A shrill siren echoes in every corner of the ship. Followed by a metallic voice: “The drill has begun. All crew members and passengers embarked today are required to go to the meeting point in ten minutes for a mandatory rescue drill. Everyone must wear the life jacket found in the closet of their cabin”.
Any self-respecting cruise begins in this somewhat disturbing way, even this short winter cruise in the Mediterranean Sea at the end of 2020. It is the last of the year, a new ministerial decree already imposes a new block on cruises during the Christmas holidays due to the spread of the coronavirus, and until further notice. This further lockdown brings the tourism industry to its knees, already in crisis due to the previous forced spring closures.
To extreme evils, extreme remedies, the saying goes. The measures taken on board are extraordinary: mandatory tampon before embarking, mandatory use of the mask in every common space, social distancing. The omni present column for the distribution of hand sanitizer is the new, necessary design object, which furnishes every space and establishes new rules of coexistence.
The period is one of the coldest of the year, the sea promises to be rough, but above all the fear of contracting the virus pushes tourists to stay home, and the huge ship has few passengers. The human presence that is perceived on board is that of the crew, in particular that of the many teams of workers busy to sanitize any surface of the ship several times a day: the handrails, the elevator keys, the armchairs, the slots machines, tables and chairs, gym equipment and all the rest.
They are seasonal workers, mostly from India, Indonesia and the Philippines. They remain on board for nine, ten months without going home. Without Sundays, with low wages and few, too few guarantees at work. They are the most fragile link in the production chain of the cruise system, at risk of losing their jobs if the crisis in the sector does not recede. We are talking about women and men, but also about entire families, who live thanks to the remittances that these migrant workers send to their beloved ones who have remained at home.
The siren has stopped her insistent song. Everyone can go back to their cabin and get ready for dinner. The metallic voice finally announces that the drill is over. Or not?