We've all heard them from the cruise director...the stupid questions asked by passengers. Mostly canned and tiresome to hear since they seem to use it on every cruise (usually at the debarkation talk), I have always felt most of the "questions" were made up.
Well, last week I actually did hear a passenger ask an officer "where does the crew stay?" I imagine she meant where are the crew quarters, but you never know.
The biggest embarrassments occurred at the Crown & Anchor Diamond/Platinum member party. He sat a group who had to have cruised more than a few times. Here are two questions asked of the Captain:
"When you said we needed to pick up the pilot for Prince Rupert what does that mean? Is the pilot a radio homing signal you pick up?" The captain stared at this passenger for several seconds and muffled laughter cascaded across the lounge.
"Where is the bridge?"
At the larger "From The Top" Q&A session held on the last sea day, a truly boorish question was asked of the Hotel Manager. "Why aren't there more Caucasian crew members?" He gave the questioner a "look" and a chance to rephrase by saying "could you say that again?" The idiot said it again, exactly the same. The response: "Crew nationalities and races are often a function of the ship's area of operation. We just came from the far east for example, and that is why we have many Chinese crew aboard. We had to have crew that spoke Mandarin which isn't a common American or European language." He went on with more examples, such as their being more of X nationality on European or South American cruises, etc. I could tell the Hotel Manager was offended by the question. I was too!
When I heard the question the NCL America debacle immediately sprang to mind for me too. The Hotel Manager did go a little bit into wages and the fact that some countries are more predisposed to it's citizens going to sea for jobs. People often think Filipinos work on ships because they have no other choices. These people fail to realize The Philippines is made up of a whole lot of islands and shipping is vital to them.
I was really impressed with the Chinese crew members I met. One guy was really a character. He has been on the Rhapsody for a while - even in Galveston. He was very tall (6'2" or so) and called himself "The Booze Man". He worked the dining room every night selling the loving cup liqueur drinks. What a personality! What a salesman! One of our table mates was a retired insurance executive. He said "that guy ought to be in sales. He could make 15k a month selling insurance for me."
On my recent cruise on the Liberty of the Seas someone was upset about the cruise lines getting stricter on smoking. She wanted to know why she couldn't smoke in her cabin because she enjoyed smoking while she put on her makeup. The Captain just told her not smoking was better for her health.
It's good that a strong work ethic is alive and well. I see it each time I board a ship. Our Filipino waiter on Rhapsody was working everywhere I went. I'd hit the dining room for breakfast and there he'd be with a great big smlie. I'd see him in the buffet, I'd see him every night for dinner and when they had the big midnight food and ice carving thing, there he was, still smiling and joking. I loved his humor and he was able to get away with jokes that would offend many without it ever sounding demeaning coming from him. My favorite line of his was when I asked if he ever got time off. He said "I'm trying to get my green card and want desperatly to come to America. I need a corporate sponsor to offer me a long term job so I can quit working so hard and become a lazy American." If just about anyone else alive had said that to me I wouldn't have found the humor in it. But with him, I knew it was his way of joking about the stereotype and the crew having to deal with all types, including the ones the stereotype is based on, over the years. I simply loved the fact that he saw the good old USA as a place of oportunity and better prosperity for him and his family. I hope one day he gets that opportunity to become a lazy American!
Those Q&A sessions certainly yield some surprising questions. When we were on Diamond Princess a few years ago, one of the passengers asked the Captain how much a Captain earned. His response: "Not as much as you would think, and not nearly as much as my wife thinks."
During bridge tours I've had a lot of strange and sometimes stupid questions, and I can assure you all the examples the cruise director gives you are true.
I've had the question "Do we live onboard", "Is the caribbean sea salt or fresh water" and "do the ship generate its own electricity" (No we have a very long cable still connected in Miami)
But there are also many wise, thoughtful, intelligent and nice questions and all in all I really enjoyed having bridge tours as that was my way of meeting the pax.
As Dave mentiones, shipping is a natural way of living for the Filipinos (as it is for Norwegians) and during all my years at sea I've been enjoying working with them. Filipinos maybe used to be cheap labour, but today they are very well qualified professionals who goes through much harder requirements to be able to work on a ship than for example a european or american. I can take my wife as an example. We met on the beautiful Norway when she was working as an admin hostess in the cruise staff department. Earlier she had been in the purser's department. In order to be accepted to go overseas in the first place she had to have a college degree (minimum bachelor) while some of her american, canadian and european colleagues hadn't even finished high school.
In the deck department many of the AB's and OS's were qualified for 3rd officer positions as they had the licence.
Often when me and my college mates talk about our sea life I keep mentioning that I'd much rather sail with a mixture of filipinos and norwegians than with a full norwegian crew.
Filipino seamen today are skilled workers with lots of schooling and experience.
And awesome people as well. I've had the pleasure of knowing some personally, just fantastic people. Norwegians and Filipinos. However, Ulla did tell me of one strange custom the Norwegians had. She said, they'd sit in a sauna and then go jump in the snow. Didn't sound like fun to me