I wonder how my grandfather, who was a steward on White Star Line at the turn of the 20th century, would have reacted to relations between crew and passengers on this cruise. While he clearly liked some of the persons he served (and clearly did not like others) he did not see himself as a social equal. Budi and Douglas, our room stewards call us Rich and Suzi, at our request. Some of the waiters use first names, like Danny in the Lido, who, along with Julia (who still calls me Mr. Rich) serves us most breakfasts. We have gotten to know them. Budi and Douglas invited us to coffee when we met on a street in Australia. We’ve invited Budi to lunch when he is in Sitka this summer, Julia too. Danny has a new baby he has not seen, and has shared photos with us. Julia is excited about Manila, because it has a skating rink in one of the malls and, being from Bali, has never skated on ice, although she practices with inline skates. (She was disappointed working on the Alaska cruises because no place where she called had ice for her to skate on.) We’ve developed a nice relationship with the stewards and waiters.
Bali and Manila are as much anticipated by the crew who are from Indonesia and the Philippines as they are by us, probably more. As we left Australia we would hear, “three more days,” then “two more days” and finally “one more day.” Non-Indonesian crew worked extra shifts to give the Indonesian crew time with their families. Today in Manila the same thing is happening for the Filipino crew.
On last year’s Grand Asia cruise some passengers decided to post notes on their doors telling staff not to attend to their rooms for the days in Bali and Manilla. Some passengers from that cruise went on line to suggest we do the same. This year the Holland America rule against posting on doors created a problem, solved by Henk, the hotel manager, who sent the following note to each stateroom.
During previous seasons we noticed that several of you informed your stateroom steward(s) in advance to temporarily halt providing stateroom services for a portion or all of our stay in Benoa, Bali, so our crew could spend more time with their family or friends as applicable.
If you so desire, this card is designed to help you indicate so while also adhering to fire/safety requirements for displaying such. Thereto, please add a comment in the box provided above and place this card in the slot of your stateroom mailbox the day prior to our call. Thank you for your consideration.
Peer pressure seems to be at work here. On our corridor almost all the rooms displayed the cards. In other corridors there were not many cards.
In Bali Holland America worked out arrangements for families living on Java to come over to Bali. On our days in Bali the captain opened the ship up for crew families and friends. On the first day over 900 came on board for lunch and tours of the ship and to spend time in ships quarters. On the second day there were 600. The dining room chief said that last call in Bali they dished up 17 gallons of ice cream for the kids and when they called in Jakarta it was 21 gallons.
In Manilla it is a bit more complicated. The plan for ship visits today had to be scrubbed because there are 4 cruise ships in Manila and port security will not allow staff family on the dock until after 7 PM when the other ships have left. So Holland America planned a big party on the Lido for staff families in the evening. We left the ship to explore Manila at night just as the families were coming on and we got back just as they were leaving.
Tomorrow there are only two ships in port so family visits, tours and lunches can go on as scheduled. In Manila there are special T shirts commemorating the visit.
Some staff members get overnight leave to be with wives and kids. Budi’s wife (Budi is at the top of this post) told him that she could not come with the kids because they had school exams. His mother offered to supervise kids and exams and his wife came. I caught him on deck just after she left. He was ecstatic. Julia did not bring family onto the ship but spent her time at home. She told us that she’s been living in air conditioning for too long. She is not used to the heat (BTW Manila was 95 today with 88% humidity, hotter than Bali, I hope she gets in that ice skating.)
While WE thought that this was great for the crew, not everyone on board was happy. One passenger complained each kid on board was “a walking Petri dish” who would spread illness among the staff and passengers. His was a minority position.