Update: I just spoke to a representative at Holland America who both apologized to me and assured me that they are going to make sure this sort of thing does not happen on their line again.
My main goal with this post was the bring light to the issue and prevent it from happening to other transgender and genderqueer people in the future; and I feel more confident after speaking to HAL that they are going to educate their crews. Thank you all for reading and helping me raise awareness.
Now that I have some version of my opinions on the cruise out of the way (summary: fucking amazing, a++++++ would buy again), I have to vent a little. This post would more accurately be titled “Holland America: The Bad” as the things I am going to talk about in no way reflect the actions or attitudes of the people who ran JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, or the other people on the cruise for that matter.
(Trigger warning: trans-harassment)
So as you may know from reading here or knowing me in person, I am a transgender woman. The Holland America staff on the Westerdam (in particular, the drinks/bartending staff) kind of treated me like dirt as the cruise progressed. I am writing this to create awareness as I think they some of their staff on the Westerdam could use a lesson in appropriateness.
I am in the middle of transition and I only sort of pass (mostly due to my voice). I look like this:
At first things seemed fine. The staff was very courteous and would refer to me as “ma’am” when I interacted with them. Of course everyone who was part of our group on the cruise (sea-monkeys and organizers), and frankly everyone else I talked to who was not part of our group (snorks, who were generally retirement-age and not necessarily the kind of people I would expect to get it right), they all got it right. And for most of the week I was wearing a large yellow badge with my name “Alice” written clearly.
The problem is that I have not yet had my name legally changed. Specifically this meant that my male name was on my room card (which is used onboard as a form of credit). This meant that any time I would give my card to a bartender or waiter while ordering a drink there was a very awkward “Is this your card? / …yes it is” exchange.
Moreover almost every single time a staff member would hand me back my card, they would immediately start referring to me with male pronouns or my male name. I realize I should have said something sooner, but at first I wanted to just let it slide. I thought maybe context would be enough, or the fact that most evenings I was wearing makeup and some form of cocktail dress would clue them in. I also really hate public confrontation, so I just sort of hoped they would start getting right. They never did.
Worse, as the week went on I noticed a trend where the waitstaff were giving me weird looks and addressing me with male pronouns before I showed them my room card. I guess word got around. I had to avoid specific bars at specific times to avoid being called “sir” before I was even able to order a drink.
This climaxed at the final cocktail party on Saturday, a private event for the JCCC2 group only, where the waitstaff who were walking around with trays of drinks were calling out my (male) name at me and laughing at each other as if it were a big joke. I guess I was a joke to them.
About the only thing that kept me from breaking down at this point was it was the last event of the cruise and I wanted to run around and try to say goodbye to everyone I had met, but I spent the evening avoiding every single waiter I could.
I do not think I am overreacting or being paranoid, I have been harassed in public before. I know what it feels like. And what started out as a weird form of the staff trying to adhere to their (wrong) sense of social etiquette, by the end of the cruise felt like genuine harassment.
I thought the whole point of being on a cruise was that you pay a large chunk of money to be treated for a week or however long by a staff who wants to help you relax and have fun. I was having fun, but I was not relaxing at all based on the way I was treated by the Holland America staff.
Again, I should have spoken up sooner but the joy being part of the JCCC2 group experience was enough that almost helped me ignore the shit I was dealing with. I did, on Saturday night after hitting my limit, file a complaint with the front desk. I stated everything I said here, the wrong pronouns and the seeming organized harassment by the staff, and I wrote as much on my cruise survey as well.
And I get that Holland America probably has no policy on this, that they are primarily serving a retiree-aged crowd (it was a big in-joke all week) and they do not deal with transgender people often. But I found their behavior unacceptable and I sincerely hope it was just a case of ignorance that can be dealt with and not some sort of malice. I have to assume it was ignorance and can only hope they learn and teach their staff acceptable behavior around people who are transgender.
I have requested that JoCoCruiseCrazy 3 not be with Holland America for this reason, and if it is I am seriously going to have to consider if I can go again on principle or not.