ericaamber

Archive for the ‘traveling’ Category

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!!

Observations

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, traveling, work on September 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Yesterday I had my first observation hour on the guest services desk, today I have another two hours. It’s very interesting, the issues that you address are similar to what I’ve dealt with as a concierge at Disney, but very unique to Carnival and cruise ships. There are many things that are very similar and then other things that are totally different. So far, one of the biggest differences in the training that I’m noticing is that with Carnival there is a MASSIVE safety component in the training. Don’t get me wrong, Disney also makes safety a number one priority, but the urgency is different. In a resort, safety is very important, now imagine the resort is not only floating, but moving quite quickly and traveling long distances. It takes safety to a whole new level. Here, because we are officers, we are responsible for many safety precautions. At the beginning of every cruise, one all the guests have embarked, there are safety drills that we must do so that the guests know where to come in the event of an emergency. Once I get on my next vessel, I will be responsible for a section of those drills, a certain gathering point called a Muster Station. The guests all have different muster stations to report to, and from there, we escort them to their specific debarkation station, where they would be evacuated if an actual emergency happened. Guest Service Associates (GSA), that’s me, are also responsible for announcing some of the emergency codes in case of an emergency. Some situations are announced by the bridge, but we do some of them as well. So we have quite a bit of responsibility. Therefore, right now, we are all scrambling to learn the names of every deck, the locations of every guest muster station, (there’s also 4 for crew members), all the emergency codes, and even stairwells and their numbers. That being said, I’ve got to head back to Carnival College!! Check out me in my Carnival uniform!! I haven’t earned my wings yet, which will be little blue and gold things with stars and stripes on them that go on the tops of my shoulders! Loving the white uniforms, although I should probably invest in several hundred tide-to-go pens!!

E

The Final Countdown

In bus, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, Florida, fun, Miami, traveling, work on September 6, 2012 at 8:55 am

I am currently sitting in the lobby of my hotel, waiting for my shuttle to come to take me to Port Canaveral, where I board the Carnival Ecstasy for training. By shuttle, I mean giant bus. More and more people are slowly joining me, the bus should be here any minute. I’m having a last minute panic attack because when I crossed the boarder, the customs officers didn’t stamp my LOE (letter of employment), and I kind of feel like they needed to. But maybe they didn’t. I probably shouldn’t question them, it is their job. I’m not even sure why I think I need some kind of stamp, but I just do. I think I just get worried when something is out of my control because I’m hyper organized and if there’s something I can’t organize, I worry that it’s wrong. I guess we’ll see in a few hours!! Fingers crossed for me that I get on my ship! I don’t know what my Internet situation will be like when I get on board, but I’m assuming spotty at best. I’ll keep writing and post when I can!! Bon voyage everyone!!
E

Miami

In adventure, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, Florida, traveling on September 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Yesterday I boarded a train in downtown Kissimmee and rolled on into Miami. The Amtrak was lovely, it took 5 hours to get here, there was also a 7 hour train that made more stops, but I figured 5 hours was a better amount of time to spend on a train! The train ride itself was uneventful. I dozed and stared out the window, then dozed some more. When I arrived at the lovely airport DoubleTree by Hilton, the front desk agent didn’t have me in her system, nor was my name on the list of Carnival crew members departing today. So naturally I was concerned. The front desk agent was so helpful, she checked me in anyway and gave me a number to call Carnival to see if they had anything to say about it. The night staff at Carnival didn’t really know much. They told me to call back in the morning to talk to the main office, but that I was definitely not assigned for today. Sasha (my new best friend at the front desk) said not to worry, she would be back on the desk at 7am and I could come back down and we would call again! I emailed my friend Andrea who is on the ship right now and she said the Ecstasy (my training ship) is only in port on Thursdays and Saturdays, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to be starting today. So that made me feel better!! This morning I scampered on down to the front desk and called Carnival again and the very helpful lady said that I board tomorrow!! Crisis averted!! So now I have a whole extra day of giant hotel bed and shower and freedom,. Tomorrow I move to the land of tiny beds and showers and living on a ship!!!!! Now that I have a whole day in Miami, I might take the hotel shuttle into downtown, or to South Beach, or somewhere. But for now, I’m going to relax a little bit more, I want to be at my best for tomorrow!!

E

20120905-094652.jpg

Train ticket!!

20120905-094720.jpg

 

Back in Florida!

In adventure, Carnival, Disney, Florida, friends, fun, traveling, walt disney world on September 3, 2012 at 7:05 am

Well as you know, I’m back in Florida! It’s been a wonderful week and I’m so happy to be back in my American home! I started off the week with some lovely friends of mine, we went all over the place! We even went to the town hall at Magic Kingdom and got ‘I’m celebrating’ badges and wrote ‘Erica’ on them and told everyone it was Erica Day. It was lovely!!

We also went to the Disney Art of Animation hotel. I posted about DAAR the last time I was in Florida, I saw it when only a few sections of the resort had opened. Now even more have opened! There’s the Lion King section, and the Cars section and they are both SO cool! It’s like you’re actually in the movie! Before they opened the Cars section they actually had Pixar animators come through to make sure that everything looked right. Those imagineers really know what they’re doing.

I’ve spent the week spending time with some very lovely friends of mine and have had such a lovely time. I’ve had amazing reunions with some people I worked with on my Disney College Program that I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ve been relaxing, lounging by the pool, going to the gym, then back to the pool, eating amazing food, and roaming the Disney parks. It’s really the perfect way to transition to my amazing new job. On Tuesday I take the train up to Miami and then Wednesday morning I’m off to my new job! I don’t really know what to expect, all I’ve been told is that I get on a bus or a shuttle of some kind and it takes me to the port where I get on my ship! My lovely friend Andrea has told me kind of what to expect but I still don’t really know. I’m excited! And a little apprehensive. I’m about to go live on a boat! Oooooo as soon as I typed it I stopped being apprehensive and started being excited again.

Although I’m not going to lie, I could get used to living this life of leisure.

E

20120903-030243.jpg

CARS!!

20120903-030255.jpg

The tower in Hollywood studios!

20120903-030308.jpg

Hyena from the DAAR Lion King section

20120903-030321.jpg

It might only be august, but the Halloween decorations are up in the Magic Kingdom!!

20120903-030339.jpg

SCAR!!! My favorite!! I do love the villians!!

20120903-030405.jpg

More Cars, this is one of the hotel entrances I believe

20120903-030435.jpg

20120903-030447.jpg

Lion King section of DAAR

20120903-030503.jpg

Myself and Lauren, we both worked concierge at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and now we’re reunited again!!

20120903-030516.jpg

Pumbah and Timon