The job of a Cruise Photographer

21 May

It’s another sea day! [Sarcastic Yay!] Once again our cruise ship wobbles across the featureless North Sea, while we poor photographers try to create revenue by selling old photos and shooting new ones. However, that’s not to say we would suffer from boredom. Not only is our department graced by the visit of the fleet supervisor, but our schedule is also designed in a way that minimises our rest time without exceeding the daily work limit of eleven hours.

Vegan breakfast for cruise crew

A hearty breakfast is a great way to start the day. Unfortunately, I rarely get one.

My day starts three hours before my first shift with a “training session” with the crew purser. He is supposed to hand me my ABC credit card, so that ABC Cruises can start paying my salary. In a slight plot twist the purser does not actually hand me the merchandise, but instead asks me to select one out of three dates on which he will host the training. A quick visit in the afternoon would have sufficed for that interaction. But at least I am awake now, so instead of wasting my morning on sleep, I can roll around on my mattress, and occasionally drowse off into a light slumber, only interrupted by my bunk mates’ snoring and episodic messaging on his phone.

Similarly, the one hour break that follows my afternoon shift does not quite suffice to achieve any feeling of rest in me. And thus, after being awake for eight hours I am nearly exhausted enough to perform at my best when we start shooting cruise guests in the restaurant. Luckily, the guests don’t like us anyway, because they want to have a quiet meal instead of posing for pictures. Thus, my general tiredness has little effect on the outcome of my shooting efforts.

Goemon5 aboard the ABC RypMeOff

This is approximately the minimum photo quality that we try to achieve. It’s hard to do when you’re exhausted.

Advertisement for cruise jobs usually states that you have to be flexible and hard working to succeed in the job, and considering that I have two university degrees I would like to think that I fulfill those requirements. But after six hours of uneasy sleep and eight hours of wake time in the sterile belly of a ship, I am not able to achieve seven hours of peak performance. This would be alright, if I was tending a bar, or waitressing a restaurant table, because general service personnel only has to smile, and perform their duties. Cruise photographers, on the other hand, have to be creative, interact with the guests, and entertain the visitors while simultaneously representing company philosophies. Everyone else on this ship either has a set task to perform, or a predefined product to sell. Cruise photographers have neither; we must create our own product, together with its future consumer.

According to our training it is our job to “create memories”, a task made more difficult by the fact that we create those memories in order to sell them, and our costumers know that. After experiencing ten cruises with the same company the guests understand that the photographers are not aboard to entertain them, but to shoot their portraits, and then sell them their own face on photo paper. Surprisingly enough they don’t want that anymore. And while there are psychological arm twisters that help in convincing the guests to comply with our task, I am too tired to successfully apply that psychology after staring at empty walls, and chewing on salty bread rolls for eight hours.

The Plaza aboard the ABC RypMeOff

Even guests get tired of this view after two weeks aboard.

Yesterday was the Golden Wedding Jubilee of my parents. I didn’t even remember that circumstance before dinner, but I congratulated them just before midnight, so I am well in the time limit. My sister and I prepared a digital poster for our parents, commemorating the years since their wedding. Unfortunately, they won’t receive that gift before I return from my cruise job, because the internet connection aboard is so bad that I can’t even send a 5 MB attachment. And yes, I have been trying for over a week. It is emblematic for my issue with ABC Cruises that every individual crew member is held to high standards, while the sub-standard management is incapable of tending to individual problems. If you don’t live for your job, you have no place aboard this vessel. In other words, you either enjoy to be permanently exhausted, or you love to be underperforming.

I am fine with feeling sleepy, but I also wonder if this ship really is a good environment for that. Right now I could sit in my back yard, and munch on fresh strawberries. Instead I am forced to deal with the unrealistic expectations of a company that seems fixed on maximising my wake time. My payment better be what I was promised, or I won’t have enough reason to stay for the whole seven-month contract.

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