VIP International: Recruiter Profile
By Lucian Reed-Drake
When it comes to the world of luxury cruising, the guests certainly are Very Important People, so crewmembers and their hospitality standards are insisted to be of an exceptional quality. Step forward the suitably named ‘VIP International’, a worldwide cruise ship recruitment agency that delivers many of the finest hospitality and catering professionals at sea.
VIP International has been going since 1968, recruiting for the cruise, hotel and industrial industry all over the world. The cruise line division was first launched specifically to provide assistance in recruiting skilled personnel for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) and their inauguration of their first vessel in 1970. This specialized division has nurtured a well-recognised reputation throughout the industry with many of the major cruise liners.
With their head office in London and many other offices scattered worldwide, VIP International recruits over 1,000 people a year across all departments. This is the one-stop for a number of management level positions too, with which previous experience in the hospitality industry, on land and at sea, can really pay off with an exciting job abroad and an excellent salary.
Working Abroad Magazine spoke to Marco Mansouri, Chairman and Managing Director for the company, having worked himself for over 18 years onboard, and gaining a good reputation between many cruise liners. For contacts within the cruising industry, VIP International has its fingers in many pies. Year-round, they are recruiting for all the leading names including: Carnival cruise jobs, Celebrity, Costa, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, P&O and RCCL, as well as the smaller and more upscale liners such as Azamara, Oceania, Seabourn and Silversea.
The recruitment drive is ongoing and there is always a high demand for crewmembers. As an example, RCCL has 22 ships, one of which the Legend of the Seas recruits around 40 people. In 2009 alone, VIP international recruited 400 crewmembers for RCCL worldwide.
With such a catalogue of high quality liners and fierce competition for jobs, the main requirement that comes with applying with this agency, is experience. Whilst it is not essential to have previous shipboard experience, candidates are preferred to have 3-5 years experience relative to the position they are applying for, ideally in a 4-5* hotel or a Michelin Restaurant.
The other pre-requisite is that you must be at least 21 years old, and able to speak, read and write English proficiently, since English is the first language onboard. Previous experience working abroad and additional languages are not essential, although a great selling point, and will give you more of a chance to find a quick departure.
Successful applicants can expect a contract of 4-6 months, with a 2 month vacation in between and the possibility to renew the contract as many times as you would like. Make no mistake, it is hard work, and you can expect to work up to 70 hours a week. There are also start-up costs involved, including £75 (US$120) for a C1D Visa to permit crew to travel via the US, as well as £300 (US$450) for a full medical check up which is valid for two years. Some companies require the crewmember to pay for the cost of the flight to join the ship, although this is not always necessary as it depends on the company.
A factor that makes VIP International stand out from some of the other cruise recruitment agencies, is that they do not ask money from the candidate to find them a job, whilst in other parts of the world the candidates usually have to pay the agency for their services. The candidates don’t pay any finders fee, instead the agency pre-arranges the contract and a flat fee with the cruise liner direct.
In return, you can have an amazing time eating and sleeping for free, as well as travelling to some of the world’s most exotic ports of call, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean and South America, or from Australasia to Asia, and beyond. Marco claims many find the best part is the people you meet and the atmosphere onboard, “you can learn a lot about other cultures. We also say it is like a really good school where you can learn a lot professionally.”
The salaries vary according to the position and level that you work as and also depends on the company and experience you have. The great thing about working abroad on cruise liners is that your salary is tax-free and once on board you can save most of your money since all of your living expenses are covered.
If you have never worked on ships before, in some cases the candidate might have to accept some time to be hired on a lower position than they might have had on land. This is in order to adapt to the different (and more difficult) working environment and often an increased number of guests that you may be used to. Yet there is soon potential for career progression onboard. If you are motivated, you have a real opportunity of promotion much sooner than you would on land. You can even be promoted after just one contract! There are also opportunities for well-experienced hospitality professionals, since VIP International also has a number of high-level cruise jobs.
The cruise industry, their products and clientele are diverse, and with such a wide range of jobs and companies associated with VIP International, it is always worth applying. Marco has told us that there are different types of ships and each company has a different way of working. If you do not pass the first interview, the door is always open with VIP International. Marco says that “sometimes it’s a no for one of our clients but can be a yes with another. Also when we can’t accept an application if the candidate has a lack of experience, we welcome them to come back and reapply when they have improved in a year.”
So the burning question…how to apply? Well you can send your CV via email to [email protected]. Otherwise the doors are always open in their offices to pop in. Check out www.vipinternational.co.uk for more information on contact details and for upcoming interviews and current vacancies.Best of luck and Bon Voyage!