Cruise lines wouldn’t be able to operate without the hundreds to thousands of crew members working hard behind the scenes to make every vacation as perfect as possible.

Working on cruise ships certainly isn’t the easiest job, yet eight loyal crew members have worked a combined 270 years onboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. In honor of their decades of service, these sailors have been awarded Norwegian Ship Owners Association Medals. 

With all their years of service combined, eight crew members have amassed more than 270 years’ worth of service on board Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ships. 

In honor of their loyalty and decades of hard work, the crew members were each awarded Norwegian Ship Owners Association Medals. The Medal is a prestigious award presented by the Norges Rederiforbund Norwegian Shipowners’ Association to honor significant achievements in the maritime industry.

The crew members were honored during the cruise line’s ‘Fleet in Funchal’ event on November 9, 2023, when three of the cruise line’s ships all docked in Portugal’s Madeira for a day of historic celebrations and entertainment. 

“We are incredibly proud of our wonderful team on board who, in turn, are proud to welcome our guests. To have so many crew members who have decided to spend more than 30 years of their career with us is truly special and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines would just not be the same without them,” says Pete Deer, Managing Director of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. 

Fred. Olsen Crew Members (Photo Courtesy: Fred. Olsen Cruises)

The longest-serving crew members, Victor Magbanua and Carmelita Lao, have worked onboard for 37 years each, joining the company in August 1986 and February 1987, respectively.

Jose Villalobos and Roberto Rebite also have had expansive careers, having both served for 34 years. The other employees celebrated all put in a minimum of 31 years of service and many have worked onboard all or most of the ships in the fleet. 

Working at sea certainly comes with perks, but it also has its challenges. Crew members work long hours and spend months at a time away from their families. Plus, it’s no secret that dealing with some cruise passengers isn’t always pleasant. 

Lao, who joined the cruise line during a hiring event in the Philippines, saw a career at sea as the best way to support her loved ones at home.

“I was one of the lucky ones who was chosen and was so fortunate to be able to provide for my family,” says Lao, a long-time room stewardess.

On average, crew members working for major cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian Cruise Line can earn an average of $16,000 to $20,000 per year, which is significantly more than many would earn annually in their home countries. For leadership staff, such as hotel managers, cruise directors, and captains, earnings may reach up to $100,000 per year.

Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock

Although employees may be spending most of their time away from their families, they do get the chance to travel the world. The opportunity to travel and work on ships is why Magbanua, an oiler, signed up for a life at sea in August of 1986. It’s a goal he accomplished working onboard all of the ships in the Fred. Olson fleet.

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“My favorite ship to work on was the Black Prince and New York is my favorite destination. I’ll be retiring soon so I’m enjoying my remaining contracts and will really miss working on board the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines fleet,” says Magbanua. 

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines currently has three ships in its fleet: Balmoral, which can carry 1,325 passengers and 537 crew members; Borealis, with 1,353 passengers and 642 crew members; and Bolette, with a 1,338 passenger capacity and 645 crew members. The former fourth ship in the fleet, Braemar, was recently purchased by Villa Vie Residences.

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