Cruise West

I see job vacancy announcements for Cruise West on some of the popular maritime job boards and all over the web as well, but have never met anyone who has worked for this company. Does anyone know anything about this Cruise West? With the maritime job market so depressed(depressing) many of us are exploring all avenues possible for employment.
Thank you in advance.

[QUOTE=CapnGeorgeT;22392]Does anyone know anything about this Cruise West? With the maritime job market so depressed(depressing) many of us are exploring all avenues possible for employment.
Thank you in advance.[/QUOTE]

I’ll take the 5th. But, I will provide a few links for your viewing pleasure:

Spirit of Glacier Bay

Spirit of Nantucket

Spirit of Alaska

Spirit of Columbia

Spirit of 98

And those are just off the top of my head…

Take that with a grain of salt, however, Capt. Fran. A high accident rate (and I’m not saying that this necessarily qualifies) doesn’t necessarily mean that you are an unsafe company. Some times the nature of your work causes stuff to get broken. If you’re always in the shipping lane with tons of water below the keel, you’re not likely ever going to bump anything. If you’re running tight, shallow waterways, you’re eventually going to bump.

Examples from my career of similar events. I’ve driven crewboats for the oilfield in the past. If a yacht owner saw a list of all the damage and repairs we’d done to our boats, he’d think, “Wow, these guys sure are dangerous!” In the meantime, each boat is working over 300 days per year with heavy stuff being lifted and set on deck. Some ports require you to run through shallow bays which during a low tide can cause bent wheels. The work boats don’t run those bays or go to those ports because they can’t get there. Are they safer necessarily? I’ve seen lifts dropped, rails crushed, wheels bent, lines parted, and bits bent. That doesn’t mean that I was reckless or unsafe. It just means that the nature of my work will cause that to happen eventually.

Alternatively, I’ve guided in rivers of remote SW Alaska. Some rivers are very deep and wide, and you run prop outboards in them. You never bump bottom, damage your boat, or bend a wheel. Other rivers are shallow, fast, and technical, and you run jet outboards in them. You often bump bottom, suck gravel, and damage your boat. That doesn’t mean that the guys driving jet boats are dangerous, or that they’re poor boat drivers. It’s just what happens in that line of work.

I know nothing about Cruise West, but you might be giving them a bum rap.

I called them a few years ago. They are extremely low paying ($150/day 2007 dollars) for captain. Because of the low wage they are often the first job for someone directly out of the academy who is eager to get a captain job on his/her resume.
Having worked in SE Alaska for 20 years or so we always learned to give them a wide berth because they hit a lot of stuff that shouldn’t and wouldn’t be hit by a properly seasoned mariner.

That ad has been there for quite some time. I’m nervous about places with semi-permanent help wanted signs.

BMAG- that pay for captain seems a little low.

I worked for a competitor in SE Alaska- and much of our crew was for Cruisewest- everyone from dishwashers to a former Cruisewest Port Captain. Also know some of there land based people- such as bus drivers.

Entry level deckhands made $110 plus tips as of Summer 2008 (last time I asked)

From my conversations with fellow crewmembers/friends who used to work there- pay was about 10% lower than hours across the board

Based on our pay -I’m guessing entry level over there pay is-

OS- $110
AB (special) $145
Bosun $180
Mate $220
Captain $300-$400

Similar rates for engine people…

Hotel positions- utility galley (dishwasher) , housekeeping, server, etc. were generally at/near minimum wage plus tips. (There was talk of them changing to daily rate for some of these)

Not great pay- but perhaps that’s why they are able to stay competitive.

Cruisewest seems to be growing- while other US flagged companies are either gone( Majestic America, Clipper, RiverBarge) or greatly diminished -NCL America)

I believe that Cruisewest just runs the ads perpetually- whether they need help or not.

OP-there’s a Cruisewest Group on Myspace- you might try to contact employees through there…


In July of 2008, First Mate’s pay was $240 a day- I didn’t accept the job!

seeing as Capt. Fran took the 5th…then just maybe…if it shits through feathers, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it just might be a duck??

**sorry I just couldn’t resist!!

Yes indeed it was a low wage.

Perhaps my dates are wrong and I probably called them in 2005. Their wage was below my minimum at the time.

I think if they were paying $400/day for captain they would fill that position pretty fast these days.

What I do know however is that when they wrecked in Alaska it always seemed to be a recent academy graduate at the helm.

[QUOTE=bmag;22478] What I do know however is that when they wrecked in Alaska it always seemed to be a recent academy graduate at the helm.[/QUOTE]

Nope. In all of the incidents I listed, with the exception of Spirit of Columbia, guess who was driving. Yep, the Captain.

Yup. The Captain at the helm. Your list of incidents is not comprehensive. I know , with a 100% degree of certainty, of other incidents where the Captain was a recent academy graduate.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise either. Wages in the pleasure boat industry are always lower and don’t attract more experienced people who are used to higher pay.

My cook’s wife was, until last year, personnel director at a different company that rivaled Cruise West. She told me directly that they recruited from the academies. I had no reason to disbelieve her

I went to one of their job fairs last spring…It was one of those group interview formats that I can’t stand, but I was already there and decided to stay…

FYI…The Capts and Mates don’t interview this way, I was applying for deck hand/boat operator position…

I came away with 2 opinions…

One, the pay is very low.

two, they make it very clear that they navigate their shallow draft vessels in close to land so the passengers can view the wildlife…They specifically stated that if they see something of interest,they get in as close as possible…With this policy and the large range of tidal variances it’s no wonder they bump a few bottoms…

Before being too critical of Cruisewest you have to consider the whole picture. They are cruising in areas where the charts have been shown to be inaccurate or non existant, however if they ignore the chart I am sure the CG will find more blame than by using the chart and finding a problem. Specifically thinking of the Spirit of 98 incident where the charts were changed to reflect the “New” found rocks. Also CG has in recent years really got heated up on the Pilotage requirements and is enforcing this in the small cruiseship industry. However even here there is an issue due to the nature of the “Up Close and Personal” nature of the company. Either they get up close and risk problems or they stay in the known pilotage waters and offer no more than the “Big Ships” they are competing with. I also think there is an attitude of trying to outdo the other small ships up there, by getting closer etc than the competition. Though I cannot say if this is a company thing or a Captain thing.
I am more familiar with the case of the Spirit of Nantucket in Virginia, the ship hit a submerged object in the marked channel. I would argue that this was not the Captains fault. CG investigation actually complimented the Captain on his actions. This one was in the ICW in an area I know well.

All in all if they are hiring for 2010 then give it a shot. Its better than not working.

In any case I did a check on NTSB website and did not find any Cruisewest incidents that were investigated going back to 1990. Other Small Cruiseship operators had incidents investigated. That implies to me that though they have had a few incidents, they were not considered so serious.

I have lived in Alaska and navigated these waters without incident my whole life. When I think of Cruise West I envision the Spirit of 98’ sitting on its chine on the well known rocks of Tracy Arm. Most of the rocks that they have found have been well know charted obstructions. I have personally worked for NOAA updating Charts in the “Unknown Waters” of Southeast Alaska. If you dont know how to read a sounder and read shorelines you shouldnt be at the helm. Cruise West has always been notoriously low paying and has a huge turnover rate. I have worked for a wildlife tour company for the past 12 summers getting close to wildlife, Glaciers, and into unknow little fjords. The nature of the work is keeping people safe, not on the rocks.

I made the mistake of working for Cruise West last summer while I was waiting for the CG to finish with my upgrade paperwork. Signed on for 6 weeks as a 2nd mate and upon arrival was told it was 8 weeks. Pay was terrible, and only the Capt and Chief Engineer have their own rooms. As a Mate, while in port you stand gangway watches because the deckhands are cleaning the boat.
In regards to the previous posts about CW’s track record with groundings, the two main factors are the fact that the charts are old, and the glaciers have been receding more quickly. That doesn’t exempt the fact that sometimes the Mates wanted to show off and get up close and personal with a mountain goat and ended up aground. ( This was the Glacier Bay last summer. I was on the Yorktown at the same time and know the whole story). Also, CW does hire a LOT of new Mates, because they pay so low and people will take anything to get their foot in the door or because they knew it was a sure thing while awaiting something (like myself).