Ship Life - What It's Really Like to Work on a Cruise Ship

Cruise Ship - "Ship Life"Over the years, crew members have sent me lots of stories about what it's really like to work on a cruise ship. Lots of time they send photos and videos of the working conditions they face. 

It's not the pretty images shown to the guests who occasionally go on behind-the-scene tours. 

"Ship life" is how the crew members describe it.

I have shared some of these photos and videos on this blog from time to time.  

Like when MSC crew members were ordered to throw black plastic garbage bags into the sea at night. Or photos of trolleys of food, hidden from USPH inspectors, in the Silversea crew quarters.

Starting this month, I will begin to regularly post photos and videos sent by crew members to us showing the actual working and living conditions of the crew. The photos and video will be a glimpse into actual "ship life," like the incredible amount of cleaning that needs to be accomplished in the galley after the second seating is over.

The identities of the crew will, of course, remain confidential.  

See the photos here on our Facebook page.

If you are a crew member, feel free to send us your photos and videos.  Please don't get caught.  The cruise lines will quickly terminate your employment.

Muster Madness - "Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety"

This week I ran across a really interesting article by Karen Wormald who is an award-winning business writer and author, as well as a contributing editor to PC Solutions.  Her work has appeared in many publications including, interesting enough, Cruise Travel. 

Ms. Wormald had some very critical observations about the muster drills during a Carnival cruise she went on after the Costa Concordia disaster.  Her article is below and is worth reading a time or two. The intriguing thing about Ms. Wormald is that, certainly compared to me, she is a fan of cruising and is sympathetic of the cruise lines which have faced bad press this year, writing:

Karen Wormald" . . . in reality, cruising is FAR safer than virtually any land-based vacation. But every time there’s an incident on a ship, the media goes into a frenzy. People get norovirus and food poisoning every day in a LOT of places we never hear about.

Costa Concordia certainly deserved all the bad press it got, but something like 13 million Americans cruise every year and experience only a tiny fraction of the crime and injury experienced by people on land . . . "   

I don't agree with Ms. Wormald about cruise safety in general, particularly norovirus (which is primarily caused by contaminated food and water on cruise ships), but that's not the point.

Read her article about the life boat drill aboard the Carnival Glory, Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety, and ask yourself whether Carnival is ready for the next Concordia type of disaster? Ms. Wormald was nice enough to let me re-print her article:   

Carnival Still in Denial on Passenger Safety

"After Costa Concordia capsized in January, exposing slipshod safety practices that contributed to 32 fatalities, you’d think Costa’s parent, Carnival Corp., would be fanatical about safety now. Especially on Carnival line ships, whose Italian captains must overcome the shame of Concordia’s incompetent master, Francesco Schettino.

I just spent 6 days on Carnival Glory, and saw first-hand Carnival’s current safety measures.

My cabin TV welcomed me with a safety video on endless loop, with Captain [Italian Name] delivering the intro and closing. I must have heard a dozen times to look for crew members wearing green fluorescent caps in an emergency.

Glory was scheduled to sail at 5 p.m., with the lifeboat drill at 4:30 on Deck 4.

At 4:20, on Deck 8 I saw a crewman directing able-bodied passengers to elevators down to Deck 4 — it’s stairs-only in any emergency.

On Deck 4, this sign left the lifeboats’ exact location a mystery  . . .

Costa Concordia - Carnival Cruise Muster Drill

Part of the sign (below in yellow) was reproduced on walls throughout the ship, like it means anything . . .

Somebody finally opened the “Emergency Exit Only” door (forbidden for passengers), revealing the “secret” outer lifeboat deck.

This 952-ft. ship was divided into only 8 muster stations, 4 on each side, leaving wide open expanses with no signs (screw the near-sighted). Nobody knew where to go. At 4:40, a few young crewmen in orange vests (not green caps) began straggling in and herding us.

Costa Concordia - Carnival Cruise Muster DrillEach muster station was assigned multiple lifeboats, whose numbers were read to us later as an afterthought — as if anybody would remember them.

Now, let’s do the math: Glory holds 2,974 passengers and 1,150 crew, so each muster station must accommodate about 372 passengers and 144 crew (if they want to survive), or 516 souls in all.

I saw 2 crewmen at my station to handle that mob.

The drill/lecture was conducted from the bridge not by the captain, but by a young English-speaker. (Nor did the captain verbally preside over the 3 crew drills they presumably had during that voyage. I assume his Italian accent is considered a problem.)

On any other ship, an emergency signal consists of 7 short blasts followed by one long blast of the ship’s whistle.

Glory’s was 5 short, a long pause, then one more short, then one long.

The bridge voice kept saying drill attendance and our complete silence were mandatory. Then he’d go silent for so long, it seemed he’d forgotten us. In the meantime, we were just standing in silence, being told nothing on Deck 4.

Later I learned the protracted silences weren’t due to any sweep of the ship to get all passengers to the drill; I met a couple who stayed in their cabin. Nor was roll taken at muster stations to verify our presence. I’ve seen both procedures on other ships.

We didn’t wear life jackets, nor did anyone learn how to don and tie one because the crewman who demonstrated was standing in a dark area in the bow and made no effort to be seen. Lockers of life jackets lined the deck (locked, presumably, and I imagine rotsa ruck finding anybody with a key), but we were told to return to our cabins for our jackets in a pinch — because that worked so well for the obedient Concordia passengers whose corpses were found underwater in theirs.

The drill took 45 minutes, delayed sailing, and taught anybody NOTHING. If I hadn’t attended good drills on other ships, I’d have been irate.

Many passengers on Glory were taking their first cruise, and thank God it was uneventful, because if you don’t know how to save yourself on a Carnival ship, you’re doomed to a watery grave."  

Carnival's response:

Karen actually elicited a response from Carnival's CEO (something I have never received in my last thousand blogs) which you can read at this link

Your Time is Limited, Find What You Love - Rest in Peace Steve Jobs

Tonight I watched the news programs about the death of Steve Jobs, the college drop-out turned garage computer creator turned genius behind the Apple iPod, iPhone and iPad products and Pixar studio. 

Jobs had a almost Zen like approach to his iconic products and his life, as revealed during his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

At this time, he had already co-founded Apple and been fired by age 30, re-emerged for the renaissance of Apple's best days, and batted pancreatic cancer.  

At age 56, he tells the young graduating students some sage advise.  Find what you love in your life and in your career, and "love what you do." 

"Your time is limited."

"Don't waste it by living someone else's life."

For those reading this blog, take a minute and reflect on where you are right now.  Do you love your life and your job?   Are you really living your life?  

Or are you wasting your limited time here on planet Earth by listening to the noise created by others?  

 

Holland America Crew Member Killed In Life Boat Mishap

A 29 year old crew member died during a botched life boat training exercise in New Zealand today. 

According to newspapers in New Zealand, the accident occurred when crew members from Holland America Line's Volendam cruise ship were practicing life boats drills.  One of the wires attaching the lifeboat to the cruise ship snapped, throwing the two HAL crew members into the water in Lyttelton Harbor.  One of the crew members was rescued, but the other man who was wearing heavy clothing and boots went under water and did not reappear.  The crew members were reportedly not wearing a life jacket.

HAL has not released the name of the deceased crew member. 

January 9, 2011 Update:

We received a comment (below) from the Medical Officer on the HAL cruise ship, expressing his/her condolences.  We appreciate hearing from cruise line like this.  It shows compassion.  This is the first time in 500 blog articles that a cruise line has posted a comment on our blog following a crew member death or injury. 

A newspaper in New Zealand has a follow up article on the crew member death - "Liner Crew Traumatized by Shipmate's Drowning" - indicating that the cruise ship's 600 crew members were "obviously traumatised by the whole thing . . .  they all know each other pretty well, so they are quite upset."