Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Cruising the Mediterranean, Day 9: Messina

October 18th, 2019 · No Comments · tourism, Travel

This was the catch-all day for things Sicilian.

Want to see bustling Messina? Today is the day. Intent on having a look at the self-impressed cliff-side mountain retreat Taormina? C’mon down. Fancy a peek at a smoking volcano? Etna isn’t all that far, is it?

The voyagers on the Celebrity Constellation awoke today to find their ship tied up at a dock just a few watery miles from the Italian mainland.

Messina is not really a destination; it is a jumping off point for Sicilian food and wine and culture.

I spent a total of about 25 minutes ashore. I saw Taormina once before, and thought it was interesting — till the cruise-ship people showed up in their hundreds and swamped the town.

Which is why I am going in a different direction today: Wondering what goes on below-decks on a major cruise ship.

What does the crew do when not dealing with customers?

The Constellation reported a crew of 999 people on the cruise we took — or one crew member for every two passengers.

What do all those crew people do when they are not being obsequious or passive-aggressive or sarcastic … while dealing with annoying customers?

I saw a handful of crew on the ground in Messina, and as usual they appeared to be traveling with at least one co-workers.

Cruise-ship crew seem to travel in groups mostly of their own ethnicity/nationality. Which makes some sense given that the crew seems to be from the same handful of countries.

Filipinos are a significant fraction of staff on the Venice-to-Rome cruise we were on.

After that, the most significant number of staff appeared to be from Slavic countries — Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine … but there were many others.

We had a dining-room waiter from Pakistan, another from Indonesia, a third from Mauritius … Crew making up rooms came from North Macedonia, Malaysia, Cambodia …

Whenever we walked past anyone on the crew, we were sure to receive a hearty “good morning” from them, or something similar. Everything we asked would be accomplished, every interaction was cause for amusement. It was awkward and not genuine, but that is how we do it on cruise boats.

I would like to see a tell-all book with life on board one of the bigger cruise lines — like Celebrity.

The crew is seldom seen when not on the job. They must have little hidey-holes to disappear into when they go off shift.

I assume they bunk in the lower reaches of the ship. If the paying customers go no lower than level 2, then the crew must be on level 1, or lower. Under the water line I would guess.

If two passengers are jammed into a tiny room, the crew must get even less space. Four to a room, with two bunks added to the two beds?

Do they eat fresh food or do they partake in the enormous mass of leftovers at meal times?

How many are involved in relationships that may not jibe with what happens in their public life? What do they aspire to, as fathers, mothers, dutiful sons and daughters. What do they do in their down time?

We know that they spend big chunks of the year on board, dealing with customers they must often hate, in part because they are forced into servile roles even when they might speak five languages.

I wonder about stuff like this and I wonder when someone is going to write the tell-all book.

I am told that books of that sort already exist. I am not aware of them, but I really would like to see one. “The Americans are over-familiar, the Brits are the most demanding, the Euros are the most demanding, etc.”

What this happens to do with Messina … well, it’s nothing, other than I saw a few young women walking together, and they were heading back in the direction of the ship, and I was sure they were crew members.

I like to think the crew is well-treated by management and paid a living wage, given that they are the intermediaries between the company and the customers.

But they also might be “trouble makers” who fool around with other crew, perhaps drink when they should not, who insult passengers and make a point of slow service.

It must be hard for them to organize against the cruise management because they hold jobs all over the spectrum. Some guys work on the engines. Some are in the kitchen. Some are on the bridge. Some take care of the pool, others give massages, cut hair, wash windows, clean up the gym every day, work in the security detail, try to sell passengers on future cruises …

Anyway, I’m ready for the book. I bet the reality is even stranger than fiction. What goes on when the crew disappears?

Inquiring minds, and all that.


0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment