How to Stay Positive and Healthy on Board: Lifestyle Ideas and Tips

Looking in from the outside, a cruise ship job means living the life: beautiful ports, lots of free time, and lots of young folks looking for adventure. But as anyone who’s done the job knows, life on board can be challenging. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with these challenges – everyone’s personality is different, after all. But a good start to making sure that your contract ends up being an overall positive experience, which seems to be universally effective, is to find ways of making sure you’re happy off the bandstand. Yes, of course, your job performing is certainly important, but your general happiness for the other 20 hours each day is arguably just as important, if not more so.

That said, here are a few ideas for your everyday schedule to keep you feeling healthy, sharp, and positive:

Get fresh air every day. This can be harder than it sounds. Sometimes, on a sea day (or if there are a few sea days in a row), you forget that you haven’t seen the sky once. Yikes. And even if you don’t realize it, that can wear on your body and contribute towards you feeling lethargic or grumpy. So make a point to get out on the open deck at least once or twice a day. Check it off your list shortly after you wake up – brush your teeth, wrap up your morning routine, grab a book / crossword / game on your phone and head outside for at least 15 minutes. And then try to do the same at some point in the afternoon. Sunlight and fresh air will do wonders for your mood.

Exercise. When else will you have a free gym membership with tons of equipment? Take advantage of the guest gym and crew gym. Set a schedule for yourself, and if you never go to the gym, go twice a week; if you go twice a week, go four times a week. If you’re not sure what to do in the gym, talk to one of the trainers, or to someone in the dance cast (who might well know more about fitness than the trainers). If you refuse going to the gym, or you’re dealing with an injured or very unwilling body, there’s an outdoor track you can walk around for an hour. And there’s also opportunities to walk in port: walking from the ship to downtown Miami or the shopping plaza in Fort Lauderdale takes about 30-40 minutes, but you get your exercise in, and save yourself the cost of the taxi ride.

Practice. With all the free time on board, it’s hard to find a good excuse not to practice your instrument. If it’s a struggle to find a lounge or environment to practice, do your research, find the space and the times of day when that space is free, and base your schedule around that. There are other options, as well: you can get one of these headphones amps, to practice in your own cabin without bothering your roommate. Drummers should be bringing practice pads, and horns can buy damper mutes for a similar purpose. Also, practice with a plan. Decide what you want to work on that week, and after your warm-up, set up exercises towards a specific purpose: improving your block chords; soloing over Trane changes; long tones to improve your range; setting up hits over fast swing tunes; playing in the pocket over funk grooves, and so on. And make sure that you have an achievable goal in mind: block chord practice should eventually lead to playing a Bill Evans solo and then improvising more solos in that same style; Trane change practice should eventually lead to you being comfortable soloing over Moment’s Notice at 230 bpm, and on and on.

Learn something new. Take the same concept for your practicing, and apply it to, well, anything else. Is there something you’ve been wanting to learn but haven’t had the time or motivation? A new language? Computer coding? European history? Yoga? On board, you certainly have the time, and so now you just need a plan. Start small – maybe a half hour each day, or one hour three times a week, make sure you schedule yourself when you’re least likely to have conflicting rehearsals or trainings, and focus on sea days or late afternoon on port days. And use the same goal-oriented approach that’s been previously discussed: set mini goals each week, every few weeks, and have a overarching goal for the full contract (that isn’t as ambitious as, say, complete fluency in Russian. A five-minute conversation with your buddy, the casino dealer from Moscow, is considerably more attainable).

Yes, it can be difficult to stick to this regimen, and you shouldn’t hold yourself to the standard of never missing a practice session, or having certain weeks where you stop learning whatever it is you’ve been learning. But the more you can keep yourself on track with these various lifestyle habits, the more productive you’ll feel, and the healthier you’ll be. Collectively, there are few better ways to stabilize your mood and your mind, and set yourself up for a successful contract. Good luck!