Anyone who has been on a cruise vacation knows that the last day is often spent a little sad, as you realize that you are about to disembark and leave all of the fun and luxury of the cruise ship behind you. Many will sip that last fruity drink while relaxing on the deck and contemplate just how exciting and wonderful it would be to never leave the ship. The idea of signing on as a crew member sounds exotic, romantic and even sensible for a few brief minutes. But then most of us return to reality. However, for those who are thinking about spending a year or two seeing the world from a cruise ship, you might want to think again. It is not the life that we all saw in the far from realistic “Love Boat” television show.
One of the toughest jobs on the ship is that of a galley utility worker. These are the folks who are toting heavy trash bags, washing dishes and cooking equipment and cleaning in tiny enclosed spaces with some very strong chemicals. The water can be scalding hot, there is not much if any ventilation and they have nothing but a basic uniform which offers no real protection. And to make this worse, the shifts are often 12 to 14 hours each day for as long as a month straight without a day off. And for all of this hard work, these workers are earning, on average, less than $700 a month. And yes they don’t have to pay rent or buy food but they are also living in nothing more than a bunk in a room with several other workers and eating food that is nothing like what the guests are eating.
Room stewards also have a very tough job as they are expected to clean up to 20 cabins in just three hours. In addition, if there is an issue with one of the cabins that they cleaned, they must go and correct it regardless of when the passengers call to complain. The room stewards have set shifts, but are also considered to be on call 24/7 when there are guests on the ship. And again, these workers are making less in a month than most workers in the United States make in a week.
When on vacation, it is understandable that cruise passengers want to relax and enjoy every minute of the cruise. But it is also important to realize that the people who are working on the ship should be treated with respect and appreciation for all that they do and the conditions in which many of them must work. A simple smile and word of thanks can do more to make a crew member’s day than you might ever imagine.