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 CrewLife At Sea, and let’s welcome you host, Raymond Crystal.
Ray: Hi, welcome guys. Welcome to the show. So today I’m actually in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship is docked. I left the ship, it’s nearly 7:30 in the evening. San Juan is rocking with people everywhere, pumping, very nice place, and I decided that with this extra time, why don’t I sit down somewhere, look at the ocean and the ship, my big ship over there and tell you a little bit about my life, and how I got into the cruise industry and the journey that I took.
It all started round about 2001. I was living in Johannesburg and I was in my dad’s cobbler shop sitting on a little stool with my back to the wall, reading The Citizen, a Johannesburg newspaper, and it said there: “Work on a cruise ship. Call this number now”, and I thought, why not? At the time I was with a bad crowd, I was young and dumb and just doing crazy things, so I decided to go for it. I applied as a waiter. They offered me to work as an assistant waiter because I did have a little bit of experience in working as a waiter before, so I got the job.
I went for an interview, the whole process, got my air ticket and they sent me to the first ship. I worked there for 4 months and I did such a good job as an assistant waiter, also because we spoke English and were hard working as South Africans, so it wasn’t that difficult to get a promotion. In the 4th month, they offered me to work as a waiter and I accepted. I did that for 2 months and it was around January 15th, I remember it was my sign off date, and at that time the guy who was working in the broadcast was signing off, he was leaving for an emergency and they needed somebody. At that time I tried to go for either IT or broadcast and decided to go for broadcast. I went to the broadcast manager, his name is James Britt, from New York, a very nice guy.
I’ve known him for many years and I hope he will be on this show one of these days. He asked me what I know and I said that I know Photoshop, and he said it’s good enough… So he prepared all the interdepartmental documents, we got it all sorted out, got it signed and instead of me signing it off on that day, January 12th or 15th, I had to stay another 2 months in broadcast as an assistant.
It was so difficult because at that time I was ready to go home. I wanted to be with family and sleep, have late nights and have fun and ended up having to
stay 2 more months. It was very difficult, and the worst part of it was that I didn’t know the job at all. On ships, they normally throw you into the deep end, and you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do. If you fall you’ve got to get up if you fail you’ve got to try again and eventually you just start to learn. I won’t forget the shows.
I used to run a show for a full theatre and the crew’s director would say ‘ready for the video’, and as she said it I had to push some button to play a video and put it on air, and I used to stuff up everything. In the first month, I made a lot of mistakes, but after that, I was good as gold. In assistant broadcast you do all the dirty work, you do all the camera work, you do the setups and all the stuff on the TV. You get a kind of a compass that tells you what’s going on in the day and you have to edit that every night, you’ve got to change the movies over every night, put them on the system.
It’s a lot of repetition work. You’ve got to make sure that everything is playing at the right time. Those times we didn’t have an (Iris?) machine, you put in a scheduled time and it just fires automatically, so we had to push play and set times, and we weren’t sure it would even fire. Those days we only had VHS machines.
After that, I got offered another job and I accepted the offer immediately. The wage was just amazing. The way I got this job was really funny. I applied for it, they gave me a contract and I accepted it, and then they got back to me and said that they’re not giving it to me and that they’ve given it away. I then sent e-mails to the CEOs and I gave them a page and a half of what I thought, telling them that this isn’t professional etc. A couple of weeks later I got a reply in which they apologized and offered me another contract. So I went on that ship, and on that ship, the broadcast was also old and not updated. I worked with a lot of good people there. The job there was the same, you had to take the camera and go film the people, the crew’s director put them on TV. I had to do a lot of editing, commercials, make wine videos, we had to do basic editing and broadcasting. Media and audiovisual, that’s all you ever do, and it’s not such a difficult job if you know your job.
I taught myself along the way. I watched videos and learned because I didn’t know and I didn’t want to fail, so I picked up things along the way. They didn’t have a position for me to return, I lost my rotation, so I had to come back as a social host for two months in order to get back int broadcast.
This was the worst thing I ever did but it was the only way to get back in. So I came back on board as a social host and I had to go for dinners with old, women who were single, like 87 years of age, I had to ask 15 trivia questions to all these old people during tea time, I had to play games with them, shuffleboard and bingo and talk in front of them. I was so shy, it just wasn’t me. I remember when I was doing trivia questions and I’d say the word ship, and they thought I’d say sh*t and they’d complain about it. It was crazy.
So eventually, after those 2 months, I went back into broadcast and I completed roughly 5 years there. Since there was no more drive for me I got bored after 5 years, I’ve done everything, I’ve created everything and then decided to go to Disney Cruise Line after receiving a job offer from them and I immediately accepted, as I’ve always wanted to see Disney. What an experience to work on the Disney Cruise Line.
All the magical stuff, the shows and the characters, the pyrotechnics and the audio and visuals, because the broadcast centre was so high class, unbelievable. If I had to recommend a cruise line, that would be the one. They took care of their crew, they gave us 35 % off on their goods. We could buy whatever we want, such good things for cheap prices, it was really worth it. Their shows were outrageously amazing, they would have villain shows, (leave?) shows and all the villains would come on and it was amazing. There I had to run 2 proper broadcast cameras on each side of the theatre, with a tripod and it’s connected into the switcher head on the side screens.
We also had to edit a lot as a broadcast manager, but on Disney, I wasn’t actually a broadcast manager, the title was video editor and motion graphics designer. There I had to do a lot of commercials, anything that had to be filmed and videotaped, and they had these TV screens outside each venue with content, and we also had to update that content.
It was a little bit different, we also had to film all the lectures, because they used to have these lectures that came on, so that was Disney. They have their own island, it’s really cool.
From there I went to Princess Cruise Lines, and there I was a production manager. I was there for about 4 years and I had my own little venue which was called Princess Live. It was 2 cameras with 2 camera guys, I had a sound guy, a lighting guy and I was the switcher and we had shown there every night, like a marriage match, a game shows where they’d bring on couples and they’d have to tell each other what their favourite colour is and do silly things. That was the only lounge I had to run, that wasn’t like the others so that was actually very easy and nice.
The benefits I had as a broadcast manager is I always had a single cabin, it was always big and nice, I always got my laundry done for me. My cabin steward always came in and cleaned my cabin and gave me new towels every day, you get
to eat in an officer mess and on the Princess if you eat in the officer mess you order off the same menu as the guests, then they bring you the food. You get free ice cream, everything is for free, alcohol, eat for free, they’re also really high class with the officers there, they also take good care of you there. It was a very nice company.
From there I decided to try something else and I worked for 2 months as a broadcast editor but there I just couldn’t hack it and I resigned after 2 months. I had to work in a little 2×2
room with no AC, and I had a little editing computer there and it was just a disaster.
I was actually a photographer but I had to do the editing of a video of guests doing all their shows and sexy legs competitions, film it, edit it and put it on video, then sell it to them and make a little percentage, but the conditions there were terrible. I was in a little 2×2 and I didn’t enjoy it. I’m sure they’ve changed it now because it wasn’t enjoyable to work in.
Now my current ship that I’m on is not bad at all, it has good pay, the same kind of benefits but I would recommend to everybody to at least try to get on to a ship at least once in their life and experience it.
If you don’t like it, you finish the contract and leave. If you really don’t like it hand in your resignation and leave, but I will teach you all the tricks and trades, and everything you need to know about leaving the ship if you don’t want to be on the ship, staying on the ship if you want to stay on the ship, I know all of it and can tell you everything, I’ve been through it all. I haven’t told you everything on here yet because I don’t want to give you all the good stuff at once, but there’s a lot that you don’t know that you need to know, for example, medical issues, and sometimes the people on the ships have been at sea for so long that they know how to manipulate the crew into making the crew believe that it’s a certain way but it’s actually not.
I’ve got a lot of stories to tell you, for example, if you get fired or something goes wrong they would try to force you to pay for your air ticket to go home. In reality, you don’t need to because when they hired you, it is their duty to return you to where they hired you, no matter what. It’s their responsibility, and if you don’t want to pay for your air ticket you don’t have to. What are they going to do? You just say to them that you are going to stay in your cabin and when they are ready to send you home they can come and get you, and that’s it.
They’re going to send you home, they’re not going to leave you in the cabin and they’re not going to put you in jail. They want you out. I will also tell you guys about hearings if you get into trouble, warnings, how that works, alcohol abuse, harassment, there’s so much to talk about but I really want you guys to put in the notes or e-mail me and ask me what you want to know. I’ll follow up and explain to you and make an episode on all the things that you need to know.
My vision is to help all of you get that job, to pursue it and make your money, and be happy and successful, and use the money wisely, and learn from all the mistakes that we have made. Even if you’re going to make them it’s fine, but at least you can take it in a different direction. It’s worth it and even if you could just do a few little things that I can advise you, you would be a step ahead of everyone, and at the end, you’ll be so grateful because you’ve learned from experienced people.
I wish I did something a long time ago that somebody told me, but I never listened. I would have been so well off today, I would have been on top of the world but maybe I wouldn’t have been in this situation, doing this podcast, so I have no regrets at all, but all I’m saying is if I had a little bit of advice and wasn’t so single-minded, I think things would have been better.
The big question that everyone gets asked, mine being the most shocking thing that I ever saw was 5 minutes before New Years, we were all in the crew bar, drunk as hell, and we heard “bravo, bravo, location, back of the ship…” and everyone was carrying on dancing and partying, when all of a sudden the alarm went off, and told to go to our (?) and people were taking their alcohol with them, getting their life jackets, it was crazy.
I remember mine was near reception and I was listening to what was going on on the “walkie”, and I heard the guys going on about trying to put out the fire, and everyone was drunk and then New Year happened, and people were screaming happy New Year while these guys are attacking a fire at the back of the ship.
After one hour of standing around, they eventually killed the fire and we were released from our positions. We found out what happened the next day. A guest had flicked a cigarette from their cabin, and the wind blew it back in at the back of the ship and caught on one of those little tins with the jelly inside, fire jelly which you light and put under the food and it keeps the food warm, and it lit that and that started the fire right next to the 10 propane tanks. The ship had to dock the next day because it had to be checked, repaired and the paperwork is done, and the back was all burned to sh*t. It was a disaster.
It was crazy and one of the most shocking things I’d ever seen. There are many things that will happen on your journey, I pray that nothing serious will ever happen because it’s just not worth it, but you must not be scared, you must take the trip and just go for it. The lifestyle is amazing, and the people you meet.
Nowadays people want to do it because it’s such good money, you don’t make this type of money back home, because it’s a sacrifice, you leave your family. All the people I’ve spoken to, if you have family, this is the hard part but you have to sacrifice to make your family happy, in a way. It’s only for 4 to 6 months. If you do it for a year or two and save all your money, when you get back you won’t have to do it anymore.
You can start up a business and don’t have to go back, or you can be an idiot like I was and spend all your money and don’t save a cent, just enjoy your life and keep coming back until you’re 105. It’s not going to happen for me anymore, I’m creating this to help people and then after a while I’m going to quit ships, but I will continue to give you the content that you need.
I will continue to interview anybody and everybody that has the experience that can help us get you through your life at sea. And if you’re on a ship and need help while you’re on the ship, I’m always here to help. Send me an e-mail, ‘Ray, listen, I’m in a situation, this is happening, what do I do?” I’ll tell you exactly. “Ray, I’m on the ship, I’m about to leave, they won’t give me my money,” or “Ray, I’m about to leave the ship and I want to stay longer,” or anything. “I want to change departments, what do I do, how do I go to another ship?”, whatever you want, just keep asking me. I’m here to help and assist for as long as I can. If I can’t I will find the resources for you. I have a lot of contacts and friends in the cruise industry and I also have a lot of contacts when it comes to hiring, so I’m not saying that I’m guaranteeing anything but there is a big possibility that if I can start to grow and get all of you guys to e-mail me, be a part of my community and start to spread the knowledge, and people start to see that I have a lot of you joining this community I can start getting recruiters and start helping to recruit you guys and teach you everything. Another thing, you should never pay to be recruited. If anyone wants cash from you, don’t do it. It’s all free.
I’ve created a website, it’s www.crewlifeatsea.com, I’ve put all the sites and online applications on under services, just click on there and all the cruise lines are there. You just click on the picture and it will send you straight to the online application for that company, fill it in and you’re one step ahead.
I’ve also got the agents, where you go to the approved agents. I only do the approved agents and the legit people, I’m not taking any back door or any crazy stuff. Everything that I have on my website is 100 % legit. So I encourage you to try to get on a ship. There’s also a lot of things that can happen, like you need to be home for a little bit longer and your contract says that you have to be back in 2 months, so many ways and means of things that can come up that you have no idea how to handle, so please always e-mail me, I’m going to get back to you with answers. I think that’s about it.
I don’t normally do this, I’m still new to this podcasting, talking, telling people these things and getting to know you guys.
In some of the podcasts I’m very nervous, so please don’t think I’m fake or anything, it’s just the beginning, and I’m still trying to get the hang of things but after a couple of podcasts and after I’ve interviewed a few people you’ll start to see that I’ll really come out and start being myself, which I am but with you now because I’m alone, I’m not stressed with anybody here and I’m telling you the real deal about everything. So don’t be shy, just hit me up with an e-mail and I will be there to help you guys. If there’s anything you need, just put it in the heading or whatever you want, and I will search for you as best as I can, and I really hope you have a good time out at sea.
Thank you for being a part of Crew Life At Sea. I truly hope that we will become successful in recruiting thousands of you all at sea, and making you all know your rights and not get pushed around because you’re a new hire and you don’t know what’s going on. At least you know what’s going on, you get on there and nobody can tell you what you can and can’t do when they know you don’t know anything, so they know they have the power to push you to areas that you don’t know.
But that’s not going to happen because I’m going to inform you, and you can stand your ground. If you’d like me to do another episode of this with just me telling you more about certain things I’ll be more than happy, just put it in the comments and then I’ll know, or send me an e-mail. Thank you very much once again, and safe journey. Ciao.
Outro: Thanks for listening to Crew Life At Sea podcast. Want any of your questions answered? Send us an e-mail at [email protected]. Thank you for being a part of our adventure at sea.