“THE ships were the most incestuous workplace I’ve ever been a part of.”
A man known only as “Blake” has revealed the truth about life on the high seas, in a no-holds-barred interview with Thrillist.
While guests experience a sun-drenched high-life above decks, Blake describes a dark world of low pay, cramped rooms and rampant sex on the levels below.
“I think the ratio of men to women was like 9:1. So any time a new girl started working on the ship, the first night at the crew bar was a free-for-all. And for the most part nobody was loyal to anyone,” he told Matt Meltzer.
The claims have been echoed by other cruise ships workers in the past.
Queenslander Cathryn Chapman worked throughout the Carribbean and Bahamas during her 20s and 30s, and she wrote a fiction called Sex, Lies and Cruising based on her experiences.
“The main thing I didn’t like was the cheating,” she told news.com.au last June.
“Men who had a wife and kids at home, and a girlfriend on the ship. When his wife came on board for a holiday, the girlfriend would move out of his cabin for the week and basically pretend she didn’t know him.”
“Nobody would breathe a word. Then the night his wife went home, the girlfriend would move back in as though nothing had happened. The guys often pretend their wives don’t exist, maybe until the day before she arrives.”
It’s not just sex that makes life below decks so intriguing.
Blake says he spent time working on a boutique luxury cruise line for what are essentially “the richest people on earth who don’t own their own yacht”.
“On the bargain ships, there were all these people who had saved their whole lives to go on a cruise, and as long as they got fed on time they were just grateful to be there,” he said. “The super-rich, however, could be downright horrible people.”
He describes an incident where a woman accidentally knocked the dice of seafood magnate, causing him to lose a few hundred dollars. The man nudged Blake and said “Watch, I’m going to make this b*tch cry” before laying into her with an expletive-laden tirade.
While guests lap up the views, there’s a seedy underworld below decks.Source:istock
And while guests are lapping up the luxury, staff quarters are smaller than you could possibly believe — around half the size of a regular guest room, shared between two people.
He told Thrillist the only way to deal with the cramped space is to stack, roll and stuff your clothes into your locker, and travel light.
And as for pay, well, it’s really quite shocking.
Working as a dealer, Blake says he earned $950 American dollars a month ($1256), but stewards could make as little as $200 (A$264), and they were all living on tips.
He alleges tips were deducted from monthly wages, meaning if he earned $950 American dollars in gratuities, the cruise lines effectively got to keep him for free.
He’s not the first disgruntled crew member to question life on the seven seas.
MailOnline spoke to Brian David Bruns, who penned a book about his experiences.
He worked for Carnival, telling journalist Sadie Whitelocks that maintaining a high level of customer service was often very difficult, especially when it came to “raucous drunks”, and the crew often met behind closed doors to let off steam.
“In the restaurants we regularly referred to the guests as ‘cow animals’. Makes sense because they are very large, very gentle, and stand around eating all day,” he said.
He claims he worked as many as 100 hours a week for 15 weeks at a time, and that pay is not commensurate with the number of hours worked.
“Sailing international waters and flying flags of convenience allow cruise ships to break labour laws found in First World nations,” he said.
“That’s why cruise ship employees are almost unanimously from Third or Second World nations, barring entertainers and a few vendors.”
Carnival responded, telling MailOnline: “The cruise industry’s priority for its workforce is their welfare” and that “companies work within a strictly regulated and frequently inspected global industry and adhere to both European and international regulation”.
The Florida-based company said in addition to salary, “crew are provided with a number of benefits free of charge including room and board and cruise-line sponsored medical care”.
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References: News, Thrillist