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What does a Cabin Steward do?

By Tara Barnett
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A cabin steward is an employee on a ship who is charged with keeping rooms tidy and ready for passengers. These employees typically work on cruise ships, as this industry has the greatest need for passenger and room services. In addition to cleaning the rooms, keeping beds tidy, replacing towels, and other basic services, the cabin steward also may provide information to guests and improve their experiences on the ship. All employees on a ship should be trustworthy, but as a cabin steward is often in a passenger's room, these employees must be particularly friendly, honest, professional, and polite.

In general, a cabin steward is primarily responsible for the upkeep of a set of rooms, most often in the same general area. This means that the steward is usually available in a predictable area to help guests, deliver towels or clean sheets if requested, and enter rooms to clean up in unobtrusive ways. Cleaning the rooms without disturbing the luggage or possessions of guests is the major portion of the cabin steward's day. In addition, a steward might help with carrying luggage to rooms or other minor jobs around the ship.

A cabin steward often must predict what a guest will want as well. If, for instance, one cabin seems to be using a lot of towels, an excellent steward may leave more towels to compensate. When special preferences are known, such as a child's favorite animal or an adult's favorite food, a steward might fold towels in the shape of that animal or provide subtle tips on where to find that food onshore. Sometimes, making small gestures for guests' enjoyment can result in gracious tips for the steward. It is customary to tip a steward, often on the last night of the cruise, in an amount appropriate for the caliber of service provided.

Working as a cabin steward often involves encounters with people of a wide variety of nationalities and backgrounds. This job requires professionalism, but a truly great steward must have intercultural skills and mastery of a variety of languages. The steward must be able to make any guest feel welcome as well, no matter how difficult he or she may be. Given how servile this position can be, this is not a good job for people who have difficulties putting up with difficult people.

Often, cabin stewards work intensive schedules for a period of weeks and then have a long period off. This means that working weeks can be very stressful with little time for relaxation. While other jobs on the ship, such as bartender or entertainer, may be more glamorous and allow for recreational time, service jobs on the ship usually are very hard work. This is not a job that is suitable for a person who simply wants to travel because one will not have the opportunity to leave the ship at port. It is, however, an excellent job for a person who needs to save money, as room and board generally are included, so money earned can be taken home.

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