I have recently became acquainted with a family from Jamaica who now live in the US . The husband spent almost 20 years working on cruiseships. He worked mainly for NCL and RCI-but also had a couple of short stints on HAL. He started as a bartender, but worked his way up into a position of head wine steward and later beverage manager-I forget the title but with the last job, he was considered a ship's officer, not a crew person. He felt the work was good-he got to see the world and he managed to get promoted well, much better than anything if he had stayed in Jamaica. The reason he left this was when his wife became pregnant with their last child, he realized his older children who were 10 and 15 when the youngest was born, he barely knew.
I asked him about the long hours, etc. and he said yes this was true, but coming from the country he did, this was still considered much better than anything back at home, and if he had stayed in Jamiaca, he would have never worked his way into a management position job.
I think this is true of most crew people. They are decent people simply trying to better their way of life, and they are willing to work very hard in order to achieve this. However, they are human beings, not dogs, and there are passengers on cruiseships who need to remember that slavery has been illegal for some time now, (bad joke but you all know those types and seen them on your cruises) so yes we should treat these people with respect and tip them in accordance with their worth. Should we feel sorry for them? Absolutely not.