What do you say to a group of thirty scared, exhausted, but excited people who have flown 5,000 to 10,000 miles from home to start a new job at sea? What words can simultaneously console both a macho Bulgarian man and a timid Indonesian woman? Upon joining Carnival Fantasy’s restaurant training, I heard the following spiel, more or less, and found it engaging.
“Let me welcome you aboard,” said the trainer. “We are going to have a lot of fun, and we are going to do a lot of work. I guarantee this will be a new experience for all of you. It will not be easy. Let’s start with why you are here. You’re all here for the same reason: money.
“So to make money, you first need to learn about serving Americans. It doesn’t matter what things were like back home. The majority of cruisers are American, so you need to learn what they like and what they don’t like. Americans are the easiest people to serve in the world. They’re not interested in fine service. They eat out all the time there, so being in the dining room is not a special occasion for them the way it is for most of us. So they don’t want a servant: they want a friend. They will ask personal questions about you and your family. They’ll ask where you’re from, but don’t be upset if they don’t know where that is. Most won’t.
“This is an American corporation with American guests, which means American standards. That doesn’t mean you must eat hamburgers every day, but it does mean washing with soap and water every day. I’m from India, for example, and lots of Indians smell bad because they don’t use soap. That may be fine back home, but it can’t happen here. America means deodorant.
“And ships mean English. In guest areas always use English. Even if you are talking about cricket scores in your native language, Americans will assume you’re talking about them. Nobody knows why. I guess it’s their big sense of personal identity.
“Now let me tell you a true story. A waiter from the Philippines once had a table of old ladies who refused to leave after lunch. He needed them out so he could set up his station for dinner. Finally they ordered more coffee, which was long gone. He had to brew more. It meant he was going to miss preparing for his dinner guests, which probably meant hard time for the second seating, too. He stormed away swearing in Tagalog, using very bad words. He assumed he was safe. But one of the ladies was married to a military man stationed in the Philippines. She understood every word and told the hotel director. The waiter was forced to apologize and was sent home the very next port, mid-cruise.
“Carnival has over sixty nationalities that get along very well. If we don’t, we get sent home. That means no money. If you fight with anybody because he’s different, you will be sent home. No money. Even if someone hits you and you don’t fight back, you are both going home. Carnival takes it that seriously. Revel in learning about the world, but don’t forget why we are here.
“Look around,” he said. “These strange foreigners are all here, just like you, for the money. And though it may not seem like it now, by the end of training these strange foreigners will feel like family.” He was right. When the four weeks were up, there was not a dry eye in the class.
By Brian David Bruns, author of national best-seller Cruise Confidential.
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