Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Smiles: Not Thai, But In The Neighborhood...

Being the sometimes shamelessly intrusive picture taker I can be I didn't show people on my vacation cruise any mercy, so here are some examples of the folks I met while at sea - many from a wide variety of places. The young man above is from Jakarta and was shivering at 09:00 the morning I found him on duty on an outdoor area of the top deck, despite his heavy fleece top. There wasn't a passenger in sight, but he said he was going to be there for another four hours, until he was relieved at lunchtime. He said that the "wai" gesture is also used where he lives; something I didn't know.

The Filipino cabin steward below was part of a "towel art" demonstration; sort of terrycloth origami, if you will. He's holding up his version of a komodo dragon, festooned with ribbons.

As you've already read, due to the norovirus scare the dining room stewards were taking extra precautions, wearing and changing latex gloves regularly (wouldn't you love to have that concession contract with a cruise line or three?), and you can see a couple more of them wearing them below. The two on the right had duties that didn't involve actual food handling.

There was more of a divers group on this cruise than I've seen in the past; more European and Eastern European and not as many Filipino and Indonesian, so there was an interesting mix of entertaining accents.

My cabin steward spoke fluent English and shared many stories of his life growing up in Bulgaria. He was due to go back when we docked back home, and was more than ready to see his wife and daughter after being on duty seven days a week on the current six month contract, with precious few days off ashore. It's far from an easy life for those working hard to see to it the passengers rarely lift a finger. At a monthly salary that's little more of an insult they are happy to see tips at the end of the cruise. They also share in a pool automatically charged to each passenger's tab of $11USD per day, as do the other less-visible personnel, such as the dishwashers, laundry workers and the likes.

The last picture today shows two of the reception staff. Normally there were four or five on duty at any given time, but during embarkation and disembarkation they had a dozen or so at their terminals, typing away and trying to resolve the inevitable issues and the likes.

They're a hard-working bunch - all of them that I encountered, anyway. They're a large part of what makes a cruise such a care-free experience, and they do it with a smile.


Anonymous said...

What's the off fee on that rig?


khunbaobao said...

LOL Let others here know if you find out ;-)

Sam said...

I really like the wai - and the Japanese style bow. It's a nice bridge between a smile and a handshake. I'd like to adopt it in the West please... we could do with a little civilising I think!

Back to seas, when I went my first ever cruise last year I was surprised to learn of the crew to passenger ratio. If I remember correctly it was something like 1 crew member to 2 passengers. That's a lot of people sharing those pooled tips. And my naivete was thoroughly uncovered when I found out how few days off they have during their stint aboard. I think my cabin steward had none.

khunbaobao said...

In some situations here at home (in the West) I'll do the smile and slight bow myself - especially in a setting where I don't want direct contact, such as in a hospital. If you don't offer your hand to shake most will respond to the acknowledging slight bow, I've found.

Re: crew to passenger ratios, you're about right, on average, and true days off aren't common. Breaks between shifts are, though, and some groups take turns covering for members of their group to have a day offship in port.

Wages ARE low, though. It's kindest to tip thoughtfully, I think.