Celebrity Summit holds about 2450 passengers and 1000 crew. We often take the crew for granted. They work seven days a week for weeks on end and become a part of the ship to us. Almost invisible. On this cruise, I made an effort to connect with these individuals.
We sat at the same table for dinner most nights, so we had the same waiter, Adi from Indonesia, a most capable and engaging fellow. At each meal, he would take the four–compartment tray from my OBI dining assistant, cut my food up into the appropriately sized bites, and serve my dinner in the special tray. The first night I dined in my iBOT wheelchair, I showed him how I could rise up on 2 wheels. He was beside himself and asked me to do it again so everyone could see. I was happy to oblige.
Our assistant waiter, or waitress in this case, was known to us only as B, from Thailand. Her twin sister, A, worked a few sections over. To me, their proper names, as indicated on their name tags, were an unpronounceable collection of too many consonants and not enough vowels, so we appreciated the nicknames. B was so friendly and talkative that I got the feeling we sometimes caused her to fall behind, and she would shuffle off in a big hurry, but with smile intact.
There was a talented duo that played different venues each day — her on vocals and him on guitar. During one of their breaks at the Sunset Bar, our favorite outdoor watering hole, I struck up a conversation with the singer.
“I love your voice,” I began.
“Thank you so much,” she replied, flashing the smile she must’ve flashed the last thousand times she had received this compliment.
“Are you here just this week?” I asked.
“No, we have an 8-week contract on this ship.”
I then asked where else in the world the ship would be taking her over the next two months. She said, “A lot of Bermuda.”
She was friendly and receptive to my questions, so I went in for the kill. “Everyone wants to know — are you two a couple?”
“No,” she laughed. “We’ve been friends a long time, and most people assume we are a couple. In fact, the cruise ship provided us with only a single room at first.”
I asked about how difficult it was to score a gig like this, and she explained that cruise ship experience is prime resume material, and that these contracts are highly competitive. This confirmed my impression that the entertainment on cruise ships is top-notch.
One day, I set up my computer at a table in the café so I could work on my book and look out at the ocean. I heard someone asking me in a strong Eastern European accent, “Are you making some sort of announcement?”
I turned to see a smiling lady in her 20s, removing dirty dishes from the next table. I said, “Excuse me?”
“You have a microphone. Are you making an announcement?” She giggled.
“No,” I laughed back at her. “I’m unable to type, so I speak to my computer through this microphone.”
Her eyes lit up, and she moved closer. “Are you a writer?”
I’m reluctant to self-identify that way, but she seemed so excited at the prospect that I responded, “Yes, I am.”
She couldn’t contain herself. “I am writer too. I have been published in Ukraine.”
We discussed our various writing projects, and she became intrigued by the premise of my book. She asked if she could send me some sample writing that she had attempted in English, and I let her know I would be more than happy to work with her. I haven’t seen anything yet, but I hope to.
Midway through the week Kim and I had some problems with the patient lift we had brought along to transfer me from wheelchair to bed, etc. Kim would pump on the lift arm and raise me up in the air. But as soon as she stopped pumping, I would slowly lose altitude. As the week progressed, this problem became more pronounced, to the point where she couldn’t stop pumping at all.
As we approached the port of call in Portland, Maine, where we live, I called my friend Darcy. I asked if I could borrow her patient lift for the remainder of the cruise. She agreed, and we arranged the handoff.
When Kim and I attempted to exit the ship in Portland, with the broken lift in tow, the crew stopped us, even though we had informed them a couple days ahead of time. Kim suggested that I go ahead and exit the ship and wait for her at the bottom of the ramp. I was causing a bit of a traffic jam.
After I had waited for about 20 minutes on the dock, a uniformed employee approached me. She was thin and wore aviator sunglasses. “Can I help you with anything,” she asked. The entire crew was so helpful on this cruise, and I had been asked this question so many times that I almost declined out of habit.
Then I looked down at her name tag and it read, Captain Kate.
“Perhaps there is something you can do. We are trying to get our broken lift off the ship so we can bring a replacement on board, but my wife has been trying to get clearance for almost half an hour now.”
“I’m aware of that request, and I thought it had been taken care of. I'm sorry. Let me see what I can do.”
She turned and looked up the ramp and said, “Is that your wife coming down the ramp with a lift right now?”
“You’re good,” I joked.
As Kim approached us with the broken lift, I introduced her to Captain Kate, and we complemented the Captain on a well-run ship (this incident being the exception).
I texted Darcy’s husband, Tim, and he met us at the ship with the replacement lift. I don’t know what we would’ve done if not for Darcy and Tim’s help.
I’m intrigued by the life that cruise ship workers lead, and I took every opportunity to engage them in conversation. I was not disappointed.
Click here for a sampling of what life is like for workers on a cruise ship.
click here for part 4
click here for part 1