Work on a cruise: my experience taking the STCW course

Study abroad - cruise ship STCW

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Working in a cruise is a job that will give you a broad range of opportunities to travel all over the world while meeting a lot of people, earning a good salary and saving a lot of money because you won’t have to spend it on accommodation and food. If you want to do this kind of job, one of the steps will be to obtain the STCW certificate. 

In this post, Carla Scaltritti from Argentina tells us about her experience taking the STCW course over 2 weeks (10 days, Monday to Friday) in Buenos Aires, Argentina at Scholorum Nautas school (this course could last a minimum of 5 days in other countries) and her experience working at a top cruise company for 2 years.

Although Carla took the course at Scholorum Nautas school, this course is internationally standardized and this post will give you a very good idea of what you are going to experience if you take the course at any school around the world.

STCW certificate - Cruise ship work
One of my STCW certificates
CELTA - TEFL - Teach English Abroad - International House Cape Town - South Africa
Ready to travel

If you are not very familiar with this kind of certification let me give you a brief summary of the most common terms:

  • IMO: International Maritime Organisation
  • STCW: Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping

Here are some important points to consider regarding STCW:

  • STCW is required to work on any commercial vessel at sea (superyachts, cruise ships, and offshore vessels).
  • STCW is the minimum legal requirement for all crew and is essential knowledge used to protect the lives of crew and guests onboard.
  • STCW is internationally recognized and meets all international standards prescribed by the IMO.
  • STCW course lasts only 5 to 10 days (depending on the school you take it), in which you will learn Marine Fire Fighting, Elementary First Aid, Personal Safety & Social Responsibility + Personal Safety Techniques.
  • When you search online for the course you will usually see “STCW 95/2010 (Manila)”. The 95 means that the course is compliant with the 1995 revision made by the IMO. And the 2010 means the course is compliant with the new set of amendments adopted in Manila in 2010.
  • The course is offered at many schools all around the world.
  • STCW course has to be renewed every 5 years, or you have to show that you have at least 1 year of service on board vessels (of 200 grt or more) within the last 5 years.

Now, Carla will tell us about her experience taking the STCW course. What was her application process like? What was her experience like? Why did she choose Buenos Aires city to take the course? What did she like and didn’t like? What are her recommendations?

If you want to ask questions to Carla, you can send her a message on her Instagram or Facebook!

If you love traveling with a purpose, I recommend you to check out the blog and the following sections where you can find out more:

Also, you can find applications for scholarships, internships, job positions, volunteer projects, contests, entrepreneurial support and virtual courses in the Scholarship Finder!

Visiting Austria while working on a cruise

1. Characteristics

  • Type of program: study and work abroad
  • Location:  I studied in Buenos Aires, Argentina at Scholorum Nautas school; which is recognized in Argentina by the “Prefectura Naval Argentina (P.N.A.)”. But most probably you can find a school in your country when you are searching on the internet.
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • Age: you must be at least 18 years old.
    • Nationality: nationals from any country can participate.
    • *There is no minimum English or educational level.
  • Duration: an STCW course lasts 5 to 10 days (1 to 2 weeks considering is taken from Monday to Friday) depending on the school you take it; my course lasted 10 days.
  • Finance: an STCW course costs from 250 USD to 600 USD depending on the school and country you take it. In Argentina, it cost around 250 USD on Scholorum Nautas school (2018) depending on if you have the Seafarers’ Identity Document (SID) or you have to also process it. And I also had to consider accommodation, transportation tickets, and food expenses because I took the course outside my city.

2. Application Process

a. Enter Scholorums Nautas website

On, read the description of the course.

b. Contact Scholorums Nautas team

You can send an email to

c. Collect the required documents

Scan and send ID or passport, a receipt of payment and picture.

d. Plan your trip

Do some research to find your transportation tickets, accommodation and solve any question you could have.

3. My Experience

a. My story

I have always liked to travel and live abroad! I was studying English Translation in Argentina but I got tired of it because it was getting very difficult; so I decided to quit and embark on an exciting new adventure working on a cruise ship.

b. STCW Course


The course lasted 2 weeks (Monday through Friday) and it was highly intensive and rewarding. I had to attend school daily from 9:00 to 13:00 hrs. the first half, then a 1-hour lunch break and from 14:00 to 18:00 hrs. the second half.

Work on a cruise ship world
Working on a cruise


The components of the course will vary according to the school where you study but generally it includes:

  • Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting course.
  • Personal Survival Techniques (PST) course.
  • Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (PSSR) course.
  • First Aid / CPR (Basic First Aid) course.
  • Crowd Control
  • Emergency Management
STCW certificate - Cruise ship work
Fire prevention


Some of the most common questions I’m asked are:

  • Did I have Written Exams? Yes, I had 6 written exams, each one after finishing each subject.
  • Did I have Practical exams? Yes, I had 2 practical exams, for Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting we had to show that we knew how to use fire extinguishers and for Personal Survival Techniques we pretended to be in an emergency in a pool to throw inflatable boats and try to make groups of people and float.
  • Can you fail the STCW course? Yes, you can fail it but in general its easy to pass if you pay attention in class.
  • Can you take the STCW course again? Yes, but of course you will need to pay the full price again.
  • Did you get a grade? No, you just pass or fail.
STCW certificate - Cruise ship work

The other trainees

In Scholorums Nautas depending on the subject you are taking, you could see different students. For instance, there were students from Petroleum áreas in some courses because they have to take the same subject. So, the other trainees had different ages, backgrounds, and objectives. They were friendly and it was interesting to take the course with them.

Work on a cruise ship travel world
Working on a cruise

The instructors

All the instructors were friendly and professional and they tried to explain the course in a clear way so we could have all the tools to pass it.

Work on a cruise ship travel world
Working on a cruise

4. The location

Why Buenos Aires?

I chose to study in Buenos Aires because this is the most popular place to take the course in Argentina and therefore where more dates are opened. There are other cities in which you can take the course like La Plata, but you would have to wait longer till a group of students is created to take it.

I am originally from Catamarca and I had to take a bus (16 hours, 1,130 km) because taking a domestic flight in Argentina is quite expensive.


I was staying at a Hostel that was located 5-minutes walking from the school and next to kiosks where I was able to find a lot of prepared food; this was very useful to eat something fast and quickly but also sometimes I cooked dinner.

STCW certificate - Cruise ship work
Buenos Aires
STCW certificate - Cruise ship work
Buenos Aires

5. General Opinion


  • International work opportunities: the main advantage is that I was able to get the STCW certificate in a short period of time (just 5 to 10 days), and it has given me many job opportunities to work in cruise ships.
  • Traveling and exploring: I stayed a total of 20 days in Buenos Aires so I was able to visit amazing places in that city.


  • Expensive course: one of the disadvantages is that it is an expensive course (from 250 to 600 USD) but you have to consider that you are obtaining in just 5 to 10 days a certificate that will allow you to have a formal and well-paid job around the world.
  • Difficult tasks: some tasks were more difficult to perform as the practice in the pool if you are not a good swimmer.
  • Intense but rewarding: the 2 weeks that the course lasted were intense as we had classes from very early in the morning until the afternoon.
Work on a cruise ship travel world
Visiting England while working on a cruise
Work on a cruise ship travel world
Enjoying drinks

6. Earning a cruise ship job

After you get the STCW course, you will be able to work on any superyacht, cruise ship, and offshore vessel.

Generally, obtaining the STCW certificate will be the last step after you earn your job contract. Otherwise, you may end up spending money on a certificate and then not finding a job. For a complete overview on how to earn a job on a cruise ship and travel the world you can read the post: My experience earning a job on a cruise ship and traveling the world

  • Cruise companies: there are a lot of cruise companies in which you can work being Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and MSC cruises the biggest 4.
  • Job Websites: some websites where you can find jobs are: and
  • Salary: you will generally earn in dollars and salaries are usually between $1000 USD p.m. for a bartender to $2000 USD p.m. at the reception. And you will also have to consider that you will not spend money on accommodation and food (you will only have to buy water in the cruise and an internet package, if you want to) so you’ll be able to save money and travel around the world.

In the Study Abroad section, you can find more experiences of success cases winning scholarships to study abroad! If you had a similar experience and want to inspire others to apply please send an email to

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Study abroad - cruise ship STCW

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1 Comment

  1. josh
    28/09/2018 / 2:38 AM

    can you pls give the links for the cruise-ship company,s links?

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