A Lesson in First World Problems

Today I learned a lesson in First World Problems. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, it’s a problem that might seem like a big problem to someone that has their health, happiness, a roof over their head, food in their bellies, and is financially stable. Think about someone being really upset that a restaurant is out of something on the menu. That my dear is a First World Problem.

I got back to the cabin this afternoon at 3:00pm and started to tell Stuart about my day. I was an escort on a passenger tour and everything went wrong. I had 99 passengers on a tour with me that were nearly all sea sick and an engine broke on the boat we were on and so they all missed out on snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia… and it was raining. It was a challenging 5 hours. By the time I saw Stuart at 3:00pm I had gotten everyone safely back on board, changed into dry clothing, and had a bite to eat.

Stuart then starts to tell me about his day. His work day was largely an average work day. Then he tells me about that over the course of the 5 hours that I was on this rather eventful tour Trump put a travel ban on all of Europe from the US for 30 days (aside from the UK according to one news source), and the NBA had basically cancelled the rest of it’s season.

Now, the NBA cancelling the rest of it’s season really has no effect on me personally. I don’t follow the NBA nor do I care if any of the athletes or owners lose a million bucks or two. I realize the trickle down effect is has on the people that work at those concession stands, taking tickets, working security, etc.

The bigger news of course was that of the travel ban on Europe. Now, as I write this I am comfortably sitting on a lounge chair looking out on the harbor of Cairns, Australia. We aren’t in Europe, in fact, the ship isn’t even scheduled to go to Europe until sometime in October. However, there’s this little thing in your mind that goes “what happens next?”

Australia currently has 126 cases of the COVID-19 virus with more being reported nearly every day. While I am not super concerned with our ship having a case onboard – what if we can’t get home? What if in the next 2 months more countries start to say people from here or there or that have been here or there can’t come in?

We have changed our itinerary a lot for the remainder of this Grand World Voyage and a lot of the reason is that countries don’t want to accept cruise ships. (I’ll write another post more in depth about this later on.)

Overall even though we are all living on a cruise ship in the midst of this pandemic we are pretty removed from it. We are going along with what is happening and adjusting where we’re going and taking extra care with sanitization.

When I got back from this tour that was just a headache of a mess, after dealing with a few passengers fairly irate at me and then Stuart told me all of what was going on all I could really think was how spoiled we are all. How really, the fact that this week – when so much of the world is in complete panic over the spread of this virus – you can choose to be irate at me (that doesn’t even work for the company) that you didn’t get to go snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef – while you sail on a 4 month long cruise. Can you say First World Problems?

Aside from the huge number of people that are getting sick (we are all praying for you Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson!) there are so many people that are losing work, that are losing business, and that are going to struggle in a very real and lasting way to make ends meet. And, aside from the people that know that they are losing work there is so much that is unknown.

From the cruise ship perspective on this: the majority of our deck and engine officers are from Europe, mostly the UK and the Netherlands – and the majority of our cruise ships are either in California or in the Caribbean (sailing out of Fort Lauderdale) – those crew members won’t be able to get to work – which probably means that their counterparts won’t be able to go home from work to see their families.

The ship I am currently on – the Amsterdam – is scheduled for dry dock in May – the majority of the workers that come on board from that are from Europe, and they would typically fly into Fort Lauderdale. If they fly into the Bahamas instead but are on the ship will the ship even be able to go to Fort Lauderdale to make the start of it’s run up to Boston for the Canada/New England summer season?

Not only does it create a real and logistical nightmare it has a direct effect on people’s livelihood and their families livelihoods.

And all of this is going on while a gentleman tells me how awful it is that he couldn’t go snorkeling today.

Most of the time I think that it’s nice that we’re so removed from the hype and hysteria that is going on throughout the world. We can choose not to turn on the TV and aside from some itinerary changes and some extra reminders to wash or sanitize our hands we can kind of forget it’s going on. Most of the time I think it’s a blessing that my day isn’t spent thinking about and being scared of this pandemic. Today though I realized that some people need to get some perspective. I understand it’s disappointing. What he doesn’t see is why it is disappointing. It’s disappointing that a tour operator lost out on all of the money from that tour today while the travel industry is in a downward spiral in income loss. I suppose it’s great for this guy that he can be so removed from it all. Hell, maybe this was his last chance to ever go snorkeling there – maybe this should have been a disappointment of the epic proportion that he was projecting. Most passengers took it all in stride – for me though the disappointment was with the people that didn’t. Then again, I’m on a four month world cruise – it’s kind of all a first world problem isn’t it?

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