Hooked on cruising . . .

I went on my first cruise when I was in seminary and needed to find a way to get to Europe cheap, so I signed onto a Dutch Student Travel Bureau student ship from New York to Europe that just happened have been the Holland America ship MAASDAM [not the current one, since HAL reuses ship names over and over].

I was part of the cruise staff and here I am, all these years later, still working with the Entertainment Department!

Yes, you might say I’ve been hooked on cruising much of my life!

While I was serving as a pastor in churches, I would take my vacation and go on cruises as a chaplain. Back in those days they had a priest, a rabbi and a minister on every cruise. Eventually we ended up with some of the first “cruise only” travel agencies, which we ran for 15 years becoming a top producer for Carnival, Princess/Sitmar and Holland America.

Seven years ago I started lecturing on ships working as Travel Guide for Holland America, and now as Port Lecturer with Princess.  I’ve done “one off” Guest Lecturer spots with Crystal, Holland America and Celebrity.  Most years I’ve spent 4 to 6 months on board ship.  What Folks Have to Say

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People on the ship always ask what kind of cabin they give me, and sometimes off the ship folks will say, “They must give you a suite.”   Sometimes on land this job sounds so glamorous to folks that they make comments like, “They must give you a suite or a pretty nice cabin on board!” If they only knew. Crew live differently than guests … because we are working. I actually usually have what is called a “fleet officer cabin” usually in crew areas and with portholes. What I like about a “fleet officer cabin” … kind of an exaggerated name … is that I have a sixn foot desk, so it is designed for work. Guest cabins have “desks” which double as make up tables and are too small for actual work.

Fleet Officer Cabin

Regular crew members work long hours and most are away from home for 9 to 11 months at a time. One joke is that the crew guys go home to make a baby, which is born while they are at sea and they don’t actually see until the child is a few months old. Princess is very good about letting couples who are both working on board, straight or gay, to share a cabin. Most regular crew cabins are two to an inside cabin in upper and lower berths. Officers and department managers don’t have to share with other crew and are usually able to bring their spouse or land partner on board as a guest, paying only their guest’s air and gratuities. Crew members often develop relationships on board which sometimes end up in marriage and often these Love Boat romances do last! Sometimes jokingly, and occassionally not so jokingly, mostly officers invoke the “12 mile rule” which means once you are 12 miles off shore … well, you know the rest. And there are few secrets among crew on a ship. I’ve been on ships where everyone knew we had to hustle off the captain’s long-time shipboard girl friend (whom he had met while she was a passenger, despite the rule for the rest of the crew that passengers are not allowed in crew cabins or vice versa) because the captain’s wife was coming on board.

Actually more and more I’m choosing to do short-term assignments and on ships like those of Silversea and Pearl Cruises I manage to score passenger suites with balconies!



This was filmed on the DAWN PRINCESS, a ship on which I worked the 107-day world cruise, by some crew members who just had too much time on their hands. But I love it because I think it really sums up what life is like for crew on a ship. I’m lucky because usually I’m on the “passenger list” meaning I don’t have to do drills or put up with the dreaded “IPM” [in port manning required for safety – means not everyone gets off the ship to enjoy some fantastic port like Moorea], and I get treated like an officer without putting up with the administrative crap and personnel issues that occupy officers with actual stripes on their shoulder boards. But this is really dedicated to all the other hard working crew members . . . Enjoy!

For you land lubbers – The “Assessment Party” announcement is a potential “situation” announcement from the bridge which blasts into crew areas and cabins even during the middle of the night.  The Assessment Party are first responder officers, usually medical, deck and engineering, who check out an assess a situation which may be smoke, fire, medical emergency, whatever.  If all is well, another announcement from the bridge, just about the time you are going back to sleep, giving an update and ordering the team to “Stand Down” or … escalating and responding as necessary.  The one you don’t want to hear is “All Crew Stand By” which means bounce out of bed, dress warmly, grab your life jacket and stand by for further announcements … hopefully to “Stand Down” and go back to sleep (if you can) … or if we are going to a “General Emergency” which means crew hustling off to their emergency stations and waking up the passengers and getting them to their appropriate stations, just like we practiced before departing.

It’s a tough job, but someone has got to do it! And then there is life “below decks” with the crew …

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