As they say, if you visit anywhere in the world, and you don't meet a Jamaican, then something must be seriously wrong. So, it was no surprise when I participated in Royal Caribbean International's two-night pre-inaugural cruise 'to nowhere' on Liberty of the Seas and found out that 126 Jamaicans out of a crew of 1,360 are employed to the ship and are making a positive and inspiring impact on the thousands of people they come in contact with daily.
As I strolled through the Windjammer restaurant on day one of the cruise in Miami, trying to find something to eat, I met Cavette Gabbidon and Jason Gentles who are chefs on the ship, which will make its maiden voyage to the western Caribbean on Saturday.
It was Cavette's love for cooking and his mother's encouragement that got him involved in the hospitality sector.
"My mom told me she want me to learn to cook because she didn't want ladies to give me junk food to eat," he told The Gleaner. A graduate of Hotelympia Institute in St. Mary, Cavette, who hails from Ocho Rios, St. Ann, worked in two hotels before taking up this job in 2005.
Each contract lasts for eight months, then they return home for two months before they set sail again. The 23-year-old is now on his third contract and has worked on RCI's Jewel of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas. He has visited countries such as Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, France, Norway, among others, where he has met persons from different countries and has learned to appreciate their culture as well as learn some of their languages.
But Liberty of the Seas, he says, is the best thing that could've happened to him because this ship will sail to Jamaica, among other Caribbean islands, every other week.
Like Cavette, Jason worked in a restaurant before he was employed to RCI. This is his second contract and he says the experience has been great.
"Working on a ship is agreat experience. It has its ups and downs and the rules and regulations are very strict but, on the other hand, you get to go to the different islands and meet different people, free of cost."
The 25-year-old, who has his girlfriend back home, says it is difficult to be away for long periods of time but he tries to remain positive and tells himself that he is doing this because he hopes to return home full time and set up a prestigious restaurant.
A Heart Trust/National Training Agency graduate, Jason's responsibility is to cook an American speciality each day. On Caribbean night, he cooks jerk chicken, among other tasty Caribbean dishes.
Like Jason, Cavette does not intend to work on a ship for the rest of his life. In fact, as soon as he makes enough money he also intends to return home and set up a restaurant.
Go For It
And for young Jamaicans who are thinking of applying for a job on a ship, Cavette says, go for it, but ensure that you remain focused.
"You have to be determined, because this is not an easy road and you have to have the heart of a lion," he said with a roar.
Cavette, a graduate of Claude McKay High School in Clarendon, says he misses home but tries not to think about the island until it's near time for his contract to expire.
"My girlfriend and my mom are at home and sometimes when I call back home and things are not right, I have pure headache," he said while laughing and rubbing his chin.
They both work about 10 hours per day, seven days per week.
Liberty of the Seas is to dock in Jamaica on Wednesday and, for them, this is the most anticipated trip because they will have a chance to see family members and show off the ship to their friends.
Photo of: Jason Gentles (left) and Cavette Gabbidon, Jamaican chefs on Liberty of the Seas. - Photo by Petrina Francis
Source: The (Jamaican) Gleaner
See You in Jamaica