Your observer has just returned from a 15-day cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii and back via Mexico.
Most of the crew seen by passengers (housekeeping, food service staff and deck attendants) are from Eastern Europe. South America and Asia. It appears we get these reasonably priced holidays because the companies are able to employ cheap labor. There are no labor laws at sea but at least they have jobs.
I have it in my mind that for crew members the ships are prisons. Employees are there for up to 10 months at a time, must be on the ship every night and can get off, if at all, only for a few hours at a time. (Fifteen days was too long for me.) On a previous cruise a number of workers said they were going to do just one more contract. We didn’t hear that this time.
The length of contracts varied from six to ten months and appeared to vary according to where the person came from. People from Eastern Europe appeared to have six month contracts while people from the Philippines are Asian countries were on the ship for 10 months. No one was able to explain the difference.
At least some of the workers from Eastern Europe had degrees. Two girls from Ukraine had degrees in international economics. This world needs people who understand economics more than it needs waitresses or hand washing police.
(With 2,600 passengers and 1,100 crew in a small space hand washing to prevent the spread of disease was very important. A major concern is the buffet where many people handle the serving utensils. Therefore a disinfectant station and an attendant were placed at the entrance. On returning home I read an article about concerns for a world pandemic. Perhaps we do need more hand washing police. But do they need to be trained in economics?)
There’s an ancient American law, to protect the railways from competition for passengers, which prevents foreign ships from carrying passengers between American ports. Therefore our ship stopped for four hours in Ensenada, Mexico.
There are several things which make cruising a nice holiday.
Gambling. I figure the casino is a form of entertainment and for most people no more expensive than attending a symphony concert. Even so we tried to avoid walking through the casino.
Food. There is lots of it, some more healthy than the rest. The assistant cruise director said the number one thing you don’t hear passengers say is “I am on a diet.” A guy in the elevator said “I haven’t eaten for an hour.”
Entertainment. There are lots of games, contests and entertainment. Many different types of music, much of it too loud for me although the volume was down one notch since last time. The ventriloquist pointed out the Captain was doing eight wedding vow renewals in one day to which the dummy replied, “I didn’t know they expired”
Socializing. We enjoyed chatting with strangers at meal time. Most of the tables were for six and as a lot of people were traveling as couples, a lot meals were shared with others.
Family. For us it was an opportunity to visit with my step-son and his wife, both of whom are entertainers on the ship. (Their contracts are for five months.)
This was not the holiday we would have chosen for ourselves but we did thoroughly enjoy it.