It has been nearly a month since the passengers were disembarked from the ship in Fremantle, Australia, and as you can guess things are a bit different. While the economic impact of sailing without passengers is massive, both for the cruise line and the ripple effects to the crew working on board, this post is going to focus on how life onboard has changed. While some of the changes without are fun for a little bit (for instance, not wearing a uniform in passenger areas), everyone would trade these temporary “perks” for passengers being back onboard and things returning to normal.
Please note: Our ship is COVID-19 free (cross fingers it remains that way), but as a precaution we are practicing social distancing, limiting contact between crew, and following increased sanitation procedures throughout the ship. We are currently on our way to Asia to disembark crew in Indonesia and the Philippines. Holland America Line has cancelled all voyages through June 30, 2020.
So, here you have it, my Top Ten Things That Are Different:
10. You can walk the opposite way on the walking deck and *shock* you can run on deck, too.
Normally on this deck everyone has to walk the same direction because there are so many people walking on it. There is also no jogging allowed to ensure the safety of all guests. However, the deck chairs that normally run along the side of the deck are picked up and nearly every time I’ve gone there to go for a walk or a run I have it almost all to myself.
9. Everyone, and truly everyone, eats in the Lido Market. There is No Room Service, Dining Room, or Specialty restaurants.
No crew mess downstairs, no dining room to go to, it is one food service location for everyone onboard. It’s not quite the Lido Market that I’m used to with passengers. There’s a bit less selection to my taste, but they are working to balance offering a mix of western style (think European and North American) and Asian (think Indonesian and Filipino) so that everyone can have some of what they like, as well as being mindful of the provisions we have onboard and the availability of provisions in the coming ports. Instead of focusing on the fact that there are less choices I try to focus on that there still are any choices at all.
And, while I love myself some room service (BBQ pulled pork sub, a quesadilla, maybe some three bean chili?) the room service, dining room, and specialty restaurants are really offered for the passengers. While some of the crew (and their spouses) are lucky enough to also enjoy these services, with no passengers onboard it makes sense to put all of these services on hold.
8. Using the cruise ship as a ferry to bring crew members home.
This hasn’t changed anything physically onboard, but it has changed the mentality, as it has brought a realness to both the severity and expected duration of this situation to all crew.
It is very weird to see these ships being used for the sole purpose of transporting people from one place to another. This is taking place due to the various requirements from governments for repatriation of people that have been on a cruise ship (even a healthy ship), expenses and availability of charter flights, as well as hotel expenses and availability for countries with quarantine requirements (some places will accept us being at sea as an acceptable quarantine, depending on what we are looking to do in port – refuel vs. repatriate, etc.).
7. Crew can be in passenger areas with wet hair and not in uniform.
The biggest change I felt when I switched to being a Wife-On-Board was this one right here. Not having to blow dry your hair or time your showers so that your hair would be dry in time to go in public areas is HUGE (especially when you’ve got a helluva lot of hair like I currently do). #wethairdontcare
6. The crew bars are closed, and everyone uses the same bars upstairs.
Now, with that being said we have to follow social distancing, and it is for limited hours. But, not only is one of these bars outside with fresh air, you can also buy cup noodles and fulfill all of your sodium drenched noodle cravings. Let’s call it a win.
5. Nearly all crew are in passenger cabins – with at least a window.
Over the past few week’s crew have been moving from their respective cabins to passenger cabins. This started first with the crew that had roommates, and then moved on to others simply getting a bit of an upgrade (for instance we now have a balcony). The few remaining in crew cabins elected to do so on their own (moving – even an area as small as a cabin is still a pain in the butt. I had no idea that we had accumulated that much stuff!) As a side note: while it is really nice I think it was done for two reasons: 1) to help crew morale 2) if we end up in a situation where we have to quarantine in our cabins everyone would be in a nicer cabin with at least a window.
4. All crew can use a pool even on sea days (cough, cough, we only have sea days now!)
Typically, crew aren’t allowed to use the pool on sea days. This is to make sure that the passengers are truly coming first. However, now most of the time there is one pool open for all crew to use throughout the day.
3. Most of the ship is shut down.
This is largely to save on the electricity from air conditioning and lighting and thus fuel. This means that the areas that passengers would usually go to – the Ocean Bar, Piano Bar, Dining Room, Pinnacle Grill, Explorations, Casino, Show Lounge, etc. are dark with only emergency level lighting and typically warmer than the rest of the ship.
2. A lot of crew don’t know when they are going home.
We are making our way towards Indonesia and the Philippines which should answer the question for about 75% of the crew that are still on board (this is an educated guess percentage-wise, I am not privy to exact numbers). As the crew is comprised of many nationalities the ship can’t possibly sail to every country, and some countries have their borders closed even to their own citizens. In addition to those challenges, like on land, there are some positions that are considered essential, and many of those people are getting extended because either they can’t get home, they’re replacement can’t get here, or both. Overall it seems that everyone is taking it in stride and to paraphrase Dory from Finding Nemo “Just keep sailing. Just keep sailing…”
1. Crew are having to adjust how they live and work with each other
Much like everyone at home has had to make adjustments to how you’re living and working, onboard is no different. When passengers are onboard everyone pretty much knows their place and their purpose. Without the passengers here the dynamics between departments are evolving as people work to adjust to the new circumstances.