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Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Arles & Aix, France

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, travel, traveling on June 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm

 

I absolutely adore being in France. Every time I’m there I feel as though I’m coming home. This stop in Marseilles, I went on a fantastic excursion to Arles and Aix. A bus ride through the stunning French countryside led us to Provence. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. As a history major, he had endless facts and gems of knowledge to pass along. We went to the hospital in which Van Gogh had been hospitalized for several weeks. Having seen some of the work he did while there, it was a revelation to see the place that inspired them! We were actually quite lucky to arrive there fairly early on a drizzly day, as there were very few people in the street. We saw an amazing Greek amphitheatre that in fact is still in use today, for concerts and shows and such. I had such an amazing lunch with our tour guide and his colleagues. I had told him earlier that I prefer to speak French if possible as I don’t need to work on my English but my French always needs tweaking. From then on we only spoke French for the rest of the day (except when in the company of the rest of the tour, and even then, if we were speaking directly to each other we spoke only French) and a few times when trying to explain something complicated that was difficult for me to do in French and I broke into English, he stopped me and patiently guided me through what I was trying to say. We met his other guide friends at a lovely restaurant and ate beautiful food and only spoke French and drank wine. I didn’t want to leave! I love speaking in my second language because it really makes me think about what I’m saying. In English my mouth sometimes moves without my brain actually processing things, I’ll often just ramble on about nothing and not even listen to what I’m saying. In French I have to take much more care constructing sentences and verbalizing my thoughts. Plus it just sounds better, the French language is so beautiful. All in all I had such a fabulous day, I can’t wait to return to France!!

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Bacab Eco Park Kayak

In Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, friends, fun, travel, traveling, travelling on December 17, 2012 at 11:13 am

Wow it’s been SO long!! I’m so sorry, I’ve been so distracted with my parents visiting and work and all that. No excuse, I know, but I knew I’d be back eventually. HERE I AM!!! So many things to talk about!! First of all, I’m so so happy to have been lucky enough to have my parents on board with me. It was truly amazing!! Not only did I get to see my wonderful parents, but I also got to experience life as a guest, and they got to see the world that I’m living in!! So we did all kinds of fun things while they were here. One of those things was a wonderful visit to the bridge. I love the bridge, it’s so peaceful (most of the time) and i love being able to see that much ocean at once. So I got permission from the captain to bring my parents up for a visit!! Another wonderful thing we did was go on a kayaking adventure through the Belizian rainforest at Bacab Eco Park. First of all, the tour guides were amazing!!! They were so knowledgeable and fun. They really took care of everyone on the tour. We had a blast!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMom and dad in their kayak!

 

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Beautiful views!!

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Symbiosis

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, travel, traveling, work on November 13, 2012 at 1:58 am

First of all, let me apologize for being such an absentee lately, with the bad weather and a lot of extra work, I haven’t been able to get much posting done. However, I do have a lot to say, I’m just trying to get it out there!! Here’s something I’ve been working on for a while, I’ve had it sitting in my ‘blog’ document file for a while and just haven’t been able to finish and post it. Oh, I also jsut wanted to say to the other amazing bloggers out there who have followed me lately, I’m very very sorry that I haven’t had a chance to check out your blogs as well, my internet on board is very very limited and most of the time I just get on long enough to post what I’ve written beforehand. As soon as I’m in a port for a few hours I promise to pay more attention to the rest of the world!! Thanks for your patience and for following my adventures!!!

Guest Services is such an interesting place to work. We are, in essence, the hub of activity on the ship, like the nerve center of the brain. We are where everyone goes for problems/questions/complaints/compliments/lost items/found items/crying fits and pretty much anything else you can think of. 

As you can imagine, it gets pretty hectic. There are some other departments that we rely very heavily on to get our job done quickly and efficiently. Issues come to us and we call other departments to get the work done. Specifically, housekeeping. In any hotel the front desk and housekeeping work very closely, but it’s even more so on a ship. The way ship housekeeping works is that we have cabin stewards who do the cleaning of the cabins, turndown service, etc. Then there are the floor supervisors who have sections of decks that they are responsible for, they each supervise a certain number of cabin stewards/cabins. Then there are the housekeeping manager and assistant manager who are in charge of everybody! So in any given day, many different things can go wrong or be perceived to have gone wrong on a ship. Guests call us at Guest Services, we call the appropriate department. Nine times out of ten, we call housekeeping. We have a neat excel document where we can input the cabin number that’s having an issue and the spreadsheet gives us the cabin steward’s phone number and the floor supervisor’s phone number (they all carry cell phones) and we call whomever is on duty at the time. Sometimes we have to call what feels like a million times in a shift, sometimes not at all. Either way, the moral of the story is that housekeeping and guest services are best friends. There’s a certain time of evening when only one floor supervisor is on duty, so ALL the other cell phones get forwarded to that person. Often I’ll end up calling that supervisor a dozen times in one shift to assist me with various tasks such as checking temperatures in rooms, opening safes, pulling out trundle beds, changing remote control batteries or any one of a hundred different requests. The floor supervisors and housekeeping crew work SO hard everyday and I couldn’t do my job without them! Obviously this kind of symbiosis is present in all kinds of other work places. Somehow we feel more connected here than I ever have in any other hotel or resort. Partially I think it’s because we not only work together, but live, sleep, eat, and play together. Although this is also true for resorts where the staff live on property, when you are on land, you can go places, you can get off property. On board, the longest you can leave the ship is for a few hours at a time. It creates a very different dynamic, and I’m pretty sure I adore it!

Wildlife!

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, travel, traveling on October 9, 2012 at 9:53 pm

The craziest thing happened last night. After our shift (around 1am), my supervisor and I went to the Lido deck because he wanted some pizza. On our way back to the crew cabins, we walked along the open deck (you know how much I love the night stars and ocean) and saw the strangest thing. Now, I must preface this next sentence with some information. When we are in port, birds enjoy being social on the ship. When we set sail, we leave with some feathery stowaways. Sometimes they might be injured and unable to fly back to the shore, maybe they just weren’t paying attention when the ship left and then by the time they noticed we were moving they were too far away to fly back to shore. I’m not sure what birds think about (I’m assuming not much), but regardless of their motivation, they need to sail with us until we get to land again. Usually there’s a few of them, maybe a dozen. Last night as we were walking, we saw two fly into windows right in front of us, one right after another. One I tried to pick up and rescue, then thought about it again and realized that wasn’t a very clever plan. I’m in no way equipped to nurse a stunned bird back to health, and also, birds are dirty. So we kept walking and I looked up and saw a CLOUD of tiny little birds. Seriously! At least a hundred of them, with all the chirping it sounded like daytime!! I felt as though I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie!! I’ve never seen so many lost birds in my life. So today we docked in Cozumel and I’m hoping that some of them made it off the ship safely!! Maybe I’ll check after work tonight!!

Speaking of crazy animals! I totally forgot to talk about the size of the iguanas in Grand Cayman. I didn’t get a good enough photo of them to post, mostly because I was gawking at the outrageous size of them!! They are MASSIVE!!! There’s a bunch of little ones, but then you see these iguanas on people’s lawns that have bodies the size of dogs. Not small dogs either. Medium sized dogs. Like the size of a cocker spaniel. Seriously. And their tails are almost double the length of their bodies. It’s outrageous!!! I even saw a small one swimming. SWIMMING!!! Not quickly, but efficiently. They cover lawns, like COVER. We literally saw a hundred or two of them. It was so insane. I’ll try to take a photo of them next time I’m there!!

Snapshots of Roatan

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, friends, travel, traveling on October 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I’m not really sure why I didn’t post these photos sooner. I think I forgot I had them! These are my photos from Roatan!! Absolute paradise!!

Pretty self explanatory!

The beach sign with the chair lift behind it!

The Liberty

 

 

Of Rays and Coral

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, travel, traveling, work on October 6, 2012 at 1:36 am

I went on my very first excursion in Grand Caymans the other day. It was absolutely amazing. First of all, it really felt like I was on vacation for a bit there because we not only got off the ship, but drove until we couldn’t see it anymore. You kind of always see the ship, it’s massive. So to not see it for a few hours feels weird. In a good way. The Carnival excursions are wonderful for a few reasons:

#1: You know you’re going to get back on the ship in time, because everyone on the tour is from the ship, so there’s no danger of you missing it.

#2: If something happens on the tour and you are delayed getting back to the ship, the ship will wait for you whereas if you just wander off and don’t come back in time, you’re out of luck.

#3: The tour companies are all Carnival tested and approved, which means you needn’t be concerned about getting ripped off or robbed or kidnapped.

 

I went on the Coral Garden and Stingray City tour. We took a bus to a boat, which took up out into the ocean to adventure. First we stopped to snorkel at the coral garden, which was beautiful and full of really pretty fish. Then we continued on to STINGRAY CITY!!! It was so amazing. There’s dozens of stingrays and they come right up to you and let you hold them and stroke them!! Apparently what happened is that fishermen used to gut their fish in that area after a long day of fishing. Eventually, the rays caught on that every day there was a free meal raining down from the sky. So they started coming around every day, and more of them came. Eventually, the rays got used to being around people and being fed every day. So now that there’s no fishermen feeding them, they live off the tour groups that come through. The guides knew all of them by name!! They were surprisingly cuddly!! It was such an amazing experience and the water was so warm and blue, I absolutely loved it!! I can’t wait to go on more excursions to new amazing places!!

I’m snorkeling!!

So many beautiful fish!!

Feeding the fish!!

My new best friend the sting ray and I!! (and the tour guide on the right)

 

Amazing ocean!!

 

Belize

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, friends, fun, travel, traveling on September 28, 2012 at 1:05 pm

As you know, I’m determined to see everything possible during my contract! I just want to see the whole world! Well this week I managed to make it outside in every port! Even if just for a little while! I almost didn’t go out in Belize because I didn’t have too much time and everyone told me not to go because it’s dangerous, unless you’re on an excursion. I loved it out there! One of the other girls and I went to a little shopping, she wanted a new dress and I wanted a loofah sponge. I know, right, how did I forget to pack a loofah!? When our friend heard we were going into the wilds of downtown Belize by ourselves, he took it upon himself to be our bodyguard and come along, which, although unnecessary in my opinion, was very sweet of him. We just took a cab to a shopping center and wandered around. It was lovely. I don’t doubt that it can be dangerous, but if you’re a smart traveler, you can avoid most dangers. We didn’t feel scared at all. Obviously I wouldn’t go wandering through the rougher parts of town by myself wearing jewelry and fanning myself with money, but the downtown area is quite nice and there’s a lovely little open air craft area type of thing that’s right by the port and has the usual touristy fun stuff to buy. I never really feel scared in those kinds of towns, you just have to be aware, that’s all. It reminds me of Barbados a bit. Belize is a tendering port, which means that the ship has to put down anchor just outside the port, and to get there you have to get off our ship, and get on a boat (a tender boat) that takes you to the dock. On the western Caribbean cruise, we have 2 such ports, Belize and Grand Caymans. On the eastern Caribbean, just one port is tendering, Half Moon Cay. Anyhow, the moral of the story is that Belize is nice. Next week perhaps if I have time I will try to go on an excursion in Belize so that I get to see more of it!! I also don’t have any photos of it because I didn’t bring any electronics with me at all (just to be safe). Now that I have a better idea of what it’s like out there I will bring a camera next time!

Liberty Life

In adventure, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, fun, travel, traveling on September 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…….updates from my new ship!!!! Lets start with the first day! My bus was the last to leave out of our group because my port was closest, so I said goodbye to the others and waited for my bus! I made friends with one of the deck officers and a girl from the photography department. Just as someone helped me out my first day, I got to help her out because it’s her first contract and she didn’t really know how things worked. So we stuck together, and her cabin is even two doors down from mine. There was a lot of boring paperwork and such for the first hour or so, then I had 20 minutes to try and unpack my uniform and get in my whites in time for an orientation meeting with all the other new sign-ons and vessel transfers. From there my senior guest services supervisor (SGSS) came to get me and took me on a tour of the muster stations. Of the 26 ships in the Carnival fleet, there are several different classes of ship (the exact number of classes escapes me right now, but I’ll find out). The Ecstasy was a Fantasy Class, the Liberty is a Conquest Class. What’s the difference, you ask?? A fair bit, there are several more decks on the Conquest class ships, and therefore the layout is different. The Liberty (LI) holds 3,900 passengers and 1,110 crew members, quite a few more than the Ecstasy (EC). So I’m trying to learn the different decks and their layouts as quickly as possible. For instance, on the EC, the lobby was on deck 7, on the LI, the lobby is on deck 3. The decks use standard names, however the corresponding deck numbers can vary depending on class. Also, the LI is the first of the fleet to roll out Carnival’s new @ 2.0 fun ship changes, which include new shows in the theatre, new restaurants, and new bars. So there are a multitude of fun things happening on board that I need to know all about!! Back to my first day, after the tour, we went back to the GS (guest services) offices. Remember the safety drills on embarkation day? Well now I have my own station and safety vest and whatnot. Fortunately, my duties right now are to stay in the purser’s office and make sure that I’m there to answer the phone in case of emergency. So I stayed put for the whole safety drill, which I was ok with. Then I went right onto the desk from 4-8. All by myself!! Since our college was only half the time of the regular college (it’s usually a month), we never got to be on the desk all by ourselves with our own floats. I think my background in cash handling and hotel systems really helped me out. By the end of the two weeks, most of the GSA’s (guest services associates) were letting me work for them by myself, and I made sure that I stayed after the shift and cashed out with them so that I learned what to do, but I know some of my classmates didn’t ever do that. I’m very glad that I did because I felt very prepared to be alone on the desk. Obviously I’m not completely alone, I have other people with me if I have any questions. They sandwich me on the middle station right in between the SGSS and an experienced GSA so if I have any questions I can just ask either of them. I personally learn much better if I’m just thrown into the fire so it’s working well for me! I’m interested to hear what my fellow trainees are doing!! I haven’t had a chance to talk to them yet, but I have called the Ecstasy and talked to my trainer and have been emailing with the GSAs from there as well. The GS team on the LI is absolutely amazing. I feel like I was really well placed, I am already getting on famously with everyone, they are all so friendly and fun. It’s a very fast-paced atmosphere, everyone moves very quickly, which I love. There’s also a plethora of languages spoken. There is another Canadian (my Paisana!!) who speaks French and as soon as she found out that I speak French she got very excited. I think they had some kind of a bet going as to whether or not I spoke French. The LI’s home port is Miami, so we have a lot of Spanish speaking guests, I think that I will learn Spanish by the end of my contract, just from working on the desk. Every GSA speaks at least two languages, and several of them speak up to 5. I love being surrounded by different languages, and plan on taking full advantage of it! The Crew Training Center also has Rosetta Stone available for crew to use in several languages, Spanish being one of them and I think I will use that as well. I have to be careful to keep up my French because it’s so easy to lose parts of it with lack of use. For now I will put Spanish on hold until I’m a little more settled in, it’s only day 2! Before I left home I downloaded many French books onto my Ipad so I can read in French, I find that really helps me. Currently I’m reading Alice in Wonderland! I am so very happy here already, and I’m only on day two. I expected to miss the EC gang, and be a little sad, but I have been so busy and having so much fun already that I haven’t had time to miss anyone. Tomorrow we are in Cozumel, I will most likely be able to get off the ship and use the free wifi somewhere. The next day is Belize and I’m working all day, however after that is Grand Cayman, and one of the other girls from the desk are going to try to go on an excursion!! We are going to do one where you walk on the bottom of the ocean while wearing a pressurized helmet so your whole head is dry while you walk around in the ocean!! I’m so excited. It will depend on how full it is, guests obviously come first so we have to wait until the last minute to fid out whether we can go or not. If we can’t, we are going out for a beach day!

Day two!! Turns out I won’t be able to get off the ship tomorrow in Cozumel, I work 8-12 then 2-4 and two hours isn’t really enough time. However, I should have time in Isla Roatan. Today we had a staff meeting and I had desk work from 12=4 and 8-10. I got my new ID made in the morning so now I can get off the ship and am totally trackable by the Carnival gods. The staff meeting was marvelous. Our GSM (guest services manager) is absolutely wonderful!! He is the kind of leader that I want to be. I think I can learn a lot from him. After the meeting a few of us went for dinner and he joined us and I gleaned a few pearls of wisdom from him. I really am so very fortunate to be working with such a fabulous crew. Everyone is SO wonderful, I can’t even believe it!! Everyone is very good at their job, I don’t think there’s a weak link amongst them.

Tonight we turn our clocks back one hour, as we sail into Cozumel, and then after the Caymans we turn them forward again. I’ve checked all my clocks about a billion times to make sure that I won’t be late.

It’s crazy to think about how often our GS team changes. In the next month there’s three people going on vacation. The extra crazy thing about that is that when they come back from vacation, they go to a new ship. That goes for everyone, when you sign off of one ship, your contract has ended and when you come back, you get a new contract with a new ship. I really like this system. I think it brings us closer as a company, we get to know so many people from all over the ships, and everytime we get a new crew member, that makes our team evolve and grow, nothing is static. I think that is especially true when it comes to management, because so many times in hotels or restaurants you see management become stagnant and ineffective. Rotating staff keeps everyone on their toes, and stops us from getting bored.

Well, here I am in Mexico, and I did manage to get off the ship for an hour, so here’s my post!!! I hope it made sense, I know my train of thought often seems to have no caboose or direction!!

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Half Moon Cay

In Bahamas, beach, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, friends, fun, travel, traveling on September 24, 2012 at 3:38 am

I know you’re all waiting to hear about how wonderful my new ship is and how much I love it, but that’s going to be the next post! Right now, I just want to share the lovely photos I took of Half Moon Cay, the Bahamanian island owned by the Carnival Corporation!! It’s incredible!! There’s so many amazing excursions you can do, or endless beautiful ocean to play in! Enjoy!!

The view of the cay from the ship

Captain Morgan’s pirate ship. There’s a bar inside!!

Captain Morgan’s

The Carnival Ecstasy!!!

 

I’m so excited to swim in the ocean!!!

Endless beach!! Summer is all year round!!

From left to right, Constantinos, Myself, and Mario enjoying our time off the ship!

One of the many excursions is horseback riding, first around the island and then into the ocean!!

Doesn’t it look like a postcard??? I’m living in a postcard!!

 

The back side of the island.

 

 

Canons!! Of course, on the top floor of the Captain Morgan shipwreck.

Fun signpost in the gift shop courtyard (of course there’s a gift shop!!)

I adored this island! I can’t wait to go back and do more fun excursions!!

 

Priorities

In Bahamas, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, travel, traveling on September 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm

It’s a really good thing that my computer knows what day it is because I had completely forgotten! We just finished our final test and await grading!! I feel very confident about the results, and hopefully it went as well as I think it did because otherwise I’m coming home sooner than expected!! I won’t get the grade until tomorrow and that’s also when I will get my ship assignment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So excited!!!

An interesting thing happened yesterday. We were in one of our hospitality training sessions and it was about diversity. We all went around the room and said a few things about each of our countries and then did an exercise where we talked about our favorite movies and music etc. We all had VERY different taste in everything, different reasons for coming to work for Carnival, and very different backgrounds. Finally, we came to the question, “What is the most important thing to you?” Without hesitation we all said “FAMILY.” That was the first and only thing we all agreed upon! It was amazing that through all our different beliefs, upbringings, languages, likes and dislikes, we were all unanimous in this matter. I think one of my favorite things about getting older is that I have developed such a clearly defined idea of the values that I want to see in the people I surround myself with.  Obviously I cant expect everyone I come in contact with to have all the values I like the most, however, I do have control over the people I let into my inner circle, and as I think about all my closest friends, they all have a very strong dedication to their family, be it blood relatives, or a family you make out of friends. I think it shows a certain amount of selflessness to put your family before money, or fun, or career, and I respect that in others. So here I am, thousands of miles away from home, and still surrounded by people who have that same core value. And guess what, now we’re family, and it really feels like that.

SHIP ASSIGNMENT SOON!!!!!!!!!!!! Eek! I’m posting this a day after I wrote it, yesterday we went onshore to Half Moon Cay after our test and frolicked in the ocean! Half Moon is a private island owned by Holland American which is under the Carnival Corporation umbrella so therefore it’s ours too! It’s so so stunning! As per usual I took pictures, which I will post eventually!! Tonight I get my new ship assignment!! Very exciting! Tomorrow will be a whirlwind of activity, signing off my ship and onto a new one, I may have some layover time in a hotel depending on when and where my new ship docks, but I will know more about that later!! Either way, it’s adventure time!!

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