Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Crew Member's Secret: Don't Rent Snorkels if You Don't have To!

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

 I've already shared alot so if you like this - get caught up already. And subscribe or "follow" me!

Some folks have marvelled at my interesting sentinmental stories about what it is like on the ship and others have made it clear they are more interested in tricks of the trade and how they can save money.  I gave them a great secret in how to get your best odds of beating the slot machines - see my Dec 27th post.

Well, here is a good one.  One of the dive managers on the ship was explaining to me how profitable the snorkel and masks were to rent.  A good mask might go for $50-80 and the cruise line actually buys the highest quality to rent out.  Why? They last much much longer than the cheap ones do and they are more suited for novices who don't know how to acheive a proper seal on the mask.

A little bit about diving: I got certified with Dive With Martin in Cozumel, Mexico.  It was AWESOME. I can't describe diving well, but I promise scuba diving is like flying. Like flying through a magical land filled with strange creatures who can fly.  That was my impression.  I loved diving and since I was certified I did a night dive, I saw the ship wreck near Aruba and even a Manta Ray and some Sharks in Costa Rica!

Anyway, if you are going on a cruise I HIGHLY recommend you get your own mask and snorkel.  Oh, yeah, the dive manager.  She was telling me the basically "sell out" every week (another great reason to buy your own) and that the mask paid for itself in about 5 weeks.  I asked how long those masks were there and she said about two years!  Now buying a mask would pay for itself if you buy a high quality one and it fits your face properly.  If you live in the South I recommend going where I went: Divers Supply in Tampa.  They were experts and fitted my mask to my face and advised me on the latest in snorkel tricks to keep the water out.  Even if you don't live in the South, I would check their prices before going down to WALMART and buying a garbage leaky mask that you'll hate and throw out.  Did you ever notice how sometimes "saving money" is wasting money?  That is so annoying. Call Divers Supply up or check their site (I think I put a link on that photo if I can figure out this LINK function in Blogger - try to click).
A package like shown in the photo is perfect for the novice: professional quality and not too expensive.

Mask Fin and Snorkel PackagesCOZUMEL SNORKELING - So many people book tours to go snorkeling in Cozumel Mexico.  I love it there! I used to walk all the way to town every time, go to a few restaurants (LA CHOZA was a crowd favorite as well as GUIDOS). [Caution: those are secret crew restaurants with better food and lower prices than the main strip!) On my walk to town I used to walk by - ALL THE SNORKEL TOURS!!! You could literally walk 100 yards and go right in on the beach to some of the most beautiful snorkeling in the world!

This is how I see it. 4X$59 gets you a shore excursion for a family of four on a  catamaran with some cheap booze and loud music (and snorkeling) OR for 4X$59 gets you four snorkelling packages you can use the rest of your life plus $20 left over to split some guac and have a few beers if you go to the right places (the crappiest bars on the beach still have cold beer!) 

If you love snorkelling and you're going to once in Cozumel, it is worth BUYING your gear before and walking to the beach.  Off the top of my head, BONAIRE has a great spot you can walk off and snorkel and countless other ports do, too.  You'll spend the same amount ONCE and get to keep the gear. THEN every time you go snorkeling you're SAVING $60 a trip per person which can be used for other things.  Hopefully NOT cuban cigars which I will cover in blogs to come.

I hope you've enjoyed the latest edition of trumpet travels.  Just mentioning La Choza made me remember so many good memories.  Their margaritas also caused a loss of so many (good?) memories, too!  Stay tuned and why not "follow me" so you'll be notified next time I post?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reader Question: Greek Officers

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

A Reader asks if I could elaborate on Greek Officers.  Sorry, Anonymous, I think I said enough in my disparagement below (DEC 14th WHAT ARE THE OFFICERS LIKE?).  Although I do actually have a few more choice stories about Greek and Italian officers you'll have to wait until the time is right.

I don't want to lose my new readers with excessive negativity (wasn't I negative enough below!??!) haha -

thanks for your comments.

Some reminiscing from the cruise career...

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

Thanks everyone for the great responses and comments.  Personally I find the information of what day-to-day life was like on the ship more interesting than my little casino information, but I had such a flood of visitors checking that out and emailing friends - my first post that a deluge of email pings came in!

I started this blog as an experiment to learn how to blog so I could teach my wife.  She wants to blog about her confusion in being an American Mom (she's from another country).  Well, I must say the support and comments I've received have convinced me I should keep going.  I think we'll have to fight over the computer when she starts her blog!

I want to share with you something you don't think about when you take a cruise.  You all have jobs and work 40-50 weeks a year so once every 5 years you can do a cruise or something special.  You all have social and family networks at home.

I did, too, and my first time I joined a ship I did it for six months.  I have a big family and we are very close.  It was so hard to be away from everyone for such an extended period of time.  BUT, I met so many amazing people, passengers and crew, and was exposed to new travel and new friends.

I had a girlfriend on my first ship after not being too much of a ladies man in college.  Halfway through my contract it was time for her to leave.  Of course we meant to stay together, but we went to different ships and there other distractions on the ship for both of us.  I was so confused why she was so amazing and why it couldn't work.  It didn't seem to gel with my notion of romantic love when I was told I was looking for that 'one' special connection.

Later, I came out of my heart-broken stupor and realized not only was I lucky it didn't work out, I was REALLY confused why we were together at all!  It is funny how circumstances can change so much.

I met so many amazing people after that and pursued some more romantic relationships.  The friendships that seemed so important now have faded as everyone who works out there on a ship goes for the experience, the travel, and the money only.  Logistically it would be impossible for you to keep in touch with the literally thousands of amazing people you meet.

I came to a conclusion, or maybe a realization.  When you are on land, you have the same friends, the same job, the same bar, the same ole same ole.  Nothing changes much and you could miss a year and everything will be the same.  When I was twenty years old I thought that was a curse.

When you are on a ship you get to meet thousands of people and make friends and travel.  Everything changes.  You avoid the boredom and stagnation of land, but it comes at a price.  Your friends fade, you lose touch, you move far away from everyone eventually.  Amazing people you once couldn't imagine yourself without are now in South Africa, the Phillipines, the UK and other countries all over the world.  You have facebook and other networking and try to stay in touch, but now in a 9 to 5 job on land and with a family here's the scary realization -

Just as I thought it would be depressing to have the same ole same ole of a land job when I first started cruise ships, now when I get in touch with my cruise ship friends I see they have the Same Ole, too!  The same ports, restaurants, bars, etc...  The life there is exciting but no more rewarding than somewhere else.  The one thing I'd recommend to anyone wanting to go work on a cruise ship - make a plan.  Get in and get out.  If you spend your whole life on a ship and then go to retire - who will you know?  Where will you go?

Well, that is my reminisce about my years at sea.  I used to give a little talk to the newbies who were depressed about losing friends to travel plans on the ship.  I would tell them, "You are priviledged to meet so many amazing people because of these ships and your job.  You have to enjoy every moment with all of your friends becasue they'll leave and you'll leave and the memories are all you're going to have at the end.  Saying goodbye to all of them is the price you pay for not having a boring job with boring friends."  In retrospect with the times I had, the benefit far outweighed the price.

Looking back now that I'm "out" - is it better to lead a less exciting life but have life-long friends who've watched you grow and mature? Or is it better to meet scores of the most interesting people in the world with the realization you'll not stay in touch after your time together?

Readers, tonight it isn't for me to decide.  I'll just pose the question and hope it makes you think about your life.  What new people do you meet?  Are you 'stuck' in the same crowd and bars or restaurants at home?  How could you bring the excitement and loss of inhabition of a vacation into your everyday life?  If you could do that, you could have the best of both worlds.

Thanks, readers, for staying in touch.  Why don't you check out my other entries?  There is no rhyme or reason yet to any of them.  I thought this would be a chronilogical story when I started but as I've received encouragement and comments from readers I have altered course a little bit.  Comments are always welcome and although it is becoming more difficult, I do my best to answer all questions.  Rememer clicking an ad here is free for you and encourages me to keep going, much to the chagrin of my wife.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Secret of Cruise Ship Slot Machines and How You Can Get the Edge!

Have you recently heard of any funny business (cheating) going on in Las Vegas? No? That's because the Nevada gaming commission knows that any profits cheated would be far less than profits lost if the cheating becomes public.  Slots are regulated and the %wins can be calibrated by a machine.  It has to be locked into a certain percentage regulated by the gov't. (Technically some can be higher than others as long as they all average the given "take.")

Have you ever heard of cheating in the lottery (outside a bad John Travolta movie?) No? That is because there is regulation in government lotteries.

Who regulates and inspects the cruise ship casino? Anyone?  Did you know the company that runs the casinos on Carnival also runs the Princess, Cunard and other CCL ships?  They are all connected.

Here is the secret that not even most industry insiders know:

First, please read my other entries.  They won't make you rich but you might like them. Okay - you'll only hear this from an almost comatose drunk slot technician at 6am and as far as I know this information doesn't exist ANYWHERE on the internet!

SO - the percentage of a slot machine can be changed, RIGHT? (crowd: YES, TRUMPETDAD)

SO - if you were a cruise line, would you take everyone's money on the first night of the cruise? NO! The people would never come back during their cruise and they would tell all the passengers the slots are rigged or tight and no one would play.

SO - if you were a cruise line, would you give all your money away on the last night? Those people might never come back!  Why would you do that?  If you could change the % payout of a slot machine to maximize profit from a crowd of people over seven days, how would you do it?

Here's how it works, and how it can work for you.  On the first night alot of people "try their luck" and win.  It is so easy to win that even non-gamblers are so tempted to put their winnings back to see if they win more.  Throughout the cruise they ADVERTISE to other passengers how much money they won! You can can win and on the last night everyone wants to try one last time where they lose it all and then some.

Quite simply, anyone caught feeding the slots on the last night might as well buy Carnival stock so you can profit from their extra revenue!  The way you do it is think of a gambling budget for the cruise and play it the first and second nights ONLY.  For the other nights use your winnings for entertainment and stay out of the casino!

If you enjoyed this post, email it to a friend who loves to cruise!

I have more secrets from the ship and although I don't blog for profit, if you click on an ad to the right it won't cost you a dime and will encourage me to post more. 

More secrets to come from the inside world of a crewmember...

PS - one more tip. If you buy this item you are GUARANTEED to win in any casino in the world (just kidding.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reader's Questions Answered About Cruises

Thanks for tuning in to trumpettravels.  This is an experiment I started in reminiscing about my 11 year career working on cruise ships.  Previously I've explained how I got my first job on a ship and what some of the positions are like on the ship.  I've always had a lot to say about the industry, mostly good, but felt while I was employed by the cruise line it would be unethical to say something bad and without credit if I said something good.  Now, I work in an unrelated industry.  I know how passengers can drive the crew crazy.  I know how the crew can lose touch with the passengers.  But, overall, I've seen how millions of people in the world BOTH passengers and crew have delighted in the chance to eat, drink, travel, and meet new people and experience new things.  Some do it for a week, and some for 8 months.

"Dobie" asked me about tipping on the ship and if cash tips were supposed to be split.  Well, I think technically all tips are supposed to be reported (officially) but much like a waiter making tips in the states very little gets "declared." Once you have the cash in your hands you'd have to be pretty thick to turn it in to have it split 200 times and then returned.  It is accepted not in policy but in practice that all cash tips are property of the recipient.

Someone asked me what I like to bring on a cruise.  Well, I can't pack for you, but my advice: Pack your suitcase half full.  Crazy? NOPE.  You'll buy "cruisewear" and tee shirts in ports.  Why not wear them once while your there?  Most people STUFF their luggange and then they don't know what to do withb all their extra souvenirs on the way home.  Another thing that I really believe in is a pair of high quality sunglasses like Maui Jim or Revo.  They actually brighten up your days while relaxing your eyes and it is nice to distinguish yourself from the dollar store glasses most cruisers bring.

Bonnie wants to know about the different cruise lines and mentioned it was difficult to post a comment.  I've attempted a correction by allowing anyone to comment even anonymous comments.  I thought by having registered bloggers only it would discourage alot of garbage but all comments so far have been really "+."  Bonnie every line is different and I have some words on the lines I personally worked with.  I would do what you're doing - ask around, but also

Royal Caribbean is great an caters to families, plus the young and old.  Know if you're going there for a romantic couples getaway when you get in elevator a kid probably has pushed all the buttons and the hot tub might be filled with pee.  That being said, those ships are really fun and they have great gimics on all the ships.  The older ships have great discounts and the newer ships might blow you away with entertainment.  They do cater to a large Latin American crowd so practice your salsa dancing and brush up on your Spanish.

Carnival is the cruise line where I went the elevator and on the way stepped in a piece of pizza in the hallway.  When I got to the elevator the doors opened and a teenager wearing a bikini fell out on her back and rested a can of Bud Light on her stomach laughing uncontrollably. It's a party ship.  Everyone will be quite drunk and it is pretty much a "WALMART" hang.  That being said, the "supper club" specialty restaurant on the SPIRIT and I imagine all the new Carnival ships was seriously the best food I've eaten on any ship.  I made some huge sales to very successful people on Carnival so it isn't 100% WALMART, but for sure it is at least 80%.  It had a $30 charge pp. Better than QM2, better than Princess.  Crazy, huh?  Another thing, the company is so terrible to their employees on the ship it filters down through the crew.  I worked on the Spirit and one lunch in the staff mess they served us TRIPE SOUP.  I'm not kidding.  They took a big box of cow stomach that you wouldn't feed your pig and boiled it and served it to us. 

Princess Cruise Lines is my favorite cruise line.  I worked for them for about 6 years and they treated all the crew so well. In turn, you will always get a smile and great service from crew members how are genuinely happy to serve you.  Princess does see a lot of familes with 5-18 yr olds and the kids program is great.  I took my son there and he was only 2.  The rule was I had to be there because he had to be three to be left there.  After watching the youth staff for hours and hours on three different cruises I can say they are amazing.  Some kids cried when it was time to leave - EVERY DAY.  Towards the end of the cruise the parents would have no problem going to dinner and a show and leaving the kids there for 2-3 hours.  I think Princess gets a B+ or higher for everything they do, instead of other lines who are good at some things but not good in others.

Cunard, QM2 - I only mention the QM2 because I feel Victoria and QE are unremarkable. They are basically P&O cruise ships run by the P&O cruise division borrowing some Cunard officers and of course that valuable Cunard brand, purchased by the Carnival corporation.  If you like to wear a tux and love fine dining and a traditional British experience, you HAVE to try Cunard.  They have long voyages and small cruises.  If you go do yourself a favor and bring LOTS of formal clothes.  The point of sailing Cunard is to dress up and hob-nob with the elite.  Dress code is strict and you have a lot of Brits so prepare to have lots of conversations about the "currency exchange" and why the "World" Series is silly because it is American and why American Football players are wimps because they wear pads.  Sorry, Brits, I've heard it all before.

Costa - don't do it.  I know you are looking at expedia and it is cheaper then the next option, but don't do it.  I've worked for that company and it is run by the most incompetant officers and shoreside department I've ever worked for.  I don't hold a grudge, but I can tell you they were utterly useless.

Celebrity - never worked on one.  I heard the food was good and a lot of people who sail Celebrity love it.  I've never heard a complaint about one.  Alot of older people.  Celebrity is bad to the crew because they use Greek officers who are the worst.  They work everyone to the bone with no over time and Greeks are usually borderline abusive to the crew.  I never worked for Celebrity but I did work for the Premier Oceanbreeze which was Greek.  Also, the stories I heard from other crew about Greeks were ridiculous. (See my post below about officers.)

Norwegian - never been on one, either.  Everyone I've met have either LOVED or HATED Norwegian cruises so I can't tell you one way or the other to take one.  I guess you could say it is a gamble where Princess is a sure thing.  But people who love Norwegian like it better than Princess so who knows.

Holland America - if you lost a fortune in the Great Depression or are a member of Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" then Holland America is for you.  FREE fresh squeezed orange juice every day on the + side. Many free activities.  The cruisers are a little bit wacko, though. Like SERIOUS cruisers who took Holland America tote bags and made matching his-and-hers vests.  If you like a battalion or geriatric ice-cream eaters, God bless ya.  Go on a cruise with Holland America.  They do interesting activities there, though, such as a Culinary Arts Center where you can taste recipes from Executive Chef Rudi Sodamin and, of course, buy his cookbooks for a fee.  Overall, a professional line for older folks who like such hobbies as Mah Jong or crocheting.

Well, that is it for my synopsis.  I didn't work on any other lines so I couldn't comment on others. I did Ocean Village, but I don't think they are around any more, are they?  Who knows.

Floridarob - you want to be a FCC?  Why not try Captains Circle host?  They use the same computer program and while they are full of FCCs sometimes they have openings of the other job.  You can switch jobs on Princess by using a "career path transfer."  Personally, I would go for the Port and Shopping job or Art Auctioneer.  You have to be very outgoing, but you can do better in those jobs than the FCC job.

Well, bloggets and bloggudes, that is it for now.  Thank you for your encouraging comments, please keep them coming.  It is my first Blog and I've found it is kind of addicting.  I hope you have enjoyed my entries. If you want more, why not leave me a comment or question and then click on an ad on this page?  It will encourage me to keep going.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Life of the Crew and a Request for Reader Comments

WOW! What an explosion of interest in the last day!  Thank you for checking in to trumpettravels to the hear the real life story of an American trumpet player who joined the cruise ships on a whim and ended up sailing into the sunset for over ten years.

I want to talk more about the crew on the ship, but first I have a favor. I have so much information about ports of call all over the world, different lines and different ships, crew members, jobs, and the ambiance of the major cruise lines.  I would love to write about what you, the reader, would be most interested in to hear. I have no agenda for writing this blog and because I recently got a job on land I can now express how I feel about the entire industry without reservation.  Before, I could not show my feelings about everything because I was a representative of my company and it was unethical.  I certainly have no grudge against anyone, I cherish my years at sea, but if you want to know the dirt, I'm happy to layer it on.

So, READERS, what do YOU want to know about the ships?  The crew life? You know when you ask that crew member how he likes the job and every single one say they love it?  If you could get a 100% honest answer, WHAT WOULD YOU ASK someone who has done it all and seen everything?  All comments welcome and depending on volume I will try to address as much as possible as we go from week to week.

OK, let me write a few words about the crew and we'll see where that takes us.

What is the "CREW" on a ship? The crew are the ones who basically do everything.  EVERYTHING.  Officers look good in stripes and give orders, staff members have fun and have certain skills that award them privileges, but if you banged on the door of a cruise line today completely void of any skills, you would probably start at the bottom of the pecking order.  I don't want to sound condescending but most crew who are hired on the ship are completely unskilled.  Through years of service and dedication they become the witty, joking, smiling, English-speaking crew member you remember from your last cruise.  How do they do it?  Let's take an example.

Eddy has just been hired out of trade school from the Phillipines. His father and uncles have worked on cruises, so he knew someone at the agency.  His cousins have either gone to Hong Kong as house servants or off to the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, but Eddy wants to be like his Dad, a retired head waiter.

Joining the ship he starts in the crew mess.  He helps run the crew dining room buffet. After a six month contract he goes home, saving half his pay.  Next contract he starts in the crew mess.  His smile and attitude grant him promotion to staff mess.  This is a sit down dinner and he starts fetching plates from the main galley for staff members.  He's now receiving tips from the staff members supplementing his income.  He's sending alot more money home now to a 30+ group of extended family members who can now start a small taxi business and a take out lunch hut near Manilla. During his contract a new build enters the company and there is a big movement to bring the most experienced crew members to that ship. Eddy isn't one, but the promotion vacuum sucks him up to officers mess.  Eddy is confident and his English is very good now.  The officers give him a tough time.  He smiles and is professional.  The officers are tipping less strangely because they make more, but that is the way it is.  By the end of his second contract, Eddy is up at the passenger buffet helping out and bringing drinks.

After one year of service a crew member like "Eddy" can move to the dining room and eventually work his way up the food chain to F&B manager if he is talented enough.  Can you imagine having no opportunities a home and having the world at your feet on a ship?  The chances are really great on the ship.

Now with the tipping on a ship. NOBODY likes to hear this and EVERYBODY thinks they know better.  I'm sorry, but I have been in this industry for over ten years. 

I used to wait tables in college.  It was at a Tony Romas BBQ Rib joint.  BBQ Rib joints in America attract a certain slice of society and that certain slice does not like to tip.  I may be prejudiced here, but it is an informed prejudice.  I worked and got stiffed there for a whole year. NOW when I go to a restaurant if a waitress drops her gum in my soup or ignores us I would seriously still tip 10%. Because I've been there and I know the pain of working a BUSY Sunday all day and walking home with $10.

Now, for the tipping. Your luggage may have been late, the ship may have iron your shirts wrong, and it is the policy of EVERY cruise line that gratuities are OPTIONAL (with the exception of lines where tipping is forbidden) - BUT it isn't right to cancel your gratuities onboard.  I know.  Suddenly I'm unpopular and I've totally lost your interest.  It just isn't right to cancel those tips.

Did you know the average salary of a worker on the ship who works for gratuities? FIFTY DOLLARS A MONTH. Seriously. $50/month.  Does anyone have any idea what it would be like to do cruise where you have 14 cabins to take care of where the passengers are very demanding and at the end make next to ZERO?  It happens. ALOT. Especially on ships with a lot of British passengers.  The Brits will spend $100 on some beers at lunch (IN ONE DAY!), but take off all the gratuities at the end of their cruise.

Everyone's heard, "Yeah, but I like to hand out the cash."  You know who says that? People that cancel the tips and walk off the ship.  Don't think I'm a pessimist.  I talked to waiters and cabin stewards for ten years and especially when we were sailing from England they were all crying to come back to the states where people recognize service.

The crew on the ship are incredibly hard working.  Are they perfect?  Of course not.  Training is a constant uphill struggle!  Some, especially the Romanian or Eastern European, can come across as rude.  Most are sweet and trying to do a good job.

Hey, if someone's service isn't up to par, let him know! Tell him, but don't stiff him.  If it is really bad and you do take the grats off, remember the grats cover your waiter and all the dining staff and you cabin steward.  Don't punish one for the other's wrong doing.  And have the balls to explain WHY you stiffed them so they don't think you're a jerk and they can improve.

Well, that's the last you'll hear of that!  If you comment on the tips, take it easy on me.  I'm simply trying to inform everyone of the crew members perspective and I hope you've got a taste of that now.

What to come next?  I think I'm going to start to talk about actually getting on a ship for the first time and finding my wat around.  Thanks for tuning in!  Why not "follow me." Have you used GOOGLE READER? Add me! Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Actual Jobs on a Cruise Ship - Staff

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

On inspection of my last post: Jobs on a Ship: Staff, I realized I did not really write much about staff but merely droned on about the environment on a ship.  If you are a potential crew member all that stuff is important, but here's a few of the jobs you can do as a staff member on the ship.

Musician: You usually need to be pretty good to be a musician on a ship.  Jokes aside, you are required to read and improvise at a fairly high level.  Most everyone I met out there as a musician myself was either a recent college grad paying off bills or a forty-something divorced musician trying to pay spousal support and escaping the small community they worked in.  If your life's goal is to be a musician I don't think there is a better way to travel with a lot of practice time and pay off some loans than working on a cruise.  I would recommend it only if you are not happy living where you went to school.  Once you step on the ship you lose ALL contacts with your land based work.  I know it sounds dramatic, but it IS TRUE.  If you went to school in Manhattan working on the ship will do you more harm than good.  In my case, I went to school in Rochester, NY, a place I knew 100% I did NOT want to live!  The best candidates for musos: recent college grads, or those who have fallen on hard times and don't have a place to live.

Beauty Salon: The Salon is run by Steiner normally.  It is a good job if you are South African and want ot escape your country and make some money.  More and more there are less people from England and North America and more from developing nations.  This is a sign of increased education in these areas as well as the parent company less willing to pay a fair working wage for anyone who doesn't live in a rice paddie. Most people who get into hair, massage, or whatever salon people do, do it to help people.  You will learn to lose that attitude on the ship fast.  The spa has a regimen of drilling their "sales people" (therapists) to create retail, retail, retail.  Mark-ups on their retail are huge with enough to give a cut to the cruise line, pay wages, and feed up to STEINER which is a public company.  If you work in the salon you cannot thrive without puching people to buy stuff they don't want in the middle of a relaxing treatment.

Youth Staff: The youth staff position on the ship is nice.  Not high paying, but the staff members are always nice.  The job isn't too bad.

Photog (see my last blog entry)

Cruise Director's Staff: If you want to be a cruise director (a very good job) you have to slave away for years as a "cruise staff."  The glory days of making the big bucks are now gone.  I know someone who was making $500/week in BINGO commissions, but the company got smart and realized it is better to funnel all the money up to corporate instead of giving alot back to staff members and the winne rof BINGO.  My friends jackpots were 10k/week.  Now the big jackpot on Princess is 1K-2K tops a week.  I wonder - who is in charge of regulating this anyway? A gaming commission?  Anyway, WAY back in the day, a few of the crew members I met on a different ship went ashore to a party store and bought boxes of BINGO cards.  They sold those BINGO cards for cash and pocketed the cash.  No cards or money were missing from inventory!  For horse racing, the cruise director would have a friend cruise and buy a bunch of tickets for one number.  Then as he was shaking the dice and calling the numbers, at the last moment his friend's horse would have a tremendous lucky streak and beat all the other horses!  Who checks the dice in that horse racing? Only one guy on every ship in the world? SUCKERS! 

Dancers: For those of you too short to dance in Vegas or on Broadway the cruises are a great way to do what you love and travel.  Also, it is perfect for those who do not like to work very much. My advice: Set a time limit when you start so you're not 32 years old and unmarried and dancing on a cruise ship (and ready to get injured).

Did I forget a job?  Why not leave me a question if you have one?  Many more posts about the crew and travels to come...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jobs on the Ship - What is the Staff like? (Photog, Salon, Musos, Dancers)

Here we are again, my loyal fan club of 2 viewers so far.  I noticed a lot of pings from Croatia. I LOVE it there!  We went to Dubrovnik and Split.  Really amazing places.  Oh, and when I say alot of pings, I mean two.  I've never blogged before so I don't know what is good and what is bad for pings or readers, but I think common sense would dictate that 2 people out of 6 billion is less than I imagined.  I guess there is alot of info out there.  Also, I tried googling my own blog and couldn't find it.  Hey, if you are a blogger and you enjoy reading this, why don't you link to it so more people can find me?

Anyway the staff are the face of the ship.  Well, not entirely true.  The waiters and housekeepers probably have more face time and they are crew.  You know it is a funny thing.  What exactly determines staff from crew on a ship?  Officers have to go to nautical school and they are highly skilled.  Both staff and crew interact with passengers but staff have higher priveleges than crew.  I guess staff have more education? Well, that's not entirely true.  I've known sommeliers who've had a much better education than some dancers or salon workers.  It is weird, but in general, 90% of the staff are white (with of course many different ethnicities from developed countries) whereas 90% of crew are Asian or Eastern European.  Let's call them "ex-Communists" - Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, etc... Most of these people insist they are European like they were born on the Champs Elysees or something!  Anyway, the asians are all from Indonesia (Holland America) or Phillipines (Princess) or India (most lines).  The funny thing on Carnival was that there was a great amount of sophisticated Indian low-stripe officers.  They were always the nicest people on Carnival.  Other lines I've found alot of Indian dishwashers and the lowest paid jobs.

So 90% of the staff lets say are from developed countries.  Those countries would be USA, Canada, real Europe and the UK, and now South Africa (from rich families only).  If you are from a poor family in South Africa you work in the dining room.  I'm not trying to burst anyone's bubble or anything, but I've never been proven wrong in 10 years.  Don't worry, once you get on the ship the chances for advancement are great.

Staff members have higher paying jobs than most crewmembers.  There are exceptions.  Some housekeeprs or cabin stewards work on $50 a month salary, yet they can earn big money on tips.  Of course when the ship goes to the UK everybody is in tears because Brits suck at tipping.  They will spend $100 at lunch on beers but can't tip the guy that cleans up their vomited-on bathroom three nights in a row! Your typical staff member is probably making $1000 - $3000 a month.  Specialists like singers could make more. 

Photographers have a tough life on the ship, I think.  They have to herd all of these cows (passengers or 'pax' as they are called.) Nobobdy wants their picture taken because everyone wants to relax and be on vacation.  The photographers job is to force people to smile and pose and then when they are coming out of dinner (with a few drinks in them ) the photos are on display and you can buy them.  Or buy two and get a free chotsky.  They typically buy their own equipment and work hard hours.  They are on the gangway at port, then might take a tour, then they do formal night set ups, shoot all night, then they are selling photos and printing photos and somehow they are always in the crew bar drinking, too.  The funny thing is they work really hard but they have a lot of fun.  I personally couldn't do the job but I think many of them appreciate the travel opportunities and some are really passionate about photography.  Those ones don't last long since you are mostly making snapshots of fat people.

When I started ships I was a single guy with no worries.  I wanted to write much more about different staff jobs, but I think that is going to have to wait. You see, I am in the 1 in a billion category of crewmembers who met someone on the ship, got together, and we actually stayed together.  I started ships when I was 21.  Now I am 33 and my son, who is 27months just woke us up with a cough.  It's 11pm and the day starts early.  Stay tuned about more stories from the ships and if you know a crew member, why not email them a link?  Crew members will tell you all the stories I'm telling you are true!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vado a bordo Cazzo- What are the Officers Like?

Have you been on a cruise?  Then you probably know that today's ships haveofficers and crew that can number over 1,000!  Let's go over the basics.

Officers - Most ships are set up in a military fashion.  That it, the Captain is the highest ranking officer.  Everyone else bows to him, with one exception: the Senior Doctor.  That's right, if Doc says the ship must go ashore but the Captain doesn't wish to, Doc prevails and takes the wheel.  Officers are usually from developed, seafaring countries such as Italy, Greece, Netherlands, of the UK.  Of course, nationalities vary.  If you have a choice, you do NOT want to end up on any ship with Greek officers.  They are legendary isolationist pricks who do more damage to the companies they work for than the service they pretend to provide.  Even as they are reading this (while wearing aviator sunglasses and a disgusting gray mustache full of pita crumbs) they are furious, yet smirking and nodding slightly in agreement.  One legendary example of how Greeks are pricks stems from Celebrity Cruise Line, owned by RCCL.  The Greek Officers ran the ship.  They controlled the personel logs.  They paid the ship's crew.  Well they set up a systemt o invent crew members and filled cabins with these people.  They made the pay envelopes and processed them to all department heads, who were Greek.  Then they all through these fictional crew members' pay in a kitty and split up the money.  No one shore-side realized this because they could all hide behind the Greek language for decades.  They milked the company of millions of dollars.

Another thing rampant on the ships is sexual harassment.  If you have Greeks on the ship and you are a woman - forget it.  They are all married with kids and they will not stop from trying to get into your cabin and calling you at all hours of the night.  Even if the company has a strict policy against harassment, it still goes on.  The "Three Stripes and Above" club always circles the wagons and protects each other.  I have an example.  Signing off the Royal Princess in 2007 or 8 there was a Portuguese waitress.  Princess cruises has mostly Italian officers.  The girl was so sweet and it was her first ship.  She watched a video about how the company was against harassment. She shows up for work and her married boss starts putting the moves on her.  She's about 25 and he's Italian and over 50.  She tells him to stop.  It keeps continuing till almost the day she leaves. She tells the Maitre D, who is Italian. Then she has to go to the PSD (Hotel Manager) because she is unhappy every day.  The PSD, Arturo, a short Italian with a famous loud mouth, tells her that's how ships work and she needs to toughen up if she wants a career at sea.  Seeing that the staff captain and captain were both Italian, the waitress did the only thing she could: sign off the ship in tears going back to her family without any money.  The company had her buy her own ticket to Portugal because she broke her contract.  I was in the cab with her to the airport in Venice, Italy.  My wife and I were shocked that this still went on after all the lawsuits within the Carnival Corporation (sexual harassment) and all the videos we watched in Princess Cruises about the "Zero Tolerance" for that behaviour.

Most officers go through an extensive hazing ritual when they are deck cadets.  These practices are frowned upon at "corporate" nowadays but have been rampant on every ship I've been on from 2000-2010.  "Corporate" policy makers have MBAs and wear really nice pants in Miami or LA and most of them have never stepped on a ship.  They don't know how the Marine department should interact with the Hotel department.  Marine drives the ship and is responsible for safety, while hotel, well, you probably can guess. 

Safety drills are THE WORST. This is the one chance that stupid dolt of a third officer has to YELL at the top of his lungs at some Phillipino who hardly speaks English.  They threaten to send people home and when I was on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas they did a boat drill in Cozumel, Mexico.  As all the passengers were getting off the gangway, we were huddled together wearing our REQUIRED warm clothing and hat and lifejacket in the 95 degree sun (yes in the sun)  They forced us so closely together that FIVE crew members that day passed out from the heat.  This was done to make us safe. Even the officers waited in the shade while crew members "in charge" did the roll call.  Sometimes you are forced to stand at attention for over an hour.  No Leaning, no hands in the pocket, no talking.  Officers give you warnings if the "catch you."  There is no purpose to this one hour of time, other than the officers are getting their shit together and drinking cappucinos up on the bridge.  After one hour, you are "dismissed and shore leave is granted."

On the Premier Ocean Breeze, now defunct, the row boats were very old.  They didn't have engines!  This is in 1999!  You had a stick between your legs and crew members rocked it forward and back, engaging the gear for the propeller.  Tragically, in lowering these lifeboats a crew member died while the seas rocked and a metal boat from three stories up crashed down on him.  The company went bankrupt in 2001 with their last ship mysteriously sinking in the ocean with no passengers and a skeleton crew.  What kind of life insurance or workers comp do you think the Phillipino's family received?

Due to an arcane law called the Jones Act, passenger ships travelling within the United States must be American flagged with a high percentage of American Crew (coastguard certified.) The ship fell under American Law and American labor practices. This was enacted to protect American ferry owners and ocean liners from underpriced foreign competition.  Today no ship can afford to fall under American Labor laws because the cruise line pays far under minimum wage and does not honor overtime and holidays.  As a loophole, every cruise you've ever been on has a flag of convenience.  The sketchier the flag, the sketchier the ship.  Ever been on a ship registered in Monrovia, Liberia? Panama? Bahamas? These are notorious for not enforcing any laws.  If you think you can sue a cruise line, think again.  You aren't on US soil - you are on Liberian soil.  Alot of people are shocked by this revelation.  For more info, check out:

In all fairness, 99% of all officers I've met were ultra professional.  Well, maybe less but really most of them.  The Greeks are the worst, the Italians pretty bad (vado a bordo cazzo!), the Brits all think they are still ruling the world and the Dutch quite lovely, actually.  It's pretty much like the real world, strangely enough. To be an officer you have to join a dedicated navigational school and you are pretty much looking for a seafaring career.  It sounds fun when you are 18, but picture yourself 45 years old and having a wife and children at home while you are away for 4 months with some beauty salon girlfriend.  It happens.

Those are the officers, stay tuned for comments about the ship's staff....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How I Started Sailing the World and Getting Paid For It!

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

Do you love to cruise?  Ever wonder what goes on in the crew quarters?  Ever wonder what it is like to be on the same ship for 6 months?  This blog is for you!  If you've even been on a cruise on a megaliner like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Holland America, P&O, Cunard or others - you've only seen HALF what goes down on a ship.

I've never blogged before and I laugh every time I hear Barney from "How I Met Your Mother" talk about how cool his blog is (while everyone snickers.) Recently a friend of mine shared how much he enjoyed blogging and that people halfway around the world seemed fascinated with his life.  There are many reasons why blogging could be a good idea, but really the 2 main reasons for me right now is that it isn't bedtime yet and HBO's Boardwalk Empire just had its season finale, and I got knocked out of my poker tournaments I was playing online.  That means my Sunday nights have just opened up!

Haha - I held you hostage with boring information.  If you are reading this you are probably interested yourself on sailing the seven seas with the wind in your hair, your arms in the air, and a well-to-do redhead with a diamond the size of a doorknob gazing into your eyes. You basically want to be King of the World. OK - here comes your chance.  Before I give your the magic secret on how to do it, though, I wanted to encourage you to add my blog to your favorites or "follow me" or whatever.  Guess what - I've never read one blog in my life and don't even know how RSS works.  I know, I truly am lame.  One could also argue that I'm pretty darn cool if blogs are dorky, at least that's how I sleep at night.  No please follow these stories becasue if you want to get a job on a ship, you will and there will be many stories in here which will prepare you for that world.

Anyway, my blog is actually the only blog in the world that is NOT dorky, so thanks for tuning in.  And if you are my Mom reading this, none of this really happened and I really did just graduate with my PhD from the very prestigious University of Phoenix where I've been living on campus for the last 12 years.  I have NOT been goofing around, playing music, partying like a rock star, getting lost in European cities and kite surfing in Venezuela.

So - "How did I get a job on the cruise ship?"  There's a few things you need to know.  First of all, the cruise industry was growing when I was hired in 1999.  It is still growing.  There are bigger and bigger ships and more and more people taking cruises.  Imagine the new ships that come out that have 2600 passengers.  The Oasis I think has 5000!  I worked on a ship, the Voyager of the Seas that had a CREW of 1250!  WIth such growth there is one thing that is inevitable - they need workers.  So I have surprising news for you - ANYONE can get a job on cruise ship.  It is not hard and not difficult.  If you have a pulse and the will to travel I promise it is possible.

When I was in college my friend wanted to look to do something for the summer.  He was a piano player and I was a trumpet player.  He bought a book and I think it was called: How to get a job on a Cruise Ship.  I don't know if this title is the exact one we used, but I found one on Amazon if you are looking (see link below paragraph). The one feature that made the book he used amazing: if you bought the book and did NOT get a job on a ship withing 6 months, they would refund your money!  Look online to see if that deal still exists.  I remember he paid $50.00 for the book in 99.  You should also get a recent one as contacts and hirers have changed.

Well, he bought the book.  Within weeks he was hired and did not need the book anymore, so he gave it to me.  Now I was a pretty lousy trumpet player and still I got hired.  "Musos" out there: there is a story of a sax player who calls up a cruise ship company to get a gig.

Sax Player: Hello, are you looking for sax players?
Agent: Well, we have a hiring process.  Normally we interview over the phone and audition at a later date.
Sax Player: I just graduated from college and I'm looking for work.
Agent: Do you own a saxophone?
Sax Player: Yes
Agent: What color is it?
Sax Player: Gold
Agent: What are you doing Thursday?

Sooner or later, if you are trying to get a job on a cruise ship this situation will happen to you.  I owe my career to the fact that most trumpet players on the ship would get really, really drunk.  My first gig the trumpet player (was his name Lee?) fell down in the shower and broke his arm.  After that short stint I had another gig because the trumpet player was carry a case on Heineken down the stairs and the ship listed, or rolled.  Instead of grabbing the railing at the peril or smashing his precious suds he fell, cushioning the case with his collar bone, which broke.  The story goes that he downed a few before going to the medical center.  I tell these stories to let the reader know in any vocation, there will be accidents, incidents, and more importantly EMERGENCIES that require the staffing of a position fast. So how do you take advantage of this?

It's simple: be a pest.  Cruise lines will never tell you to bug off.  They will never deny your application for employment.  It's not like a real job where you are hired or not. Of course, the exact day you call they will not need someone the first time.  That's why you hound them.  Find your hiring agent in your book and when you call, make sure they are the correct hiring agent that works for the cruise line.  Never go with an agent or contracter - they take 8%-12% of your pay and you won't be making much.  PLUS, they tie you into a contract that says after you finish your job you have to pay them if you work for any other cruise line.  Why do you think they do that?  Because once you get on the ship you realize how darn easy it would be to get a job anywhere else and cut them out of your earnings!  Always work directly for the line.

So, basically you just find your contacts at 5-6 different cruise lines.  Call them once a week and politely ask if they have any openings.  At first they will tell you "no" or in "6 months" to get you off the phone.  After a few weeks they realize you are serious and if something comes up - they WON'T call you!  You have to hound them.  This way, when that job opens and you call, you are a familiar voice.

To make a long story long, I used the book and was hired by a very small company: Premier Cruise Line (now out of business).  I passed the book onto another "muso" (musician) who, in turn, also got a job.  I would see my piano player friend who gave me the book in port a few times.  I was amazed at the style of life out there.  The crew bar was such an interesting experience - you HAVE to hear about it!  The passenger were all drunken nut jobs. And some of the things that happened on that rust-bucket (built in 19-forty-something) were very bizarre.  Stayed tuned if you want to find out!