Here in the UK, we are entering the final week of summertime. Next weekend, people across the country will spend most of the day trying to remember how to change the time on their ovens, cars and other devices before giving up frustrated and just accepting it will be wrong until the spring.
As technology changes this task is getting easier, very few people have a VHS player with a clock that needs changing and digital watches are fading away as we go back to analogue watches or no watch at all. I remember meeting somebody who couldn’t work out how to change the time on his watch so ended up with a summer watch and an identical winter watch thus removing the need to do the seasonal adjustments.
There are many studies about time changes and the effects they cause. Every time it happens, we enter the predictable national debate about if we should abolish them, accompanied by lists of facts about the health and economic implications. However, this is only twice a year. On a cruise ship this can happen twice a week (or more!)
It used to be easy, we had ship’s time. No matter where the ship goes, we stay in ship’s time. Nobody changes their watches and just ignores the clocks ashore, so everyone is back on time and onboard when we sail. Then came mobile phones programmed to change their times automatically when they get near land (even places we don’t stop at) and time became a real problem.
Between California and Hawaii, there are three time changes. So in the eight days between leaving the islands and getting back again, we have changed the clocks six times. After months of this, the jet lag means everyone is too tired to do anything.
Australia have a plethora of time zones, each state and territory operate separately. Some states have summer & winter time, others stay the same all year round. Sometimes when the borders are crossed the time moves by an hour, on other occasions it is only 30 minutes. It is no wonder I discussed time zones more than anything else.
“But they wouldn’t really leave me behind” passengers would tell me.
“Yes, they would” I reply. It happens fairly often and time zone errors are a major cause.
It is not true that ships can wait around for people to turn up. Firstly, the ship may not be able to stay. Another ship might be booked into the dock space or the port is closing so the Captain has to go, no matter what. Alternatively, if we only have a short time to get a long way, then delays would mean missing the next port.
If the guest has managed to phone to say they are just round the corner then they are in with a chance of a short delay but if they don’t have a phone with them (or it doesn’t work abroad) then there is a real possibility of watching the ship sail without them.
So, what happens next? The port agents take over and get them to the next destination (with whatever belongings they have with them). That is great if there is another port tomorrow but if we are going to/from Hawaii they might be stranded for five days. Let’s hope they have decent insurance because the cruise line is not paying for flights or hotels.
Then there is the added trauma of what may happen if they left their passport onboard, with any luck they will be somewhere that has a good working level of English and an available embassy. Russia and China are examples of incredibly difficult places to get stuck with no possessions or ID.
So, all this is yet another reason of why I don’t miss working on cruise ships. It is also why, having only two time changes a year feels like a complete luxury.