"Seeing the world and having the opportunity to work in a busy kitchen make this a very attractive job," says David Rowell, 29, speaking of life as a sous chef on board the QE2.
For those who want experience and a taste of the sea, cruising could be the answer. As there is no income tax to pay and very little to spend money on, saving is easy.
But the glamour of cruising soon wears off with the first bout of bad weather, when sick passengers, not sick crew, take precedence. Up to four months on board, no days off, long hours with no overtime, and no opportunities to get away from it - all are definite drawbacks.
It is necessary to adapt to life at sea, says Kathy Dougan, who trained as a chef at college in Milton Keynes but now works as a cabin stewardess on the QE2.
"It is different from a hotel. On a ship, the ship is your life. At home, in a hotel, you have a life other than work. This is a way of life, not just a job," she says.
Both Dougan and Rowell say the social side of working on board is excellent - the QE2 has its own staff pub, club, mess and a separate lounge for senior crew - but those seeking more intimate pastimes should be warned.
"There is very little privacy. There is nowhere to go to be alone. If anything personal happens it is around the ship in no time," says Rowell.
On the QE2 most staff share a cabin with one other person, although kitchen staff from the rank of sous chef up have private cabins. Even then you can hear what happens next door, confirms Rowell.
There are several financial plusses for life on board. If you comply with Inland Revenue rules regarding time spent in the UK each year, the salary is tax free. And, like those who live in hotels, there are no bills or accommodation to pay. For a sous chef the monthly salary is US$3,080 - straight in the pocket.
For Rowell, the busy kitchen, with its many international influences, is also a learning experience and presents opportunities that would not be available elsewhere. When the QE2 does her world cruise, guest chefs are taken on board in Australia, India, Hawaii and Indonesia to cook local cuisine.
Rowell has worked in all four of the ship's kitchens and is currently in the Lido, which provides buffet-style breakfast, lunch and midnight meals. His day starts at 8am and he works through until 3pm. Free time depends on his duties at the midnight buffet, where preparation begins at 7pm. Being on duty at the buffet means he starts at 9pm and finishes at 1am.
Vital for survival
Time off means he can sleep, and this, he says, is vital for survival. "You see some people come on board who last for only one contract. They are the ones who burn the candle at both ends," he says.
Despite her chef training, Dougan prefers to work in the cabins, saying the gratuities make it worth while, and she avoids the hot work and long kitchen hours.
Peter Walker, from Glasgow, has succeeded in pacing himself for six years. He is a barman in the Queen's Lounge, where the QE2's top-paying customers relax before meals. Walker is in complete control of the bar, responsible for stock control, which is checked before and after each port of call. The day begins at a civilised 10am with a four-hour shift. He returns at 5:30pm for the long haul to 1am, when he can close the bar.
An added consideration when tending bar on board is making sure bottles and glasses don't slide off counters and shelves in rough weather. The rolling of the ship does not affect Walker, Rowell or Dougan. All three claim never to have suffered from sea sickness.
The QE2's luxury status means staff are generally experienced in cruise life. Many also have hospitality training. Both Rowell and Dougan have worked on other ships for a couple of years.
Cunard provides training on basic sea survival tactics and ensures kitchen staff are aware of the very strict health and hygiene regulations on board. As an international vessel it not only has to meet UK standards, but also those of the countries where it docks. But most training is on-the-job, in at the deep end, says Rowell.
Being thousands of miles from home, often in warmer climates, can make employees forget the vagaries of the UK weather. "One winter there were reports of record cold in Glasgow," says Walker. "There I was sailing south and worrying about burst pipes!" When he made a panic call from New York his neighbours assured him they had the situation in hand.
And QE2 experience looks good on the CV. Walker thinks it will stand him in good stead when he starts thinking about returning to work on dry land. "I am 36 now and I want to do something else before I am 40. Having been here for six years I have saved quite a few bob, I could take a pub tenancy," he says.
Most staff do not intend to make a career on board but, after a couple of stints of four months on, one off, it's not hard to get hooked. Rowell says he would not have seen this as a viable career option two-and-a-half-years ago. But returning to dry land would probably mean a step down the chef ladder. Yet, like Walker, he knows he will one day return to dry land. He was born in Britain, but has spent most of his life in South Africa, where he returns when he takes leave.
"When I go home, I enjoy the break, but I cannot picture myself getting married and having children yet. Working with different people and seeing the world expands your mind," he smiles. "But I'm sure I will reach that point where I have to get off the ship."