Monthly Archives: January 2016

DAY 108 ~ Sunday 31st January

New Orleans, Louisiana – I really like New Orleans, it’s a fabulous city to go out in and the only chance all week to wear jeans. Plus last week I was doing directional duty, so couldn’t go outside, so I really really want to go into town, hook up to some wifi and just shop and be normal for a few hours. But I’m exhausted. I haven’t been getting to sleep until 5 or 6 am most days and then it always seems to be a sea day, or some kind of training, or a trip to the beach to get me up early, so I’m really undecided whether to set my alarm or not. Chances are, I’ll either wake up of my own volition before 10am anyway or will be woken by the phone or roommates or a crew announcement at some stage anyway. Best option seems to be to get up and head out into the streets to witness good old NOLA as she gears up for the infamous Mardi Gras!

Another of my roommates, Andreea, got promoted this week, to assistant cashier, so she’s changing cabins and another of the cashdesk team, Charrylou (Philippines), is moving in in her place. Charrylou is always really happy and sweet, so it’s a pleasure to welcome her to our cabin. Plus Andreea will be just along the corridor and in the casino of course!

I dealt the Texas tournament again today and went back and dealt the final table, which was good practice. I even dealt one guy a Royal Flush, which is the first time I’ve ever dealt a 5 card Royal Flush on any of the games, which was exciting.

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I'm the Texas Hold 'Em poker Queen this week!

I’ve been busy learning Pai Gow poker, but now also have lots of reading stacked next to my bed as I’m also going to be learning dice from next week. They certainly like to keep you busy here, and if it’s not learning seafarers safety acronyms, it’s itineraries of the other vessels in the fleet, the names of the important officers onboard the Dawn (which change far too frequently for my liking) and now the most complex game in the casino, craps.

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What the inside of my brain looks like, with all the learning that's being jammed in!

I’m actually very excited to be given the opportunity to learn the game and really looking forward to it, but it’s going to be hard, so I’m going to sleep as much as possible, when not working, and stay in in port days revising. Well that’s the plan anyway. Diet starts next week, right…?

DAY 107 ~ Saturday 30th January

At Sea – I got up early yesterday and had a fantastic day at the beach in Costa Maya. Having strolled along the tree lined paths for the couple of kilometers to the Mahahaul lighthouse, I was well ready to strip off and dive into the clear blue water. There’s a shallow sand bar that runs out for about 300 meters from the shore, meaning you can swim until the people on the coast look tiny and then still stand up in waist deep water.

Unfortunately the water is so shallow in parts, that near the end of the reef, I swam straight into a small rock and still have an alarming red mark on my leg some 14 hours later.

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My new tattoo!

The water was actually quite cool for a change, well by Mexican standards anyway! So I lay in the soft sand to warm up again after my long swim, listening to the near silence, with just the relaxing noise of the waves gently lapping on the beach and then had a final swim and attempted to wash off all the fine grains of sand, before getting dressed and sauntering back to the ship to catch the end of lunch.

After having dealt the Texas tournament in the late afternoon, the casino seemed a little quiet again, and at one point I even started singing to myself for entertainment. I started pondering auditioning for the next crew show as a bad kareoke performer, because I’m so woeful it might actually be funny.

On my break, I spotted Becky’s (who’s now a supervisor on the Norwegian Pearl) old wig on top of the wardrobe, so grabbed it, put it on in the bathroom and came out singing a Tina Turner song into my hairbrush to amuse my casino host roommate Gaynor, who was also on a break.

She cracked up, and dared me to go back to work wearing it. Of course being me, I said I would, so the next thing I know, I’m walking onto the casino floor, with a head full of tight black curls bouncing around my face. I did my best to keep a straight face, but when Joaquim, the pit supervisor, saw me, he was nearly in tears, and we all fell about laughing. Trying to compose myself,  I checked the break list for my next table assignment and was horrified to see “O” next to my name, which means office.

There was no way I could go to the office dressed like that, and my amusing prank was rapidly backfiring. Thankfully, it turned to be just a glitch and I spent the rest of the night dealing blackjack as my new alter ego Lucretia.

It certainly brightened up a fairly steady night for all the casino staff and even some of the guests, so I chose to keep it on when calling in to the crew bar to join my soon departing friend from International Guest Services, Damien, for a drink.

It was confirmation to everyone that I am the craziest person on the ship. Everyone laughed and couldn’t believe I’d gone to work like it. I loved my new persona and any time I’m struggling to get myself in a happy mood, I’m going to pop it on as it’s impossible to down or glum with an abundance of corkscrew curls framing my face.

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Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be Lucretia!

Well, it’s time for bed now, after a pretty prefect day. When I wake up it will be a sea day followed by New Orleans. Happy weekend to all those of you who live in the real world. Over and out.

DAY 106 ~ Friday 29th January

Costa Maya, Mexico – I love playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker, but sadly neither this week or last week’s guests seem to share the same view, as we’ve struggled to get a game started most nights, rendering me useless and sat starring aimlessly into space for what seems like days. After nearly 2 hours of trying, I eventually assembled an assortment of guests ready to play the first cash game of the cruise, only to be sent on a break after dealing one hand!

We do have three tournaments during the week also, which are popular, including the big satellite event, where the winner gets a seat in the main event tournament held in December on the Norwegian Epic, including a 7 day cruise for two. Sweet!

For the last 12 years, I’ve played in an annual poker competition, held exclusively for casino dealers, with each year, a different European city hosting the event. I missed only two, ironically the year it was in England and the second Barcelona, in 2015. It’s a very well attended four day party fest, with up to 700 croupiers vying for the cheque and more importantly the bragging rights to being king or queen of the dealers!

My great friend Sam Beebee, who’s a casino cashier in Mayfair, got me into it when we were working together in the Victoria casino in London. The first year was in the beautiful city of Vienna. We were blown away by the event, experiencing the most wonderful time, culminating in a fabulous final table party in a beautiful Austrian palace, surrounded by gorgeous gardens. That year, I even won a substantial amount of money playing dice, which was lucky as it was enough to pay all my fees and costs for completing on the purchase of my first apartment the day I returned!

Barcelona was our second foray. The city has everything, culture, climate, beaches and nightlife! We had a royal few days, and the final night party was held in an old castle in the Pyrenees mountains, on the French border, that had been converted inside into the most amazing casino. Having nearly missed our flights the first year, we hadn’t learnt from our mistake and once again got back to the hotel in the morning in just enough time to bung our belongings into our bags and race to the airport, making the flight by the skin of our drunken teeth.

Salzburg was next, (where the highlights including swimming in a lake in the mountains), followed by Madrid (a live performance my Crystal Waters, you know the one, la la dee la la da), plus Berlin (shopping, plus the surreal final table party being hosted in an abandoned subway station) Slovenia (everything!), Estoril (beaches), Malaga (weather), Malta (the casino) and the tenth anniversary event which was a 7 day cruise, sailing it of Barcelona, calling at Tunisia, Rome and Monte Carlo amongst other places.

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Dancing the night away in Malta!

Slovenia was the first year I went alone without Sam, but upon arrival at the hotel/casino where the event was being hosted, I knew every other person that I bumped into from previous years. After the welcome party, somehow I ended up in a strip club, right on the Italian border, at 5 o’clock in the morning, in the company of a dozen Dutch dealers, who were all male. In fact the only other females in the place were the totally naked ones gyrating up and down poles.

As far as the actual poker goes, I’ve only made the top 20 once, in 2014 in Malta. Most years I never even make the final day, but I’ve been lucky (or maybe skilled?!) enough to place in the bounty competition, finishing fourth in Estoril (ironically Sam finished third in the same event) and third in Malaga.

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Celebrating my 4th place finish in Estoril, Portugal.

Every year, it’s a guaranteed four days of splendid fun and partying. The last few times I’ve attended, I’ve not even booked a hotel room for the last night, as I never end up using it, leaving my packed suitcase in the casino reception and heading straight to the airport at daybreak to catch my flight home.

The organisers Reini and Abu from Austria so a tremendous job organising such a professional event and Mattie (Finland), Mataeus (Sweden), plus Patrick and the huge Dutch contingency, make sure it’s always a blast. I’m hoping to make the 2016 renewal, being hosted by a casino in Estonia.

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The Dutch guys rocking it in Malaga.

DAY 105 ~ Thursday 28th January

Belize City, Belize – Boat drill yesterday went surprisingly quickly and the Captain’s meeting was opened with a spectacular performance from the two French acrobats, accompanied by some very good singing from one of the shop managers. The meeting was interesting and detailed lots of exciting improvements for some of the existing fleet over the coming years, and the launch of our new slogan “Feel Free”. After that the casino meeting was cancelled, so it was straight to lunch and what looked like being a long morning turned out to be actually quite enjoyable.

The weather outside was glorious and I was very frustrated not to be allowed out for a swim in the sea on such a beautiful day, but I had a nice time instead watching the movie “Everest”, that I’d been wanting to watch for a while as I’m fascinated by mountains and climbing (more so reading about it than actually doing it!!!).

I made some popcorn to accompany the film, but unfortunately the new style caramel flavour that I’d bought the day before in Cozumel, was a bit beyond my culinary expertise. It required popping the corn in the microwave and then melting the slab of caramel in a bowl to pour over the finished treats.

I couldn’t really be bothered with all that, so half way through the corn cooking bit, I lobbed the chunk of toffee goo on top of the half popped kernels and pressed go again. Less then thirty seconds later, there was smoke billowing out of the counter top oven, filling the staff mess with a toxic black smoke. I pressed stop and grabbed the streaming bag, hurrying out of the room before anyone could comment on my poor cooking skills.

With us being in port, the I95 passageway was closed, so I had to go along the passenger corridor to reach my destination. The bag was still smoking and filling the narrow space with its sickly burning smell as I scurried along. When I got to the room, the bag actually seemed like it was on fire, so I opened the top tosurvey the damage and was nearly overcome by the potent fumes.

With the smoke detector and hi fog fire safety system in danger of being launched into action, I debated between calling the bridge to alert them of a ‘Code Bravo’ or going in search of a fire extinguisher to put out the smouldering inferno. Instead I scrambled into the bathroom and doused the contents of the bag in cold water until the danger was over and the sink was full of a dark brown sticky watery mess.

I drained the bag, reluctantly threw the unsalvageable snack in the bin and then proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes clearing up the aftermath. I watched the movie without any food and I think next time I’m in the supermarket I’ll stick with the plain variety…

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Even Flash the greediest dog on the planet would eat my cooking!

Work was surprisingly busy in the evening and the time flew by, which was great. I’d woken up at 8:30am aye having only gone to sleep someone near 6am, so I was eager to get to bed before having to be awoken by the intruding cabin inspections that start our day every Thursday morning.

I’m debating heading to the mainland in Belize today, but as we have to catch tender boats to get there, I’ll have to wait and see what time crew shore leave is granted as it’s a 20 minute boat ride there and back, so it can leave you very short of time and vulnerable to being late back onboard. Fingers crossed it’s a nice day and I get lucky!

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Anchored off Belize.

DAY 104 ~ Wednesday 27th January

Roatan, Honduras – So, apparently yesterday’s post made Sally Ann cry. I’m not sure if it was an emotional response to the nice things I put about her or the relief that I didn’t mention the Post Office in Cheveley story or any of the sick stories, with my personal favourite being the highly entertaining one that started in the car park in Maisons-Laffitte racecourse and ended goodness only knows where (Sorry Marcus, but those tales are not for readers of respectable daily newspapers!).

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Yesterday I used only nice pictures, today I'm putting up this one of you trying to strangle/drown our dogs.

Here in the Western Caribbean, I enjoyed a lovely day in Cozumel, the highlights being a swim in the sea and a foraging expedition to the “Mega” supermarket to replenish my empty stock of popcorn and Zucaritas (aka good old Frosties to you and me).

We’re hosting one of the qualifiers to the “Millionaire Maker” slot machine tournament this week, so the casino has been full of square-eyed button pushers every night. It’s quite a good event actually, with the winner of this week’s heat (basically whoever can frantically tap the button the most times in 2 minutes), receiving $10’000 and a place in the finals in Las Vegas, where they stand a chance to win the million. WOO HOO as they say here!

I also received training on how to deal the blackjack tournament yesterday, so now I can add that to my ever increasing amour of games. The tournament has heats the times a week and the finals in the last sea day. It’s always a lot of fun and generates a good bit of excitement. Fingers crossed I get to deal it for real soon.

Today it’s boat drill, Captain’s meeting and casino meeting once again and to add insult to injury, I’m IPM so stuck on the ship all day. Maybe I should take the chance to get some rest, as it’s 4am and I’m still up. Either that or another gym session wouldn’t go amiss as the plentiful food that’s on offer 5 times a day is soon going to take its toll now that I’m not mucking out and sweeping the yard 6 times a day!

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This is how I feel about the line up of this mornings events and IPM duty.

DAY 103 ~ Tuesday 26th January

Cozumel, Mexico – I was asked the other day by the esteemed and exceptionally amusing writer for The Telegraph, Marcus Armytage (who’s also a Grand National winning jockey to boot), if I had any funny anecdotes about my good friend Sally Ann. Of course I had plenty, but unfortunately most were either tales where you had to be there, or had to be recounted by Sally Ann in person (she’s an excellent story teller) to sound amusing, and the obligatory few unprintables.

If she ever finds time to write a book about her life, sadly I doubt it as she’s the busiest girl on earth most days, it will be an instant best seller. Not only is she an excellent writer, but she always seems to off somewhere creating new adventures at every opportunity. For instance this weekend, she’s been skiing some place in the Alps with an assortment of Irish racing principles. There’s got to be a whole chapter’s worth of material right there!

For those of you who don’t know her (it’s hard to believe there’s many people in the world who haven’t heard of her), Sally Ann is Irish, but has been living in France for the past 7 or 8 years presenting racing on the French TV channel Equidia. I think most of us would struggle to present live TV in any shape or form, so to do it in a foreign language is a rare talent, and she is VERY VERY good at it too.

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Sally Ann presenting at this year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

I first met Sally Ann when I was working in France many summers back in 2001. As we were only 2 of 5 girls living in a 200 occupancy hostel for stable staff, and both English speakers, we quickly became friends. At the time, I doubt either of us expected to still be such good friends some 15 years later!

Sally Ann is an AWESOME friend. She’s funny, positive, energetic, up for new experiences, keeps me in my place when needed, honest, generous and a good cook. We also share the same birthday, only I’m 2 years older :-(. She’s such a good friend, that when I broke my leg, the day after I got out of hospital, she turned up on my doorstep with her arm in a cast and promptly moved in to keep me company while we both recuperated. Now that’s what I call a best mate!

To this day I’m not sure that she actually broke her arm, and wasn’t just pretending so that we could hang out 24/7, but she insists that she did. Now how many of you have friends who willingly fall of the side of a horse to injure themselves just to be with you? We made quite a pair that month, with her pushing me round the supermarket in a wheelchair with her one good arm, and me changing gears in the car whilst she steered, when we went out for a drive. We got more than a few odd looks and offers to start insurance claims with our matching plaster casts!

Even in times when we’ve lived in different countries, we’ve still kept in touch, despite both leading busy lives. Even now on the ship, she reads my blog and sends me her own life in note form every now and again. And when the wifi permits we even chat via Whats App occasionally. Before I left, she made me a fantastic calender with photos of our escapades adorning each month, so that I could bring it with me to remember our many good times, and it hangs proudly by my bed.

How I couldn’t come up with a story for Marcus is beyond me as I’ve had some of the best times of my life with that girl. This summer in France we took the dogs and the 4 of us swam in the lake everyday. We also bought a horse together, who I hated but she adored. Gottingen might not’ve won for us, but he came very close so many times and we had a lot of fun with him, plus made a tidy profit.

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Sally Ann and Gottingen on the beach in Deauville early one morning.

So my New Year’s resolution for 2016 (hey, it’s still January) is to create some memorable and printable times with my AWESOME friend, so that the next time I’m asked, I’ll be ready with some excellent stories. So come on Sally Ann, let’s go ranching….!

DAY 102 ~ Monday 25th January

At Sea – It was a long old day yesterday. Probably the fact that I didn’t get to sleep until after 5:30am and had to be up by 9:30am didn’t exactly make for the best preparation for tasks ahead, but I gave myself a kick up the behind and made it work.

Sanitising the casino passed by in a bit of a haze, probably due to the fact that I was still three parts asleep. A bracing blast of coldish air hit me upon heading outside, and took me completely by surprise, due to the electric blue sky, but it was enough to wake me up good and proper for my escorting duties.

The butlers who we help during the embarkation process are the sweetest bunch of guys, on a par with the sensational laundry team who work 24 hours a day it seems and always remain cheery. It’s our guests first day of a vacation that some have been planning for months, so it’s not hard to be swept up in the enthusiasm and excitement of it all. It’s even nicer now that I can now answer most guest questions straight off, and good to feel helpful and useful as we settle them into our floating hotel.

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Welcome to the Norwegian Dawn cruisers!

It seemed to fly by today and before long it was over and time for passenger assembly station drill. All the guests in our two combined stations turned up this week, which never happens, and we were treated to a big round of applause at the conclusion of the demonstration. It was a nice gesture, although we weren’t certain if they were applauding our effort and skills, or just delighted that the whole affair was over.

Work had it’s usual strange first day of the cruise aura about it. Nobody knows what’s where, the guests are all effectively strangers and there were the new faces amongst the team once again, plus four faces missing from the normal ranks. Before long there were a few loud players whooping and hollering their wins and things seemed to become more familiar after that.

It was the Superbowl semi finals yesterday, so many of the guests were crowded round the TV screens to cheer on their chosen teams, with the successful Denver Broncos set to take on the all conquering Carolina Panthers in the upcoming final. Hopefully there will be a good atmosphere in the casino that night, as the Americans love their ‘football’!

I read plenty of hyperbole about Willie Mullins on Twitter last night. One suggestion was that the big owners should not send him so many good horses and should spread them around other trainers. That’s ridiculous. Do the big successful sports teams only want one or two big players so that the other teams can pick up the rest of the stars just to make the games they play closer and ‘more interesting’ for spectators? Of course not, it’s preposterous. The whole point of being successful and getting to the top, is that people reward your success and endeavours by supporting you and helping to propel you further. It’s becomes a self fulfilling prophecy eventually. People don’t spend millions of their hard gained bucks sending racehorse trainers expensive talented horses out of pity or convenience, they select the trainer they believe will achieve for them and their horse, the best results, making the master and gentleman that is Willie Mullins the obvious choice more often than not.

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I'd send this beauty to Willie baby. May the best horse win!

Anyway enough about the geegees, I’ve to be awake and shinning on the casino floor by 8:30am complete with my ‘Positive Smiling Body Language’ as per the days Freestyle fundamental…