Cruise ship crew sail the world as part of their job, stopping off at exotic destinations just being part of the day-to-day. Alas, while it sounds glamorous, they certainly have a different experience to the guests.
Unsurprisingly, though they spend all of their time on the ship, the crew aren’t afforded the same luxuries as guests, and rarely get to experience many of the opulent facilities.
However, there are some situations in which the rules can be bent a little, particularly when it comes to food.
For the most part crew eat in a staff mess area, which is an eating facility specifically for staff and an area guests will likely never see.
The exception to this rule comes in the form of onboard ranking.
Those crew members with higher ranking often find themselves chowing down on a much more delicious offering.
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An ex-cruise ship entertainer revealed all in a Reddit forum.
They explained that on their former cruise ship there were four different levels of mess: “Officers Mess (Deck officers, engineering officers, some higher-ranked entertainment and hotel staff) Petty Officers Mess (Lower ranked engineers and deck officers) Staff Mess (Lower ranked entertainment and hotel staff) Crew Mess (everyone else, including waiters, engine wipers, housekeeping staff etc.”
These are the main areas were staff enjoy their daily meals, however, those of higher tiers had access to more and often better options.
“If you had Officers Mess or Staff Mess access you usually had access to the passenger buffet, coffee shop and burger bar,” continues the insider.
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“If you had enough ‘stripes’ you were also permitted to use the Pizza restaurant. (We in the entertainment department called them ‘pizza stripes’ for this reason – it was about all they meant!).”
All levels of crew were also banned from the main guest restaurant except for in one situation.
The ex-worker explains: “None of us had rights to the main restaurant unless you were invited as the guest of a passenger, but they served the same food from the same kitchen in the officer’s mess.”
This isn’t the first revelation from crew about the food ranking system onboard cruises.
Cruise: Guest food areas tend to be reserved just for guests
Former crew member and author of Cruise a La Carte, Brian David Bruns, blamed the system for keeping staff apart.
“Ships differentiate based on crew class,” he explains in his book.
“Food keeps crew members from fully integrating, perhaps more than any other single thing on the big ships.”
Most cruise ships have two or three tiers of staff ranks, depending on the size of the ship and the variety of positions on board.
“Crew have their mess, and officers have their own mess which gets them guest recipes.
“They can dine in guest areas and eat guest food directly if they want. I enjoyed these privileges as an art auctioneer.
“Some ships have a middle tier for staff, as well. That food offers a few things to order sometimes, like simple eggs or chicken breasts, but often just means a slighter wider variety of buffet-style options.
“You’ll get some teriyaki recipes or something, instead of plain meat. “That’s not the norm, though, as it just adds more work for the chefs and takes up more deck space for separate rooms, staff, etc.”
Indeed, it seems status really is the key to all of the best treatment.
Brian adds: “Usually where the crew member can eat, and what is on offer to them, is based on department-specific rules. These vary depending on the cruise operator.”