Monthly Archives: November 2015

DAY 46 ~ Monday 30th November

At Sea – Why the Freestyle does everyone think I’m from Australia??? All the guests say it to me. At least 5 everyday. “Oh, I love your accent what part of Australia are you from?” They question. “I can tell that’s an Australian accent.” They comment. “Hey an Aussie!” Comes the cry from across the table. Hello! Really? I couldn’t sound more British if I tried.

Ok so maybe my accent has got a little screwed over the years, involving lots of travelling etc. And now I work with a bunch of people from every corner of the earth, plus a whole host of American guests, but Australia, seriously, I’ve never even been there on vacation. I think it’s maybe that the people questioning me have never been there either, or they’re just drunk, or maybe a bit intellectually challenged. I guess when my contract ends in June, you guys will have a chance to judge for yourselves.

Yesterday was a little challenging, as it was the first day, I found it hard to motivate myself and be all cheery, smiley, welcome aboard guests, etc. After a shift the night before that lasted over twelve hours, plus a short sleep and shower, I was up and in my uniform to sanitise the casino. From there it was on to directional duty, which involved escorting the VIP guests from the port, to the vessel. I was really hungry and ended up missing both breakfast and lunch due to no breaks, so having to guide new excited groups of people up to their cabins and the beautiful steak house Cagneys on deck 13 all afternoon wasn’t my idea of the best way to spend the day. Also every time I walked back and forth across the covered bridge that allows passengers access to ship, I could see other lucky crew members heading off into New Orleans and the mall, where they have a large and sumptuous food court.

Still, I had a job to do, so painted a smile on and faked it for a bit. On one of my many trips across the gangway to fetch more clients, I thought about what I would’ve been doing back home, including mucking out in the cold, wind, and rain, then riding out inexperienced yearlings, many of whom harbour death wishes, followed by emails, phone calls and evening stables and my day suddenly didn’t seem that much hardship at all. I finally got my last guest safely to their stateroom and only had three minutes to leg it to the passenger emergency drill. This week at least it was sunny and warm, so I didn’t freeze in my uniform, plus all the guests helpfully arrived on time and behaved, so the drill was finished with enough time for me to shower again and wash my hair in the 20 minutes before work.

I felt better after my invigorating wash and even though I hadn’t managed to completely dry my hair, at least I felt smart and clean ready for my fourth different duty of the day. After giving out some gaming advice and tips, we were on our way and bound for Cozumel once more, so gaming for real started. Finally it was time for my 30 minute dinner break and some much needed sustenance.

The staff mess wasn’t serving until I was due to be back at work, so I picked at a few bits on offer in the staff mess, although the menu wasn’t really to my liking overall. On returning to the staff mess to eat, I spotted the that the food was out, so attempted to steal a couple of bits of the plain chicken that’s always on display. The female food attendant took great umbrage to me trying to illicitly snaffle up some tucker, as it was 25 minutes before opening, and gave me a bollocking, causing me to drop the piece of meat dangling on the end of my fork, onto the floor. I was so hungry I nearly ate the damn thing anyway, but decided to come back on my next 20 minute break and try again, when they were open for real.

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Eating bird off the floor is not something I want to experience again...

The few potato pieces that I’d legitimately got from the crew mess tided me over and my mood improved considerably once more. I worked in the casino until after midnight but genuinely enjoyed my shift, having a lot of fun and making connections with some of this week’s punters.

Today is another long sea day, but I’m hoping to get back to the basketball court on my long break as we’ve only 200 under 18s onboard this week, plus I should finish at a reasonable hour (midnightish??), meaning I can get some sleep before we arrive in Cozumel where I plan to hit the beach and chill out for a few hours.

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Sign me up for an afternoon at the Hotel Barracuda in Cozumel!

DAY 45 ~ Sunday 29th November

New Orleans, Louisiana – Tiredness does not even begin to explain how dreadful I felt yesterday. The noise of the waves and early start meant that I’d barely achieved 30 minutes sleep in total, on top of only a few more hours the night before due to early morning boat drill.

My first table of the day was roulette and I was very close to actually puking all over the layout as I was just so exhausted. On my 30 minutes break I couldn’t even stomach lunch, so just curled up on the sofa in the staff day room feeling sorry for myself whilst getting dubious looks from the passers by.

Perm, my Mauritian friend, came over and gave me a great shoulder massage, as he took such pity on me, and I looked such a state. Somehow, this helped me to struggled through until the afternoon, when finally my long 2 hour break arrived. I stumbled wearily to the cabin and crashed into my top bunk, only just remembering to set my alarm for 30 minutes before I was due back. The sea had quietened down enough to allow me to finally get some actual sleep, but I had this paranoid fear of oversleeping so kept waking up to check the clock every five minutes.

Somebody commented the other day how many people I know on the ship. I didn’t think it was that weird until walking down the I95 on a break last night, when every other person either Hi 5’d me or gave me a first bump. I don’t actually know, know these people, it’s just that everyone is really friendly.

Upon finding the crew mart closed for the second night in a row (due to end of year inventories), I was very dismayed as I always need a large daily dose of chocolate to keep me alive. What can I say, it’s surely better than crystal meth or getting blottoed in the crew bar every night? Walking back via the TV room, that has a large flat screen showing movies each night, I commented on one of the Jamaican band members (Flavers) missed shot at the pool table. Next thing I know, he’s challenging me to a duel and I immediately pick up the cue and play the shot of my life. The long pot went straight into the middle of the pocket, leaving my opponent dumbfounded.

It was of course a bit of a fluke (we must’ve hit a wave at the right time) as I’m pretty abysmal at cue sports, but he was none the less impressed even though I missed a couple of easier shots later on. I ended up ‘winning’ and was on more of a high bouncing back to work, than the chocolate would’ve given me, had I been able to get my fix.

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Jimmy White I am not!

It was a very long day at work, I didn’t finish until after 12:30am after starting just after 9 in the morning. I ended up going to the crew bar to hang out until 2am, when I was finished, as I needed a bit of time to unwind and chat to friends after such a long shift. I still found it hard to drop off when I finally went to bed though.

Today is a real sucker of a day, as I’d wanted to go out in New Orleans, but instead I’m shortly going to the casino to sanitise it for 30 minutes, before having to spend the rest of the day stood on deck 7 aft directing the new guests to their staterooms and pointing out where the amenities are located (food is normally the number 1 priority for them!). Then it’s marshalling the assigned passengers into assembly station X and giving them the weekly safety briefing and life jacket demonstration, before starting work immediately after, until goodness knows what time in the morning (first night is always kinda crazy each week). Oh well, gotta take the rough with the smooth I guess, and in 2 days I’ll be back laying on a beach in Cozumel. It certainly beats mucking out and riding out yearlings in the freezing rain and snow!! Just another day in Paradise for me… 😉

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Fair weather riding only please!

DAY 44 ~ Saturday 28th November

At Sea – I made my first trip to mainland Mexico yesterday, albeit I didn’t venture that far inland. Costa Maya is famed for its ancient Mayan ruins, but as we had boat drill followed the Captain’s monthly meeting, I didn’t have time to venture further than a swim up pool bar right inside the port complex!

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It's like being permanently on vacation living here!

During the Captain’s meeting, our leader informed us that we are performing very well against the other ships in the fleet, and were ranked second overall for October. Go on the Dawn and its spectacular team!! There was also a short promo video about one of our new vessels, the Norwegian Escape, that was recently launched, and then named at a ceremony in Miami by non other than Pitbull, who is the ship’s godfather! The Dawn has Samantha from Sex and the City as her godmother, so I’m not sure what that says about us?!

Costa Maya was very hot and I enjoyed my short swim in the sea water pool, while Andreea and casino host Alex (Serbia) has a nacho lunch nearby. I lay on the side of the pool in the sunshine to dry off and then legged it back to the ship before lunch finished to catch my daily helping of chicken and rice (I’m not a Nachos fan, sorry Mexico).

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I like to keep the ship in view incase it tries to leave without me.

At work in the evening it was kind of hard to deal as the ship was swaying about so much due to the many waves we encountered. At one point on the roulette table, it was like trying to deal on the top of a moving double decker bus, and wearing a skirt and high heels didn’t help any either.

We’ve a long sea day today as we cross back across the gulf of Mexico towards the Mississipi and New Orleans. The round trip of this weekly itinerary is about 1’900 nautical miles. Unfortunately, I’ve had next to no sleep due to the waves crashing next to my head and the uneven motion of the ocean rolling me around in my bed. The sound of the waves crunching against the hull, which is adjacent to my head, is akin to having your head inside a washing machine, and has made it virtually impossible to get any rest. I’ve sensibly got my trousers and safety shoes on for the long shift, starting at 9:20am, and haven’t had any breakfast in fear of my first bout of seasickness…

DAY 43 ~ Friday 27th November

Costa Maya, Mexico – Well not much sleep was achieved yesterday, but at least there was so much going on I didn’t have time to get frustrated about being IPM and grounded on the ship.

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Anchored off Belize with some neighbouring ships in the distance.

Having gone to bed at around 3am, I didn’t go straight to sleep, as Becky was still trying to manhandle 9 months worth of stuff, plus presents and port souvenirs, into her two suitcases. Eventually I must’ve fallen asleep as I was awoken by the alarming sound of the telephone ringing at 8am.

The person on the other end wanted to inform Becky that she was now leaving at 11am, not 5pm, as she had previously been instructed. A bit of panic packing ensued as she struggled to wedge the last of her belongings into the bulging bags.

The next intrusion was the regular early Thursday morning cabin inspection. This week, instead of our usual neat room, the officers were greeted with the sight of a nearly naked Becky, plus every available floor and wall space taken up with old clothes and shoes, as Becky tried to decide what she had room for and what had to be left behind.

There wasn’t even space for the guys to get in the cabin, so they had to give us a bit of a free pass, seeing as she was signing off. Only moments later, the silence was destroyed again by the telephone ringing once more, with the Personnel office calling to say Becky’s departure had been brought forward again and she was to go to the midship gangway for disembarkation immediately!

Andreea and I both leapt off our bunks and hurriedly dressed so that we could give our departing roommate a hand with her many bags. The two suitcases had since multiplied, and now included 2 large rucksacks stuffed to the brim. As we walked up the I95, everyone kept calling out “Goodbye!”, “We’re going to miss you!” and such like, as we had so much stuff they thought all three of us were leaving!

We waited with our roommate until all the checks and papers had been finalised and then walked to the waiting tender boat that was taking her, Mark (Philippines) and also Cheetan (India) to shore. The casino is going to be very quiet from now on, with three dealers down.

Not wanting to spend too much time grieving the transfer of our fellow crew members, we swiftly headed straight to the crew bar to join the remainder of the night shift party. As it was Thanksgiving, I treated myself to a Smirnoff Ice, for breakfast, without having eaten. The blinds were closed and the music was on, but it just didn’t feel like night time somehow. Still we all had a good time and Allan my fireman friend promised to give me soon dance training lessons on Tuesday, as I really lag behind the other seafarers.

The music in the crew bar seems to be the same five songs played over and over. And they’re all very similar Caribbean style R&B sounding (I could well be wrong, I know NOTHING about music!). The dancing has to be seen to be believed. Everyone, from the Philippines to the Saint Lucians, seem to be able to grove in the same flexible, rhythmical, butt-shaking way. They can’t understand that it’s just not possible for an English person to move like that. We’re stiff and robot like, and my hips are fixed so that I can’t bend at waist at all. Poor Allan is going to have his work cut out!!

When the party was finished, I enjoyed a large slice of chocolate cake for lunch/breakfast with Tony, another of our onboard Filipino firefighters. The firefighting team are a really cool bunch and always so friendly and helpful.

Tony was telling me that he likes to bet on horses, so I’m trying to arrange a trip to Fairgrounds racetrack one Sunday, as it’s only about 10 minutes from where we dock in New Orleans. The casino manager Leonard, and one of my supervisors Keegan (who happens to be a big Hayley Turner fan), also want a day out at the sports, so we might have to arrange an official crew outing at this rate.

After lunch I did some laundry and then Andreea and I had a proper sort out of our shared room, chucking out anything that didn’t belong to either of us. With the constant roll on, roll off, of personnel on the ship, the cabins tend to accumulate a vast amount of what can only be called crap. Everyone assumes that the tatter is someone else’s prized possession, so nothing really gets thrown out and items get passed down or left behind from contract to contract.

By the end of it all, the place was looking tidy, if a little bare. I’m sure it won’t be long before the empty beds get taken by new sign ons or colleagues returning from vacation.

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Becky, we miss you already!

The turkey dinner that we were treated to in the evening was delicious. The best bit was that we were let loose with a big sharp knife and allowed to hack up chunks of the big bird ourselves. I’m still trying to get confirmation of just how many large gobbling beasts were sacrificed to feed the hungry inmates on the ship yesterday.

In the casino, the Thanksgiving sprit was alive and well, with much joviality and cheering going on. One woman was even wearing a large stuffed toy turkey hat on her head. It seemed to bring her plenty of luck as the pair of them kept picking up very good hands! When I was assigned to deal to them again later on in the evening, she requested that I wear the hat. After obtaining permission from my supervisor, I gladly donned the large poultry head piece, much to the amusement of my bemused colleagues (they still really don’t know what to make of me!). The kind lady promised to email the photo to me, so watch this space!!!

I was well ready for bed by the end of my shift at 2am and slept like a log. I want to go out in Costa Maya today but I’ve got to be up and out of bed shortly for life boat drill, and then it’s off to the standard casino meeting, so it will be a battle between my need for sleep and my need to explore, to see who wins, as we’ve to be back onboard by 2pm for work at 3.

DAY 42 ~ Thursday 26th November

Belize City, Belize – HAPPY THANKSGIVING Y’ALL! May your Thursday be filled with happiness, health, warmth and turkey!

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Today I’m IPM (In Port Manning), so confined to the ship for Thanksgiving. It is the first day that I’ve officially not been allowed out and have already been climbing the walls somewhat. I think that it’s more the physiological impact of being told “No!”, than actually needing to go out, as every time we dock, I pretty much do the same thing.

My routine varies little from country to country; Get off ship, hook up to any available free WiFi and update phone apps, check for any messages, find the nearest place to swim in the sea, swim for 30 minutes or so, get out, put clothes back on over wet bikini with no towel to dry off at all, find chocolate to purchase if possible, return to ship for shower and work.

It never normally takes more than 2 hours and is usually completed alone. Yesterday in Roatan, I skipped all the steps bar the swimming, so eeked that bit out to last 60 minutes instead. Honduras has to be my favourite place to swim on this itinerary. The place where I go is only 100 metres or so from the port entrance and the water in the bay is warm and very still. Plus there’s the view of all the crazy folks zip lining across the water and all the ships dotted around nearby. Yesterday, the Dawn was anchored offshore, and had the Norwegian Jade and Royal Caribbean ‘Liberty of the Seas’ for company.

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In my next life I want to come back as a mermaid please...

For lunch the jelly was a luscious yellow colour. It was in fact so good that I swerves eating any real food bar a slice of chocolate iced sponge cake (and that was in theory my breakfast,  as I didn’t go to bed until 5:20am). In the evening however, it was orange coloured and had the consistency of golf balls. It was pure rubber. I’m not sure how they got it to that texture, but even the crew mart shopkeeper, Prem, spat it out when I fed him a spoonful. Maybe it’s a cunning plan to stop me eating such gigantic quantities of the stuff…

Tonight there’s a Thanksgiving turkey themed menu in the staff mess and in the morning there’s also a night shift party from 8am until midday, for all the evening workers, with alcohol (a maximum of 0.05 don’t forget!), music and everything! Woo hoo!!

DAY 41 ~ Wednesday 25th November

Roatan, Honduras – Yesterday in Cozumel it was actually raining at times, although it was still very hot outside. After a lovely lunch of chicken and rice, followed by chocolate iced sponge cake and dark green jelly,  I ventured off the ship and into the real world for a bit.

It’s very surreal to keep walking down the gangway and being in a different land each day. The ship is so vast, that you can barely sense it moving at times, and although I know I’m visiting all these far away places, it doesn’t really feel like I’m travelling at all, as I still wake up in my own bed ‘at home’ each morning.

I have to keep looking at maps, to check where I actually am on the globe, to believe that I’m really here. It reminds me of the Enid Blighton book ‘The Faraway Tree’, that I used to adore as a child. Every time the characters in the stories, Jo, Bessie and Fanny, used to climb to the top of the tree, the world had changed to a new place, including the intriguingly named land of Dame Slap.

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X marks the spot.

Today the ship was in the same spot as last week, in Cozumel, a tropical island just off mainland Mexico. I first popped to the large store to refill my depleted supplies of chocolate and hot sauce, and then went straight across the road to the ‘No Name Bar’, and quickly undressed before leaping in the bright blue water.

The waves were fairly big today and at one point, powering along with my head down and eyes screwed tightly shut to keep out the stinging salt water, I misjudged the timing and ended up with a mouthful of disgusting brine, which instantly made me gag. Thankfully I managed to spray the revolting liquid out like a sperm whale emptying its blowhole, before completely ingesting the vomit inducing impromptu drink. How I wasn’t actually sick I don’t know, but the intense salty taste remained in my mouth for a long time afterwards, even when I’d got out of the water to go home.

I was relived to find both my clothes and shopping still where I left them when I emerged from the ocean. This is about the 7th time I’ve gone off swimming alone and asked later on about the safety angle of entering the water without any company, I did admit that I am indeed very worried each time I head off, that my clothes won’t be there when I return. The concerned colleague tried to correct me, stating that they had meant what if I got into difficulties in the water or something. “We’ll yes, I’d just drown then.” I responded. “But what would you do?” Pushed my friend. “Well there’s nothing I could do, as I’d be already be dead so there’s no point really worrying about it.” I then continued on to explain my main fear of having to return to the ship in just my bikini, with no name tag or crew card to be allowed back onboard.

I generally don’t take my phone, wallet, any valuables, or even a towel with me when I leave the ship, so it would just be my shorts and t-shirt plus cheap sunglasses that I bought in CVS in Puerto Rico, and my 8 year old, bought in an airport, temperamental watch that tells the time when it feels like it. I’m sure it will happen to me one day, and I guess the best I can hope for is that it makes an amusing story for this site, as I stand outside the ship, dripping wet and nearly naked trying to convince the Nepalese security team that I really do live there and to let me back on, otherwise you could be reading about me getting deported for having no travel documents or clothes!

The casino was a jolly and happening place last night and a I enjoyed dealing a couple of good games of roulette throughout the evening. Even more enjoyable was the yummy sushi that was on offer in the staff mess for supper, followed up by another generous helping of the same shade of green jelly.

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Please, please nobody take a shine to my aging shorts whilst I'm in here and leave me clotheless!

It was another lateish finish, but I was done just before 4am, so Michael (Philippines), who is also my neighbour, and I scampered off to the crew mess to catch the last of the night shift dinner that’s served between 3 and 4. We were delighted to find cheese and turkey ham paninis on offer and I set about using the hot press that they’d left out for us to heat them. This is the first ‘cooking’ that I’ve done in over 5 weeks and for once I actually enjoyed playing chef for a bit (I think the fact that everything was already prepared and there was no washing up to do helped enormously.).

We halved the melted cheese sandwich and chatted for ages about work and our real lives back home. Outside the window, the nearly full moon glistened off the dark waves, lighting up the normal invisible outside. Up ahead, we could also see the bright lights of another cruise ship that we appeared to be following.

For dessert I heated up a slice of the delicious rich chocolate, that had been left out for us, in the microwave, to complete my hand cooked snack. That counts as one of the few times in my life that I’ve actually enjoyed being in the kitchen (so to speak).

Having found out a lot about each other’s other backgrounds, it was down to deck 3 and a shower before bed. Despite it being nearly 5:30am, I wasn’t tired and checked out the Captain’s scrolling log of information on channel 1 of our TV. Interestingly we were only 46.5 nautical miles from Honduras, so I decided it really was time to go to bed if I wanted to be up before lunch and enjoy a swim in the inviting Honduran sea, whilst tempting another passerby the opportunity to run off with my clothes.

DAY 40 ~ Tuesday 24th November

Cozumel, Mexico – Not having to start work until after lunch on a sea day is a rare luxury (until it comes to home time and you’re the last one to leave at 5am that is!), and I thought I’d make the most of it by indulging in a good workout. Wrong! This week, the ship has been captured by a load of terrorist pirates in the shape of 300 teenagers. Of the 2’400 odd guests onboard for this cruise, 600 are under 18 and the beautiful Norwegian Dawn now resembles a freaking Disney Ship.

We’ve been banned from the basketball court this week, due to all the children running about the place, and after a couple of failed attempts at trying to circumnavigate the jogging track, it was back down 11 flights of stairs to the sauna that is the crew gym on deck 2. Neither the air con, water fountain, nor running machine are currently working and with the recent removal of the cross trainer and rowing machine, the only option available to me was the exercise bike, as I’m too feeble to attempt to pump iron or use the weight machines.

Soon in a lather of sweat, which was more from the lack of ventilation rather than actual exertion, I got into a bit of a rhythm syncing in with the opera that was being broadcast live from Austria, on the TV. I had a shower and then sat around impatiently waiting to go to work.

When I got there it was kind of quite until the evening time, when thankfully it livened up a bit. Last week was full of heavy action in the casino, but this week is a bit more low key, which makes the time appear to go a bit slower.

Our lovely casino host Anna, from Saint Lucia, celebrated her 28th birthday today and had a cake and party in her boyfriend Vianney’s cabin (also Saint Lucia). Unfortunately Becky and I were too late finishing to attend, but there’s always next year.

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Happy Birthday Ann Lou!

Becky got her new placement and leaves from Belize on Thursday. From there she joins the Norwegian Pearl which sails around the Caribbean on charter cruises throughout the winter, then shifts to the West Coast of America and Alaska for the summer season. Andreea and I are gutted that were losing her from our cabin, but are excited for her and her new job.

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Best of luck on the Pearl Becky!!

Today we’re in Cozumel again. The cabin looks like there’s been an explosion in a clothes factory, as poor Becky attempts to wrestle all her items into her suitcase, for her imminent departure. I’m going to go out and enjoy a quick swim in the sea and do a bit of shopping for essentials (i.e. chocolate and hot sauce), before I start work mid-afternoon, and it feels like only five minutes have passed since I finished, showered and went to bed.