When we arrived in Genoa to board our three week cruise, we were early and we were skeptical. “Never thought of you as the cruising types,” has been uttered in our presence.
So what is the cruising type? Is it the antithesis of a self respecting traveler? Is it one who prefers the coddling of a strict routine to the serendipity of ‘real’ travel?
Well, the itinerary was interesting. Unpacking once sounded quite nice. So did dropping off the kid at the Squak Club while hubs and I go for a drink.
Wait. You had me at dropping off the kid. Let’s cruise!
Our ship was late to arrive in Genoa, providing us with ample time to make a demographic survey of our fellow passengers as we waited to embark. It was immediately clear that we were in the minority both in age and nationality. We were surrounded by impatient German pensioners and flamboyant Italian pensioners. In the category of children under ten, there were seven. Should we be second guessing this brilliant plan?
By midnight our pleasure cruise/sociological experiment was headed south down the Ligurian Sea.
Now as cruisers, things were becoming clear. The coddling, the schedule, the unpacking once, the kid off doing another crepe paper art project, all excellent. But as hospitality professionals, we found ourselves in a mental gray zone between the staff and the other guests.
It was much easier to relate to the staff as they worked tirelessly to engage and entertain in a confined and remote environment. The clientele was well-traveled to be sure, but what did we have in common with the restless German who refused to say please and thank you to the cow towing Filipino server who could operate with grace in four languages?
So we sat at dinner, hardly able to help ourselves, and mused over the logistics in the kitchen and the hierarchy of management. In talking to staff we discovered that health regulations require the ship to take on four weeks of food in Genoa without supplement along the way. We discovered that our server works for nine months straight without a full day off and our housekeeper is responsible for twice daily cleanings of 26 rooms. We discovered that our section manager has been to Petra, the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China but only sees his six year old daughter every five months.
We grew more and more curious about the secret back of house life of the staff. And although Radek scanned the buffet for a watermelon everyday, he was never invited to the employee bar.
As the ship lurched side to side towards Greece, we made it our mission to counterbalance the generally oblivious and dismissive behavior of many of the guests. This time we may be guests and enthusiastically converted cruisers, but our true frame of reference is still firmly on the other side.
Dirty Dancing Reference: 1