Set Sail: Massage on a Boat

Getting the Job

Interview. Nicole Arel, a massage therapist and owner of Essential Touch in Manchester, Connecticut, applied for a job with a small-ship cruise company in Seattle, Washington. At the time, she and her husband were in Alaska, testing the waters for a possible relocation. “The hiring process started online, and then there was an initial phone interview,” she recalls. “The second interview was via video conferencing.” Although she wasn’t asked to do a hands-on massage demonstration, the company did want to  know that Arel was qualified—and could handle some of the challenges that arise in this working environment. 

What to Expect

Massage sessions. You should be prepared to practice on a variety of clients, too, meaning that just because you’re on a cruise line doesn’t mean everyone will be looking only for relaxation, and some will have experience with massage therapy while others won’t. “I had folks looking for pain relief, relaxation and stress management. Some had cranky muscles from long flights into Alaska, or were sore from their first time hiking or kayaking,” says Arel.

Small spaces. Living and working quarters are going to be small when on a boat, which may be an adjustment for some massage therapists. Arel, for example, shared living quarters with the other female massage therapists on board. “In general, boat crews share living space, and although you have your own dedicated bunk, you will have multiple roommates and very limited personal storage and privacy,” she says.

What's Expected of You

Schedule. When working on a boat or cruise line, you’ll be away from your home for extended periods of time. “My contract was from late April through late September,” Arel explains. “The company I worked for runs a winter and summer season, and both are roughly six months, though there are certainly people working a slightly shorter or longer season.”

Flexibility. Success when you’re working in a small space with a small crew depends on your ability to be flexible. “The crew looked to the wellness team to maintain the calm when days got crazy,” Arel says. Unexpected events, such as guest injuries or bad weather, can and do happen, so being able to refocus without getting flustered is necessary.

Get the Whole Story 

Excerpted from the Summer 2015 Massage Therapy Journal

Additional Resources

Get more in-depth information about Worplace Options when you explore the Career Guidance section.

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