Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday morning

We are sitting at anchor off the island Ouvea in New Caledonia. It apparently has the nicest beaches in the Loyalty Islands. It is approximately 35 kilometres long and has three villages on it.

The Captain made an announcement about an hour ago that the initial team (the ubiquitous photographers and others) went ashore and found the landing pontoon damaged by big seas. He said that he was dispatching an Executive Officer and a carpentry crew to see if repairs could be made for passengers to safely land on the island. The news came back that they deemed it unsafe for passengers and we are soon to up-anchor, drop off the pilot somewhere close to Noumea and head back; slowly to Sydney to use up the extra day.

Another bit of not-so-good news from the Captain was the fact that a cyclone is rapidly bearing down on us. We expect some rock-n-roll soon.

The Captain seemed very sorry that we couldn’t get ashore. I reckon that is probably because of the lost revenue in the obligatory photo session we endure at each landing.

Last night after the usual sumptuous meal in the Palm Court dining room we decided to take a look at the floor show. It was a stand-up comedian and he did a very good job. There were two exits from the International Show Room and we took the one that did not have the comedian and his DVD sales stand.

Tuesday PM

I went to the service desk to find out how the obligatory tipping toll of $7.50 per day, per passenger, is distributed as we want to give our cabin steward adequate reward for his good work. I was told that all the collected tips are allocated to the catering, cleaning and laundry staff. The administration and clerical crew don’t get a divvy of that amount.
The fellow on the desk then told me that 90% of passengers opt out of the tipping collection…..great; 10% of the mob are left to carry the burden and the staff get virtually B all! I think I will drop back our levy to the original $5. per day.

I asked our cabin steward about his working conditions and it seems that they all work 13 hours per day with no days off for 10 months straight. It is not a great deal for them, but must be a reasonable earner compared to wages in their own country. Most of the catering service crew are from the Philippines. Many of the cabin crew are Filipinas. They are largely handsome and pleasant people. I believe that Filipino overseas labour is the main Philippines export. I wish I could write music here to show you how their ‘Hello Ma’am’ goes.

I asked one of the bar staff if he was going to take a new contract when his finished. It seems that he/they can’t just sign up on the ship, they have to return to the Philippines and sign up again through a recruitment agent who takes a percentage of their contractual earnings. I guess it would be easier to earn some money on the side with a land-based job. On the ship, the only chance for extra income not being taxed by their agent would be to work hard for tips.

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