As mentioned in the earlier posts in the series, working on a cruise ship has amazing benefits but significant pitfalls as well. It wasn’t all peaches and cream, unfortunately.
Post #shiplife (the clever little hashtag to encompass the enormity of ‘working on a cruise ship’), people will ask, “What were the best and worst parts?” Answered simply: the crew and the guests. This always gets a laugh, since my job was literally to hang out and have fun with the guests, so saying I hated them was like saying I hated my job. I didn’t—I just relished in the fringe benefits more.
Not all the guests were awful; some were wonderful and had amazing life stories that brought tears to my eyes. It’s just, the ones who were awful… are literally some of the worst people I’ve ever come across in my life. And that’s putting it mildly. It’s as though these people think that by spending thousands of dollars on a vacation, a hall-pass to be actual monsters comes free with purchase. You, as crew, are no longer a human being to them and are one of two things:
A.) An unfortunate part of the scenery that they can’t get rid of.
B.) A vessel onto which they can unload ALL of their worldly displeasures, ranging from things that aren’t actually problems (”What do you mean they only have buffets for lunch? I hate buffets and wouldn’t have booked this trip had I known.”) to nauseating racism (”Who’s in charge of all of these [ethnic slur]s? Have guest services call me immediately.”)
It’s mind-boggling, disheartening, and exhausting to see such shit-baggery in the wild.
Let’s end this bullet-point with an amusing anecdote: I was helping a guest with Bingo. She paused in the middle of her question, shifted in her seat, and let rip the single loudest fart I’ve ever heard. She grunted an ‘Excuse me,’ and went on like nothing had happened. I tried so hard to give her the benefit of the doubt (hey, I get gassy, too), but oh my God the smell.
As ever, you have to smile through it all.
Saying goodbye to your new friends and loves
There was a certain sense of urgency when it came to relationships between crewmembers. For good reason, too: everyone’s hailing from all corners of the world, but only for a limited amount of time. At most, you get a couple of months together, and after, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever see each other again. Every element of relationships/friendships was intense. What would naturally blossom between two people at a leisurely rate of months or years is crammed into whatever amount of time your two contracts overlap and you’re on board together.
The seasoned veterans of #shiplife were used to it, but I wasn’t. The first hit came when I was transferred after only five weeks on my first ship. I’d just come to have close friendships with my teammates, roommate, and other crewmembers—and now I had to say goodbye? It was vastly unfair, and I cried a lot… and had to do it all over again when my contract ended on my second cruise ship. More tears. The idea that this is the last time you may see these people haunts you. Luckily, the magic of Facebook means I can maintain a group chat with Scottish and Brazilian and Dutch friends with ease, but still, I maintain that life would be better if you and all your friends just lived (not worked!) on a cruise ship together.
“What did the crew eat?” Short answer: Whatever they could. There were 60+ nationalities to appease, so it was a sampler platter of world cuisines in the mess. That may sound wonderful to the adventurous, but keep in mind the quality was, at best, ‘cafeteria grade’. The crew menu was on a two-week rotation; I saw (not necessarily ate) the same 14 dishes 14 times throughout my contract. I’m not a picky eater by any means, but the ‘things a Midwesterner without a highly nuanced spice-palate would eat’ weren’t much. That’s a fancy way of saying salad and pasta. I normally keep low-carb, but with the limited options, I probably ate more pasta in seven months than I have in the past three years.
When we were in port, all bets were off. The splurging on local restaurants/resorts was intense and real. We went out in droves, born of desperation to break up the blandness and monotony the food on board. Ordering platters of shrimp fajitas and margaritas in Cozumel like they were going out of style certainly didn’t help with saving money, but when you’re in survival mode, all bets are off.
Still worth it all, I say. Like I mentioned in my last post, you either adapt or quit. And sticking with it paid off tenfold. Plus, if nothing else, it’s a good ice-breaker to say, “What do I do for fun? I worked on a cruise ship.”
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