Cruise Ship Blues - Underside of Cruise Industry

In Cruise Ship Blues by Ross A. Klein, you are given the gritty underside of the cruise industry world. Klein says he chooses to no longer cruise, but you have to wonder if cruise lines would let him back on!

First, let me say that I respect greatly what Klein is doing here. There are trillions of dollars being spent on convincing people to take cruises, to "live the life of luxury". Hardly any money is spent on telling people what a cruise is REALLY about, what to REALLY expect, what is not included, what the problems are. You can dig through forums, but there is no coordinated Consumer Reports of the cruise industry. Klein uses his 300 days of cruise ship experience plus research to draw together the state of cruising.

That being said, I think that exposing the cruise ship industry as one that is doomed to fail because it is socially and environmentally irresponsible is alarmist. These things have been going on for CENTURIES. If you look back through resort life and travel, it has always been the wealthy that go, and the extremely poor that serve. That is hardly the "fault" of modern cruise ships! I've been on trips through europe, Costa Rica, Cancun. You have mega-hotels with gorgeous foods - and you have incredibly poor waiters and housekeepers who grind day and night to scrape out a living and survive in a one-room shack.

I'm not saying that is good! But I'm saying to blame the cruise industry for it makes no sense. It's a matter of supply and demand. Resort travellers - be they on land or at sea - whine if the price is too high. So the resort supplier tries to find the cheapest employees that they can. Those employees tend to come from third world nations where there is little hope for money in any other situation. Those people WANT to work at the resorts, because the peanuts they make is still better than the starvation they face otherwise. The resort then makes money because they pay little to the employees, but get good money from the visitors.

On lines where they employ waiters that demand higher salaries, the fare is therefore higher, and people pay more. Those expensive lines certainly exist. But as long as people demand bargain-basement prices and push for those low fares, the lowest wage individuals are going to be hired.

I do think this at least makes it clear to cruisers why they MUST PAY GOOD TIPS. Those poor waiters and room cleaners are barely making $2/hr in many cases. They work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, for tiny amounts of money. You whine about your $10/day tip - but to those workers, that is their life's savings that is going back to support their entire family at home. In many cases they are away from that family for a year or more, working hard daily to support them.

Yes, cruise ships dump waste into the sea, that is what boats do. It's allowed by law. We can change the laws if we want - where will the waste go? Will local ports "accept" that waste for free, to process it? Can they even handle the waste if they were paid to do so? These are issues that can be debated, but again to yell at the cruise ships for doing something legal and normal makes little sense to me.

Certainly, small towns have a love-hate relationship with cruise boats. The cruises bring in money, but bring in large volumes of tourists. This is hardly unique with cruises, though. I see this *exact* same thing at small skiing towns, at local islands, at Cape Cod. Just about anywhere that there is natural beauty, you have the locals and the hordes that come in on vacation. It's always been something I've pondered, but what can you do? Lock the tourists out? Insist only locals can enjoy the natural beauties?

This is a good book to rent from the library, to feel that you've gotten the whole story about cruising. But I really don't see this as an indictment of the cruise industry as much as a commentary - ongoing for centuries - about how the middle-class and wealthy are so tight fisted that they whine about tipping the staff even as they spend hundreds of dollars on "leisure activity" - while around them people starve. A cruise is never necessary. If you're going to cruise, at least consider the people who make it possible and reward them as liberally as you can for their part in your experience.

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