Monthly Archives: January 2016

DAY 101 ~ Sunday 24th January

New Orleans, Louisiana – I love dealing blackjack. Specifically on BJ 5, which has lately become my second home or “Muster Station”. It gets a game more often than not and it’s nearly always an interesting one. I also like the fact that it’s dealt from a ‘shoe’ and uses a manual shuffle at end of each run through of the eight decks of cards, as opposed to the automatic machine shufflers that continually churn out cards until time ends, with no respite.

The downside is of course the number of blasted “China Shores” Pandas that can watch me from my position, but I’m working on getting a restraining order put in place against them.

It’s kind of wrong how much pleasure I get from dealing cards. I actually have a feeling of disappointment when the next dealer arrives to change me and send me on a break. I keep waiting for the buzz to fade, and although it’s not galloping racehorses on the turf, I genuinely do get an adrenaline buzz from dealing some of the exciting games.

After work I went to the crew bar to join my supervisor Keegan who’s going on vacation today. I’m gutted he’s leaving as he’s a great guy and will be sorely missed, but the good news is that he’s coming back in only 5 weeks, so yay for us, even if it’s only a short break for him!

In the crew bar it seemed like every other person there is signing off in the next 2 weeks. Of the 10 of us at the table, 8 are departing imminently, leaving only myself and Jimmy, who started just 2 weeks ago. Jimmy and I hatched on a plan how to man the ship with everyone gone, which ended up with him doing the steering and me doing the cooking. Eventually we scrapped that far fetched plan and decided to leave the ship tied up somewhere permanently, so no one had to drive it and we could order take away from the land to feed the guests, whilst we still worked in the casino.

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Don't go, we'll miss you so much!

Thankfully, as sad as it is to see the suitcases in the hallways each week, we do get replacements every 7 days also, and this week’s 3 new casino staff include one new dealer, who’s name is Zoltan. What a cool name!!! It conjures up images of the machine Tom Hanks wishes on in the film BIG, and unless this new guy looks like that, I’m going to be severely disappointed!

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Welcome to the Norwegian Dawn my new friend!

Right now is time for sleep for me as I’ve to be up early sanitising, embarking guests, providing demonstrations at assembly station X to the passengers and then a whole night at my real job as a croupier. Oh the joys of directional duty. It’s like your ‘weekend on’ in horseracing, and we all love that old chestnut!!

DAY 100 ~ Saturday 23rd January

At Sea – Weather. It’s something that the British are generally very obsessed with. When I was training racehorses, checking the weather forecast was a big part of my day, not just because I wanted to know whether to wear a coat or sweater riding out, but of course the weather has a big impact on the going of the turf tracks and played a huge part in which races were selected for certain horses.

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The all important going check.

There’d been plenty of talk over the last few days, about a large snow storm that’s about to hit the eastern side of the US over the weekend. Many of our guests of course are directly affected, as they have travel plans to go straight home to some of the affected regions after disembarking on Sunday. It at least gave me a new topic to talk about, and one I’m fairly well versed on.

Here on the Dawn, it’s generally 30° everyday and sunny, with the exception of the odd downpour. Last week though I saw my first lightning storm at sea. It was very impressive, as it was dark outside, so light up the sky in a very atmospheric and pretty way.

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Stormy forecast!

There’d been rumblings from the time of our departure from Costa Maya yesterday, that we were in for a bit of a stormy return across the Gulf of Mexico and the wind duly began whipping up the waves soon after darkness descended. The ship has been very steady for the past few weeks, so it was a bit of a shock to the system to be bouncing about everywhere once again.

By the time I went to bed, we were really being tossed up and down quite a lot, and I began wondering how bad a crossing had to become for gaming to be cancelled. I guessed very bad, as gamblers are hardy folk and a bit of rough weather or seasickness was hardly enough to put them off. Shame as a day off really wouldn’t go amiss at this stage!

The constant up down motion really didn’t bother me at all on my top bunk, but every other minute or so, the ship hit the water with an alarming thudding noise, that sounded like we’d just driven headlong into a family of large whales or even hit an iceberg. I did my best to sleep through it, but it was enough to make my short sleeping hours fairly restless.

I have an 8:30am start this morning and an all day and night shift to look forward to, until we hit the calmer waters of the Mississipi around 10pm tonight. Oh well, a bit of wind and bumping around once in a while sure beats riding out in the snow or rain!!

DAY 99 ~ Friday 22nd January

Costa Maya, Mexico – The banging, hamering and drilling started in earnest at precisely 7:58am. It’s impossible to describe just how loud and annoying the sound of metal hammers clashing on metal pipes is, but imagine being kept in a sardine can, with a ravenously hungry, slightly retarded giant banging on the outside of it with a metal tin opener, trying in vain to get the contents out, so that he could sate his never ending appetite. Then double it and you might be somewhere close to how I felt yesterday.

Next, the phone rang but I have no idea who it was or what they wanted as it was impossible to hear what they were saying, with the sound of the all metal band in full rehearsal. I just kept yelling at them to go away, as everyone was sleeping, until they finally hung up. It’s guaranteed that no one was asleep, with the incessant din that filled the room and by the time I finished yelling at the caller, I doubt there were many people asleep on any part of the ship.

I got up to get ready for training, but was interrupted by cabin inspection. I sat on a chair in my pyjamas and told them to go away too, when they banged on our door. They ignored my warning,
entered the room and switched on the light. “Are you OK?” they enquired. “No, I’m not ok!” I exclaimed. “They’ve been banging like that since 8am and we work nights!” I said. “Is everything else ok?” came the response. “No!” was my exasperated reply. “It’s been like this for the past 8 days and I’ve had NO sleep. They soon left and I’m hoping gave us a pity pass on this week’s inspection at least.

The men who had been banging finally decided to knock on the door and ask to come in, rather than try and break the wall down, which was what it sounded like they had been doing. When I turned the light on again, I was genuinely surprised that there weren’t any holes in our walls. I finished getting dressed, let them in and departed for training, looking like I’d been living in the streets for the past three months, not some luxury cruise liner.

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My beautiful moving home.

After the training was completed, our AWESOME manager Leonard arranged for some keys to be dropped off to his office, so I excitedly collected them and ran back to the cabin to distribute them to my cabin mates. I grabbed some essentials (phone, charger, headphones & chocolate), down a glass of juice with a slice of melon on my way through the mess as breakfast/lunch/dinner and found my way to deck 8, using staircase 72. Once there, the hallowed key opened the door to the kingdom of peace and quiet. We’d been given access to a spare crew cabin to use for the day. I threw my clothes on the chair and jumped in the closest bed. I was soon joined by my roommates and before long we were all happily sleeping soundly just like Goldilocks in the fairytale.

I slept from just after midday until 3pm. It was the sweetest sleep of my life practically. I woke up feeling fantastic, fully refreshed and like I’d been asleep for 30 hours, not just three. I bounded back to our cabin, where the water had been turned back on thankfully, took a shower and skipped along to work, ready for anything.

The casino was quiet early, but got busy by about 8pm which helped me keep my energy levels high. At one point I contemplated the lack of sleep versus some of the beautiful yet cold winter riding out scenes that have been posted all over twitter this week. Yes I’m definitely happy with my decision to experience life at sea for a bit and later I’ll post some hot tropical beach and palm tree shots just to because I can. Six more months living the dream baby!!

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I don't miss it one bit!!!

DAY 98 ~ Thursday 21st January

Belize City, Belize – Yesterday was a nice day, as after boat drill and casino meeting, I went straight for a swim in the sea. It was lovely, peaceful and relaxing and by the time I’d walked back to the ship I’d worked up a good appetite. I had nice lunch of a jalapeño, hot chicken and salad sandwich.

After finishing some that off with some deliciously juicy fresh melon, I put my trainers on and made my way up to deck 14. For the first time in what seemed like weeks, the basketball court was empty and I was able to mess around on the court instead of having to run round the jogging track on the deck below.

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The cool paintings that adorn the outside of the promenade deck.

In the hot afternoon sunshine, I had a lot of fun messing about and honing my very rudimentary shooting skills. On my way the pool deck, I stopped for some fresh juice in the staff mess and had a few more slices of melon to refresh myself.

The pool area was nearly empty and I had a splash in the tub before laying out on the deck, enjoying the peace and quiet until the mid afternoon. I had a shower, dried my hair and child for an hour before work.

I was hoping to be finished work early enough to attend the crew bar under the stars, being held at the Bimini bar on deck 14, but whereas the casino was deserted last night, tonight it was a bustling hive of activity. I didn’t mind too much as I love work when it’s busy. I get such a buzz from dealing sometimes, I’m genuinely gutted when a new dealer arrives to switch me out and I have to leave the table.

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Some more of the Dawn's nice artwork.

This morning after cabin inspection it’s more training for me, but seeing as the workforce arrived bright and early again this morning, I’m glad to be out of the way. They’ve finally replaced all the pipe as far as our cabin, so today they’re actually in our room rather than just sounding like it. Casino manager Leonard is trying to organise us somewhere to sleep or relax for the day,  if not it’ll be deck 8 and some fresh air for me as I’m IPM, so no Belize for me!

DAY 97 ~ Wednesday 20th January

Roatan, Honduras – The sleep depravity is getting worse. After falling asleep sometime after 5am yesterday, I was awoken not a minute after 8am by our eager construction crew, who are now camped in the narrow corridor outside our cabin. My alarm, signaling my need to attend training, was the next disturbance and it took all my will, with a big kick up the backside from the fear of getting a warning for missing safety, to get my ass out of bed. I threw on some shorts and a sweater and stumbled up the I95 with my hair looking like I’d just put my fingers in the plug socket with the 220 volt adapter in it.

Passing through the staff mess, I was stopped by the Staff Captain (not our very own dice dealer Peter who we call Staff Captain, as they look very similar, but Captain Per from Norway, the actual Staff Captain for the whole ship), “Are you sick?” He enquired? “No sir, just on my way to safety training and just very very tired!” I replied. “Well as long as you’re OK?” came his concerned response, to which I mumbled “Well not really but yes, thank you.” Later, when I’d woken up a bit more, I was mortified. I basically look so bad, that the Staff Captain thinks I’m ill. I need real sleep.

After training, I’d planned on going for a run, before swimming in the sea and returning for lunch. My body said no, so I returned to my bunk, hoping to sleep until lunch and then swim and run before work. The telephone had other ideas. Not 5 minutes into my rest and the damn thing was going off with some friend of Andreea’s calling to see if she was awake and wanted to go out. I told her that Andreea was in the bathroom and that I didn’t care what she wanted to do, but that I wanted to sleep, so I would pass the message on and under no circumstances should she phone back.

Seriously people need to start communicating telepathically or something and stop calling our damn cabin phone, otherwise I’m going to be found guilty of justifiable homicide before long. In some sick twist of fate, even if you leave it off the hook, it still rings. I’m not even sure how this phenomenon is possible, but unfortunately it’s a true story and the cause of much angst for me.

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Don't say that I didn't warn you about my impending rage rampage!

The phone rang twice more, with both callers getting very short shrift from me followed by an earful about never fucking running the fucking cabin phone again ever, even if the ship is sinking or I’m late for work. After 5 minutes silence, the banging, hamering and drilling stepped it up a notch to a full on orchestra performance opera. At that point I’m not sure if I wanted to kill myself or someone else first, but thankfully I was so totally drained of energy, neither was possible.

Chatting to some of my fellow seafarers in the mess, I feel that I should be very grateful that these are the only noises keeping me awake, as other complaints include loud snoring, sleep talking and worse, the dreaded “extra guest”, when one of your roomies decides to have company over and they make the bed shake rattle and roll. Thank goodness my roommates are all nice sensible young ladies, as I really wouldn’t wish to be woken by any strange animal noises coming from down below me!!!

By some major stroke of luck in the evening, the guests all seemed as tired as me, and there was a mass exodus from the casino just after midnight meaning I’m showered and in bed by 3am which is a minor miracle. The downside is I’m kinda hungry and debating the unattractive prospect of leaving my bed and facing a long walk in my pj’s down the I95 versus my lust for hot food. If only I hadn’t scoffed the entire box of Zucaritas…

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Mmmm....

DAY 96 ~ Tuesday 19th January

Cozumel, Mexico – There’s always something happening on the Dawn, which is great if you’re worried about being bored, not so much if you want to sleep. This morning I have 9am safety training, yesterday was a work all day and night sea day, Wednesday is boat drill and casino meeting first thing, Thursday is early morning cabin inspection, followed by another sea day on Saturday, then 10am directional all day in New Orleans.

Factor in working every night, the telephone ringing, roommates starting and finishing at all hours and the matter of the work that has been going in the corridor outside our cabin for the past 10 days, which sounds like they’re tryng to rebuild the cruise ship from the inside out, and you can see why sleep is a valuable commodity and hard to come by.

I love work though, and this week looks like being a really good fun cruise. I dealt some good games and the day passed quickly all things considered. For such an unsociable person, to spend 14+ hours, chatting, laughing and making small talk with what are essentially random strangers, might seem like hell, but I genuinely enjoy it 95% of the time. The other 5% I smile, talk only when necessary, whilst inside wishing unpleasant things on every animal, vegetable, and mineral in the vicinity, including myself, but I figure that it’s healthy, otherwise I might explode if I was too nice all the time.

I seriously think that the first week of my vacation I might need to hole up in some cheap dank motel room, keep the musty curtains tightly closed and watch a 7 day Law And Order SVU marathon alone in the dark, whilst binging on nothing but room service ordered by emailing the front desk, which I’d insist they left on a tray outside my door displaying the do no disturb sign, so that I didn’t have to have any human interaction whatsoever. That way I could ‘reset’ myself to my default mode and my friends would all recognise me again.

I often wonder how much I’ve changed already in this contract (for the better mostly too I hope). Certainly it’s put me in a thousand scenarios already that I never even dreamt up and I’ve met people from places that I couldn’t even pinpoint on a map. The variety is one of the things I love about this place. What’s going to happen over the final six months of my stay goodness only knows, and to be truthful I’m looking forward to all of the ups and downs and twists and turns.

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Sadly I haven't met anyone from Göttingen yet, one of the few places that I can pinpoint on a map.

For those of you that think I’ve changed too much already, don’t worry I’m still me a lot of the time. For instance it’s 4:40am and instead of sleeping, I’m lying in bed with Desmond my giant toy dog, with my head propped up at an uncomfortable angle (the space avaliable only allows for a small neck tilt), so as not to choke on the dry Frosties that I’m eating out of a plastic cup using my fingers as I’ve no spoon, whilst writing this update.

I’m often as shocked as the guests when I say that in 34, as I still act like a 12 year old most of the time. I wonder if I’ll ever grow up? I certainly hope not!!!

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This perfectly sums me up!

DAY 95 ~ Monday 18th January

At Sea – It was a spectacular day in New Orleans yesterday. The morning started with a nice update, over the address system, from our new Hotel Director Tony (USA), on our latest fleet wide rankings and guest satisfaction scores. He gave a very uplifting briefing and it was like having the Captain’s meeting brought directly to our beds, which we enjoyed much more than having to get up and dressed! Now, if they can only work out how to do lifeboat drill in the same way….

The next visitor of the day was Marc Anthony, who we knew had returned safely as we’d heard all the chattering and laughing coming through the walls from the next door cabin, where he is now ensconced. He gave us all a big hug and kiss and we caught up on all the latest news. It was great to see his smiling face and it looks like he’s really enjoyed his vacation.

Outside, the sky was a beautiful clear bright blue, but the temperature was a lovely cool 12°. It felt great to wear a pair of jeans and a sweater and stroll along on land like a normal person. I went directly to Starbucks to update the 101 applications that had been sending notifications to my phone for the last month, desperately pleading to be changed to the latest newest version of themselves. While that was ongoing, I had a couple of brief chats via Whats App with friends, before heading back out into the sunshine.

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New Orleans, the place to be!

From there I picked up a couple of essentials, i.e. more chocolate and a new pair of shoes, and hurried back home just in time for passenger boat drill. This week was probably my best announcing to date, I was funny, informative, clear and concise, so I hope that our happy guests can sleep easy in their staterooms this week!

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What a gorgeous day!

As well as a boat load of over 2’500 new guests onboard, we have another 2 new dealers in the casino, as well as the returning dice dealer Marc Anthony. We also have Captain Martin from Sweden back, as Captain Teo had gone home to Croatia for his vacation. Plus “Dingo Dave” the cruise director has departed, meaning that it will be Richard waking us up for boat drill each week instead.

The crazy thing about working in the casino is that I sometimes get ridiculously tired half way through the shift (after 95 days straight of working on average 10 hour shifts, not including meal breaks, it’s little wonder I sometimes feel a bit jaded) but by the end I’m so light up, that I can’t sleep.

Yesterday morning it was after 6am when I finally went to sleep. The phone made is its first unwelcome intrusion into the room a little after 8am, I stayed awake but in bed until 10am, when I got up and walked round New Orleans until 2:25pm, when I dashed back onboard just in time before or curfew and straight to passenger drill. It was little wonder by 9pm then that I was feeling the pinch, but by 11pm I was good to go again and by 2am, when my shift ended, I was positively bouncing.

It’s a sea day today and I’ve got to be up fairly early, so it’s off to try sleep for me as it is after 3am and it will soon be my time to shine, or even shiver (yes it’s freezing in the casino again), once more…