Intro: Welcome to Crew Life at sea podcast. Here we will share the skills you need to make your experience and adventure out at sea a success, hear inspiring stories from the experienced crew, from all diversities, gain knowledge and know your rights. Be Part of the crew life at sea, and let’s welcome your host, Raymond Crystal.
Ray: Welcome to crew life at sea. I’m your host, Raymond Crystal and we’re back. This time we’re back with a guy who’s been at sea for around 4 years. He is all the way from the Philippines, and his name is Lorenzo.
Lorenzo: Hello Raymond, my name is Lorenzo.
Ray: What’s your surname?
Ray: Uy! Lorenzo Uy! Now, what is the Uy? How do you say Uy? How do you spell Uy?
Lorenzo: Uy. It’s a Chinese name. My father is half Chinese. My grandfather is pure Chinese.
Ray: So which part of the Philippines?
Lorenzo: I’m near Manila. Maybe two hours of travel time. I’m in the province of Nueva Ecija. A very beautiful province.
Ray: One day I need to come and have a look. I still haven’t been to the Philippines. So let me ask you something. So you’ve been at sea for four years, how did you start your life at sea? And could you tell me a little bit about your journey that got you here?
Lorenzo: I graduated in BSHRM. So I pursued to stay in that path of the hospitality industry. First I got to experience at a famous restaurant, and then I went to a five-star hotel. And that was the time that I decided to work on a cruise ship.
Ray: What was the name of the five-star hotel?
Lorenzo: The five-star hotel was the Mandarin hotel in Manila.
Ray: What does an assistant waiter mean? And actually, do onboard? Because you know you get waiters and assistant waiters. What does an assistant waiter do?
Lorenzo: An assistant waiter is a very important part of running a restaurant of course. It’s a very complicated job. They’re the ones who literally assist the waiters.
Ray: So you do all the dirty work, while they do all the easy work?
Lorenzo: Yes. We greet the passenger of course. We seat the passengers at the respective tables. Ask them what they would like to drink. Sometimes sell them special beverages, like special wines, some packages, like packages of water for their whole cruise. The important thing is picking up the food.
Ray: So you are the one, if they want salad dressing, you have to go get it? If they want something in their drink, you’ve got to go do it? And the waiter all he does, is place the main orders and go collect the food?
Lorenzo: Yes, and also you need to pay attention to what order the waiter gives you to pick up.
Ray: If I’m not mistaken, isn’t it the waiter who’s meant to collect the main meals?
Ray: So what does the waiter do? He just writes an order, says hi, and smiles?
Lorenzo: They’re the mainstay in the restaurant. They are the one who is taking care of the passenger.
Ray: So guest satisfaction, smile, see if anything is needed. And they’re the ones who get paid more and work less, and you guys work so hard and get paid less.
Lorenzo: It’s fair right?
Ray: Oh wow that’s interesting. What made you decide that this is what you wanted in your life?
Lorenzo: Well I’m not saying I really wanted this job in my life because I’m far away from my family, it’s the most important thing. And I don’t want to spend my whole life working far away from them.
Ray: Well I wish you luck with your temporary inspiration. I hope you become promoted to a waiter very soon because I’m sure it will be a lot easier for you with that promotion.
Lorenzo: Not really.
Ray: Can you tell me the process if someone wanted to work on board as an assistant waiter? How would they proceed to this?
Lorenzo: It depends on your country. The agency was you to have at least two years’ experience in a hotel or a fine dining restaurant. Also, you need to complete all the papers to go to work outside the country. You need to do some basic training on the ship, like first aid and many more. Especially your certificate in your previous companies.
Ray: So if you were doing this job on land, compared to at sea, how difficult is it onboard compared to land?
Lorenzo: It’s difficult. For me, I don’t want to say it’s good working on board. Of course, there’s a lot of things to consider, like less sleep, pressure during duty time, carrying heavy trays and plates. You need to have a system when you work, know what you’re doing and going to the galley and knowing what to pick up and also even out of duty, you have less leisure.
Ray: So I see you move around a lot in the venues during a contract, because when I came on board and I met you, you were in the crew mess somewhere and then a couple of weeks later I see you’re in another dining room, and then they place you somewhere else. What’s this? How does this work?
Lorenzo: We have a rotation here like for example, you’ll stay two months in the restaurant, and then after you’ll stay two months in the crew mess. All assistant waiters have the same level, the same salary, so we can work in the crew mess which is a very easy job. You still get paid the same as the assistant waiter in the restaurant.
Ray: I’m sure you’ve had some unhappy guests, or crew maybe, but mainly guests, with their food or something. How do you deal with it?
Lorenzo: Well with the guests, I’ve made mistakes. I say my apologies, I give them my best and try not to make more mistakes of course.
Ray: Does your manager give you a hard time?
Lorenzo: Of course, I’ve experienced that every time I have a contract here on the ship. They give me hard things. There’s a rotation for a simple duty, but if they give you hard work, the, of course, you have a hard duty, like carrying a lot of trays, a big station.
Ray: Do you have any of these safety belts that you have to wear? Because of the heavy things, so you have to wear it?
Lorenzo: It’s a company policy. If you, for example, get your back broken, and they find out in the investigation that you weren’t wearing a back support, they will not pay you.
Ray: In order to get a promotion, because obviously, this is the main goal as an assistant waiter. How would you go about to get a promotion in this type of a field?
Lorenzo: Well it depends on how you pursue your job, if you want to be like easy go lucky, working as a simple guy, then the superiors will never see your potential to be a waiter. But of course if you want to excel, if you want to grow, you need to give one hundred per cent, exceeding the expectations.
Ray: During the rush period, how is it to get the food and the drinks?
Lorenzo: That is also a very complicated job. There’s a service sequence for doing that, like picking up the appetizers, soup, main course, dessert, coffee, cheese. In a type of sequence of course.
Ray: Obviously this is with everybody at the same time doing this more or less, so you’re there in the galley with like most of the other assistant waiters all fighting to get the stuff and you’re pushing this one, how does it go in there? Because you’re sweaty in there and everybody is in a rush.
Lorenzo: It’s like a superior giving you a gun, and you go on the battlefield on the spot. You have to fight for your life, to give your service to take your food fast.
Ray: You know on my first contract I was an assistant waiter. In 2001 that’s eighteen years ago. I was an assistant waiter for four months and then was promoted to the waiter for two months. Those four months were the hardest of my life, but I was young, I had no choice. The one thing I will never forget and I will tell the rest of the world that there’s a word you need to remember. Fixed, don’t get fixed. That’s how they say it on ships. I would set my table, put my fork and knife down, my plates and everything, turn around to go do my other table, and I turn around and I’ve been fixed. Someone’s stolen a fork from my table for his set up, someone’s taken my cup for his one.
Lorenzo: You need to keep an eye on your things because on the ship we have a limited supply of items, so you need to take care of your items, otherwise, there are some magic hands coming out.
Ray: Unbelievable man. Tell me a bit about your hours, because I know this can be a bit intense. Can you tell me your hours and how you schedule your day?
Lorenzo: I remember my last cruise ship company the duty hours were very bad. It’s supposed to be in our contract for only 11 hours, but we get more than twelve hours. For example; at dinner time, we finish at eleven o’clock, and that’s exactly 11 hours’ duty. But the problem is you need to polish the cutlery, you need to polish the glasses. So what our maître d’ wants is, we clock out at eleven o’clock, for eleven hours exactly, and then you go back again to your job to finish until maybe twelve o’clock.
Ray: Untold stories. Welcome to crew life at sea, this is where you find out the real stories. Living on board, out at sea can be very tough. How big is your accommodation space and your benefits as an assistant waiter?
Lorenzo: Two crew in one cabin, and other four crew in one cabin.
Ray: Do you have any conflicts with cabin mates? Have you changed cabins? Are you ok with the cabins? Do you get along?
Lorenzo: I’ve experienced other nationalities as my cabin mate. But we got along, after three weeks he left and was replaced with a Philippino.
Ray: Knowing what you know now from all the ship life that you’ve been through if you could change one thing, what would it be and why?
Lorenzo: To change my position, and to become a bartender. You know, drinks, mixing, and also complicated food.
Ray: So why haven’t you tried to do an interdepartmental transfer? Do they allow you?
Lorenzo: No, this is my first contract here with this company. They don’t allow first timers to do transfers.
Ray: Have you worked on a small ship and a big ship?
Lorenzo: Yes, of course.
Ray: Can you tell me the difference between working on a big one and a small one? Is there a difference for you?
Lorenzo: There is a big difference. On a big ship, I seldom experience the rough sea, maybe only when there is bad weather. About the work, it’s ok because you have your own station in the restaurant and it’s your responsibility. You can go anywhere; the crew bar is big. There are a crew pool and a basketball court. And for the small ship, the advantage is, there is a small crew. Meaning you all have a priority in the company, meaning any complaints or suggestions, they can assist you easily.
Ray: Imagine your toughest day at sea, you come to work, everything’s going crazy, you just can’t keep up. Tell me the toughest day, and how you got through that day?
Lorenzo: Of course when there is bad weather, the sea is playing with your small boat. I’ve experienced at dinner time, a heavy rough sea, so I was seasick, but I need to do my job. And we’re still on the appetizer and it’s a long way to go.
Ray: So tell me, when you’re having the rough seas, and you have that big tray full of stuff on it, how do you get through it?
Lorenzo: Normally if there is a rough sea, the maître d’ doesn’t allow more than eight dishes in one tray.
Ray: So on a normal day, how many do you have on a tray?
Lorenzo: I can pick up eight.
Ray: And on a rough day, how many do they allow?
Lorenzo: Only six.
Ray: So only two whole plates less? Ah, come on! That’s it? That doesn’t make a difference.
Lorenzo: Especially when it’s the main course.
Ray: Only eight!? I remember on the big ships when I was there, they were carrying sixteen.
Lorenzo: On the big ship I’m carrying sixteen. But right now in this company, especially because of the heavy weather.
Ray: That’s understandable, because like I said a lot of ships are different from each other. A lot of them have different rules for other ships. The negatives and the positives of your job?
Lorenzo: The negatives, is a sh**ty superior who always gives you bulls**t.
Ray: That’s what I like to hear. Straight out to the truth. Positives? Or do you have more negatives?
Lorenzo: It’s like you feel that you’re doing a great job. But in their eyes, you’re the worst. Can you imagine?
Ray: Yeah, you’re just a number to them sometimes at sea when it comes to it. Because they’ve got to get their job done.
Lorenzo: Also when you’re far away from your family or your loved ones, you miss all the celebrations and special occasions of course. That’s sad.
Ray: Yeah, I have a little girl. It kills me to be away.
Lorenzo: For the positives, well we learn every day to maintain our profession, free accommodation of course, and food, and you get money to support your loved ones.
Ray: On a positive note, what positive feedback would you give to offer others towards their journey if they tried to seek a job on a cruise line?
Lorenzo: Well if you work in this kind of work, you can travel the world. For me I just finished my world cruise in 2014, that’s amazing you know. It’s like not everyone can experience this once in a lifetime job.
Ray: There’s something I do on all of my shows, it’s the big question. I ask everybody this question. Tell me the most shocking thing you’ve ever seen or ever encountered in your career at sea?
Lorenzo: On my second contract we were doing the crossing from the Madera port to go to the Bahamas. So that’s seven days at sea in the Atlantic Ocean. On our third day at sea, at night at approximately one a.m., there’s a loud sound in the engine room, it’s like a big gun exploded. And the captain sounded the alarm for fire. And what happened was one engine exploded and there was a major blackout. Then the stabilizers were gone, so the ship was having a rough sea, it was shaking, so we’re all nervous. And after a while, the generators light turned on, and the stabilizers stopped working so it was a major problem with the engine.
The captain announced the crew emergency station. I was just lying in my bed at that time playing on my phone. I pick up my life jacket of course, and I wear it. I tried to get all my personal belongings like my wallet, of course, my wallet and my phone. And then after two hours, the captain announced everything was under control. And then I go on the deck and see the ship moving a little bit sideways. And then I go back to bed and message my family about what happened on the ship.
Ray: What were the explosions? Did you find out what was the cause?
Lorenzo: One engine exploded because of overheating.
Ray: Has working at sea changed your life?
Lorenzo: Yes, of course.
Ray: In what way?
Lorenzo: Firstly; I became more independent. Of course in the Philippines, we grow up family-oriented, unlike other countries. When they turn eighteen, they need to be independent.
Ray: Is that how it works in your country? When you turn eighteen your mom and dad say here to take your bags and get the hell out of here and go live your life.
Lorenzo: Yes, but in the Philippines, you turn eighteen, ‘oh son come here, don’t go far, I miss you’.
Ray: Well Lorenzo my friend, it was a pleasure, and it was really nice to have you on the show. Thank you so much and have a safe journey. Ciao.
Lorenzo: Thank you. Ciao.
Outro: Thanks for listening to Crew life at sea podcast. Want any of your questions answered? Send us an email atcrewlifeateainfogroup.com. Thank you for being a part of our adventure at sea