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Cruise Ship Workers, Abused?

#1
Just got back from my first cruise on Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas. One bright spots on the ship was the service we received from 4 people: Our Room Attendant, Waiter and assistant Waiter , in the main dining room, and one bar tender located on a pool deck neat out room where we got our soft drinks. We were able to spend some one-on-one time with each of them at various points during our 1 week trip and got to know them a little. At least enough they all know us on first name basis and shared personal information about ourselves.

I had heard from the rumor mill here and there that the cruise ship workers made very low wages, worked very long hours, and over long period of times. To what extent I did not know until talking with these 4 wonderful young men and women. To say the least I was a bit shocked.

Each of them had the same story with respect to pay, hours, and contract term. As for pay they each received depending on exact position anywhere from 30 to $45 USD per day, work depending on job anywhere from 12 to 14 hours per day 7 days a week. They al have 8 month contracts and work for 8 months straight followed with 2 months off. After 2 months if the Cruise line liked their work they can go on another 8 month contract.

All of them are young in their 20’s, and come from mainly either developing countries like India, Philippines, China, and Mexico. I was appalled and ask them if they ever got a chance to get off the ship. They all said yes if they are willing to give up their sleep and rest time. In fact we did see one of them on Nassau at a little bar/grill we visited and asked him to sit with us. Had a nice conversation with him and paid for his lunch.

The saddest story we heard was from our room attendant. On our third night was my wife’s birthday and I had a cake made for her to be served in the main dining room. It was a huge cake and we ended up taking it to our room. I called the Room Attendant number to ask for ice because I knew Sheba would be the one to bring it, and we wanted to share the cake with her and tell her what a good job we thought she was doing.

When Sheba arrived about 2 minutes after calling, we invited her into the room for cake. This was about 7:45pm. She was really happy we took the time to invite her in and share cake. She stated she had not eaten since noon and was not scheduled for a meal until her shift ended at 10:00pm if she was caught up turning down beds. She said if she got caught eating in our room, she would be in serious trouble. We assured her no one would find out. She was from the India and had a two year old baby who was being taken care of by her sister in India. We asked her how she could stand to be away from her child so long. The answer was sad and warming at the same time. By working 2 terms she would earn enough money to build a real home for her whole family and enough left over to last for some time.
Sheba’s story was not unique as the other 3 said something similar in that they could work a couple or 3 years and earn enough money to build homes and support their families. I was caught a bit off guard because how could they earn enough by only making around $40 per day. The answer was the tips us customers pay for their service , and the horrible economy of their native country.

Anyway after we talked to Sheba, shared our cake with her, and assured her she would be rewarded, needless to say the service was kicked up a couple of notches. For example our bathroom and room had plenty of towels sculpted in animal forms hanging everywhere, ice bucket was always full round the clock, a handful of chocolates on each pillow every night, bottled water, and fresh fruit baskets every morning.

So the moral to this story, be sure to tip the service people appropriately as it is there main source of income. Somehow these people are able to serve graciously under extraordinary poor working conditions (illegal in the USA) with a warm smile. :clap:

Thanks for reading.

Dereck
 

Luci

Well-Known Member
#3
Yes, it is true that the cabin stewards work many hours on the RCL ships. This is why I tell the cabin stewards not to be cleaning my cabin twice a day and that I don't need the cutsy towel animals. I try to be nice to them and I tell them in advance that they will get their full tips at the end of the cruise. I sometimes take them gifts that I buy in the ports. They do have it hard and they love the gifts and the tips too. I feel so sorry for them.
 

Corky

Well-Known Member
#4
No, derekbc, to answer your question: They are not abused.

Do they work hard? Yes, they do. Do they sign on for a contract? Yes, they do. Do they know what the working conditions/hours are? Yes, they do. Do the Stewards go on break for at least 3 hours during the middle of the day? On our last Princess cruise they did. And, I am pretty sure that on a lot of cruise lines the Stewards have a mid-day break. And during this time, if you need anything that the Steward would normally bring, you get it through room service.

Are they making more money than they had ever hoped to make? Yes, they are. That is why the good ones stay on for 10, 20, 30 years. Just like any good worker/employee connection.

A job, is a job, is a job, and it turns into what one makes of it. It can become nothing but drudgery, or it can become something fun that one enjoys. And if one doesn't enjoy it, one can quit.

p.s. We always tip extra to our steward. We always tip extra to servers throughout the ship, ie...Horizon Court and Bar servers. And to our waiter and waiter-asst. Only once or twice have we withheld EXTRA tipping...but never their normal tip.

Ok - off my soapbox...Happy Day!! :sunny:
 

Gayle V

Cruiser's Compass Editor
#5
Hi Dereck,

What Corky didn't spell out, about the amount of money they make, was that the seemingly small amount they earn with the tips included, often converts into a very substantial amount of money when they take it back to their own country.

Just think about what you said in your own post. Your room stewardess :
By working 2 terms she would earn enough money to build a real home for her whole family and enough left over to last for some time.
Heck, I can't think of any job in the US were I could work 12 hours per day, for only 16 months and have enough to buy even the most modest home, much less have anything left over. It would be tantamount to winning the lottery. If you know of job like that, point me to it.

For that matter, I work with other nurses who work 12 hour shifts,frequently times putting in stretches of 7 or eight days, without a day off. They do that, continuously, month after month, year after year, just to pay basic bills for their families. And no end in sight for them. Their houses won't be paid off for thirty years. Are they abused, well actually I'd say yes,but most people don't realize it. And most won't feel sorry for them. But that's another story entirely. Suffice to say, I don't feel sorry for the crew on the ships. I appreciate the work they do, and tip well. But is it abuse. No way.
 
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Corky

Well-Known Member
#6
Gayle - I agree with what you say. Also, one of my GF's is a surgical nurse and from the time she goes into work, until she gets off from work, most days she gets no lunch or break. She as well has a 30 yr mortgage, is putting 2 kids through college, has a car payment, etc. Is she abused? Not that I know of. She does get tired, of course, who doesn't in their job, but abused? No, she is providing for her family. Just like any worker, any where, is. :doubleup:

Man, working two 8 month shifts and being able to afford a house. I am thrilled for this young woman and thrilled that she is able to provide for her family, and thus, being able to make a better life for them, a better one than what maybe she had. And in no way am I comparing the USA with India. There is no comparison.

p.s. while on a cruise, or even in a hotel, we always tell our room steward/hotel attendant, that he/she does not need to come in and clean every day. We are neat and tidy people and can make our own bed and can hang up our own towel - just like we do at home. We keep the Do Not Disturb sign in the door, unless we want service.

Ok - off my soapbox again. :biggrin:
 

PEB

Well-Known Member
#7
Can crew members make good money when they work on a cruise ship? Yes they can if they work hard, just like any job. Do crew members work long hours? Yes they do, just like many people who work on land, however the crew members day is broken up right around the clock. The crew member may have a couple hours off here and there but they may also work days, afternoons, evenings and nights in a 24 hour period. If a crew member is a member of the fire team or first medical responders team they do NOT get to leave the ship very often. They must be on call around the clock and do not get as much time off ship as other crew members. Do crew members work long contracts? Yes the length depends on where they are from and the rules of that country. Some crew members will work longer contracts to gain longer vacations. Just like many jobs the longer you work the more vacation time you can build up. In other words some crew may be on a ship for more then a year working 7 days a week. Does a crew member have privacy? No not unless they are the highest ranking officers on the ship. Does a crew member get to talk to or see their family every day or so? No they will call home when they have the time available, the money available and can figure out the time difference from where they are to where their home is.

I loved working on a cruise ship and hope that someday I may be able to do so again. The hardest part is being away from your family for long periods of time. If there are problems at home you are not there to help you have very little you can do to help back home. Another hard part is working every single holiday and watching passengers have great times with their family and friends on holidays.

The best part of being a crew member is meeting new people from all over the world. Getting to travel all over and see new things when time allows. Above all the times you get to see a passenger happy because they got to do something they thought they might have never done and they want to let you know your effort to help them have a great time actually worked.

Working on a cruise ship, like any job, takes people with a certain attitude to make the job work and the cruise an enjoyable experience for both passenger and crew.
 

ShipMaven

Forever Remembered
#8
I sat on my hands last night when I read the article, and am glad others chimed in.

I would imagine a few crew members will consider themselves "abused" just as some complain if their mode of transportation to work is more than a block away (this used to happen frequently in NYC).

It must be borne in mind that most crew members of foreign-flagged vessels come from areas of the world whose standards of living are not equal to those in our country. But to them, working on a ship - hard as that work can be and with long hours - is FAR better than what they could have at home. Of course it's difficult to be separated from family, but what about our own Troops who are deployed overseas, not even knowing if they'll be alive to return home.

Through my many years of travel, I've had the opportunity to visit behind the scenes on a number of cruise ships - toured areas not shown to passengers in general. I'll simply leave it at that... Bless all those behind the scenes who make our cruises and ocean voyages special - but they're not pistol-whipped, downtrodden slaves.
 

Jeanie

Well-Known Member
#9
I sat on my hands last night when I read the article, and am glad others chimed in.

I would imagine a few crew members will consider themselves "abused" just as some complain if their mode of transportation to work is more than a block away (this used to happen frequently in NYC).

It must be borne in mind that most crew members of foreign-flagged vessels come from areas of the world whose standards of living are not equal to those in our country. But to them, working on a ship - hard as that work can be and with long hours - is FAR better than what they could have at home. Of course it's difficult to be separated from family, but what about our own Troops who are deployed overseas, not even knowing if they'll be alive to return home.

Through my many years of travel, I've had the opportunity to visit behind the scenes on a number of cruise ships - toured areas not shown to passengers in general. I'll simply leave it at that... Bless all those behind the scenes who make our cruises and ocean voyages special - but they're not pistol-whipped, downtrodden slaves.

Totally agreed ,, I could not think of anything to say, so I just said thank you..
 
#10
Hey guys please stop sending me emails on this subject telling me how wrong I am. If you have something to say, make it public as others have done.

With that said it appears many of you took what I said wrong. I should have phrased it better than I did. It was not criticizing the employees, it was admiration for their hard work trying to make a better life for themselves. Secondly it was to point out how hard these people work for you and how important our tips and gratitude are too them . A few got that point while others did not.

I regret I did not express my thoughts and feelings better to reflect my intent. But I will not apologize as my intentions were for betterment and welfare of the employees...
 

Corky

Well-Known Member
#11
Secondly it was to point out how hard these people work for you and how important our tips and gratitude are too them .
Sorry, dereckbc...but we are all Seasoned Cruisers, Seasoned Travelers...and Seasoned Adults :biggrin: . We know how hard people work and do not need to have this "pointed" out to us.

And, yes, maybe you should have worded your Thread differently. Lesson learned. :doubleup:

Now - how about we let this matter go and talk about the good stuff in life....cruising!!! :smile: Is that good with you? You are still looking for a cruise right? One that is "almost" kid free, or, if not kid free, then one that is not geared as much towards the kids as your 1st cruise was, but more towards the Adults, right?

I think you've been given some good advise on looking at Celebrity & Hal...and possibly even cruise companies like Crystal, et al. Have you looked into any of those yet?

We love cruise planning here at C@'s...and so many of the C@'s can answer "just" about any question you may have about a cruise line/ship...so you don't pick the wrong cruise line/ship again. :cheer:

Although, having had said that, mind you that cruising is not for everyone. I have one sister who would never cruise, and I have one sister who did it one time and never cares to do it again. I think I must have been adopted. :biggrin:

Happy Day!! :sunny:
 
#12
You are still looking for a cruise right? One that is "almost" kid free, or, if not kid free, then one that is not geared as much towards the kids as your 1st cruise was, but more towards the Adults, right?
Yes I am still looking and have found a few already. I do not mind a few children, just not a ship with 1/3 of 18 years old or less, and more port intensive.

For example I find that Princess sails out of the same port as AOS on a 7 day East Caribbean Cruise just like AOS even some of the same islands. Difference is Princess has 5 ports with 1 full day at sea, vs 3 ports and 3 full days at sea of AOS. Something like that sounds perfect. It gives me the days to go ashore, come back for a brief nap around the pool, go to dinner followed by a show with a nice lounge or club for a night cap. Get up the next day and repeat at a different port.
 
#13
Sorry, dereckbc...but we are all Seasoned Cruisers, Seasoned Travelers...and Seasoned Adults :biggrin: . We know how hard people work and do not need to have this "pointed" out to us.
Not all are seasoned, you get newb's like me here to learn.

What is embarrassing is I am a very seasoned traveler as my job has taken me to all of the 50 states and many countries. Wife and I have traveled quite a bit for pleasure usually 2 or 3 times a year for the last 20 years. However it has always been via plane and we usually stay a week or more.

This trip was unique. We had never ever been on a cruise ship before. Been on yachts for a day trip or deep sea fishing, but never a cruise. Like I said in many post we did not have much of a choice as it was to take my MIL on what is likely her last cruise ever. We went with a group tour with everything handled by a TA, even had a host from the TA with us.

Looking back our biggest mistake was not knowing to make all the special restaurants and show reservations 3 months in advance. No one warned us. From what i gather AOS is a unique case where the ship is just too darn big with way too many passengers. Like I said in another thread it was like checking into Circus Circus Las Vegas with no exits. :(
 

Corky

Well-Known Member
#14
Well, derekbc, we all have different expectations, needs, wants, not only on cruises, but land vacations as well. You seem to want a Port intensive cruise. Me, I like it about 1/2 sea days and 1/2 port days. Our friends who cruised with us in Jan...loved the fact that we had 9 ports on a 14 day cruise - and, they would have liked more ports!! I would have liked 7 ports, 7 sea days. Or, a port every couple of days... :biggrin:

I do have to agree that the AOS is too large. We sailed on the Mariner of the Seas, she is at 140K ton and I say never again. But I probably will someday. If I ever have grandkids, that is. Personally, we like the 70K to 90K ton ships.

Hopefully you'll find out there what you are looking for in regards to cruising, but then again, you may find that it just wasn't your cup of tea. And hey, that is okay too, as long as you are having fun, that is all that matters. And, you're not at work. LOL
 

Happy2cu

Well-Known Member
#15
I understand what you are trying to say Derek - we have also talked to different crew members and after listening to their stories, have felt bad for them, because we know if it were us it would be a very difficult life. Maybe you could have phrased your statement differently as you said, but I'm surprised at the response you got on the board. Just want you to know that "I get it".
 
#16
One of my favorite part of any cruise is talking with the crew. They generally try so hard, and are so personable. Yet turn around and do it week, after week. I have always heard horror stories about cruise wages. Yet honestly every crew member I ever talked to, really enjoyed their job for the most part. Most did have some pretty great stories though. Apparently a lot of drama happens in-between crew members.
 
#18
One of my favorite part of any cruise is talking with the crew.
Yep that was one of my highlights of the trip talking to those fine young folks.


They generally try so hard, and are so personable. Yet turn around and do it week, after week. I have always heard horror stories about cruise wages. Yet honestly every crew member I ever talked to, really enjoyed their job for the most part. Most did have some pretty great stories though. Apparently a lot of drama happens in-between crew members.
Here is my take.

Every crew member I got to know, 4 of them, all had the same common theme;
  • Young.
  • From underdeveloped county of origin.
  • 8 month contract.
  • 12 or more hours per day.
  • 7 days a week, no days off...

I am a biz owner (engineers with with PE License) and my wife is a doctor (OB/GYN). We both work our tails off with long hours and most folks would call us well off.

I hope that makes it clear. What I am trying to say about these dedicated young people trying to make their lives better is; I ADMIRE IT. So i rewarded them beyond what was expected. If someone on your next cruise stands out, take notice, talk to them and I bet you will see the same traits I did. That is from a newb cruiser.
 
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Kathyh1313

Well-Known Member
#19
Hi Dereck- I think it was your choice of the word "abused". And from your subsequent posts you regret using the word. I appreciate that. My DH worked on cruise ships for many years and loved every minute of it. He missed it quite a bit when he left the ships.

He came from a "developing" country where to work on a cruise ship was considered the pinnacle! He made significantly more money and to him it was worth the sacrifice of the time away from his daughter.

In his country they have a phrase, "accept and bless". I love the sentiment. It is hard not to take our "world" and our values and place them on others. Their living environments cannot and should not be compared to ours.

I'm happy you shared some time with them and appreciated what they do to make your vacation more enjoyable.

Happy cruising, Kathy
 

ShipMaven

Forever Remembered
#20
Thank you for your very valuable input, Kathy. And please thank your DH for the time he worked aboard ship to give us passengers such wonderful experiences.