainment company also expects guest/staff to tip fairly.

7. Don’t forget your camera!  

You’re going to make some fantastic memories on your cruise, but you can sell your photos and videos when you get home, too. Your free cruise can be for fun AND profit!  You want to have that camera ready for the once-in-a-lifetime shots… like when I was walking out of a little shop in Jamaica and a cute little tree frog jumped onto my head before leaping onto the ground and hopping away!  If my companion would have had a camera at the time, it would have been a priceless photo – if just for the memory!

8. Have fun!

Once you get your feet wet and get into the flow, you’ll find that cruising for free is the only way go!

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[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can fund your travels and make an extra income with photography, travel writing, blogging, and more in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Three Fun Ways To Get Paid To TravelA Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]