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Cruise ship cooking


Reefpimp
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Tomorrow, A MAJOR PLAYER in the cruise industry is conducting interviews in my area for staff for their Hawai'ian operations. Not to name names but it rhymes with Borwegian Bruise Lines.

Their blurb says they are hiring (among other positions) cooks at all levels, from execs and sous on down to comis/dish. That covers a lot of ground, and I'm pretty sure there's room for the Reefpimp somewhere in the middle. My question is, several years ago, the cruise lines had a horrible reputation as places to work, with accomodations for the crew that were little better than slave ships--20 people to a cabin, rusty water in the head shared by 50 staff, etc., etc. But I hear things have really improved; and, among other things, these vessels fly the U.S. flag (Jones Act regulations), and so are required to conform to USCG stability curves and accomodation standards. So what does anybody know? Anything beyond the vaguest of rumors? I need to rack up sea-time toward my getting my 600 Ton Master's papers and my Unlimited Tonnage 3rd Mate license as well; I'd much rather cook than chip paint and change light bulbs.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Reef, if all that stuff is true than it IS an improvement. Had a few friends who did the cruise ship thing, and the stories were roaches, paint sticking to your feet and seasickness. What they also said was that basically you're a slave to the ship..15 hour days and they grab you on your rest if they need you. I gather it's a great way to make a lot of money quickly, provided you don't blow it at ports of call or gambling with other crew on the ship.

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Well, I took the job they offered me: lowly, lowly line cook. Pay is squat, not quite nine bucks an hour--but the benefits are unreal. Free accommodation aboard ship. Free medical and dental on-board. Meals are free--legitimately, that is, no payroll deductions for staff meal. Free whites, free laundry service. 3-4 to a cabin, so 6-8 per bathroom. Unlimited hot water. Full (nice!) workout facilities. Staff-only library. Free wireless high-speed Internet. Free Jetski rental, kiteboarding lessons/rental, trapshooting, shuffleboard, etc., etc. Decent 401 (K). 1 weeks' paid vacation after 1 years' employment. Deep, deep discounts on other NCL vessels worldwide--like under $100/wk exclusive of airfare. Any work over 40 hours a week OR 8 in a day is paid as overtime--and that runs between 15-30 a week, so 55-70 hrs/wk total. So my wages are effectively doubled. Plenty of room to advance, either on the maritime professional side or the culinary.

Schedule is 7 days a week for 20 weeks, then 4 weeks unpaid off, but airfare to and from the mainland is taken care of (I am never stuffing my oversized backside into a transpacific Coach seat again, though. Business-class upgrade mandatory.). However, on our off-watches, we are encouraged to spend time ashore in the ports-of-call, and to use the amenities the cruise line offers.

I don't think I'll regret it. Might just have to blog it.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Well, it'll either be an interesting and potentially-book-worthy experience, or you'll end up throwing yourself overboard into the rotating propeller blades. Hope it's a good time!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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Congratulations Reefpimp. Sounds like it will be exciting.

Please keep a blog, or at least post here from time to time. I am anxious to live vicariously through you!

I have been on a few cruises, had tours of the galley, but would love to hear firsthand what it is like.

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yes. Please blog this. I'd be very interested to hear an insiders take on NCL's little experiment.

I took an NCL cruise a few years ago in Hawaii on the Star. But that was before they started the operation of NCL America using US flagged ships (and therefore, employees that must be eligible to work in the US along with having to comply with US labor laws). My cruise on the Star was fantastic, and I thought the food was actually pretty good, overall. But I've heard "Bad Things" about the NCL America cruises.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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No idea, they haven't set me up for the {airquotes}training class{/airquotes}. I'm in a wedding on May 6th--not my own-- so I'm going to beg and plead and whine and moan and cry like a schoolkid with a skinned knee that it has to be sometime after that. Besides, we're redoing the menu at the restaurant for which I currently work right now to include more game (farmed elk, goose, pheasant; wild-caught bluegill and perch) and Chef could probably use me through the transition. And I could use the money before I head out--if things do go straight to aitch ee double hockey-sticks in a hurry once I get there, I don't want to be stranded. If they don't then I'll use that money to buy a used motorcycle for getting around the island on. Win/win.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Do you know what ship you'll be on? What the itinirary is?

My sis and BIL are currently on the Norwegian Pearl( I think its registered in the Bahamas) and I'm very anxious to hear about the food.

The Pearl goes from Miamia to Cozumel to Belize City.

Not that exciting.

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Reef..an old friend of mine just took a gig with NCL as their corporate Pastry Chef. He works out of Miami and will be going out on the boats once a month. If you ever run into a guy that looks like Richie Cunningham, give him a hard time. Great guy and a serious talent.

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Reefpimp, I have to say, it is going to make an incredibly interesting blog. A friend of mine is executive chef for Royal Caribbean, bloody hard work and he goes a long time without seeing his family, but he loves it and as his living costs are covered, he ends up earning very well.

If a man makes a statement and a woman is not around to witness it, is he still wrong?

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Do you know what ship you'll be on?  What the itinirary is?

My sis and BIL are currently on the Norwegian Pearl( I think its registered in the Bahamas) and I'm very anxious to hear about the food. 

The Pearl goes from Miamia to Cozumel to Belize City.

Not that exciting.

Excitement is relative. Cozumel has what some consider to be some of the world's best scuba diving not to mention some fantastic little loncheria's and taqueria's if you nose around on the backstreets where the locals eat.

Belize City has chronic urban crime probelms that are not representative of the rest of the country. But you can get a water shuttle to Caye Caulker for a day of good snorkeling and good fresh grileld fish at a few of the cafes or get a shuittle inland and check out a caving trip. Fantastic caves with Mayan artifacts still intact are well worth visiting. The food in Belize is less than exciting but Marie Sharpe's hot sauce is everywhere and makes most of it tolerable.

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Aren't cruise ship wages also not taxed? I always understood that was a major benefit to working on them. Usually long, hard and monotinous hours, (like 12 hours a day slicing fruit kind of monotinous), but the pay was OK cause room/board is paid for and you don't get taxed.

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I don't know about all that. I think that the cruise ship crew who don't get taxed, are not getting taxed because they're earning the money outside the U.S., at least "legally speaking" because the vessels are flying flags of conveinience. Because a ship is sovereign territory of the nation of whose flag it flies, any taxes would be levied by that nation. I may be wrong; don't quote me, but that's my understanding of international maritime law pertaining to payment of crew.

Hawai'i, last time I checked, hadn't seceded from the Union yet. Every vessel employer I've ever worked for in the past has taxed me, so I don't see why this would be any different. In any event, as this is addressed by the Jones Act of 1928, I believe that even if they keep me in the galley peeling potatoes for 15 hours straight, I get overtime after 8 hours of work.

So screw 'em. It can't last forever, and I've never had either a kitchen job or a mariner job where I stayed a galley slave for very long; I get moved up the ladder pretty quick. Everything mom and dad drilled into my head abut work ethic has paid off. Except the daily shaving. Still don't like to do that.

BTW, Blueapron has also taken a position with NCL. We shall see what we shall see.

Edited by Reefpimp (log)

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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I gotta tellya, rp, I envy you. I spent many years at sea, Navy and offshore, and I miss the sea every day. Not a cook, though, just a techie who is an enthusiastic consumer. I did cook whenever I got a chance. I gotta tell you about the 600 lbs of shrimp that we caught with a net and a remotely operated vehicle in the gulf of Mexico sometime..... helluva shrimp boil for 120 guys.

The 20 on, 4 off lifestyle can be brutal if you give a rat's ass about anyone on land, but most of the time I spent offshore I didn't :biggrin: And the cruise ship has gotta be nicer than the rigs. Just how segregated from the cattle, er, passengers are the crew? I have heard that they can be pretty strict about it.

Looking forward to hearing more.

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HI all! Just wanted to say that I too will be joining Reefpimp on the NCLA ships in Hawaii. It seems like it will be quite an adventure for me as I have never worked or lived on a ship like reefer has.

The company had a job fair here in Atlanta last week and did the hiring on the spot. I'd say they hired about a third of the people who attended. The job sounds tough and long, but the benefits are amazing. This particular cruise line appealed to me for several reasons.

1.) It is an American flagged fleet that solely operates in Hawaii and never leaves the islands. Customers are flown to Honolulu to meet the ships (3)

2.) The ship is in port a 100 hrs a week so plenty of time to get off and do you're own thing. Also stays in port 2 nights a week, so workers can sign out over nite if not working that shift and spend it ashore.

3.) With American flags comes American labor laws. All employees must be American citizens, which is more than I can say for my current restaurant. Any work over 40hrs in a week or 8hrs in a day is paid at time and of half.

4.) The benefits- 4 free meals a day, free room and board, free uniforms and laundry. Health Insurance and much more.

As far as guests go, there is a zero fraternization policy when it comes to guests, but employee dating is allowed! And you do have to pay taxes like everyone else while on the ship.

20 weeks on 4 or 5 weeks unpaid off for workers. 16 weeks on with 8 weeks PAID off for management

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Who do I gotta whack or snuggle up to to get into management?!?

Here is the NCL message board from cruisecritic.com. You can see what the line is like from the other side of the bridge. Don't know if there's any snuggle insider information though....

NCL Board[

A

"I'm not looking at the panties, I'm looking at the vegetables!" --RJZ
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