Last year, some 120,000 passengers passed through the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal spending roughly US$ 30 million dollars in New York, according to city officials.
But only a small fraction was spent in Red Hook. Most tourists head for more upscale areas.
Cruise workers typically have time for little more than lunch during their break. When cruise ships dock at Red Hook, Brooklyn, their passengers pile into taxis and shuttle buses.
But many of their housekeepers, waiters, bartenders, and engine mechanics head for a former bait and tackle shop nearby.
Benjamin David, a former cruise ship waiter, uses classic Filipino dishes like offal with rice and bitter melon salad at his restaurant named Philly-Pinoy, to tap into one of the global market’s ethnic niches, the Filipinos in the cruise industry.
Mr. David, 43, though his name sounds to be a Filipino, he is actually a native from India. He has never even visited the Philippines, but he knows from experience how the workers feel.
He offers a Filipino menu, including the popular dinuguan, a pork blood delicacy, only when the ships are in dock.
A 2008 study found that Filipinos made up roughly 14 percent of the cruise staff, based on a sampling of 116 ships. Many speak English.
Cruise ships pay relatively well, and jobs at sea can be easier to get than jobs in other countries because of visas issues.
The facade of Mr. Davids restaurant is a bamboo covered facade evokes the Philippines. the smell of grilled fish, coconut milk, and pork blood stew leaves no doubt.
Filipino cruise ship workers flocked to Philly Pinoy, a former bait shop near the docks, for home style dishes in New York.
Nick Rabaya, 42, a Filipino who has waited tables for five years on the Caribbean Princess. “When I taste this food,” he said, “It’s like going home.”
Rodrigo Francisco , 41, a waiter on the ship, scooped rice and pork offal with his fingers the Filipino way, and pronounced the food as tasty as home cooked.
Mr. Francisco said that as soon as he is back at sea, he began counting the days until the return to the Brooklyn port.
Although Mr. David is from Mumbai, he established a link to the Philippines through his sister in law, Rowena David, who is from the Philippines.
She, her husband and Mr. David, all had work for the years on ships and knew the hardships faced by employees who spend up to 10 months a year away from home.