By Evelyn Castillo-Grooteman, Member Stichting Bayanihan  Juniors Coordinating Team

  1. Seize the day

Working for 6 months or more; working with people whom I might  not see again, going to places where I might not visit again; I chose to enjoy my contract & to live life to the fullest every single day. And be grateful to the opportunities (meeting wonderful people, able to visit different places & working in an all-inclusive  job  ) God had given me.

2. Respect & accept diversity

Working & dealing with people from different parts of the world had help me see the beauty  of individuality. It helped us understand each other even if we speak different languages. That  by respect & acceptance we can have a more than what we came for on board…  friendship.

3. When God is with you, who can be against you?

Base on my experience about the Honesty at sea, during those hard time & I don’t know what to do, I don’t know who else I can talk too, because the only person I trusted had betrayed me. I called & prayed to the only who’s always there, always listens & always cares for me… to God. With all the other things I experienced; when things get out of hand, when I took the wrong path, when I was misjudged, ridiculed, felt alone & sick,  he was my peace, my safe harbour.

4. It’s not the nationality, it’s the personality

On board we work with different nationalities, sometimes before I even work with a specific person itself, I already hear stories not really about that particular person but the nationality. They say his an Indian his proud of himself,   she Romanian she’s rude, etc. But once I spoke & spend time with that person, I get a totally different personality than what I was hearing  from. This happens a lot of time. Because of that I told myself I shouldn’t believe in what I am hearing. I should give everyone a chance to prove who she / he really is.  That the nationality doesn’t really define or identify the person; not to label a person because of her/ his nationality. Whoever she/ he is, it’s her personality & not the nationality.

5. Be healthy in all aspect

Being physically healthy is necessary before going onboard & while onboard. Full physical examination is done every 2 years by all crew to make sure that we are healthy before getting onboard the ship. Which includes pregnancy test. Pregnancy test is done before every sign -on, being pregnant onboard is not an option. Being physically healthy is not enough,  mentally & emotional healthy are also important we have to deal with homesickness, depression, loneliness & the feeling of being stuck on the ship for months, we have to be healthy in all aspect to be able keep our mind & body focused. Health in all aspect is essential to survive life onboard.

6. Save for the rainy day

Working onboard is not a lifetime career. It has an expiration, you can work as long as your healthy, as long as your young &  single ( in my own opinion ). But once you have family then I believe that you should quit & find a better job on land so you can be with your family & make the relationship with works. Just like now during pandemic, a lot of seafarers lose their job since cruise ship has to stop for some time, you have to save for situations like this.

Save not just for your loved ones or those people whom you are helping or people you are supporting, but most especially for yourself, because once you lose your job or got sick for example, then those people whom you are helping can’t  probably help you financially. So when you have savings for yourself then you have something to use on those rainy days. 

The above valued lessons were shared during the 3rd Small Talk held online on the 20th of November 2021. Initiated and organized by the Stichting Bayanihan Juniors Core Group (SBJCG), Small Talk is a monthly talk sessions that is geared towards sharing expertise and knowledge for support and team building. For the month of November, the Juniors Group were pleased to have Evelyn Castillo-Grooteman as a resource speaker. Evelyn shared not only the lessons she learned from her decade of working at a cruise ship but also the fun experiences and challenges of a working life at sea. To readers who might be considering an opportunity to also cruise their life at sea, here are bonus points that our resources speaker has shared.

Work in cruise ship, why not?

  1. Travelling while working & being paid to do it

This reason has attracted me the most to work in a cruise ship, I graduated tourism so it’s obvious that I like to travel, experience different culture & try different cuisines. Compared with other departments, working in casino gives me more opportunity to go out & explore once the ship is docked. Why? Because casino are closed when we are docked. Free travelling doesn’t include meals, entrance fees, transportation, souvenir items that I buy once I am out of the ship, I have to pay for it. That is why most of the time I apply to join passenger excursion so I can go to the tourists attractions for free of charge & free transportation & sometimes free lunch & dinner too. all we need to do in return is to assist the tour guides & feel up the evaluation form of the excursion. Every now & there are also free tour or tour with a very minimal fee organized for the crew. Tour companies on the ports also give discounts to crew. 

  1. Basic needs are free.

Working in ship or cruise ship is one of the few jobs where you leave where you work. And since we are home away from home and we are leaving in the middle of the sea. Where we are isolated, sometimes we sail continuously for weeks, that’s why basic needs are already provided, I have a room / cabin which we need to share to the other crew, laundry, dining area, clinic, gym, bars, mini supermarket etc. Being a casino staff I was also allowed to use the amenities for passenger ( restaurants, spa, gym, swimming pool etc ). On board cruise ship there’s 3 rankings of the crew:

3. Your work station is just a few minutes from your cabin

Preparation going for work is less &  I don’t spend money on transportation, I just need to walk or take the lift to go to my work station. During breaks I can be home ( my cabin )  within few minutes & have a nap ( depending how long the break is ) or have my me time.

4. Paid better than working on land

This is most probably 1 of the 2 major reasons why the top nationality working as a seafarer is Filipino. Seafarers don’t pay tax so most of the time we get our salary full but sometimes we have allotment wherein some percentage of the salary goes to our Philippine bank account or to the bank account of our family back at home, which is called allotment.

5. Great opportunity for personal growth

Promotions are guaranteed to those people who work hard & puts their heart & enjoy what they do in cruise ship. Since we work together in 1 area, it’s not just the department head who will see & notice the crew t but the passengers ( writing good comments on the evaluation of their cruise )  other department head, hotel manager & the captain. So promotion is really within reach for the deserving crew. On board HR also has free workshops & activities which are good for personal & social growth.

6. Do things you never did or you think you’ll never do in your life

It might not be obvious but I was once a shy & quiet type woman, but working in cruise I was able to overcome them & learned to socialize with different types of people. And to learn to be confident to the point of dancing in front of thousands of passengers & crew. I joined the first ever Dancing With the Stripes contest wherein staff  ( entertainment departments casino included ) will perform a dance number together with one of the cruise ship dancer, which will be watched by entire passengers & crew. Passengers vote who is the best from all the dancers.