What a Cruise Ship Cabin Steward Really Does

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The cabin steward onboard a cruise ship is undoubtedly among the hardest working crew members and is the most visible face of the crew that most guests meet.

They perform numerous regular duties, take on extra challenges, meet special requests, and do a great deal more to ensure that every traveler has a wonderful and relaxing vacation.

Find out what a cabin steward does and how to make the stewards’ job just a little easier.

What Stateroom Stewards Really Do

A stateroom steward is much more than just a housekeeper. Yes, they clean cabins – empty trash, exchange towels, make beds, scrub toilets, refill toiletries – but they actually do much more.

On the first day of the cruise, stewards typically introduce themselves and may offer a cabin orientation by describing how to adjust the air conditioning, lock the balcony door, change the shower settings, or use the in-room safe.

If passengers request extra pillows or hangers, fresh ice, or little extras to celebrate a special occasion, the stewards attend to those requests as well, and they are also the first crew members to contact in case of any problems in the cabin, such as a clogged toilet or flooding shower.

In addition, stateroom attendants make those quirky towel animals, pick up and deliver laundry, provide copies of newsletters, deliver printed announcements, and may attend to other special needs.

Carnival Cruise Ship Cabin
Carnival Cruise Ship Cabin (Photo Copyright: Emrys Thakkar / Cruise Hive)

Need an emergency wardrobe repair, such as a popped button on a dress shirt or a stubborn wrinkle on a formal gown? Ask the steward for help. Need recommendations for port activities? The steward has been there dozens of times and can suggest unique options.

Stewards do all this and more with unending smiles and politeness, always representing the service of the cruise line and all the best an oceangoing vacation can be.

Lightening Your Cabin Steward’s Load

Because cruise ship housekeepers do so much, anything you do to make their work a tiny bit easier will be appreciated, from fewer duties to simply staying out of their way at the right time.

The easiest way to help your cabin attendant is to make sure they can do their work quickly and efficiently. Before you leave your cabin, put away your personal belongings so surfaces are easy to wipe down. Group used towels together in the bathroom (toss them on the shower floor so it’s easy to see which towels need changing), and be sure your toiletries are not cluttered in the sink.

Other ways to give your housekeeper easy access to refresh your cabin include putting your luggage out of the way under the bed or in a closet so the floor can be vacuumed, and making sure your clothes are put away in the closet or drawers so they don’t need to be moved for cleaning.

Cruise Ship Stateroom
Cruise Ship Cabin (Photo Copyright: Emrys Thakkar / Cruise Hive)

Next, don’t make unnecessary requests. Do you really use fresh ice twice a day? Don’t ask for it if you won’t be needing it. It’s not necessary to have sheets replaced daily, and if you don’t have excess clothes that absolutely must be hung, don’t ask the steward to track down extra hangers.

One of the best ways to help your cabin steward is to give them adequate time to do their job. Leave your cabin for several hours each day when the stewards are servicing cabins, and you won’t be disappointed by a rush job or missed cleaning.

Use door hangers, magnetic signs, or indicator lights to note when you do not want to be disturbed or when your cabin is empty, and let your steward know about your habits – if you are an early riser, for example, they will know to tend your cabin first thing.

Cabin Door on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship
Cabin Door on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz / Shutterstock)

Similarly, if you prefer evening service, be sure they know your dining time and they will be able to coordinate later services when you are out of the stateroom.

Time is especially critical on debarkation day, when every stateroom must be thoroughly cleaned and all bedding must be changed. Leave your cabin to wait in common areas or debark the ship as early as possible so your steward has enough time to turn the cabin over for the next passenger.

Communication can go a long way toward helping out your cabin steward. Whenever you see your steward – you’ll likely pass them in the halls several times a day – say hello. Greeting them by name is friendly and respectful, and if you have a moment, ask about their day or engage them in conversation.

Interior Cabin on MSC Cruises Ship
Interior Cabin on MSC Cruises Ship (Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock)

How long have they been working with the cruise line? How are their families? What do they miss most about home? What do they enjoy most about the next port of call? Those personal touches are incredibly meaningful to crew members who work seven days a week for months at a time and can make a tough work day much easier.

Not all communication with your steward will be spoken, however. If you need to write them a note – asking for an extra blanket after a cold night, for example – be sure your handwriting is clear, and say please and thank you in the note.

Gratuities and Gifts

Rewarding a steward’s service is a great way to make their work easier and enjoy great service. Depending on their experience, position, and cruise line, a stateroom steward typically makes $1,200-2,200 (USD) per month.

Some cruise lines also offer bonuses for certain contracts or assignments, which may be contingent on successful contract completion, guest ratings, or performance evaluations.

Read Also: How Much Should You Tip Crew Members

Gratuities are often pooled and divided among the housekeeping staff (along with other positions onboard), but if your steward did something extraordinary to make your cruise even better, consider increasing their tip or leaving them extra cash on the last night of the cruise or on debarkation morning.

Cruise Ship Crew Member

While many travelers want to bring a gift for their stateroom attendant, this can be tricky to do. Not all cruise lines permit crew members to accept gifts, especially any homemade food items. Prepackaged treats – candy or chocolates – can be a good option, but not everyone enjoys these items.

It is also important to note that crew member cabins are very small, and there isn’t always room to keep gifts. Instead, extra cash is appreciated the most.

You can also mention your attendant by name in a review or survey about your cruise or email the cruise line to compliment their work. Those personal recognitions can lead to paycheck bonuses, contract renewals, and promotions.

Insights Into a Cruise Ship Cabin Steward

Stateroom steward, cabin attendant, housekeeping staff – the titles for these crew members vary for different cruise lines. There may also be assistants and managers for the staff as well – assistant steward, senior cabin attendant, housekeeping manager, and so forth.

Whatever they are called, these crew members typically work a split shift every day. This means they are on call for several hours each morning and again for several hours each evening, with time off in the afternoon. This allows them to meet guests’ varying preferences throughout the day.

Towel Animals in Cruise Ship Cabin
Towel Animals in Cruise Ship Cabin (Photo Credit: EWY Media / Shutterstock)

Each attendant has a set number of staterooms they service, though the exact number will vary based on cruise line, ship size, and overall occupancy. A steward who services suites, for example, may have fewer assigned staterooms than a steward who services interior cabins.

On most cruise lines, a business card may be left in the cabin or in a holder on the wall giving the name of the assigned steward. This may also have instructions for how to contact your attendant with any questions, concerns, or requests.

Worth Reading: How Much Do Cruise Ship Workers Make?

All cabin attendants will speak English, but cruise guests should be aware that English is not likely their first language. When speaking with your steward, be patient and kind, use common words (rather than slang), and pronounce clearly so they can understand your requests and deliver the service you prefer.

Stateroom stewards do so much to make your cruise comfortable, relaxing and amazing – won’t you do a little in return to make their jobs that much easier?

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