Cruise Teams: where individuals don’t matter

21 Jun

Oh, what joy; we are anchored in Geiranger once again. I know, I complain a lot, and rightfully so. But the sight of this natural wonderland always fills me with joy, even if I have to wait for the 10 A.M. emergency drill to finish before I can grab my gear, and vanish into the thick green woods that creep up the sides of these beautiful mountains.

Photographers are actually among the few crew members who have a decent shot at taking time off during most port visits, to explore the town and surrounding area. We share that privilege with the dancers, musicians, and a few of the officers. So, yeah, cruise photographers are actually fairly high up in the food chain. We even frequently get the opportunity to join the excursions, be it to take pictures of the paying guests, guide tourist groups to their point of extraction, or just become paying tourists ourselves.

Aerial view of the Fjord Town Geiranger, Norway

Old woods on older mountains, with a side of waterfalls and pastures of sheep. That’s Geiranger in a nutshell.

Well, not all that glitters is actually gold, and not every opportunity is a reason for celebration. Oh, come on, you know my blogs, and you knew I was going to turn this rainbow into heavy snow fall. Don’t act so surprised!

Truth is, Mateja and I both inquired, independently, about receiving a more definitive schedule, so that we could offer our help to the excursion department, and become semi-professional lollipop holders. Every excursion has to be joined by one member from the ABC Crew, who will then hold a big round sign on a wooden stick, depicting the number of one tourist group. The lollipop holder is responsible for gathering his group behind him, and making sure everyone who leaves the cruise ship for one of the excursions also finds his or her way back when the day is done. The job is not very demanding, and comes with a free trip to one of the tourist sites of the day, making this position one of the most interesting aboard.

Alas, Manager Ash does not wish for us photographers to join that team, even on days like today, where we are not needed before the ship leaves the harbour. He just flat-out denied our requests, reasoning that demands on the photo department were so variable that he could not possibly arrange for a full schedule more than half a day in advance, which is markedly less than what the lollipop department needs.

Mateja had even organised a private trip, involving her own spare time and money, and merely asking for a leave of five hours, which is pretty much what we get at any given port anyway. She wanted to go canoeing with Fleet Manager Kosmos, who had initiated the brief vacation, and probably got a special deal from the tourist department for that usually booked-out adventure. (I shall not discuss the deeper implications of that arrangement, because most assuredly there are none. Or so I’ve been told.) Manager Ash briskly refused her the favour, even though it would have cost him nothing, and the arrangement even involved Kosmos, who is higher up in the food chain than barely anyone aboard.

Geiranger Waterfalls

Visit the waterfalls of Geiranger, they said. Well, it’s not like you can actually escape them. The bloody things are everywhere!

Apparently there won’t be any excursions for the photographers other than what we are ordered to do. So, as 3rd rank photographers we will never leave this ship except for a trip on foot. I know, joining the excursions is more prestigious than almost any other crew member will ever be allowed to do. But no other department aboard the ABC RypMeOff has to create AND sell their own product. No-one else is subjected to the same stress and management abuse as us photographers, so being subjected to the same restrictions as those plate polishers and cushion cuddlers is a vicious slap in our tired faces. Particularly since photographers on other ABC cruise ships regularly hold those lollipops, and never have to quibble about it.

Until yesterday I pondered whether or not I should approach Ash, and offer him to shoot the first shift of embarkation on the day of my leave, even though it would have meant returning home even later than already planned. It seemed appropriate, considering that the remainders of this team will suffer greatly from the loss of work force, particularly during the demanding embarkation shooting. But learning about his refusal to let Mateja have a glimpse of fun on her labour trip, I immediately reversed my decision.

Whereas in any regular job your boss will make it clear that you are part of the team, and contributing to the company’s success in your own special way; ABC Cruises seems to be stuck on the message that you as an individual are worthless, and can be replaced at a day’s notice. At least that’s what our manager tells us every other day during our nightly debriefing. It saddens me to see that Ash is tumbling down the same dark path that our previous manager used to destroy the team. But at least it solidifies my decision to leave this company as soon as possible.


PS.: I updated the photo gallery for Geiranger. Have a look!

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