How Not to Solve Cruise Problems

Understanding the hierarchy of cruise ship staff and crewmembers helps you solve cruise problems.

Crewmembers aim to please - when they can.
How NOT to Fix Cruise Problems

Having worked aboard cruise ships in the past I have noticed something about passengers that many don't seem to realize about themselves, and I suspect it is because they do not understand the true dynamics of ship life for crewmembers.

Many guests assume that every crewmember they meet automatically knows everything there is to know about the ship they are on - as if the crewmembers live in a passenger-like existence. I often see passengers asking a bartender what time breakfast starts, for example, or asking their room steward what night of the cruise the ship's dining room serves lobster.

The truth is that most cruise ship crewmembers only have enough knowledge to do their their own jobs, and if you need help in any other area it rarely works or even helps to ask for answers from anyone who is not directly responsible for your specific area of concern. In fact, you may be complicating your own problem in ways you didn't expect.

The logistic reason is that most cruise ship jobs are very detail oriented. Department managers want every task done a specific way, so it only makes sense to keep crewmembers focused on their own jobs. Not only are their jobs already complicated enough, but in fact it can hinder the efforts of a department manager to have too many outsiders involved. Things change all the time, and a manager cannot notify the entire ship everytime something is different. It is better for a crewmember to say "I don't know," than to tell a passenger the wrong thing.

Chances are your waiter does not know anything about the ship beyond food services; he has never been to the pool, the fitness center, the bars, the waterslide or seen the comedian playing tonight in the main showroom.

By the same token, your room stewardess has never eaten in the alternative restaurant, booked a baby sitter, planned a shore excursion or tasted the martinis in the Crows Nest lounge.

Another reason for this is more social in nature. Cruise ship crews are comprised of many diverse nationalities. All of them use English as the Lingua Franca of the ship, but for the vast majority of them English is a second language. In fact, many of them are only well versed in English when it comes to their own jobs. A Czech room stewardess, for example, may not even know what the word "lobster" means in English.

In the crew area, most crewmembers only socialize with people from their own departments, and they further limit their friendships to those of the same nationality. It is something of a myth that all of the crewmembers onboard know each other, socializing in the crew bar night after night, for example. In fact, most crewmembers live more solitary lives with only a handful of friends. There are exceptions, of course, some are more outgoing and popular than others, but in general most crewmembers' only ship-related concern, both on duty and off, is doing their own jobs.

So - to solve cruise problems, or even just to get your most basic questions answered, it is always important to go to the correct source. Information on cruise ships is generally only given on a need to know basis, and most crewmembers are only trained in their own jobs.

Please do not get upset if someone on the staff does not know the answer to your question - and don't ask them to find the right answer for you. In the long run, when it comes to getting correct answers or solving problems on your cruise, you are better off just finding the right person to talk to in the first place.

You can comment on the John Heald interview in our forum: New John Heald Interview .

Recommended Articles