Zim’s international cruise line girls

Patience Gombe’s story reads like a fairytale, having grown up in Mufakose, and ended up travelling the world mainly by sea, courtesy of her job with the shipping company, Carnival Cruise Lines.

What started off as an attempt to try her luck, when she applied for the job via the Internet, paid off on July 13, 2008, when she was offered the job after a telephone interview conducted on March 10, 2008.

Adjusting to the new kind of life her job ushered did not give her too much headaches as, she says, “it was a lot like living in res at university only a little more intense”.

Patience studied at Fort Hare University in South Africa. Her working hours, she says, vary: “Depending on the ship I could work anything from 45 minutes to five hours. Different ships have different equipment, requirements and teams.”

She says she experienced some cultural shock when she started working there, and sought to deal with it by avoiding people. Working in that environment, she says, is also fraught with pitfalls, and the hardest was dealing with racism and male chauvinism.

But being to many famous places in the world has been an antidote, and she says visiting Puerto Rico and Hollywood provided some of her best moments.

Her job has significantly impacted her life in both positive and negative ways. Apart from the significant financial rewards, she says, there have been hard moments especially in terms of her faith and family life.

“It has given me opportunities to buy a lot (of things) for my family and myself, but it has cost too much in terms of my relationship with God as I could not go to church and fellowship. I also missed a lot of my friends’ weddings and my nieces growing up,” she says.

She, however, says she will eventually return home, and probably consider moving on to work in other places.

Her elder sister, Loretta, also worked on cruise ships as a beauty and massage therapist for a number of years before calling it quits. She had also applied for the job online. She first worked for a spa company, Harding Brothers, in a ship called Oceana.

“It was not a very nice experience,” she recalls. “I worked for 12 hours a day, but it was not a very busy ship. I worked mainly on commission so I was not making the kind of money I expected as a minimum.”

She then left for another ship called Steiner Transocean, which hires internationally qualified beauty and massage therapists as well as fitness experts. Steiner has spas on over 106 cruise ships.

“I worked on three ships for Steiner. Every contract was different, depending on the manager. Generally our official working hours were 12 hours for five and a half days per week, but mostly because of incentives and sometimes the itinerary, we would work fewer hours than that.

For example when I worked on the Grand Princess during the Mediterranean season most of the passengers went on tours most of the day so it was pointless to be in the spa all day so we would work from three to eight hours most days,” she recalls.

“On sea days we had to work all day because the ship would not dock.”

Loretta also worked on Diamond Princess and Holland America’s Ryndam.

She says not everyone is prone to sea sickness, adding that it often happens in bad weather, which is not often.

“Personally, I am prone to sea sickness so I struggled whenever there was a storm. I would throw up and would not be able to work,” she says.

Having had the opportunity to mix and mingle with people from different races and cultures, Loretta says she has since realised that “we are all just people” and it is easy to get along.

“I still have friends I met on ships that I communicate with regularly from the Philippines, USA, India, England, Scotland and Jamaica,” she says.

Some of the 40 countries she has been to during her spell on cruise ships include Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Barbados, St Lucia, Canada, Panama, Egypt and Senegal.

“Some of my memorable moments were when I went to the Pyramids of Egypt, toured the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey and walked the paths the Apostle Paul travelled and shooting photos at the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy,” she recalls.

The worst moments, however, were when she missed her family and when she was caught up in a torrid storm during one of their voyages.

“I will never forget when our ship was caught in a storm while we were sailing from Egypt to Italy. Televisions fell to the floor and were broken and ceilings fell out. It was like an earthquake. We even lost electricity for a few terrifying moments,” she says. “Our ship was badly damaged, but no one was hurt.”

She says she has worked with some Zimbabweans during her career on sea.

“I worked with Zimbabweans on my first ship (but) they have since left to settle on land. On my third ship I worked with a white Zimbabwean, but he is now based in New Zealand. On my last ship I worked with a white Zimbabwean who lives in Mt Pleasant,” she says.

She says most people work on ships for a season because it is difficult to settle and have a family if one is ever travelling. Although she says she has since retired from ships, she will not trade her experiences for anything.

Rhoda Chidzungu, who started off as a counsellor with the Just Children Foundation in Harare, now works as a youth counsellor for the Carnival Cruise Line and her job entails spending time with the kids in the ship and ensuring they have fun.

“The ship caters for a lot of nationalities so the language was kind of barrier if you had to deal with the non-English speaking guests and kids,” she says.
She has been working in the ship since May last year after having applied for the job through an agent in South Africa.

“My best moments are getting to meet new friends with different backgrounds and different views about life and also getting to see places without having to pay anything,” she says.

Her job, she says, has taken her to places like the Bahamas, Honduras, Belize, Cayman Islands, Miami, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Jamaica — the list is endless.

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Article source: http://www.newsday.co.zw/article/2011-10-21-zims-international-cruise-line-girls


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