Q – I once read somewhere that cabin stewards on cruise ships often earn more than the Captain when you factor in tips. True?

A – You are, dear friend, dating yourself a bit. But it was once true back in the sixties and seventies. Cabin stewards, particularly those from Great Britain and Italy were once unionized and, with benefits and tips, could actually surpass a Captain’s earnings. But as cruising started to really take off in the late seventies unions were “busted” and crew were hired on eleven-month contracts that gave all the power to cruise line management. Now, a sizable labor force from the Caribbean, Indonesia, and the Philippines works aboard the mass market liners for total income that surpasses what they can earn at home – but not by much. Those low-paid workers are required for cruise lines to achieve profitability is now an accepted fact. But it is true that working conditions and salaries are significantly better aboard the smaller vessels in the five-star fleet. Most crew these days work an 11- onto contract after which they are provided free or subsidized flights home.