- J. Alexander of “The Shiplife” was working on a cruise ship when he started his YouTube account.
- Today, he takes about 20 cruises a year and works full time on the channel.
- “My job is literally vacation,” he said, adding, “The hardest thing is finding the balance.”
This is an as told essay based on a conversation with former cruise ship crew turned YouTuber J. Alexander, who runs the channel. The Shiplife, with over 195,000 subscribers. This essay has been edited for length and clarity.
I never expected this to happen. I’m originally from the south side of Chicago and didn’t go to college. Ever since I was a child, I wanted to travel, but my parents didn’t have the money to travel. But I became a professional breakdancer in high school.
I ended up working for the Harlem Globetrotters for six years, first as a dancer and finally as an international tour manager. That’s when I got a taste for travel and realized it was what I wanted to do.
I realized that working for a big company wasn’t for me, so I quit. After that, I became an Uber driver and was trying to make it in the entertainment industry. A guy I knew who worked for Norwegian Cruise Line happened to be looking for an African American hip hop dancer.
Next thing I knew I was performing on a cruise ship in a room full of Broadway types. Podcasting was booming at the time, so one day I brought my iPhone 6 into my room, put it on top of a book, and started talking about what. First day is like working on a cruise ship.
From Cruise Crew to Cruise YouTuber
I thought I would probably get 100 views on YouTube. When I woke up the next morning, it had nearly 30,000 views. So I just kept doing it. I have my room, my crew, my big cabin, Boardroom.it’s broken how much money can you make. And the channel continued to grow.
Initially, I used Uber between cruise deals, but I used Google AdSense on my YouTube videos to make a good side income. In 2020, when the pandemic began, we heard rumors from cruise ships that hundreds of people had the novel coronavirus and were discussing sending everyone home.
Next thing I know, my channel has exploded.
In 2021, when the cruise ship industry was making a comeback, I started hopping on every ship possible as a guest. I spent most of my money on cruise fares to create content. In the end, I got a sponsor who paid about half the cost of the cruise in exchange for your support. I no longer work for a cruise company, but in 2022 I was able to work full time on my YouTube channel.
Last year we took 22 cruises. It will probably be 30 years old this year.
take a vacation for life
I jump on all the new cruise ships coming out of the big ones, and in the meantime throw in cheaper and more interesting cruise ships, such as German and British cruise ships.
Being on a ship already on board is much more relaxing.But if I ride new cruise ship Creating very detailed reviews and videos can be stressful. I try to do as much research as possible beforehand, and when I board, I need to check every element of the ship. But I’m passionate about it and interested in it, so I don’t see it as a big deal.
I now make a lot of money by living a so-called “millionaire lifestyle”. I’m not making millionaire-like money—that’s more money than I thought I’d see in any job—but I have time. I can go wherever and whenever I want, and I have the time and the space to do so, which is just unbelievable to me.
For me, work is literally a vacation. We drink, eat, and meet people. I try to interview at least 100 people per cruise. The hardest part is finding the balance. It’s fine to hang out and buy drinks, but you need to know when to leave and work.
I have never taken a free cruise from a cruise company so I can look at my videos objectively. I talk about good things, bad things, and ugly things. I’m not afraid to go on a cruise ship and say “entertainment is not so good”. But being a crew member first puts you in a very real state of mind when you’re on the ship.
I always encourage people to travel and take cruises
Now when you get on a ship, a lot of people know me from watching my videos. If it’s a crew member, they’ll even say they considered applying because of my video. If it’s a passenger, say they saw my content and finally decided to book the cruise.
It warms my heart. Because, outside of cruising, I love traveling. I believe travel is the greatest teacher and the world would be a better place if everyone traveled. I have visited 78 countries now. I have traveled to all these places and seen all these wonderful things. It changed my whole perspective on how I see things.
I always tell people, “Hey, go on a cruise.” This is a lovely, safe and hassle-free way to travel. You can try out a few different locations and return if you like it to really get to know the area where you spent the three hours.