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Posts Tagged ‘crew’

Things a Cruise Ship Worker Looks Forward to On Their Vacation

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, Uncategorized on September 20, 2016 at 11:27 pm

Into the life of every cruise ship worker, a little (or a lot) of structure and even some sacrifice, must fall. As much as I LOVE what I do, just like everyone else around the world, I look forward to vacation. Something that makes my vacation different than the rest of the world is that I have not only worked every day since the beginning of time (as it feels sometimes), but I’m away from home roaming the globe on a giant, floating, self-contained resort. Needless to say I look forward to different things than the average vacationer.

Of course cruise ship workers look forward to spending quality time with friends and family, just like everyone else, however there’s some things you just can’t do on a ship that you miss while away. Here’s my list, in no particular order!

– doing laundry whenever you want without fear that someone will either hijack your dryer or go through your undies. (not that this actually happens, just that its something I worry about…well the dryer hijackings definitely happen)

– grocery shopping with abandon. On ships we don’t have a lot of storage space, refrigeration, or the ability to cook. Enough said.

– COOKING!!! I just want to cook dinner!! Preferably with a glass of red wine in one hand.

– Pets. I am notorious for making friends with random stray dogs/cats/goats/horses while on in ports. In fact I once tried to tame a wild pony in Jamaica. It wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. One of the greatest things in the world is having a pet around.

– Not worrying about back on board time. After an extended period of time paying close attention to when the ship leaves and when you have to work or be back onboard, being on land as the sun goes down is a decadent feeling.

– Not knowing people. As hard as it is to say ‘see you later’ to your ship family, sometimes it’s refreshing to walk down the hallway/street without knowing everyone. Anonymity can be absolutely delightful, in the same way that silence is golden.

– No name tags!! Imagine your morning, you walk out of the house and you check for your wallet and keys. Cruise ship workers check for our cabin keys and our name tags. It takes me several days if not a full week of checking the left side of my chest for my name tag before I subconsciously realize I’m on vacation. I can always tell that I’m ready for a vacation when I look at people in movies or on tv and wonder where their name tags are.

– drinking tap water. I know. This is a wierd one, but stay with me. As anyone who has cruised knows, you don’t drink the tap water. It won’t kill you or anything, it’s just not delicious and not filtered. There are some filtered taps around the ship that you can drink from, but most of our consumable water come from purchasing bottled water. Which is delicious (particularly in the South Pacific where we get Fiji water quite often), however drinking water straight out of the tap in the kitchen sink is something I REALLY miss!

– Fire! Fire is the most dangerous hazard at sea so we aren’t allowed to have anything onboard with a flame (other than lighters), no candles!! As soon as I get home I light candles and build fires in the fireplace, regardless of the season.

– Fast unrestricted internet!! We do have internet onboard but it’s not the fastest nor the most economical. We spend days in port hunting for WiFi. Getting back to land and having high speed internet 24 hours a day is a luxury, and gives you a chance to catch up on all the cat videos you missed while at sea.

These are really just the things that I REALLY look forward to when I’m at sea. What do you look forward to when your vacation time rolls around?!

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Deviation

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Although the Baltic seas have thus far been kind to us, the winds of change are upon us. The Norway cruise got rougher close to the end and as we reached the final day, we learned that there was a very good chance we would need to change our itinerary because of it. We waited on the edge of our seats as the powers that be decided our next course of action and when the email hit our inbox we opened it with mixed feelings. Generally, a deviation of itinerary mostly just means more work and upset guests. Understandably so, people book cruises with the ports in mind, often if we miss one we add a day at sea, we don’t get a replacement port, resulting in sadness and long lines at Guest Services.

Deviations can occur for all kinds of reasons, but mostly it comes down to weather. At the end of the day, we are but sailors, we can not control the wind or the waves, we can only do our best with what comes our way (methinks there’s a metaphor for life somewhere in there, you decide). In this case, the decision makers were able to reconfigure our cruise so that despite missing one port (Belfast) we gain a replacement port (Liverpool) and the other ones move around a bit. As soon as we got the official word, all departments sprang into action. We in the Guest Services department scrambled to set up a help desk with outside lines and internet access available for guests who had booked shore excursions with outside (non-Carnival) companies to try to change them. We emailed/faxed/called multiple countries in multiple languages for multiple hours. Damage control at it’s finest. Our cruise director and cruise staff immediately put together port presentations and discussions to inform the guests as soon as they got on board of exactly what was happening. Shore excursions put together new excursion booklets with tours for the new port and refunded the tours that had to be cancelled due to missing Belfast. By the time the dust settled, we still had some upset guests, but mostly we had ones that were impressed and grateful. We worked so hard that I barely had time to consider that we were about to go somewhere unexpected. LIVERPOOL!!!!! For me, super exciting…maybe not for everyone, but I was really excited to see another British port. At any rate, more thoughts on the upcoming deviation in the near future. I’m off to see what I can see outside, it’s time for an adventure!!

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

 

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!!

Carnival Ecstasy!!

In adventure, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise on September 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm

It’s my first day on the boat!! My bus came at around 5:30am this morning and then made a few more stops until there was around 30 of us all headed to the Carnival Ecstasy. There were several other buses all headed for different ships. When we arrived at Port Canaveral I started getting really excited to see my temporary new home!! A little bit about my new home, it is 13 decks high (although the 13th deck is just called the sun deck because the number 13 is bad luck) it weighs 70.367 tonnes, is 855 feet long, 103 feet wide (“beam”), holds a maximum of 2634 guests, and 920 crew members! There are 6 of us that are new Guest Service Associates, and the rest of the new crew members were taken other places. As GSA, we are technically officers, whereas people in entertainment and spa and whatnot are staff. So once we have finished our training, we will be allowed certain privileges that the others are not, such as eating in the officers mess hall, and being on guest floors when we aren’t working. The group of GSA’s in training is comprised of a woman from Russia (who is my bunkmate and has been with Carnival for 2 years, and is switching departments from housekeeping to guest services), a man from India (who was a Carnival photographer for almost 3 years, and is switching departments also), two men from Mexico and one from Greece, the last three are on their first contract, like me. We are going to be the best of friends for the next two weeks until we get sent off to our assigned ships. We started off by getting all our paperwork in order, got our nametags, and keys to our cabins. The cabins are pretty much exactly what I expected. Small!! My bunkmate wanted the bottom bunk, which is totally fine by me because I like the top bunk better. There’s actually plenty of storage space, and even a mini fridge and a teeny tiny TV with a VCR!! There are little drawers under the bottom bunk where we can lock things up if we want. Internet is pricey, $20 for 200 minutes and apparently it’s very slow. So I’m going to keep writing things down and then I’ll post them when I can!! We are currently on a wee break after our first little orientation and ship tour. We can only tour the crew area because we don’t have uniforms until tomorrow. There’s several crew mess halls, a crew lounge with a bar, pool table, and foozeball table. There’s a crew gym also, which I will use tonight, but once we have uniforms and a whole ship tour, I’ll be allowed to use the guest gym, which I will do because the crew gym is pretty average. So far everyone is very nice and helpful and lovely. Our luggage should be arriving in about 20 mins and then we will do some unpacking and settling in. Then we have more orientation and safety training! Yay! More later!
E