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Welcome aboard
By Deborah Inkpen

Dr. Ross Klien

What do social work, the cruise ship industry and community economic development have in common? The answer is Dr. Ross Klein.

Dr. Klein, a sociologist from Memorial’s School of Social Work, has been helping the city of St. John’s and the Cruiseship Authority of Newfoundland and Labrador by volunteering to staff its booths at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention in Miami held in March 2001. “When Dr. Klein volunteered to help us out at the convention we leapt at the opportunity,” said Dennis O’Keefe, St. John’s city councillor and chair of the city’s cruise committee. “We said ‘welcome aboard’. ”  Dr. Klein has been working on a book on the cruise ship industry titled, Death by Chocolate: What You Must Know Before Taking a Cruise. His research grew out of his own cruise experiences and all the funding for his research came out of his own pocket. “I took my first cruise in 1963, and several more in the 10 years that followed,” he said. “I have taken 30 cruises, totalling 300 days. As would be expected, it has been an interesting and fun couple of years. The idea for the book initially grew out of some odd and unusual experiences in cruising.”

Dr. Klein’s book looks critically at the realities of the industry, including labour-management relations, exploitation of third-world employees, sexual assaults on cruise ships, and environmental issues. It also examines the up-front and hidden costs associated with cruise vacations, food preparation and safety concerns including onboard medical facilities. Dr. Klein said the book was not intended to be a guide book but rather looks at both positive and negative aspects of this type of vacation. “It was never intended to make this book a review of cruise lines or cruise ships. The book attempts to educate those interested in the industry and vacationers to expect the unexpected,” he said. “The time spent on cruise ships was only a small part of the information in this book. Historical and background information was drawn from a range of sources, including the news media, government documents from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., and trade publications. “However, the most valuable source of information has been from talking and listening to passengers, management, staff and crew. While my own cruise experiences can be used to amusingly bring points to life, they are just a small part of what this book is about.”

Dr. Klein has been a tremendous contributor to the development of this industry locally,” said Mr. O’’Keefe. “He’s a great lover of cruise vacations and of the city, and has been an invaluable resource in helping us map out our future focus.” Gordon Slade, chief executive officer for the cruiseship authority, said the cruise sector made a contribution of $2 million to the Newfoundland and Labrador economy in 2000. Dr. Klein is planning to give 10 per cent of the royalties from his book to the Seafarers Trust of the International Transportworkers Federation as a means to give back to those who have aided in his research.

Dr. Klein’s book is available from Breakwater Books.