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Recently Ella and I embarked on a cruise to the Bahamas on the "Fun ship, Jubilee." Off we flew to San Juan, Puerto Rica, to board the ship for a week of sailing. 1,300 passengers are catered to by 700 crew members.

All you have to do is sign and activate your "Sail and Sign" card and excursions, shopping, spas, bars are available. Scribble your name and cabin number and you do not have to worry until you have to visit the Purser to pay the tab at the end of the voyage.

Yes, folks all they told you about the abundance of food is true: dining is available from six in the morning till the ever popular midnight buffet. Main/late seating is offered in two grand dinning rooms with waiters, maitre d, wine glasses and fine linens. For those of you that prefer informal eating there is the Funnel restaurant on the Lido deck with oodles of hamburgers, fries and pizza. Imagine, self service ice cream, yogurt, cold drinks on tap free for the taking. The food offerings are assorted encompassing Chinese, Italian main courses and of course cakes and pies for desert.

The crew: waiters, bus boys/girls cooks, cleaners, cabin attendants come from 55 countries from around the globe. Initially, the majority pay their air fare from their homes to Miami Florida. They sign up for 6-8 month hitches for sea duty.

The waiters live off their tips of $5.50 per guest per day and are paid the magnificent salary of $75.00 per month from which they are obliged to pay their servers. All monies are tax free. The work week is seventy two hours. All those who receive tips are responsible for their own transportation home.

The salaried support staff receive $450.00 per month that works out to 12 hours of work for $14.00 and have their travel expenses paid. Two in a small cabin with bunk beds and a common bathroom/shower are the norm. The food offering for the crew is kind of boring and bland.

Many of the staff from Eastern Europe are well educated with many having College/University education. Teachers, computer technologists, health care specialists spend their long days waiting on the customers. David a young computer programmer, told that "it is very difficult for a white person to secure a profession in South Africa."

Marion a young elementary teacher from Roumania told me of her love for children but sadly the tiny salary could not sustain her in her country,

The staff sign on to work hoping for a better life, to save their earnings and send money home to their families. The ship can be a jail at sea with the loss of freedom/ family. Three months off to return home is the reward for completing the contract.

The crew that I talked to spoke of the gold plated, coveted, elusive visa that they needed to emigrate to Canada. I found it a little intimidating that staff supervisors were troubled with me talking to the staff and taking notes. The companies I assume are afraid that the workers may contemplate the thought that the crew may want to unionize.

The smiles, warmth, hard work of the young staff members spoke volumes about their dedication to please.

We, who have the good fortune to have been born in Canada do not/can not appreciate what we have. The crew of the MS Jubilee have cast their fate to the sea to have a chance of a better life. To be able to settle in Canada would be an impossible dream.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com