Food keeps crew members completely out of integration, perhaps more than anything else on big ships. The availability of home food at sea is dramatically different, as home food varies dramatically. Some cruise lines have more Indian or Eastern European or Caribbean dishes, depending on the crew. Fortunately, cruise lines take food very seriously for the crew. It's a real deal – unlike, say, the old food in the mall. Of course, it has Mexico, Italy and China, but only through Taco Bell, Sbaro and Panda respectively. And these, of course, are hopelessly Americanized. Before multinationals, I doubt whether native Mexicans, Italians or Chinese would even admit that such foods are theirs – especially after eating them. But I'm shrinking.
Curiously, ships offer American flavors below the waterline, despite their lack on board. The irony is complete when you realize that almost 100% of Americans are entertainers who do not eat anything on offer. Why? Because hot dogs and hamburgers don't give in to attractive bodies. So why do ships bother? Because hot dogs and hamburgers are cheap. Better yet, both can sit for hours under a hot lamp and you never know. Or at least he wouldn't want a boy from Indonesia. The mystery solved.
But every day, every cruise line ship and sea every day has an Asian day. Large quantities of steamed white rice are always available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, preferring East Asian teams. I'll never forget my first trip to the team confused, on Carnival Fantasy. While I was piling up a couple of strips of steak on my plate – nothing in itself, if not American – my colleagues chose a white rice hill with a mixture of fish heads on top. This explains our radical difference in weight and perhaps our temperament.
Fortunately, I have a deep interest in food and have found the advantage of having different cuisines from different cultures. Many did not. Given how hard we all worked, the desire for familiar, comforting food was understandable. In addition, most teams were from rural areas where diversity and interest were limited. Just as a Kansas small town boy, for example, claims that foie gras may be as interested as a New York native, a small village boy from the Philippines may not be interested in microwave burritos. And after working 80 hours a week? Let the poor man have what he wants as he cries out loud!
But the real reason for foreign team members to integrate is not food: it's food habits.
No food is allowed in team cabins, although all team types will steal sooner or later. Many provide dry goods, some of which are occasionally even allowed. For example, Asians tend to stock up on whole instant noodle flats, and who knows of a secreted hot plate that allows for late-night snacks? But this food-restrictive maritime discipline was introduced for good reason. Two, in fact, because some ships have roach.
Prohibiting food in team cabins is the real reason, because it always reaches the toilets in the most non-biological way. The toilets are very, very sensitive. The team? Not really.
As we worked on the Royal Majesty of the Caribbean, we had to take the final theme to the extreme. Fish bones obscured the sewer system so often that the stern of the stern smelled of faeces. Literally. What killed me was that disclosing evidence of illegal nutrition was the only time many toilets were flushed! I'm still shaking when I see overworked zombies brushing their teeth next to the stuffed toilets, lids wide. For me, it was equally confusing as to why a team member wiped his shoe. The result was a backup of the ship's entire waste systems and no one other than the hotel director himself was forced to look for the culprit in the cabins. More will come later, but I would add that he swore a lot that day.
Despite all of this, some of us have room service on board. This does not mean that the team is happy to provide it. One evening, my order came from several sandwiches – I was hosting a party – which resulted in an annoyed chef's thumbs so deeply impressed with the bread that I could only see his fingerprints.