Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate, through metaphor analysis, the complex nature of the work undertaken by waiters and pursers on-board cruise ships. This is an under-researched field and empirical research has produced some interesting perceptions that these groups of workers have of themselves, of others, and of the world in which they work and live.
Design/methodology/approach – A total of 20 semi-structured interviews were conducted over the telephone from a sample of international participants. The datawere analysed using a metaphor analysis.
Findings – There were three clusters of metaphorical illustration found: metaphors of the ship, metaphors of the environment, and metaphors of their occupation. The metaphors of the environment were split into two sub-clusters. One explored how participants understood the ship’s space or work setting, and the second identified the strategies used as participants negotiated their way through their working and social lives. The stories collected from the workers have produced a very different but realistic perspective of the working lives of waiters and pursers.
Research limitations/implications – Metaphors can only offer a partial view of a social phenomenon, rather than an all-encompassing view, which are furthermore specific to the research setting. Notably, for half of all participants English was not their first language, and consequently this may have had an impact upon their use of metaphors.
Practical implications – This research highlights the socio-employment relationship and complexities of working on cruise ships. In particular, it recognises behavioural learning practices and organisational bureaucratic utilities, which the industry relies upon for managing employees.
Originality/value – This study contributes new knowledge in an under-researched context exploring the sociological lives of hospitality cruise ship workers. The use of metaphor analysis has provided an interesting and useful route to extend understanding of cruise ship work.