A Guest on a Cruise Ship Says She Was Mistaken for Being a Staff Member Numerous Times

Elizabeth Randolph - Author

Dec. 27 2023, Published 11:43 a.m. ET

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to take the necessary time to rest and unwind as much as possible. For some, rest can look like having a day in bed with takeout and no responsibilities, while some prefer spending quality time with their loved ones. But sometimes, resting can look like booking a trip and being “out of office” for an extended period.

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In December 2023, one woman on TikTok chose the “book flights, not feelings” route when she needed to shake things up. Instead of a flight, she booked a cruise for what she hoped would be a relaxing, carefree nine months. Unfortunately, her plan went awry when she experienced racial microaggressions within a few days of boarding the ship.

Here’s what happened.

A group having dinner on a cruise
Source: Getty Images

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A Black guest on a cruise says the staff assumed she was an employee.

Google defines a vacation as “an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent from home or in traveling.” The extended time away should be a way to regroup from the stressors that made you want to take the holiday in the first place. But when you’re traveling while Black or non-white, the stressors you try to avoid on vacation — like racism — never go away.

A TikTok user named Brandee Lake (@iambrandeelake) shared how she endured microaggressions during the first few days of her nine-month excursion with Royal Caribbean. While she didn’t say the people who made them were white, she suggested that they made assumptions about her because of the color of her skin.

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Since boarding the ship in early December, Brandee has documented multiple parts of her trip, good and bad. On Dec. 17, 2023, Brandee posted a video sharing how several guests assumed she was an employee and not a guest on her cruise ship.

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“If I get asked if I work on this ship one more time,” Brandee opened her 41-second TikTok.

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The guest said she first experienced the assumption that she worked on her cruise ship on day one, at the pre-cruise gala, when someone assumed she was working the event. When Brandee corrected them and said she was a guest and not an employee, they asked her if she was “independently wealthy,” presuming she couldn’t have had a salary that afforded her the luxury of being on the cruise.

Brandee didn’t stop being suspected of being one of Royal Caribbean's employees after her initial run-in with a few unsavory guests. Several days after the exchange, she said one of the ship’s crew members also thought she worked there after seeing her return to the cruise after an excursion. Following the two instances, Brandee worried she would experience similar reactions during the rest of her nine-month voyage.

“It's gonna be a long nine months,” Brandee declared.

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Brandee received support from her TikTok viewers after sharing her experience.

As Brandee mentioned, she’s on her cruise for nine months. Due to this, the traveler wouldn’t let a few ignorant remarks break her soul, nor should she.

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In my opinion, Brandee being on her cruise, galavanting in the exact locations she doesn’t “fit into,” is the ultimate way to protest against all of the assumptions and likely stereotypes the guests and staff put on her. Even though it’s infuriating and deplorable to think about how many times she will have to correct the people on her cruise before the nine months are over.

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Many people watching Brandee’s TikTok were equally disgusted by the treatment she received. Several users suggested she contact Royal Caribbean directly and tell them about the microaggressions. Others encouraged Brandee to focus on her trip and not the ignorant people who tried to ruin it. They also gave Brandee some pointers on handling ignorance in the future.

“Sis, make up a crazy story,” one user suggested. “Tell them you’re the heiress to the Tony Roma’s fortune.”

“Ask them ... ‘What prompted you to ask me that question?’” another said.

“Travel safely and don’t feel obligated to answer NOTHING,” a third encouraging commenter wrote. “You deserve to be there.”

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