Lately, plenty of cruise ship job offers have inundated the Ukrainian market. HR managers actively recruit those ‘dedicated to the highest level of guest satisfaction and excellence’ – pool boys, stewards, floor runners, buffet attendants, butlers, cleaners, and entertainers. Is it a dream job and a guaranteed way to travel in style or self-effacing drudgery and exhausting toil? Below sheds the light on this issue.
The Truth Underneath
Everything hidden beneath the fourth deck of a cruise ship is referred to as ‘below’. Everything stretching overhead is logically touted as ‘above’. The fourth deck is the so-called demarcation line, something like a zero floor in hotels, which allows you to cross the ship from its bow and stern. It is a sort of axis piercing the vessel and splitting it into two parallel universes. Beneath posh staterooms, smartly decorated lounges, high-end restaurants, and cosy cafés of the ‘above’ world there is a mysterious crew and maintenance empire with its own rules and hierarchical structure. It conceals dark secrets and intrigue, the truth stripped of any conduct code, failures and questionable achievements, hatred and confessions, dirty linen and noble aspirations. And, of course, an engine, the driving force behind every action. Whatever makes the ship move forward is located here.
Polina, the main protagonist, stands in front of a cruise ship in the port of Honolulu. She, a highly skilled expert with two diplomas, has swapped her marketing analyst chair at a Kyiv-based office for a waitress uniform. Faced with the next six months of short sleep in her tiny cabin below and passengers’ unbridled consumption above, what is it she wants to leave behind? Who is the one she wants to forget? Who is the one she wants to meet? What happens on board stays on board.
About the Author
A sociologist by background, Kira Malko lives and works in Kyiv. She worked as a cruise ship server and described her own experience in Below. This psychological, ironic, feminist, and modern novel became her successful literary debut and earned her the third prize of the Word Coronation International Literary Competition. Malko’s essays are published in Ukrainian and American Internet magazines The Devochki, The Establishment, and ElectricLiterature.