Guest post by Sarah Treleaven
Our butler was from India. Our hostess was from the Philippines. Our waiter was from Indonesia. The front desk attendant was Azerbaijani. And the Coke in our mini fridge was exclusively for sale in Vietnam. Welcome to the international world of cruising.
Last year, on my very first cruise, a lovely Silversea journey on the Silver Shadow around northern New Zealand and southern Australia, I was struck by several surprises. The first, explored in a previous post, was just how busy cruising kept me. The second, which I’ll explore in this post, was how surprised I was about the truly international composition of the ship.
True, the vast majority of the ship’s passengers were American, British and Australian. Many of them regaled us with stories of their time at sea and made recommendations for the best cake shops in Sydney. But the crew onboard was a fascinating hodgepodge, and my boyfriend and I spent many happy hours asking them just how they ended up onboard. For some, it was an exciting chance to see the world, and they ticked off all of the places they had seen: Vancouver, Norwegian fjords, the Panama Canal, Ho Chi Minh City and Cape Town.
For others, most notably the Indonesian, Indian and Filipino waiters, bartenders and housekeepers, the excitement of seeing the world by sea was tempered by the necessity of leaving home for 11 months a year to support their families. They were clearly happy to have their job, but were sorely missing out on watching their children learn how to walk. (Though we were also told that the staff kitchens try to replicate some of the comforts of home, by offering staff a lot of Indonesian and Filipino meal options.)
Everywhere we turned on the cruise, we encountered people with fascinating stories. Before the cruise, it had been a while since I had pulled up a stool to the bar and started a conversation with the bartender. Ever since, I’ve tried to be mindful that everyone has an interesting story and all you have to do is ask.