Couple of things- IF you can find someone to sponsor you (hire you) for PMI/ Mitags you may get paid a lot more while going through the programs(s)
The two cadets who I have asked about pay made $120 and $180 (a day)respectively. Versus a couple hundred a month cadet at Piney Point. In other words- they made as much per week as an SIU cadet gets a month:)
As far as housing- I know a kid who traded working the desk at a hostel a few hours aweek- for a free bunk- and I know another guy who did part time work on an old boat- for free rent. I’ve gotten free rent in Hawaii in exchange for doing house work for older folks- found the gigs on craigslist.
Also- you don’t have to pay all that money upfront. You can pay some ($4k-$5k?) upfront- and make enough for your next payment while working/learning on your company vessel.
Mate pay isn’t good? Huh? It’s better than AB Special pay!
Sometimes- it’s MUCH better. Especially if you have towing and other endorsements. If you have a mate’s license you can sail as AB- but not vice versa.
OP- as far as American Cruiselines- you might be able to get them- or Cruisewest to sponsor you for PMI once you have some time on deck.
Cruisewest- and small cruise ships in general- have a HARD time getting entry level mates who will work for them- and have practical experience.
PMI has had cadets on cruise ships for Lindblad Expeditions, Majestic America- and perhaps others.
In this economy- if you have zip for experience- Cruisewest and American MAY be the only ones who will hire you for deck- it’s a lot easier to get a job once you have a little seatime and experience.
I don’t know much about the qmed program- but I sailed with an Aux Watch on the Ocean Phoenix who did it- he liked it.
For anyone reading- if you are under 25- you can get a FREE AB (special) or QMED through Job Corps in Astoria Oregon- they pay for everything- even housing.