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: Crew life at sea! Welcome back! Today we have a waiter. A couple of episodes ago, we interviewed an assistant waiter, so I thought it would be the right time for us to interview a waiter, and see his point of view compared to the assistant waiter. And with me today I have a guy, he’s all the way from the sewers, the teenage mutant ninja turtle, Rafael!

Rafael: Hey what’s up guys?

Ray: How are you doing?

Rafael: Hey what’s up guys?

Ray: How are you doing?

Rafael: I’m good thank you, how are you today?

Ray: Ok, good man. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where you’re from? You know, what’s your life story.

Rafael: My names Rafael. I’ve from the Philippines. I’ve been working on cruise ships on contract for almost 4 years now.

Ray: Wow, but you don’t sound Philipino, your voice is very, you know hey, where have you been studying? Or were you somewhere else?

Rafael: No, I’m born and raised in the Philippines. My mom teaches us to speak English in the house.

Ray: So tell me how did you get to this point in your life?

Rafael: Well actually, I got a degree in hotel management, and after working on land at a fine dining restaurant, after a contract on land, I decided to work on a ship. And then that’s it, I’m here!

Ray: So what do you think of the ships compared to land?

Rafael: To tell you the truth, working on ships is a very good training ground, not just for your knowledge, but for your personality development as well. Because working on cruise ships, you need to be flexible all the time, every time. So it’s really good.

Ray: You know a funny story is, you know my very first contract, I was an assistant waiter for four months, and then I was a waiter for two months, and then I changed departments very fast. It was a tough experience as an assistant waiter, getting fixed all the time. And I was on a big ship and I had thousands of guests, so I know. But it pays off, this job, it’s a good salary waiting. You work hard, but you get a good pay so it does work off at the end.

Rafael: Yeah sometimes you just need to work hard, you just need to work smart.

Ray: What do you do as a waiter?

Rafael: We give S**t to the assistant waiters.

Ray: That’s what I was waiting for. That’s the answer. Because the other guy says to me, “these waiters, they just boss us around”

Rafael: No, I’m just messing around. Actually, waiters jobs are just to take care of the guest, it’s like to anticipate what they want before they ask it. You offer it to them, you give service like how you want to be served.

Ray: So if I come at the beginning of the cruise, and I say my name is Bob, and I like my pina colada with a triple shot. You try to make sure that you bring him a pina colada with a triple shot before he even asks for it.

Rafael: Yeah, that’s right, and I taste it before I serve it.

Ray: Can you tell me the process, if someone wanted to work on board as a waiter, how would they get this type of a job?

Rafael: Actually before going to a waiter position, you need to become a steward first. So like a buffet runner or a buffet steward. After a buffet steward, you need to show off your food knowledge and what you can do, and then you become an assistant waiter. An assistant waiter is still different to a buffet steward. An assistant waiter is a total assistant to the waiter, it’s like being batman and robin. You’ll be robin for batman. You’re going to have to support everything he needs. Before he asks it, you have got to be there to make sure all his water carafes and water jugs are full before you open the service.

Ray: So you say “jump”, and he says “how high?”, right?

Rafael: That’s right.

Ray: I see that they move assistant waiters around the ship to different locations and all over, and you guys just…

Rafael: Stay at the station. A waiter will never leave the station.

Ray: I notice your stations are very small, you don’t actually work there right? It’s the assistant waiters. Or do you actually do anything from there?

Rafael: Actually we do something from there. We have a different kind of the point of view, for example, you’re handling your own station like you’ve got your own map, you’ve got your own timings as well. You do the sea saw system. When this one finishes, move to the next one. I make sure to go to that table, I must master the other table, at the same time pick up, put, bust out, bring to the dirty, pick up, put, bust out, bring to the dirty.

Ray: You’ve got a routine going there to better your service.

Rafael: That’s true.

Ray:  It’s not just a walk in the park ladies and gentlemen. That’s why they get paid so much. You know it, it’s good to pay. But I just couldn’t handle that pressure, it was just too much. Talking about pressure, tell me about an incident or something you can remember off the top of your head.

Rafael: So most of the guests are really different. They have their own personality. As a waiter, I approach my guests in a friendly, happy way. I want them to feel welcome. Some guest don’t like it. “madam how are you today? I hope you had a lovely day today. Would you like to have some water?”, ‘no water’. “oh, but you must keep hydrated madam. The weather is very hot outside”, ‘I told you no water’. “I apologize, may I take your water glass?”. And yeah, it goes on and on until the end of the service, every time.

Ray: If you have a hard situation, does your maître d’ or boss come and try to move you, or move them?

Rafael: Actually you try to control the situation first. If you can’t handle it anymore, then you report to your supervisor.

Ray: Ah! Because I’m sure if you get to the point where you can’t handle it, they’re going to move you or move them, or something, right? Because it’s satisfaction for the guest.

Rafael:  Guest satisfaction is a top priority.

Ray: So in order for promotion as a waiter, where would you be going next? Because it’s an assistant waiter, waiter?

Rafael:  Head Waiter.

Ray: Head Waiter? Is that a long process?

Rafael:  Yeah that’s a really long process. The thing is, here on board there are four head waiters, and there are twenty-six waiters. To think twenty-six waiters are going to get that position, the head waiter position. Twenty-six people aiming for those four slots. So it’s a tough fight.

Ray: And this is a small ship. Imagine the big ships. That is huge compared to this. So you’re lucky in a way and you’re not. So it’s a catch twenty-two situation.

Rafael: How come I’m lucky?

Ray:   Because it’s just a little bit of you, so you have more of a chance, because if there’s only twenty-six of you, then there are only twenty-six people to battle. On a big ship, you may have one hundred and twenty to battle. By the time you get to ninety, you’re already tired and dead and need a refreshment or something. Here you have only twenty-five. And if you know your stuff, you can go right through them.

Rafael: Know their weakness and know their strength.

Ray:    During the rush period of service, how does that work? When it’s like the real rush. Everyone at the same time is just, boom! Do you know the rush period?

Rafael:   Yeah, peak hours. Just like how I got this job. They interview me, “what’s your advantage?”, ‘well, I smile’. “what’s your disadvantage?”, ‘I never stop smiling’. Yeah, that’s how I do. Everything comes together. I smile, “just give me a moment madam, I’ll be right back with you”. Just inform them that you will be back. As long as you’ve informed them, they’ll understand. And that’s it, go to the next person. And then start one by one. Do it nice and slow.


Ray: So you’ve figured it out from all these years. You see guys that’s why this podcast is out there so you will not make the same mistakes that we have done over our time and take our advice, this is the whole point of why I’m trying to get the knowledge out from you and everybody, for everybody else. I wish I had this when I was starting ships because I had to go through the hard process. You’ve got to fail before you get up, that’s the way of life. If you’re going to just keep going and going, and not fail, you’re never going to succeed.  You have to fail to learn the mistake, and from that mistake, not make it happen again. So don’t think you’re not going to make mistakes, because it’s guaranteed. What parts of your job do you find the most challenging?

Rafael: The most challenging? Waking up early! Every day from the start of my contract until the end, you need to wake up for breakfast. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not every time, but most of the time.

Ray: And breakfast is what time?

Rafael: Six o’clock.

Ray: So you’ve got to wake up at five? Five thirty?

Rafael:  five o’clock, yeah, five thirty. Almost every day. And we’ve got broken schedules.

Ray:  And then you go work for breakfast until?

Rafael: Maybe around six to ten. And then have a little break, and then you’re back for lunch until three o’clock. Another little break. Come back six fifteen for dinner until eleven or twelve.

Ray: So the pockets must be full of money for you to be work this amount of hours because it would be worth it if you weren’t getting a good sum of money. So you must know, it pays off. I loved this pay, but I just wanted to press buttons. Living on board out at sea can be a bit tough. How’s your accommodation space, and what benefits do you have as a waiter?

Rafael: Food, you work in a restaurant man!

Ray: And you guys get the best food. Filet mignon, all of that. So why have I never had any? Why don’t you bring me some? This is over guys. This is over. The show is over. We’ll see you next time. This guy out of here.

Rafael: There’s a lot of benefits man. Starting from food, drinks. More food, more drinks. The cabin is so so if you’re a waiter you get two guys in one cabin. It’s ok. We don’t get free laundry or anything. But it’s all good, it’s better than nothing.

Ray: Knowing what you know now, if you could change one thing in your career, what would it be? And why?

Rafael: Oh, good question man.

Ray: From all your contracts, you’ve learned so much. What do you think you can change? Just one thing, from what you’ve learned, that would help you benefit yourself in the future.

Rafael: I’m happy at the moment, but for that question, I think I would’ve changed to get a different degree than getting this. And to become a captain someday. To have a different profession.

Ray: So you’re happy with the profession, but you would have preferred to have gone in another direction.

Rafael: So this profession is a really long process, but in the end when you reach the top management, quadruple-digit man. High salary. Or owning your own restaurant. do this, do that. I’m the boss. I only work for so how many hours a day.

Ray: Have you worked on bigger ships?

Rafael: Yeah.

Ray: So what’s the difference for you on a bigger ship and a smaller ship?

Rafael: Smaller ships, you can take care of your guests really well, because you can know them very well. You know what to get, you know what they want. You can anticipate what they need. And on the bigger ships, every day, new guests. You know their names, you make them feel welcome, but it’s just not like mi casa su casa, welcome to my home, it’s totally different. They’re just a number.

Ray: So tell me about the negatives and the positives of the job.

Rafael:  To go into details. The negatives of our job are working too many hours a day. To think we’re working almost twelve to fourteen hours maximum during a vacation. Regular days, ten hours, eleven minimum. And that’s broken schedule, you can’t sleep one long sleep, because you need to wake up, go to work, have a break, go back, have a little nap, go back to work again. And the positive thing is food. You get to taste all the food you have on the menu.

Ray: After this, later on, tonight, I’m coming for a steak filet mignon or something bro. because if not, I’m cutting your tv in your cabin and you’re going to be watching nothing for your whole contract.

Rafael: Not with this maître d’.

Ray: Yeah, he’s a new guy, he just came on. He looks a bit tough. I see him walking around, looking at things and pointing at things. Some of them are ok, but when you have a bad boss like this, it can be difficult right?

Rafael: He’s not a bad dude, but he’s got an eye. He’s old school.

Ray: Let me tell you something about the assistant waiters again because I find this really interesting. So what happens when you talk to your assistant waiter, and they just backchat you or tell you to F off, or they’re like I don’t want to do what you want to do. How do you handle it? Because obviously, you’re going to get an assistant waiter. How does it work? Do you get a new one? Or is it always changing? Or are you set with the one guy? Tell me a little bit about this.

Rafael: It really depends, because if you’re a veteran waiter, they’re going to give you a new assistant. If you’re a new waiter, they’ll give you a veteran assistant waiter. So you make it balanced. But if an assistant waiter does that to me, I’m not going to share tips with you. Why should I give you money? You give me a hard time.


Ray: Ah! So you’re supposed to share your tips with them?

Rafael: Not really, but for me, I give money to my assistant to keep him motivated.

Ray: Yes, of course. That’s the right way to do it.

Rafael: Give him money. “ah I’m getting money, I’ll run around for this s**t”. So keep him motivated, but it works like trash, then sorry but I’m going to run my money.

Ray: This guy’s going to be a maître d’ people. Be ready and out for him. Rafael the turtle. So the trays? How many dishes do you carry on a tray? Because you just go get the food supposedly. I had a chat with an assistant waiter previously, and they said they also fetch the food sometimes. But from my previous experience with companies, the waiter is supposed to do it. But when you’re in a rush, obviously they can help. So that means you’re a pro now. How many do you carry on this tray? And how does it work? If it’s shaky and the seas are going left and right, how do you handle it?


Rafael: You must know the proper procedure of how to carry a tray, like a bend your knees first. Make sure you’ve got a nice foundation before you carry it. When you hold it right in the middle, make sure all the heavy things are in the middle, and close to you. Because if it’s outside, it will be a little bit rocky, unbalanced. It has to be in equilibrium, the heaviest part. You carry it. If you have your shoulders to support it, it’s going to be easy.

Ray: How plates do you carry on a tray? sixteen? eight?

Rafael: I play a safe man, twelve.

Ray: Twelve is safe, but sixteen is the max right. Because I didn’t really think about the tray procedure, and you have to have a safety belt. You get that as you get on board right? And you have to wear it. Do they actually check?

Rafael: Actually sometimes they don’t. that’s why you need to really bend it. Use your knees, not your back. Sorry, use your legs, not your back.

Ray: I guess I know how to carry a tray.

Rafael: Now you want to become a waiter huh?

Ray: No, still no. I just don’t like it. I remember myself doing it, and running there to a table with ten people there. There’s a little kid, “can I get chocolate milk?”. And on the big ships, the galley is on the other side. And I have to run all the way there. I have to check chocolate milk, and then go back and “ah! Can I also have one?” ‘yeah sure’. Then go all the way there, and then when I get back, the mother’s like, “can I also have one?”. And I remember in my head going in my head “ah you #@!$%”. And I go all the way back, and then I come back. It’s not easy but the money was just amazing. Ok so this is the big question I ask everybody man, and I’ve heard some good stuff. Tell me the most shocking thing you’ve ever encountered or seen in your career at sea. Anything. I’ve had a ghost story, I’ve had a suicide story, I’ve had many things. A bomb explosion, mine was a fire just before the new year. What’s something that’s happened to you at sea that you’ll never forget, that’s like wow?

Rafael: Mine is totally different man. I was drunk. I wanted to take a pee because the restrooms are inside the cabin. I opened the door. I slammed the door. I opened my eyes. “F**K I’m outside”. I was locked outside, no key, underwear.

Ray: Did anybody see you?

Rafael: I don’t know; it was two o’clock in the morning.

Ray: How did you get back in?

Rafael: I knocked. No one answered man. My cabin mate was drunk as well. I called him. I stayed outside for maybe twenty, thirty minutes, with my underwear on. And I really wanted to pee.

Ray: That’s a good one man. That’s a hundred per cent. That’s what I’m looking for because they don’t know these things. Because when you woke up. You were like ‘ah I need the toilet’. But you didn’t realise you were going outside. That’s how small the cabin is. You went to the other door. So has worked at sea changed your life in any way?

Rafael: Yeah it did. Now I can say I’m a better person. Being flexible. Being mature especially. Knowing how to balance things, which is urgent or which is things to do.

Ray: You’ve been at sea for four years now right? What makes you keep coming back?

Rafael: I’m paying for my house.

Ray: Ah! Beautiful answer. You know, you’re the only person who’s given me a straight up answer. A good cause, you’re paying for your house. Very nice, I wish you the best of luck. Because a lot of people come here, and they get stuck, like me. And they just can’t control it. You have a goal, a vision, which you’re going for.

Rafael: Trying. Trying my best.

Ray: Just keep smiling. You’re going to get through it bro.

Rafael: That’s the way I do it, man.

Ray: I learned from you, and you learned from me. We don’t even know each other. We only met when I came to the ship. And immediately I spoke to Rafael, “do you gym? Do you box? Do you do jiu jitsu?”. Because I like to do sports, and he looked like he was a sporty guy. And he was doing all these things, and I said, “come on let’s go do”. And he was like, “no man, I’ve got to go”. If you have any advice for the viewers out there, what would it be? For any of the new hires, that are interested in this job. What would you like to tell them?

Rafael: Just be ready. Not just mentally, not just physically, but totally ready. Be ready. Expect the unexpected. Because you’re going to be f**ked here on the ship. Not literally though.

Ray: Would it be possible if I could take your email, and put your email address at the bottom of my show notes? So if anybody’s interested, they can contact you just to find out anything. You never know. Maybe, maybe not. It’s just so they’ll have more information. That’ll be great, thanks, man. Ok, but before you go, I want to give you two options. The first option, I thought of this just a few seconds ago. You can either sing teenage mutant ninja turtles, or you can do the outro for me of this podcast, with your deep voice. Like thank you for listening to crew life at sea, and have a safe journey, and whatever you want to say, but use my crew life at sea, and do a nice outro with that voice or you can teenage mutant ninja turtles.

Rafael: No way man.

Ray: Obviously, that’s why I did that. So you can do my outro.

Rafael: It’s like a forced dilemma man, nowhere else to go but that way. Thank you for listening to crew life at sea, safe sailing guys. See you later.

Ray:  Sweet, that’s great. Thanks, bro, and thank you for being on my show. You were great, and keep that tray straight up ninja turtle man.

Rafael: And don’t forget. Keep on smiling.

Ray: Keep on smiling guys. Ciao.

Outro: Thanks for listening to Crew life at sea podcast. Want any of your questions answered? Send us an email at Thank you for being a part of our adventure at sea.