|Crew members on board Volendam|
When I went to a talk on 'Life Below Deck', I was interested to learn about the crew training programmes. Holland America has built two schools for that purpose, one in Manilla, the other in Jakarta. Here crew members learn their jobs in conditions that simulate a real cruise ship. They live in cabins, cook in galleys, learn waiting, bartending and housekeeping skills in real restaurants, bars and staterooms.
This gives them a chance to see if they are cut out for a life at sea - on 8 month contracts, working split shifts with no days off, living in a small space, always with other people around. As one of the officers said, "You might be the best chef in the world but if you can't handle the living conditions, you're no good to us!"
Perhaps life on the ocean wave is not as glamorous as it first seems!