Discrimination at sea

Mar 13, 2023

Discrimination on board the ship was visible through the bizarre way of dividing all crew members into three categories: officers, staff, and crew. 

Yep, it doesn't sound apparent. Generally speaking, most of the officers acted like they were the most important people on the planet. Of course, officers have big, specious single cabins that do not lack anything in lifestyle. They have a superior dining room in a crew area. Nobody else can eat there besides them. There is an exceptionally equipped kitchen and a personal chef cooking the best dishes in the world to satisfy their appetite. Officers also have their servers in the officer's mess; the assistant waiter provides them service during dinner time. A particular member of the housekeeping team is cleaning the officer's cabin. Officers have all guest area privileges, meaning they can easily walk around and mingle with guests, which is what they do onboard most of the time.

Meanwhile, security officers on board the ship were given straightforward instructions- If they saw an officer flirting with a guest on board, they should close their eyes and not report anything. In that case, breaking the company policy is not a big deal, unlike with other crew members, where all policies would usually be implemented strictly and on the spot, with no delay. For some unknown reason, ship culture is established so that all it matters is your position. It will determine your status and life quality onboard the ship. 

In the second group, there are staff members. Most people who have never worked on the ship probably wonder what the difference between staff and crew is. It's a huge difference. Staff members are part of the entertainment team on board, dancers, Spa team, gift shop, and Management. Staff members have much bigger cabins compared to the crew members. A housekeeping cleaner also changes their dirty linen and cleans their living places daily. As well as, officers and staff members have a dining room where delicious food is prepared daily. Staff members have a guest area privilege, meaning they can enter the guest area anytime, eat the food in the guest buffet, and order a drink in a guest bar without special permission. They can also watch the comedy show, enjoy trivia, or play sports on the open decks. 

Now, the third group is where I belong, crew members. 

Crew members on board were some of the following departments:

Housekeeping ( between 50-80 people)

Bar department( between 80-110 people)

Dining room team( between 80-110 people)

Laundry attendant( between 10-20 people) 

Those departments were the true engine of the entire cruise industry, the real heart of the company force. Yet, crew members had the worst treatment on the ship because of enormous discrimination. 

We had the smallest cabins onboard. If you are claustrophobic and want to work on a cruise ship, please do yourself a favor and look for another job. The world has no smaller cabin than we have on the cruise ship. Speaking about survival tactics in small places, what made a significant difference is that I went to work on the cruise ship straight after finishing my military service. That certainly shaped me and prepared me for any upcoming challenges. Often, there needed to be more space in the cabin just to put two pieces of baggage. One bag usually has to go underneath the bed, and another one often stays floating in the middle of the cabin, tightened up with some shoelessness to avoid movement when the ship is rocking. Also, crew members eat in the crew mess only; they cannot eat in the officer mess, staff mess, or guest area restaurants.

 What was remarkable was that I had gotten in trouble eating in the staff mess a few times, located just next to the crew mess. 

That happened on the day when I was working on the pool bar on deck 10. My break was only from 11 am until 1130. From deck 10 to deck 0, where the crew mess was located, it took me nearly 10 minutes to arrive, especially on the busy sea days when elevators were continuously busy, going up and down non-stop. When I finally reached the lineup in the crew mess, it was already 1110. The buffet line was huge; all housekeeping and dining room departments seemed to eat simultaneously. If I decide to wait in line, it will take me another 30 minutes to get my lunch, and I will be late for duty. Instead, I decided to go around the corner and eat in the staff mess. It was not busy over there, and I intended to grab a few chicken and broccoli pieces to run back to work. Suddenly, someone approached me. It was a food manager. " Excuse me; you are not allowed to eat here; you are "just" a crew member, not a "staff member," he told me firmly. " 

Aren't we all crew members on board, Sir? What's the difference, if you don't mind me asking? Well, then, I guess I will stay without lunch for the day because, in the crew mess, there is a line from nearly 50 crew members; I have only ten more minutes of my break remaining." I replied, disappointed.

The food manager did not seem to care at all. It was 1120 am already, and I needed to return to work. Hungry and tired, I returned to complete my 14 hours working shift that day.

The crew members face more brutal discrimination on board the ships than the staff and officers. It's not really about what you do; your position and title will determine protocols and procedures. Ship politics are like that. If you are trying to complain about it, nobody cares. It's how they say to us, "take it or leave it." I am not expecting some red carpet when I come to work on the ship, but this is too much. The same company policies and protocols are implemented unfairly with a different approach, deepening on position or title.