ericaamber

Archive for the ‘work’ Category

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!

Advertisements

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!!

 

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

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!!

Cruise Update

In adventure, Carnival, Cruise, friends, travel, traveling, Uncategorized, work on April 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Well I just got a chance to skype with Andrea from her Carnival training cruise ship! I’m so excited right now I need to calm down a little bit! She’s having a great time, sounds like life on a cruise ship is a big adjustment but she really likes the people she’s working with and she’s learning lots. She’ll be on the training ship for another few weeks and then she’ll get assigned to her actual work ship. It was nice to pick her brain with the questions I have, just silly little things like how big of a suitcase should I bring and what does she get to eat and things like that. Now I’m just extra excited for my turn on the cruises to come!! What a perfect time for her to call, I was just in the middle of some quiet reflection time, if I had left the house I would have missed her call!!