Boy oh boy oh boy…
August 1, 2022
What can I say. Going on that cruise was definitely a learning experience. Not that it was hard or difficult to do. Trust me, lounging in the sun in a sexy swimsuit, rocking out to live Caribbean pan music while knitting, trying to satisfy my 4-drinks-a-day quota, is very very easy.
The most difficult part was realizing how little I felt like I was doing to contribute to the countries and indigenous peoples I was visiting. I was thinking to myself how thankful I am towards them for allowing us to enter their space and teach us but then I realized that the reality is most likely that we are entering their space and paying them to provide and perform tourist attractions.
Disclaimer: This is all based on one trip I had with one cruise line and ship. I’m no expert on cruise ships or anything to do with them.
An article written by 106Group, an environmental firm dedicated to historical, cultural, natural resources and preservation, helps to describe the impacts of cruise ship tourism. “Managing the Impacts of Cruise Ship Tourism” written in 2019 by David Ketz, Rachel Ketz, and Cody Jennings recognizes that both developing and developed countries benefit from tourist attractions, however also begins to dive into how there is now a tourism paradox that I think we should all take some time to think about.
I had no idea that the employees (also the people that serve you) were 90% if not just all were from South East Asia or those such other developing countries. Many are from the Philippines. I don’t know why… but I figured the demographic would be more… diverse. Needless to say, I think, there were little to no American nor English speaking employees on the ship. I talked to one of my good friends and he told me that many of these employees and their families see having this kind of job to be one of the better ones you could have. A lot of their income is sent back home, as is a common practice I’ve recognized my whole life.
I just worry about any sort of exploitation. It’s important to me that if I’m spending money on something, that it’s going towards something good. And if the people who serve and work very hard to make the cruise a fun and comfortable experience get scraps, I would be extremely disappointed.
I’ll tell you about something that broke my heart and then we can go into 106Group’s paper.
For dinner, every night you have a time you’re supposed to arrive, you sit at the same dinner table, and you get the same waiters. Eventually, you develop a rapport with them (and everyone else you encounter on a normal basis) because well… why wouldn’t you want to? Customer service workers are people too after all. At the end of the cruise, my group’s particular staff asked if we could do them a huge favor and write a great review about their experience and specifically name and talk about them personally and how wonderful they were. If they get a review, they get 3 hours off. Wait a second.. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to work in that way… I hope there are other ways to get hours off. Karl and Laureano. I definitely wrote my review (I think I’m going to be a secret reviewer). But I wonder if any of the other 7 members of my group, or 4000 passengers on the ship, did the same. I’m about to do some math.
Findstack in their “Ultimate List of Online Review Statistics for 2022” says 72% of people asked to leave a review will do so.
My cruise line’s technical sheet (you can find it online) says there are 924 seats in the restaurant I was to go to. 924 seats x 72% is 665 people.
Now, I don’t know how many tables there are in that restaurant, so I don’t know how many people were part of the waitstaff. I can’t imagine that the average group size on the cruise was more than 4-5 people. Round up to a 6 top and that’s about 110 (665 people/6 seats) tables Wow! 110 tables, 2 waiters per table. 55 waiters.
665 people/reviews x 3 hours = 1995 hours
Round up to 2000 hours/55 waiters = 36.36 hours. Whew, still following me?
Based on Findstack’s statistics, there’s 36.36 hours off for each waiter if all 72% of the 924 seats were filled and everyone wrote a review. My cruise was about 7-8 days (1 week). 36.36 hours x 4 weeks = 146 hours, which is about 6 days. That’s not too bad. Almost a week off for every 4 weeks you work.
If all the seats were filled. If everyone wrote a review.
No one in my group stated they did after being able to ask if they took the photos of their name tags. (Keep reading for good news!)
So, is it more like, 1 out of 8 people? We can give someone the benefit of the doubt. 2 out of 8 people is 25% which is apparently more than websitebuilder(dot)org’s 2022 statistic stating that about 5-10% of consumers write reviews.
25% of 924 seats or people is 231 people, or 231 reviews. 231 reviews x 3 hours is 693 hours for 55 waiters, which ends to 12.6 hours per waiter. Uhhhhh… wait, what? Yes. If 25% of even 1000 people, for each waiter of the 55, the 750 hours in this scenario would be distributed to be 13.6 hours per week trip. 13.6 hours x 4 weeks is 54.4 hours a month.
How many months of 3-hours-off do you have to accumulate to get like a week off work? A cruise ship employee works about a 10-13 hour shift. And there’s 168 hours in a week. (According to Cruise Critic, upon completing training, cruise ship employees on average are contracted for a 2 to 9 month period.) So to get those 168 hours off, one would need to work 15-16 shifts that are 11 hours and MUST get 56 reviews (168/3) in that time frame. 15-16 shifts is about 15-16 days I would imagine.
Since in our 25% of 924 scenario above, there’s 50.4 hours off per month per waiter when 25% of passengers write a review, we can assume that’s about 17 reviews per month per waiter. Maaaaaan, I hope they get those 17 reviews per month. But they’re only getting 13 hours off per week, right? If 13 hours is a shift, that’s a day off per a week-long cruise. 4 days off a month? I suppose it could be worse… but I want to look on the bright side.
Okay… I’m getting dizzy.
(While writing this, I was able to ask the group if anyone wrote a review. Someone else did! Whoooo!)
“Communities that depend on tourism revenues are now facing overcrowded streets, insufficient infrastructure capacity, and destruction of the very natural and cultural resources people come to visit. Ironically, the success of attracting tourists and consequences of overtourism could now threaten the economic, cultural, and natural environment, thereby threatening the wellbeing of the tourism industry and the conservation of fragile resources.”
I’ll add the link to the article here:
I would also like to share some parts I thought were thought-provoking. The paper explicitly “explore[s] the interdependence between tourism industries, destination communities, and the importance of protecting and preserving natural and cultural sites.”
Of course, it is evident that communities we are visiting benefit from cruise tourism through the new jobs and businesses that it creates, along with the local governments being able to generate some tax revenue. But I think we should think a little bit deeper into how it’s affecting non-commercial/capitalistic ways of life, outside of our normal American way of life.
“The sociocultural impacts of tourists can change the character, family value systems, relationships, behavior, safety, moral conduct, and traditional ceremonies of communities (Brida & Zapata 2010).”
“Overtourism refers to the overcrowding of streets, over-burdened infrastructure, alienated and priced-out residents, destruction to the environment, and threats to culture and heritage (Jovanovic and Ilic 2016). As more people continue to travel, what actions are going to be taken to address impacts of overtourism?”
“While overtourism can be attributed to all tourism sectors, the cruise industry receives notable attention from local officials and community residents as a substantial contributor to overcrowding. This is evident as communities have tried to ban cruise ships of certain sizes from docking at ports, increase taxes, and place limits on the number of passengers allowed to dock. In Dubrovnik, Croatia, residents complain that cruise ship passengers are “ruining” the Old Town of the City. In response, the Mayor passed tourism policies limiting the number of people allowed to enter Old Town (Foster 2017). From Venice to Amsterdam and Alaska, local officials are also placing restrictions on the cruise industry. The industry responded by canceling and changing port destinations (Montevago 2019).
“The concerns of crowding from tourism is not new. Tourism literature dating back to the 1960s has addressed the impacts of tourism. However, as more tourists reach new destinations, the impacts of overcrowded streets, congested traffic, noise, loss of culture and identity will perplex residents and force governments to react (Koens et al. 2018)”
“…the only way to reframe the issue is for dialogue to occur between industry executives, community officials, and destination managers for historic sites.”
“There exists an interdependence between tourism industries, destination communities, and historic sites. Tourism is a business and competitive market for tourism industries and local communities rely on tourism revenue to generate taxes and economic development. A fundamental question must be answered in the era of overtourism – how do you balance preserving culture and authenticity while promoting a tourist economy?”
“The literature points to the lack of planning and policies for tourism development. This paper highlights the need for more dialogue between industry executives and community officials. As heritage tourism and planning professionals, we have a responsibility to be “Builders of Peace” and preserve and protect natural and cultural resources. To achieve sustainable tourism, a balance must be reached between economic development, social and cultural justice, and the natural environment. This will require holistic proactive planning solutions, facilitation, and dialogue among stakeholders.”
If you’re still following me, thank you. It means a lot that you’ve gotten to this point. I don’t know if I care too much or what (no one else seemed to be bothered at the review aspect), but it means a lot to know that you care too.
This by no means means “I hate cruise ships/I hate cruises/I hate tourism.” No, I think I understand why people should travel, tour, see, experience, and learn something new, but I think there’s definitely a difference between going to Mexico only to party and saying “I LOVE MEXICO” vs immersing yourself in the culture of the people that live in the land you’re on, supporting them and the local environment and communities, and saying “I LOVE MEXICO.”
In the current state the planet is in, I don’t know if we have the time to joke around about taking care of the world including us, human beings. Us, each other. (That being said, if you’re going to go visit another country to simply party, sure, go ahead, but I will not be doing that.) I think it’s about time we try to be a little bit more responsible. Just a lil.
That’s the end of my rant. In the end, cruising is fun, a great way to relax, tan, drink, and travel, if you don’t mind big crowds, of course. I think I would enjoy doing another one, I just want to be much more prepared for it! Like, have a $20 or $50 bill for every tour guide or indigenous persons who helped me on my trip, kind of ready. Not being able to tip is horrible!! I don’t recommend it.