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Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

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!!

E

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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!!

e

In Suspense

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, friends, training, travel, traveling, work on September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I am in the middle of my last training cruise. It feels like I’ve been here forever and my college friends are my family. But we have to say goodbye in just a few short days! Usually the training colleges are a month long, ours is only two weeks so there’s a lot of information condensed into half the time they usually take. But we’re managing!! We have a big test tomorrow and then the next day we find out what ships we will be assigned to. It’s very suspenseful because our trainers know what ships we are going to already but can’t tell us yet. So we don’t know where we are going until the final day of college right before we leave. This cruise is stressful but also a lot of fun. Last night was our formal night! We got to get dressed up in our own formal clothes and go for dinner in the guest dining room and then out to watch the new show in the Blue Sapphire Lounge (a big stage/theatre that takes up two levels), which is a treat because we will never get to wear our own clothes there ever again. When we get on our new ship and we have our formal night uniforms (‘blues’) we will be allowed to see the shows and use the guest dining room, but we have to be wearing our blues. It was a lovely night for us and I took pictures which I will post another time. When we get to Port Canaveral this time, the coastguard is going to board and check the ship’s safety procedures and the crew knowledge. They’ve been briefing us all week about what questions they will ask and what we need to know, however we will be disembarking and heading to our new ships by then so we won’t have to worry about that this time. Next ship I imagine we will though because there always seems to be someone on board grilling us about lifeboats and safety drills. Today we don’t have any observations or desk work, just our final classes and then study time!! Tomorrow we will have our test first thing in the morning and then I don’t work until 4pm so a few of the others and I will get off the ship and enjoy Half Moon Cay (an island owned by the Carnival Corporation). Then graduation and new ships!! Depending on what ship I get assigned to, I may have a few days in Miami, or Cocoa Beach or even get flown to a different port of call. We have home ports everywhere, so I will not necessarily be embarking from Port Canaveral. So many questions, and no answers for two more days. I’m focusing on the test right now and not thinking about saying goodbye to my new family. Although it won’t be goodbye, it will be see you later, because the whole company is very much a family and I will stay in touch with my college friends. AND there’s a whole new ship of people waiting to be my new friends!! Study time! More soon!

E

Embarkation Day!!

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, travel, traveling, work on September 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm

It’s DEBARKATION/EMBARKATION DAY!! For some, it’s a sad day, they have to get off the cruise ship and head home. For others it’s an exciting day, they are getting on a cruise ship and sailing off into the sunset for a fabulous vacation. For crew, it means non-stop work. We need to get all 2,600 guests off the ship, ensure the staterooms are cleaned, and then get the next cruise of 2,600 guests boarded. Remember the safety drills I was talking about a while ago? That’s also today, once the guests for the current cruise are all onboard, we do the safety drill. I’ve been on the phones since 7am, and it’s been hectic. Lots of standard questions, anything from filling out customs forms, to what time is it, to where do I get off the ship and when. Plus lots of non-standard questions as well. I got to make announcements today! The first one I got to do because there was no one else in the office that wanted to, and then I did a good job so I got to do the other ones! I had to resist the urge to start singing show tunes over the P.A. I have a little break to eat and nap if I so choose, and then at 1:30 I’m back at the desk, but I’m doing ‘just ask’ in the Guest Services line. This is maybe my favorite job so far, I walk the line of people waiting for guest services and see if I can help anyone. The first day and last day of any cruise there’s always people who don’t actually need someone with a computer to assist them, they just have questions or concerns or need directions. I did this last night too and its loads of fun, plus it keeps the line moving. On embarkation day, we do a lot of running around, the cabin stewards race to clean the cabins as fast as possible, the GSAs run around checking cabins, retrieving wheelchairs, escorting guests off the ship, etc. We work in shifts, so it never really seems like we’re working very long until the end of the day when you see your hour total. For instance, this is what my day looks like today:

 

7am – 9am: Phones

1:30 – Drill: Just Ask

Drill (appx 3:00pm – 4:00pm): Muster Station A

4:00pm – 8:00pm: Desk

 

So it’s not really that bad, just hectic, and LOTS of guest contact. Plus we always end up working a little more on either end of the shifts, especially at the end of the shift, we usually have guests to follow up with or reports to write. I could probably get off the ship if I wanted to, I have a few hours, but I’m doing some review for our final tests this week!! One of the nice things about the ship is that when other people go out they are usually willing to pick up something for you if you need anything. Before my supervisor got off the ship today she came into the office and said, “Does anyone need anything from the outside??” So she’s picking me up some clear nail polish. It’s funny what you miss when you don’t have easy access to it. One of my coworkers always gets a giant bag of Cheetos whenever he goes outside. Walmart trips are usually a flurry of socks, underwear, giant packs of gum, and junk food. Strangely enough, even though I feel quite cut off from the real world, I don’t miss it. I don’t miss my car, or my phone, surprisingly enough. On land, I’m pretty much glued to my phone at all times, but I’m quite content in my floating home. Tomorrow we are docked in Freeport, Bahamas, and I’m hoping to get to see Andrea!! Her ship (the Dream) is dry docked in Freeport for a few weeks so I’m going to scoot off the ship and meet up with her. We haven’t seen eachother since April and I’m very excited to see her!! I’m also very excited to speak English quickly and have someone understand what I’m saying, as well as understanding all my pop culture references (I quote a lot of tv shows and movies). I miss having my sister around, I’m pretty sure she knows what I’m thinking even before I say it!  Oh, for those of you who are still confused by what ‘dry docking’ is, let me explain. When you see a ship docked normally, a majority of it is underwater (wet docked), and sometimes we send cleaning crews in scuba gear under the water to clean and fix things. However, when a ship needs a more thorough cleaning, or is having any additions done to it, it will dock on top of a submerged platform and slowly be raised out of the water (there’s a bunch of technical stuff that makes that happen) until it is fully out of the water, and that’s dry docking! If I can tomorrow I’ll take a picture of the Dream, it looks odd out of the water. It’s getting a few new food and beverage locations added to the lido deck as well as some maintenance so that it’s ready for the roll out of the Carnival Fun Ships 2.0!  Very exciting!! I’m going to go make some tea and sit out on the crew deck for a while before I have to go back to the desk! Have a magical day!

E

 

Photo Bomb

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, training, travel, traveling, work on September 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Remember how I promised to post photos?? Well I’m currently in Nassau, with several hours to kill before we leave port and I don’t work until 6, so my Russian friends and I are in the only bar in Nassau that has blazingly fast internet. So without further ado, here are some photos to help illustrate all the things I’ve been telling you about!!

My home for the time being!! The Carnival Ecstasy!

The Disney Dream, we were docked next to it in Nassau

My lovely roommate, Alfiya

That’s me!! In Nassau

Our teeny tiny bathroom!!

The door to our cabin, and our dresser, as seen from my top bunk perch!

The view of our room from the cabin door!

My floating home!!

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Sunset through a storm cloud

My Carnival College trainers!! Jennifer on the left and Linda on the right

My fellow college trainees!!

Of Immigration and Shooting Stars

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, friends, fun, travel, traveling, work on September 11, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I am seriously getting very used to having my lovely cabin steward friend. I leave my dirty uniforms on my rumpled bed, come back after work, my bed is made, garbages are gone and my clothes have been taken, the next day they return, cleaned and pressed! He’s so lovely. We see him daily and he makes sure we’re happy and we chat. I met a Canadian today! First one I’ve seen since I left home!! I know there’s a few on board, but I haven’t run into any until today. It’s very multicultural here. A few places that are represented are Russia, Poland, Latvia, Ukraine, Germany, England, Scotland, Mexico, India, Wales, US, Indonesia, Croatia, Chile, Australia, Romania, Bulgaria, South Africa, Phillipines, Haiti, Italy, and Greece, and those are just the ones I happened to talk to today. It’s so interesting, while we were waiting to do our medical texts the other day, 10 of us all said good morning in a different language and tried to learn all the other ways. I’ve encountered an entirely new experience here that’s never happened before, but has happened several times since I got on board. Someone (always European, usually Russian or Ukrainian) asks where I’m from and I say Canada and then they reply, “No, where are you REALLY from?” and then they’ve all asked if I’m Ukrainian. I never realized it was that obvious.

Yesterday was a very long day! In order to work on the ships, we all (except US citizens) need I-95 work visas. These only last for 90 days before they must be re-stamped by a boarder protection agent. So every 90 days, a group of agents get of board and check ALL crew visas. It starts at 5:15am so as to get all 920 crew members through in a timely manner before the guests begin to disembark. Guest Services typically helps with this process. As the new GSA’s, guess who got delegated to help?? That’s right!! Myself and my new best friends. So we were issued our I-95’s and then we stayed to help sort out all the passports after (on the ship we don’t keep our own passports, they are held in security), and then went to class at 8:30am! But they did get us coffee, so that helped. Then after that we had more classwork, learning some systems that we will use on the desk, then I had two hours of desk observation and one hour of phone work. Phone work entails sitting in the GS office and answering all the calls so that the people on the desk can focus on the guests up front. For the most part we are still just watching and learning as much as possible. I did get to answer a few phone calls though and it was delightful. I didn’t get any tough questions, thank goodness!! By the time we were all finished, two of the GSAs were finishing up and cashing out for the day so they showed me how to cash out and we all went for a nightcap at the crew lounge. The crew lounge has an outdoor smoking/lounging area that is almost right below the bridge, at the very front of the ship. It’s literally at the front, and is such an amazing deck that guests up top on their decks often call down asking how they can get out onto it. We sat out on the deck, counted stars, saw some shooting ones, and I learned some Russian words. It was so incredibly beautiful, tranquil, and peaceful. No land as far as the eyes could see, warm night breeze, and all the stars. It made me so happy. I love it out here. I’m on a break right now and curled up in my cabin. My cabin is the closest one to the hull of the ship so I can hear the waves on the side of the ship. I feel like it’s what clothes in a washing machine on the gentle cycle must feel like. I’ve never slept better!!

On the road again

In customs, Florida, flying, travel, traveling on August 28, 2012 at 6:56 am

Well here I am, in the Sea-Tac airport, gate B. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent at least 20 hours in this particular terminal, it always seems to be the one I fly out of. I’m so very excited to be off on a new adventure, I can’t even explain it. It was definitely hard to say goodbye to all my friends in Victoria but I’ll be home soon enough and I’m just so beyond thrilled to be embarking on this journey. Now, if you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that almost every time I travel, I have a super amazing time in the airport/customs, and feel the need to go on and on about it. Well this is another one of those times, so if you don’t want to hear how much fun I just had in customs, maybe go ahead and skip to the bottom. You were warned!
I got on the Clipper in Victoria, which is pretty much my favorite way to get into the US, I love the boat and the smell of the ocean and also seem to find really cheap flights from Seattle to Orlando. So the boat was a little bit late docking (9:50 instead of 9:30) and my flight was leaving at 11:30. Customs was a breeze, I showed them my letter of employment from Carnival and he wished me good luck and off I went So I skipped the light rail, which is usually one of my favorite parts of Seattle, and caught a cab once I got through customs. I told my cab driver that I was scared I was going to miss my plane, and he totally rose to the occasion, he made the 30 minute drive to Sea-Tac in 15 minutes. No joke!! So I arrived and rushed to the United desk, checked myself in, and prepared to pay for my overweight luggage (whoops!!). The United attendant came over to take my money, looks at me, and says “That’s a lot of money ($25 for the bag, $100 for the overweight fee), why don’t you just put some things in your carry-on.” So I began to pull random things out of one suitcase and stuff them in my carry-on. I must have looked pretty tragic because after about 40 seconds of watching me struggle with my luggage (I was rushing, worried about missing my flight), he finally just said, “Don’t worry about it, just give me that bag.” So I thanked him profusely and gave him my bag. But I didn’t get a luggage tag because I was supposed to be paying for the luggage so he calls his supervisor over to get my a bag tag and tells me quietly “Don’t tell her it’s over weight, just tell her you messed up checking in.” Which of course I did. So one bag tag later, I saved $100 thanks to my new friend and I scampered off to security. At security I learned something new, apparently not only can you not have liquids/gels over 3 ounces, but you can’t have more than a quart of them. Which I did. (whoops!) So I had to get bag checked and pull out all my random eye creams and whatnot. I chatted with the fellow checking my bags and after moving around my things a bit, he let me keep most of them, I threw out some random samples of moisturizer or something and with his well wishes, off I went again. Upon arrival at B5, I discovered my flight was delayed and so full that they were asking for people to check some carry-on luggage! So not only did I make my flight, I have time to blog AND I get to check my carry-on for free!!! BEST FLIGHT EVER!!!! And that brings us to right now! I’m sitting in the B5 terminal next to a power outlet waiting for my plane to arrive, soaking up all the free wi-fi that Sea-Tac has to offer, happy as a clam. I just love flying, I always have so much fun. I think partly it’s because I’m such a happy traveler that it’s hard to not get caught up in how excited I am to be going places, and then it makes people want to help me out. Getting ready to board my plane! I’m so very excited to be in Orlando in the morning!!! More updates soon!!

E

Final Approval

In Carnival, Cruise, travel, traveling, work on May 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Well I know you’ve all been waiting anxiously to hear about my cruise ship job….actually, that’s probably just me. At any rate, I finally got my medical approved by the folks over at Carnival! It’s been a bit of a wait, I supposed that’s partly because I’m not leaving for a while, and partly because I’ve had some prior injuries etc. I just received an email yesterday with a final form for me to sign in regards to my allergies and my previously broken femur. It just says that since I had these conditions prior to my contract with carnival, they aren’t responsible for any medical costs resulting from those conditions. So that’s totally understandable. I’ll email that off to them today and then I should be in the clear to book my flight at the end of august! I’m so excited! Andrea keeps posting photos of all her adventures and I can’t wait to join her out there on the high seas! I certainly have the timing down, no Canadian winter for me!!

Visits

In adventure, friends, travel on May 15, 2012 at 11:44 pm

One of the lovely things about being home is that I get to see all my lovely friends both in Victoria and on the mainland. Today I’m off on the ferry to visit my lovely friend Chelsea whom I miss dearly. The ferry is a wonderful place to reflect and collect yourself, especially on the top deck on a sunny day, like today was. I hope you’re having a chance to find some zen in your day today, take a quiet moment at work even. At the end of the day, we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, stop and bask in the glow of life!!

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