Day 4- The Sign on Day

Nov 10, 2023

It was September 6, 2023. I was the only crew member in the hotel scheduled to join Margaritaville at Sea Paradise. Around 7 a.m., I had a nice breakfast in the hotel and went back to get my stuff ready in the room. I left my cozy hotel room around 9 a.m., and the driver drove me to the West Palm Beach Port, just a short trip away from the hotel.

Upon arrival, I saw three more crew members sitting in the chairs in the ship Terminal. Nearby, the passengers were ready to join the vessel. It took another 3 hours to join the vessel, and we waited from 11 to 15 hours to join the ship; after all the passengers boarded the vessel, I gave the crew purser my passport and stepped on the ship for the very first time. During the sign-on process, I felt thankful, excited, and focused. The contract that I signed with the company included solid monthly compensation, and I had the plan to save money during my 8-month contract and make a better life for my family after that. While working for the Carnival Cruise Lines for ten long years, I would feel welcomed while joining the vessel for the very first time. In that previous company, when you join the vessel for the very first time, there is a welcoming crew meeting where you feel important and part of the organization, even on your very first day. Here, my first day on Margaritaville at Sea was long and lonely. I did not even get my manager's number so I could contact him regarding my next steps, how I was to get my uniform or get my work schedule, or anything like that. For a while, I was just wandering around the ship and talking to other crew members. What was surprising was that all the crew members were telling me the same thing: "Why did you come here after working for CCL?" or "This is the worst cruise ship in the world, you will see...".

Well, I knew my goal, and I was not afraid of any challenge. At that moment, I was only focused on making enough money, completing my contract, and going home. However, above all my experience working on the cruise ship for a very long time, there were some significant and horrifying challenges coming my way...

Around 13h, I went to my cabin for the very first time. On the Cabin key, it was written 2651. The other crew and staff cabins on the ship were located on Deck 6 and Deck 9, and only some cabins were located below I95 on Deck 2 (below sea level). While I was dragging my luggage full of dreams towards my cabin, I saw something strange. In the corridor on Deck 2, most of the cabin doors were wide open. I could only guess that it was either because my neighbors were trying to get a better Internet connection for the Wi-Fi, or perhaps it was too hot inside the cabin, and crew members were trying to get some air inside the cabin. Cabin 2651 was wide open as well. Slowly, I came inside in an attempt not to wake up my new roommate. I saw the lower bunk bed occupied as usual, and my new roommate from the dining room was a restaurant waiter from India. His name was Michael. We had a few words exchanged, and he was a very nice man; he tried to make sure I felt welcomed as a new company member.

"What is this on the cabin wall, Michael"? I pointed to the large sticky tape that was placed next to the toilet door.

"The flies. There are millions of them in this cabin; that is my way to get rid of them, or at least to lessen their number.

It was very hot in the cabin. I was soaking in sweat during the 10-minute conversation with my new roommate from India, Michael.

"What about air conditioning in the cabin, Michael? Did you report anything in terms of that? Surely, somebody should be able to fix this problem, right?"

"No, my friend. All the cabins on this deck are without air conditioning. It's an old ship, and on a recent dry dock, this company only invested money to renew the guest area; nothing changed in the crew area. Most of the crew members would keep the cabin doors open at all times, you know... It's not easy to sleep here; it's like in the oven. You will see..." Michael said while getting ready to leave the cabin for his work.

With a short break to rinse his mouth while brushing his teeth in the small sink, he continued: "Well, that's only part of the reason why I resigned. I am going home in two days when we arrive back in WPB. It's been enough for me; even in the slums in India, there are better living conditions than on this ship. Anyway, it's better for you because you can take the lower bed. There are no metal stairs going on the upper bed anyway, as you can see. I am not sure how to get up on that bed, to be honest."

After saying that, Michael left the cabin.

I was struggling to adjust to the temperature in the cabin. I think it was 30 Celsius. Humid, no air coming from the small ceiling air conditioning system. There was no holder to come on the upper bed, and with the low ceiling above that upper bed, it was almost impossible to get up on that bed. In my previous company, the crew cabin was small, and you kind of expected that. But this was a different-level shoe box cabin. I was trying to find a space for my luggage when I noticed the sign on our cabin toilet. It was handwritten by my roommate Michael: "Do not open."

Hang on, mate. What do you mean by "Do not open"? I am a human being, so how about taking a shower to refresh a little? Or my other physiological needs? I was left confused for the moment but still decided to open the toilet door... And there was a bug surprise awaiting...