Good Bye ABC Cruises, Part 1

17 Jun

After over six weeks aboard the ABC RypMeOff I have gathered sufficient experience to form a coherent picture of this weird life as a cruise photographer. So, as I serve yet another seven-hour shift in a makeshift photo studio I decide to use some of my downtime constructively, and create a list with pros and cons for this job. This is not be whining about the difficulties surrounding my situation, but rather a critical analysis of my position as photographer for ABC Cruises. The fact that I have time to write this list while performing my duties already tells you something about how well this job occupies my time.

Alesund, one of Norway's card fjord towns

Cruise jobs certainly have their benefits. But overall my job is very unsatisfying.

Let’s start with something positive. – I love to serve. I really do. One of the best parts of my job is being helpful to passengers and crew. Be it in finding their way around the ship, assisting with the set-up of their own camera, or simply making them smile in a moment of distress – I cherish every positive moment that I create with the people around me. As a social animal there is hardly anything better than surrounding yourself with happy people; and this job often allows me to do so.

There is already talk behind the counter that I would be suitable to become a photo host, due to my ability to relate to people, and brighten their day. The Photo Host stands behind the counter of the Photo Gallery all day and night, and interacts with the costumers, particularly the unsatisfied ones. It’s his or her job to turn frowny faces upside-down, and then charge a random fee by selling some odd photo product. I can do that. I have done that. And I could easily do such for seven days a week, except that one has to be with the company for at least the second contract to receive Photo Host training. There is no way that I will last that long, not under the current conditions.

Instead of being helpful, or at the very least useful, I am plagued by hours of boredom. Every night we are ordered to build at least one photo studio in the Plaza, often enough two studios. Ever since I joined this ship there has not been a single night in which the Plaza studios returned more than sixty photos, which is less than one quarter of what is produced by any of the other studios. Out here in the Plaza most of the passengers belong to one of two kinds of people: people visiting the casino for a smoke, and those running from the theatre to the dinner restaurant. Neither one of these groups wants to have their picture taken, making this location the least profitable in the entire ship, including our random walks across the deck (“mobile studios”).

 As a result, I am bored out of my mittens. I mean, it’s nice to be paid for nothing, but I actually have to look attentive for seven hours straight, in case one of the managers spies on me from around the corner. I don’t know if you ever had to look attentively at the cheap replica of a Greek pillar for more than half an hour, but let me tell you that this task is neither easy nor emotionally satisfying.

Cruise Photography during embarkation

Cruise Photography can be fun. But when you have nothing to do, and still need to look productive, life starts to drain from you.

Really, most of my job consists of standing around, doing barely more than breathing, and even that is difficult with the smoker’s casino just around the corner. Since I don’t get any physical exercise during my work hours my knees have started to bother me greatly. That is also a result from a previous injury, one that cleft my left knee cap in twain, but the current pains mostly result from a severe lack of exercise, and from standing around on two legs for hours without pause. Hiking up the ragged serpentines of a Norwegian fjord is healthier than this job.

I will extend this list another day, for now I am happy to receive word from the manager that we are packing up for the night. Just another half-hour of returning equipment, one hour of meeting, then dinner, shower, and bed time. I feel drained. This is definitely not the job of my future.

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