The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in many businesses across the world. Yet, none was absolutely crippled as much as the cruise line industry. The cruise industry is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business that needs a great influx of passengers to keep their cruise companies afloat. Prior to the coronavirus working onboard, a cruise ship was a very rigorous job. Safety and passenger’s health were of the utmost importance for all cruise lines across the globe. In a post-pandemic world, the cruise line industry will most definitely face many new challenges as they sail into uncharted waters like never before.
Working on a ship is a job for self-starters who also are highly disciplined. A typical day’s work on a cruise ship is really unimaginable for people who’ve never worked at sea before. The hours of work are extremely long with a no-day off policy. Yes, you read that right! No days off. A typical day for chefs starts at 6:30 am. Yep, you’re feet hit the floor at that time every day. A quick shower, shave, and all dressed up in a tidy uniform is mandatory. Then out your cabin door, you’ll go and head towards a daily morning meeting that is also mandatory for managing members of the galley department. The meeting lasts for about one hour. Then the real day begins. It’s a forward march straight until the breakfast and lunch services end.
There is usually a two-hour break from around 1 pm to 3 pm. This is when employees can go ashore at what is usually an intriguing port of call. Crew members can do some shopping, call their families, or simply relax and take it all in. Others might forgo going ashore and opt for a nap if they’re facing heavy workloads. This coveted mid-day break is surely going to change in a post-pandemic world. How will cruise companies control staff and passengers that are visiting several different countries, disembarking, and mingling with locals? Furthermore, how will passengers and crew members be properly screened once returning back to the ship after enjoying shore time? The virus shows no real symptoms for several days. So, contracting the disease may not be detected by health checkpoints as passengers return from their day in a beautiful location. It only takes one infected person to cause a total outbreak on a cruise ship. This very real health issue is what cruise companies are trying to find a solution for as the pandemic begins to wind down.
Now let’s move forward with the late afternoon and evening life on a cruise ship to help you understand why the long work hours can correlate to even more stringent USPH and COVID-19 regulations. Typically galley members will return back to work at around 3 pm and keep working until 11 pm. This is the second half of a workday for chefs and cooks. Let’s not forget! If for some reason the workload is a little lighter than on other days don’t get too excited for more free time. Oh, no! This is when the old saying “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean” is given a whole new meaning.
There is a thing called United States Public Health better known as USPH inspections by cruise line workers. Just the mere mention of it drives fear and anxiety into the entire hospitality department. How come? It’s an easy question to answer. First, there are several test runs of USPH (many unannounced) by management. These “false alarms” are placed in effect to keep all staff on their toes and conscience about cleanliness, appropriate storage of foods, proper sanitation, and the labeling and dating of all food items.
Now you know where the term “clean as a ship” comes from. These trial runs are dreaded by crew members. Going through a practice USPH inspection is obviously important, but it brings all production to a screeching halt. A few hours of performing a practice inspection will ultimately add hours to a workday that is already very long. Secondly, when USPH inspectors arrive onboard a cruise ship there is a code system set in place by management to alert other departments. The message is quickly passed along throughout the hospitality department like wildfire! It’s a heads-up to all that certified inspectors have boarded the ship. This way the areas that will be inspected later on can quickly address situations that might need attention before the inspector sees them. In a post–COVID-19 world, the already rigorous USPH inspections will most certainly be stricter, longer, and more scientific than ever before.
Men and women eventually become worn down from long workdays and several months at sea, their energy levels do not rejuvenate as quickly as time moves on. Sleep is minimal every night and eventually, workers tend to become a little careless and take shortcuts, due to sheer exhaustion. Therefore, practice inspections help to keep everyone on their toes for when the real health representatives arrive.
If the overall hygiene on a ship is not up to USPH standards the ship will receive heavy fines and if the overall inspection score is very low the ship can be pulled from service and docked. All, workers become unemployed, and the cruise company must correct all red-flagged areas and go through several more meticulous and in-depth inspections before their docked ship can sail the high seas again. To add even more insult to injury all cruise ships that fail USPH inspections are documented and their failure to comply with health and public safety standards becomes open knowledge for the public to see.
Furthermore, the direct supervisors of each unit are held accountable for any good or bad reports. That means when the inspection is over two things can happen. Either the supervisors and their team will celebrate a passing grade or the supervisors will be breathing fire for weeks due to the bad marks the department received.
COVID-19 has changed the cruise line industry forever. Life onboard a cruise ship is not a pleasure cruise for staff and crew members. It’s this nonstop work that develops great commandery. The only way to pass a USPH inspection or implement new pandemic standards is for all to work together. The cruise industry was at an all-time high before the pandemic took hold of the world. As a global community, we are witnessing firsthand the severe blow that the pandemic has caused for cruise lines and their employees.
Hopefully, there will be calmer seas and sunnier days ahead for cruise companies. After all, this is an industry that has somehow kept itself afloat through many difficult times in its long history. Therefore, a comeback will be certain. Armed with new USPH and coronavirus standards a new chapter will be written for this multi-billion dollar a year industry. Ultimately, sailing the high seas to exotic destinations again will be a safe possibility for all cruise line fans.