Antarctica cruise notes 5 – Demographics and cheerfulness

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I was wondering why it seems that cruise passengers are for the most part from the US. Google reveals that about 59% of cruisers are from North America, and 26% from Europe. Celebrity is English-language centric, with occasional translations to Spanish and German. From some audience participation after a theater presentation, it seems that there are passengers from at least the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, China, Argentina, Japan, but primarily from the US.

Celebrity markets its approach to high-quality service, food and beverages. All crew who meet passengers are unflaggingly cheerful, with full eye contact greetings, and usually a humorous retort to any light conversation. Do non-Americans find this cheerfulness so very American? Is it attractive, part of the cruise experience, or do they roll their eyes?
While I am fully American, dedicated to being positive and cheery myself, being surrounded by people paid to be cheery to me — all the time and everywhere — gives me pause. Where else but the designed and contained world of a cruise ship (and some resorts) do you pay for a fully enveloping fabricated experience? The experience includes the activities and services, like in a city: food, beverages, spa, theater, shopping, casino, trivia games, library and much more. But it includes all the connective tissue between the activities and services too. You leave your wallet in the room safe, carrying only your ship card for ID and virtual payment. Menus (for the most part) don’t have prices on them because you can choose anything you want. You flow into the theater to see what is going on, perhaps with a designer martini in hand (no prohibitions of walking the streets with alcohol). You flow out again if you change your mind; you didn’t specifically pay $105 per seat, which in the conventional world would motivate you to stay from start to finish. (Is this what the world of Star Trek: The Next Generation would be like: no money, all your needs available at request?) Everything is designed to provide you with diversion and pleasure — and to make the cruise line some money as well.

There are naturally 1000 complex and specific reasons why the 1000 or so crew members work on this cruise ship. They come from all over the world, but seem mostly to come from the Philippines, Indonesia, Latin American and Eastern Europe — areas of low wages. Our experience of them so far is that they are remarkably well spoken, and flawlessly polite and positive. The cruise-line hiring process must be very well thought out and deliberate. These people seem predisposed to be both present and of service. I hope that this is good employment for them, and that they take some pleasure in their role in this service industry.

Our role is consumer and experiencer. We have saved our money and chosen to spend it for this enveloping, positive experience to and from Antarctica. I’m delighted that we have the great fortune to be able to travel so far to see such (hopefully) stunning interesting places. But are we a gentler version of the elite in The Hunger Games or any other distopian divided-class story? Everyone here is a willing participant. This have-more / have-less tension fuels most everything in the modern world. We are less fortunate than some; we are more fortunate than many — at least related to ability to travel and live in the world, and enjoy some economic security.

We get to enjoy a couple weeks of pampering and great travel, with the opportunity to be kind to everyone around us, and hope that they all increase their own good fortune as they wish.

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