Tag Archives: health and safety

CRUISE – Crew Food on Cruises: a bitter bill

11 May Vegan breakfast for cruise crew

It’s another sea day, *yawn*. On Sea days we have to work more hours, and don’t get to see a pretty port city; what a sorry trade-off. However, it also means I have time to eat properly, and wash my laundry. Yay!

Thank goodness the photo crew has access to the staff mess. When I was a university student all free food was good food, but now that I am committed to paid labour my standards have increased somewhat. The food that is offered in the crew mess comes in circa seven different bins. One kind of salad; some sort of sandwiches with sliced sausage and cheese; plain rice; coloured rice; chicken bits; sausage or meat bits; and some glob containing potato or pasta. As an added bonus you may get access to apples, bread roles, or something of the like.

Breakfast buffet for cruise crew

The breakfast buffet aboard the cruise ship is rather small.

It’s all pretty plain, and very repetitive. The food in the staff mess is somewhat better, often varied through trays of beans, various meats, sautéed vegetables, fried potato fingers, or cabbage. All that is also available in the crew mess, but appears to be of lower quality and quantity. But no matter where you eat – no-one really gets excited about the mess food; it just fills the stomach.

As a German I feel obliged to introduce problems beyond the exceptionally small degree of variety. I have been vegan for over seven years. My choice to maintain that dietary plan drastically reduces the layers of culinary complexity that the crew mess confronts us with, often reducing my choice to “plain rice with or without soup”. Because according tot the minds of the demented chefs of this vessel even beans or pasta require the support of sausage or ham to be counted as a meal option. In short – eating vegetarian is rather difficult aboard the ABC vessel; eating vegan (and surviving on it) is near impossible.

Vegan breakfast for cruise crew

Since I don’t eat eggs or other animal products my breakfast aboard the cruise ship consists mostly of fibres.

That leaves us with the Maya Buffet, the culinary wonderland on deck 14, where a wide range of food choices is offered at any major meal time. At the buffet I can fill myself with nutrients AND enjoy the process. It circumscribes a culinary journey through all the continents that our chefs come from, thus providing ample food for everyone. Yet, even here the vegan selection is rather sparsely spread. Apparently nearly every food item aboard the ABC RypMeOff has to be dunked in salt and butter before being fried. And nearly all rice or pasta dishes long for sliced animal parts. Thus, even with about thirty warm dishes to choose from my vegan selection is usually limited to two or three different items.

Now, that prospect might be devastating for anyone who expected this luxury liner to dispense luxury food. However, ABC Cruises is committed to underwhelm its passengers. The real tragedy lies in the timing of meals. As crew members we can only access the Maya Buffet a) for ten minutes during our evening break, or b) for lunch hour, on port days that do not foster an embarkation. One and a half meals a day won’t sustain my bodily needs, thus making visits to the staff mess unavoidable. The latter is open for approximately 2.5 hours during breakfast, lunch, and dinner time. Before or after this the designated room features an emptiness of trays, and a water fountain. If your schedule only allows you to fall into bed by 2 A.M. (as is not rare in our department), you may want to sleep until 10 A.M. For me those are the lucky days, because I can almost get enough sleep to not topple over during my late work hours.

Unfortunately, this schedule conflict asks you to choose between a healthy sleep and a healthy breakfast. After 9 A.M. you will not find a single bread roll anywhere in the crew area. The logistic and hygienic complexities involved in this conundrum escape me, and overall I am disillusioned by the lack of most basic food items for the hard-working crew during the non-meal hours.

The grand injustice in the distribution of food supplies has dire consequences. In the first two weeks aboard I was not very selective regarding my food items, mostly stuffing myself with all the foods that looked vaguely vegan. Often those foods turned out to be fatty and/or salty, thus fostering the placement of fat pouches all over my body. Already I can see myself growing chubby, mostly on my tummy and in my face. After only two weeks of this diet my face is markedly more round than before. And, thus, I have developed a diet plan. I call it Goemon Cruise Diet, and, no, I don’t recommend it to anyone.

Firstly, I limit my time ashore by returning to the ship for buffet time, whenever we are allowed to eat there. Since the crew has to dress up for the occasion to share meals with the passengers, this activity cuts approximately ninety minutes from my port exploration. However, it gains me a full meal of spring roles, samosa, and ripe fruit, thus allowing myself to be stuffed and healthy for an entire day. During dinner in the crew mess I rarely eat more than an apple and some bread for dinner on those happy port days.

During sea days I limit myself to relatively basic food items from the staff mess; mostly plain rice and uncooked carrot rasps, often accompanied by bread and some salty vegetable soup. This solution is rather uncomfortable for my taste buds, but considering how little exercise I get it should keep me in reasonably good health for the next few months.

Here we have it, another urban myth dispelled – cruise food is lavish and amply supplied, but the quality is far from amazing.

 

Grand Glittery Stairs aboard ABC RypMeOff

The Grand Stairs are are becoming a nice place for me. I like posing people on them.

PS.: I’m shooting stairs again tonight. I’m getting used to that “studio”, and it really is fun posing people on the glittery stairwell. Maybe one day my resulting portraits won’t be “shit” any more.

CRUISE – More Sea Day Safety

8 May Vigo, Spain. A view of the port

Assistant manager Robyn keeps telling the “new guys” to rest often and rest well during these days, and he tells me to observe and ask the other members of the scattered team about the workings of this department. After all, we still have some spare time before the great summer season starts, with its four thousand passengers on their two-week cruises to Norway. He also asks me to pay attention during the safety briefings, because there is a written examination coming up.

A submarine in the port of Zeebrugge, Netherlands

Sadly I don’t work aboard a submarine. Knowing that suínking is natural would make my ship feel safer.

So far only about half of the safety briefings that were scheduled for me actually happened, and today’s meeting is no exception. I welcome the time off from my dull duties in the photo gallery, especially on the first sea day of the cruise, when all passengers are out for a stroll. But the hard chairs in the teaching room are not quite comfortable enough for a relaxing nap, and I am too tired to enjoy my read. (I always carry a novel with me now.) When it becomes clear that today’s safety briefing is not happening most of the other crew members just return to their jobs. I am certain the photo department will function without me for half an hour, though.

It slightly irritates me that our safety trainings culminate in an exam. I don’t know what happens if I fail it, but I would rather not repeat these empty meetings. On days like this, where the briefings add spare time to my schedule, I don’t really mind. However, sometimes they cut into my port exploration, and that needs to be avoided. Luckily I am left alone to rummage the scattered contents of the training room, and I actually find a copy of the official test paper among the many paper stacks decorating the shelves. It would be easier to have the answer key as well, but knowing the questions of that safety exam already helps a lot.

The exam contains few questions that are directly connected to safety and survival at sea. I did not expect anything else, not after the complete lack of dedication that ABC Cruises has granted this topic so far. The exam is even riddled with the typographical and grammatical errors that I have come to associate with my Italian masters. I don’t know what good it will do me to know the number of life rafts aboard this vessel, or how many people can go onto one overcapacity raft. But those are certainly among the numbers that I am going to study.

Tonight I am more relaxed as I beg the restaurant guests to pose for photos. No doubt our supervisor will scrutinise my photos as “shit” again, and will refuse to tell me what he finds wrong in them. But at least I can quit worrying about the safety procedures aboard. If our cruise ship ever gets into peril, I will stand on my safety position, and annoy passengers with useless ship trivia until they evacuate my realm. That might actually be a good way to get them off my back in the photo gallery as well.

CRUISE: Hamburg, Main Embarkation

3 May Hamburg town hall

Once again I only start working at noon, and again I fail to get any decent sleep after scrambling back into bed after breakfast. Not that I mind, really. The next few nights I will only be standing in the gallery, trying not to drift off into sleep while showing fresh passengers to their photos.

Yes, it is Embarkation Day, that magical day on which ravaging hordes of new cruise guests storm our swimming hotel, searching for excitement, and agreeing to the demands of portrait photographers. Over three thousand passengers left our cruise ship in the morning, and about the same number embarks in the afternoon. That means I may finally get to shoot willing people, as they are yet unaccustomed to our photo practices.

 

Hamburg town hall

Hamburg is a pretty city

With mediocre astonishment I realize that the garbage piles have vanished from our crew cabin. The bathroom is still a shared smoking parlour, and Pancho’s clothes still cover most of the walls and furniture. But at least I can cross the three metres between door and bed without feeling the crunch of empty plastic bottles, waste paper, or snack packs under my gently moving feet. I have made it a point to stuff what little garbage I produce into my pockets, and eliminate it in the crew mess. That way Pancho can’t ask me to participate in his hauls of junk removal, regardless of how long (or short) it will take him to acquire a new pile of recyclables. Judging by his latest efforts the waste paper basket will be refilled by the end of the week.

Where is Pancho even getting all that garbage? He does not strike me as the kind of charitable person who walks around and collects refuse. Besides, the ship probably has personnel for that. Likely the garbage just sticks to his fingers whenever he leaves the ship in a port. Or people stuff it into his pockets as he walks. Like an eco-friendly version of the old Kick-Me stickers. Or his body holds electrostatic charge, thus attracting plastic garbage from across the road. On the surface he does not appear to be a very energetic person, but I will try to keep my electronics away from him.