Sleeping with customers, taking drugs on the job and making friends in the onboard sex dungeon. Just regular cruise ship life, according to Paul Hyatt*. He should know – the 26-year-old from the American Midwest spent two years on the open seas before chucking it in, working as “fitness and recreational staff” for a major Caribbean cruise line. It was his first job, and it was a baptism of fire.
“I only slept with five passengers, but everyone else slept with loads,” he told The Independent. Guests, he says, would regularly come onto him, sometimes admiring his tattoos, sometimes stalking him on Facebook and often outright propositioning him.
“It happened all the time,” he says. “One day I’d be the young personal trainer giving yoga classes to a rich middle-aged woman, the next I’d be the guy with tattoos on the activities deck. I got a lot of attention.”
He had no qualms about getting involved with passengers, despite sleeping with guests being a sackable offence. “I was there for the experience, not to make a career of it, so any chance I got to test what I could get away with, I did,” he says – and adds that it’s exactly the same for any cruise worker who doesn’t want to be there for life. Those who do make a career of cruising tend to play it safer, he adds.
Hyatt didn’t half test the limits. Not only did he have sex with guests (staff quarters or on unpopulated decks are best for this, he says), but he also took drugs, buying cannabis and LSD in ports (“they’re easily got hold of”) and bringing them back to the ship. Crew search the bags of everyone coming onboard, but Hyatt says LSD was simple to disguise. As for the cannabis: “I used to put bags of weed down my pants.”
He’d get high in his cabin – windowless, below sea level, sharing with a stranger who always bagged the prized bottom bunk (more space, and easier to have sex in) – to while away the hours at sea, even when he was on duty. “I used to take loads of drugs while at work,” he says. Not everyone did this, he’s at pains to point out. “Everyone else on the ship was just focused on who was sleeping with who and getting drunk on the back deck. I had no interest in that, so I just got high and let them squabble among themselves.”
Alarmingly, Hyatt was one of the staff supposed to man emergency evacuations. But having your lifeboat operator high on drugs is the least of your worries if you run into danger, he says, claiming it used to take about an hour to lower the lifeboats in their weekly drills. “And that’s not factoring in time to load people on and stop them panicking,” he notes. “If it was a real emergency off-shore, it’d be game over.”
Death is something cruise staff have to deal with regularly, he says, as it’s common for people to die onboard. Accidents like falling overboard are rare – it never happened on his boat, or those of any of his friends – but he says that “lots of people go on the ship pretty much expecting to die – would they rather die home alone by themselves or in a place where they’re cared for and get everything they need?”
All ships have a morgue, where bodies are kept until they’re offloaded at the next port. But that’s not the only “special” room below decks. There’s also a detention room, or ship jail, right at the very bottom of the boat.
“Passengers get arrested [by the ship’s security team] all the time, they get wasted and start fighting, just as you have fights outside clubs at home,” he says. “Some of the big ships have 4,000 guests on them – you can’t have that many people in one confined space, mixed with alcohol, and not expect fireworks.”
Surprisingly, Hyatt says he was one of the tamer staff members on his boats – he talks of orgies below decks, and staff getting drunk most nights (though one even got arrested at one Central American port when he was caught in a police sting trying to buy cocaine).
He mainly kept himself to himself, he says, and interacted more with guests – whether that was sleeping with VIPs, smoking weed with his favourite pupils when the ship docked in Jamaica, or making friends with people on a swingers charter cruise, for which the bar was turned into a makeshift sex dungeon.
“I didn’t join in, but I was one of the youngest guys on the ship so everyone was asking me,” he says. “But they were cool people. There was a brain surgeon and a hospital director onboard – they embarked in a dominatrix suit and gimp slave outfit.”
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Source: The Independent