Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cruise Casting

A cruise has this way of demarcating two populations of people: those who serve and those who receive. I had forgotten just how clear that dividing line is.

There are approximately 2,500 passengers on this Royal Caribbean cruise. To serve them are 700 staff members from 62 countries. They live on the underwater decks of the ship in the equivalent of their own little town, never being allowed to use the facilities used by the guests. They are allowed a few hours off each day, but for much of the time they are working hard.

Their constant goal is to make the passengers happy and thereby maximize their tips. This means cleaning up after the teenagers who leave dirty dishes next to their lounge chairs. It means snapping photos for guests. It means putting up with loud, obnoxious passengers who have had way too much to drink. It even means making cute animals out of towels and leaving chocolates when they come into our cabins in the evenings when we are at dinner.

This idea of being waited on is never more obvious than at mealtimes. I barely sit down to dinner when our waiter Sandro puts my napkin in my lap. He cheerfully reels off the “entries” as he calls them with a big smile on his face and goes through the motions of serving a 3-course meal each evening, knowing full well he has to start all over for the 9:00 pm seating.

I’m sure many of these people from the 62 countries had never been out of their native country before signing on with Royal Caribbean. Even though they probably aren’t paid extremely well, relying to a great degree on tips, they are undoubtedly making more money than they ever before did and sending a lot of it home to family.

But it’s this caste system that makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. I like to think of all people being equal and this is definitely not the case. I suppose I was just not cut out to be royalty.

1 Comments:

Blogger Steve said...

To draw a parallel with my own life: People in New York always think it's so wonderful to have a doorman. But I think it would be bizarre. I can't imagine having someone PAID to open the door for me, and hold my packages, and stuff like that. Strange! (Needless to say, I live in a non-doorman building.)

I'm glad you've been able to post during your trip! I didn't think to check until today, and I've missed so much!

3:44 PM  

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