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When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Before I wrote Cruise Quarters I wondered would people find my story interesting, after all it was just a story about two average people traveling around the world on a very big ship. But since the publication I have received so many e-mails from readers who obviously love to cruise or in some cases are just looking for love and what most of them say is, “I wish that I could do something like you did - just run away to sea.” So in this article I will give you my top ten reasons for working on a cruise ship.

Just before I decided to join cruise ships I was working as a systems analyst in Boston. I was commuting on Route 128 America’s technology highway.
Through rain, fog and snow, constantly in fear of crashing my compact into the rear of a tractor trailer, every day felt like a suicide mission. The rest of the time I was stuck in an office with the same twenty people, claustrophobia slowly settling in. I dated a lot, some of the candidates hailed from the finest institutions our country has to offer. I was dating more but enjoying it less, dates seemed more like job interviews.

But I always felt like I was missing out on something, the Germans have a word for it torschlusskpanik, literally the feeling that you are missing the boat. Then a friend who was working on a cruise ship came through town and while she was joining a ship in New Zealand, I had a four hour drive to Albany on my itinerary. Four months later I had cajoled and pleaded my way into a job on the Star Princess. My first port was beautiful Saint Martin where the sea glistened a deep shade of aquamarine. I always say that was the day my life went from black and white to Technicolor.

The point of my digression is this I was in my thirties when I changed my life but it is never too late to go for it. On the ships I worked as a blackjack dealer but there are many other jobs on a cruise ship. Are you a nurse or a doctor? All ships need one of those. Do you work with children? There is always a need for someone to coordinate children’s activities, are you good with accounting? The purser’s staff keeps track of passenger’s accounts and shipboard expenditures. Retail experiences on your resume? All cruise ships have shops. There are so many opportunities to work on a cruise ship and with a little research you just might find your niche.

  1. You will completely change your life.  Living on a cruise ship is like moving to a new country where the captain is the king. You will make new friends, travel to new places and most of all your life will be filled with new adventures. During my five years on ships I made friendships that still last to this day and I visited every continent on the globe except Antarctica.

  1. You live on a waterfront mansion and the best part is - it moves. Wherever you live on a ship you are only a few minutes away from a gorgeous ocean view. I never got tired of sitting on deck and watching the world go by. Sail-away from Venice is one of the most beautiful sights in the world and I had a front row seat every ten days.

  1. Every day the ship goes to beautiful ports because, ships don’t travel to ugly places. This means every day you get to wake up in a beautiful European city or a tropical island.

  1. Not only do you visit beautiful places, you get to come back every seven to ten days. If you spend a season in the Mediterranean your cruise might start in Barcelona and go to Venice with lots of great ports in between. Then it starts in Venice and returns to Barcelona, by the end of the season you feel like you know these ports and start feeling more like a local than a tourist.

  1. You don’t have to pay any rent; your room and board are taken care of by the cruise lines. As a dealer we had a great gig on the ships we were allowed to eat at any of the buffets, so every day I feasted. Imagine not having to write that rent check every month.

  1. There is no commute, that was the icing on the cake for me. For five years I would wake up each day and decide do I want to take the elevator to work or walk up the stairs. Now who wouldn’t like a commute like that?

  1. It is a great place to save money for all the reasons I have mentioned, free room and board. And I didn’t have to buy a car which meant no car payments. I know you are thinking that sight-seeing can be expensive but if you work on a ship you can always volunteer to help the tour guide by joining the tours and keeping an eye on the passengers. I left ships with the money to start a new life in Palm Springs.

  1. Another perk of ship life is meeting people from all over the world. The crew of a cruise ship is like a mini United Nations with crew members from across the globe all working together to meet the passengers every need. In my casino alone we had staff from Australia, Scotland, America and Canada, and since that time many Eastern Europeans have joined the casino staffs on many ships.

  1. Crew life is fun, although many of the crew work very hard, imagine being a waiter and you are expected to serve three meals, two buffets and a tea-time. So to let off a little steam there is a crew bar where all the crew meets for camaraderie and fun. We have so many crew activities; we danced under the stars, had a pizza party for Venice sail-away and played trivia. There was also crew talent show which just gave the Brits an excuse to dress in drag.

  1. You just might fall in love. For me that was the highlight of my time at sea. I left with a very special souvenir my husband Ray. He was from Scotland and I would have never met him if I hadn’t run away to sea. We met when we both worked on the Star Princess, my lucky ship, and were married four months later. In fact, I know so many couples that met on cruise ships and many ended up married. The majority I am happy to report are very happy.  Though there are no guarantees it just might happen to you and there is no better way to change your life than to fall in love.

So for all of you that have that feeling of torschlusskpanik, I just want you to know that you can change your life. Now hiring practices vary but there are big cruise lines like Carnival, to small lines like the exclusive Silver Seas. There are European lines, there are ships all over the world and in the last ten years river cruises like AMA have become popular, but I am sure that with a little work you can find out if cruise ships are a fit for you.

                                                                    Happy sails to you!

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships