Monthly Archives: May 2016

DAY 225 ~ Friday 27th May

Airport – So this is it. 225 days after signing on, I’m now signing off. It’s been mostly unbelievable. Was it all a dream? I’m finally lost for words!

As for what’s next, who knows? I could pop up anywhere. If anyone is looking for a roving blogger in strange or unusual circumstances, I’m you’re woman… for a price that is! Although this account is effectively redundant now, keep checking back here as I’ll try and continue to post plenty of updates and pictures of what’s happening during the conclusion of dry dock, via my wonderful sources close to the action.

Of course I’m going to miss my new friends, all the amazingly hard working Dawn Team, and even the damn virtual slot machine Pandas! As for you guys, take it easy folks. I hope that y’all enjoyed the ride nearly as much as I did and thank you for joining me (if only virtually)!

Right I’ve got a flight to catch. So long my friends… Goodbye, Au revoir, Adios, Ciao, До свидания, Auf Wiedersehen, وداعا, Sara mushe, הֱיה שלום, Totsiens, 再見, Kwaheri, अलविदा, Hamba kahle, さようなら and Paalam!

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DAY 224 ~ Thursday 26th May

Freeport, Bahamas – I’m going home!!! Finally, after nearly 9 months, I’ve got my sign off papers. Things have been a little up in the air due to dry dock, and at one point I was scheduled to be offloaded on May 18th, along with all the old furniture, dancers and half my roommates. That didn’t happen in the end, however the God of dry dock has finally seen through my feeble fire fighting skills and now deemed it time to send me back to land of the living and living on the land.

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Trying to catch 40 winks during a 20 minute break in the middle of the night.

I can’t quite believe it. It’s all happened so quickly. I also can’t believe having seen the first week and a half of dry dock, that I’m going to miss the completion of the epic project. But I guess not getting covered in dust and subjected to all the rigours that the refurb entails isn’t going to be too hard to miss.

At the moment I’m getting bombarded each day with questions from interested Internet people enquiring about all the exciting changes during taking place onboard. I feel really disappointed that after writing every day for the last 220+ days, that I won’t be able to keep them up to date, as they seem to be enjoying it so much. And just when it’s getting to the good part of dry dock with the painting and decorating just getting going, plus our daily dose of watching Bad Girls in the cabin is also getting to the good part. It’s nearly enough to make me want to stay!

Having witnessed the final few original workmates leave over the previous month, I was the last one left standing from the group of people that were here when I signed on back in October. It was kind of frustrating knowing that I was the next one due to go home, but not sure when. Like watching the person just ahead of you on the rota going home after a long night and sitting at your table eagerly waiting for your turn to finish, but no idea when it’s coming. Some nights you could sit they’re for what seemed like an eternity, chomping at the bit, watching the minutes and seconds slowly tick by, before someone finally came to relieve you, or closed your table and sent you to bed.

Well my time is finally here people, in a matter of hours, I’ll be packing all my belongings back into my bag and heading for the skies! I’m actually really sad to be finishing my contact in so many ways. And I’ve got to get used to all of the harsh realities of the real world again. No more awesome laundry guys washing and pressing my uniform for a start. No friendly cabin steward making up my room and bringing me fresh towels on a regular basis. Not only will I have to cook my own food, but I’ll have to source it from a supermarket, pay for it and bloody well wash the dishes afterwards.

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My home is being redecorated and I won't even be there to see the finishing touches.

Of course it will be nice to have a day off finally. And not get woken up by the sound of the telephone ringing, cabin inspections, boat drills, noisy roommates, PA announcements, shrieking watertight door alarms, drilling, banging, loud people in the corridor outside, and of course the need to go training at all hours of the night and day.

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Desmond the fire dog is going to have to be my able replacement.

I’ll have to use to using real cash again, not just swiping my ID card that doubles as a passport, door card and onboard account debit card. And I guess I won’t have to wear a name tag announcing to the world that I’m a dealer from the UK (without helpfully elaborating that it is casino cards that I’m dealing in, which can sometimes lead to embarrassing confusion).

Of course the wonderful people and the beautiful islands, white sandy beaches and turquoise seas are going to be hard to replace, as are the tropical temperatures that hover around 30°C most of the time. Still, it will be summertime when I return to Europe (which means some sunshine hopefully), which should break me in gently at least. And free fast wifi will surely help cushion that harsh blow somewhat too.

I shouldn’t get too excited just yet though, as I’ve another fire fighting shift to survive yet, hopefully without the boat burning down, before I head down the gangway one last time. Until tomorrow my faithful readers…

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Goodbyeeee!

DAY 223 ~ Wednesday 25th May

Freeport, Bahamas – Pogi the hairdresser/engine machine room repairman is back from vacation. But unfortunately, in his absence, two new stairwell barbers have popped up. Cue a turf war! The three of them now fight it out for clients every evening, just as we head to work, like some kind of cheap reality TV show, live battle for supremacy.

I’m not sure that’s it’s gone as far as them undercutting each other by slashing their already meagre prices, but one guy now has a fancy gilt edged mirror up to woo potential clients, and another has a stereo pumping out tunes to entice punters into his fold away chair. Who will be the ship’s next top hairdresser is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for sure, there’s a lot of short haired people strolling the corridors of the Dawn at present!

This site has been getting an amazing amount of traffic and comments this week, with dry dock seemingly a popular topic to read about. If only it was as pleasurable to experience first hand…! I’ve had lots of questions sent in, so I’ll try and answer as many as possible now:

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Every day this week had seen 1'000+ visitors including a whopping 1'487 yesterday!

As far as I know (and of course I could well be wrong about lots of this) Moderno, previously on deck 8, is moving up to the former Star Bar on 13. Spinnaker (7) is getting a complete makeover, including a name change to “Bliss”. Pearly Kings pub, also on 7, is becoming a wine bar. The Blue Lagoon (8) will now be O’Sheahan’s including food (grill I believe), also encompassing the space left vacant by Moderno on the opposite side of the atrium. Work is also being done up by the pool, but what exactly I’m not sure. The Teppanyaki is being slightly re-jigged as well.

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Le Bistro taking shape.

There’s a wicked new carpet and colour scheme being rolled out in the Stardust Theatre. All the Staterooms and balconies are being completely refurbed, along with windows replaced in certain areas too. There’s new carpets already being laid in the stairwells and I really like the new wood effect wall coverings, that relplace the old shiny orange paneling that previously covered the walls in all the public areas.

This is the biggest ever dry dock undertaken by a Norwegian Ship and pretty much everything is getting a new look. The old girl won’t know herself by the time she sets sail for Boston in under 4 weeks time.

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Men At Work.

After one of our walk arounds during the night, Natasha and I got detailed to a special mission to go and view some work taking place on the outside of the ship with one of the officers. It was fascinating to see the paint getting stripped off the rarely seen underside of the large vessel by an automated electromagnetic sander type machine that moves up and down the ship in neat rows, like a perfectionist etching strips into his lawn.

The feat of engineering that goes into a giant cruise ship is mind boggling. And the Dawn is classed as small/medium, especially when compared to the new supersize juggernauts such as the Norwegian Escape and Royal Caribbean’s Harmony Of The Seas. Taking in her huge size from top to bottom is breathtaking. From deck 7 the drop to the ground (or rather floating pontoon on which we are currently resting), is immense, whereas normally from deck 7, it looks only a short distance to the water all around.

The officer kindly took time to point out things such as the stabilisers, which were sticking out due to maintenence work being done on them, some facts about the engine and propellers, (which whilst huge, are actually relatively small compared to the size and weight of the beast that they propel) and the anchor, which looks strange laying on the basin floor, with the large chain still hanging from the ship, like an empty sink with the plug still in. There were welding jobs, washing jobs and all manor of other activity taking place all around the exterior of the big boat. It’s not just the inside of the ship that’s getting a makeover, but the outside too.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was 2:30am, but the sight left Natasha and I reeling at the logistics involved in such a huge undertaking. From carpets, to screws, to large oil drums full of paint, every item had to be thought about, planned, ordered in the correct quality, delivered safely to the desired part of the ship and then laid, screwed or brushed into place by the army of workers that are scurrying around this floating hotel at all hours of the night and day.

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Like me, this ship never sleeps.

DAY 222 ~ Tuesday 24th May

Freeport, Bahamas – For the last 24 hours, I’ve been speed eating Bourbon biscuits and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars. Having had to suffer the nasty tasting gunk that passes for American chocolate for the last 8 months (in fairness I’ve still made a good dent in their supplies despite the unpleasant flavour), it was like finding water in the desert, when I stumbled across the aforementioned luxuries in a store in the town.

Bourbon biscuits, for those of you that don’t know, are delicious chocolate biscuits in the style of custard cremes. Seemingly, I’m the only person in the world that doesn’t like Oreos, the main staple of the biscuit aisle in the crew mart, so I made up for lost time yesterday, munching may way almost entirely through my 2 packet stash. I just hope that the store I brought them from offers a reward card system as I’m about become their most loyal customer!

I also made friends with one of the locals when purchasing some drinks at a bar, when she asked if we came from the sea, I replied that yes, we were on the Norwegian Dawn and were in port here for the next month. That’s nice she said, but do you need a re-sea-t? Receipt? Oh cripes, I clearly have a long way to go learning the local lingo. Needless to say we all fell about laughing when I explained my idiocy. I don’t know what they put in the drinks around here…

Back on the ship, work is taking place astonishingly fast, already some areas are starting to have their new decor put up. The Stardust Theatre has been completely de-seated and large areas have been wrapped up in brown parcel paper and tape. Just outside is the workspace for the team of busy seamsters and seamstresses, with every seat, chair and bum cushion getting a full makeover. Rather them than me.

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Standing room only in the Stardust at present!

Last night the first third of the vessel was plunged into darkness in the early hours, due to a planned electricity downtime, making our regular fire patrols a little more interesting. Other than that, it’s more multicoloured boiler suits, welding and grinding going on. I can’t wait to see the finished project in 4 weeks time…

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Worker bees weaving their magic.

DAY 221 ~ Monday 23rd May

Freeport, Bahamas – After our cabin maxing out at a heart stopping 31.9°C (89.4°F), someone finally saw fit to restart the a/c working, at some point in the early hours of the morning. It was more than a welcome relief and enabled me to cancel the riot that I’d mentally been planning, but had been too hot and exhausted to carry out. If they try and cook me like boil in the bag beef again though, I can hastily reorganise my battle plans…

At mid morning, after only two hours sleep, it was time to fry again though, as the ship to shore drill took place, which involved everyone leaving the vessel via the two gangways and assembling at muster station number 2 in the dockyard. It was nice to see the whole of the outside of the ship for the first time, but it was scorchingly hot and with what seemed like 7 million people filing down the step narrow gangway, finding their specific assembly point, registering, and then filing back up the walkway once the drill was over, the novelty wore off as quickly as the beads of sweat ran from my forehead.

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All aboard!

By the time everyone had crammed back onboard the boat, it was lunchtime, meaning that the mess looked like a scene from the overcrowded M25 motorway during rush hour on a Friday night, when one of the Dartford tunnels is closed and a three car prang is taking up the two outside lanes. Natasha and I took this as sign that now would be a good time to exit the ship and explore the delights of Lucaya some 12 miles away.

Being Sunday, there wasn’t too much going on, but we found food, in the form of Subway (mmm), and Internet at a New Orleans themed bar (yay!). The connection wasn’t great, but it was nice just to be outside in the pretty marina, amongst all the brightly coloured shops and restaurants, and away from the  gigantic building sight that is currently the Norwegian Dawn.

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Downtown Port Lucaya, The Bahamas.

Our friendly local taxi driver informed us that today was the hottest day that he’d seen in the Bahamas in many many years, with the temperature gauge in his cab showing a colossal 99°F. What the Freestyle??? That’s like +37°C. Oppressive heat seems to be stalking us at every turn at present.

Back on the ship by late afternoon, there was time for an hour or two’s interrupted sleep, interspersed with more incessant bing bonging and announcements about impending blackouts and such like made in increasingly large numbers of exotic languages, drilling and what seemed like somebody playing the steel drums, very loudly, right next to what used to be our sea wall bedhead, but is now a portal to the container filled dry basin that surrounds the bottom of the boat.

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I'm going to paint a large do not disturb sign next to the outer wall of our room!

Before long it was time to clamber into our oversized red tents, that double as our fire fighting uniforms, and head to the atrium on deck 7, the nerve centre for hot work workers. During the night/morning we got posted to various jobs taking place all over the shop, including watching grinding outside on the pool deck (12), metal cutting in what used to be Moderno on 8, and a welding job in the Teppanyaki restaurant on deck 7.

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24 hour party people on the pool deck. White Hot welding party anyone?

We also got sent to do a walk around on deck 8 at one point and got the fright of our lives when encountering most of the cabin doors left ajar and the clearly visible sight of workmen’s naked limbs, as the lay clotheless on top of their beds, no doubt trying to get some much needed rest, and respite from the heat. With the eerie silence that accompanies the early hours of the morning, the clear plastic covered floors and the bare, twisted torsos, with the illusion of dismembered limbs, haunting us from the shadowy dark in every direction, it was like a scene straight out of a Quentin Tarantino film. Just another normal day on the Dawn then… Let’s hope that the noisy day workers keep me from falling into too deep a sleep as I’m odds on to have nightmares after what my disturbed, sleep deprived, imagination witnessed today.

DAY 220 ~ Sunday 22nd May

Freeport, Bahamas – Hot hot hot! And not in a good way. The a/c has gone on vacation and we now live in a sweltering oven, that is over 31.6°C (89°F) in the shade (I’m not even joking). Dogs die in cars less hot than that, and we don’t even have any windows or an ounce of a breeze circulating through our room. Trying to sleep in the cabin yesterday afternoon, (noise not withstanding) before another long nightwatch shift, was seriously stressful, and even a cool shower didn’t work, as the coldest temperature that came out of the shower head was still far too warm, despite the taps being turned as low as they would go. I’m hoping that a) the a/c comes back on pronto, or b) we acclimatise to the hot humid interior very soon…

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I'M MELTING!!! Getting hot and sweaty on a Saturday night has a while new meaning here.

Oh and the bow cam seems to have gone offline, meaning that our TV, that constantly shows the feed and therfore doubles as a window and gives us some insight into life outside, has now effectively been boarded up and we’re stuck in what is beginning to feel increasingly like a claustrophobic four berth coffin. At least the Internet is still chugging away slowly though and don’t forget, for more pictures and updates you can also follow me on twitter @akweaversailing.

If we think that we have it bad though, in our thick red fire watching boiler suits, I feel really sorry for the cooks and restaurant staff. They still have to remain in their usual roles, making and serving up masses of meals 3 times a day, along with 3 snack sessions for both the crew and contractors, that I believe in total now number over 4’000. With no air conditioning, the galleys and mess rooms are like saunas, complete with red hot condensation running down the walls and stream fogging up the windows. The poor guys and girls are soaked to the skin not 5 minutes into a shift.

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The Grand Atrium on deck 7 now a grand rubbish pile.

Over 90% of the crew have stayed onboard for dry dock, with only the singers and dancers, plus a few of the gift shop and spa concessionnaires having gone for vacation or been transferred. We all still work 7 days a week, but some people have been redistributed to new departments, if their existing positon is not required during dry dock. The casino staff have been split into three groups, with one third detailed to the hotel group, who are sanding, lifting, carrying, cleaning up and removing rubbish, and taping plastic to every available surface, whilst the middle third have remained in the casino to oversee and assist with work there, whilst the remainder, like me, are fire watching.

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The casino looking like a graveyard for slot machines.

It’s really strange walking around the ship, with seemingly no location now recognisable as it’s former being and all the staff mixed in with the contractors, unidentifiable now that they are no longer wearing their usual uniforms, but instead robed in blue, white or red boiler suits, depending on their new temporary employment status.

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More garbage filling up deck 12 the former pool deck.

My 9 hour fire watching detail this morning included standing watch on the open deck, guarding a section of railing that had been cut away, leaving nothing between the deck and potentially falling off the side of the ship. My role was to divert people round the scene and avert them plunging to their death. At 4:30am there wasn’t that much foot traffic in the area, so to entertain myself, I watched the welders working on the Royal Caribbean ship in the distance, imagining that the impressive looking sparks flying off in all directions were silent fireworks instead.

At that hour of the morning, alone in the dark, it can easily send your brain to many strange places, and as I looked over in the other direction I began imagining that I was in Dubai, the warm, humid evening, bright lights, and multiple cranes topped with blinking aircraft warning lights, really reminding me of the city that not only never sleeps, but never stops rapidly growing either. Now if I can just trick my brain into believing that instead of lying in a hot hot bunk bed, that I’m lying in a hammock under a sultry palm tree, all will be good!

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Dubai or Freeport? You decide.

DAY 219 ~ Saturday 21st May

Freeport, Bahamas – We’ve finally docked at our new home for the next month, the Grand Bahama Shipyard. It took quite a while for the Dawn to float into her new position, not least because of the fact that the lifeboats had to be lowered and are now parked beside a jetty adjacent to the basin that we are in. We went outside to watch for a bit, but got bored after a while waiting for the slow moving action to unfold, in the afternoon heat, so watched the rest of the scene on the TV from the comfort of our cabin.

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Movie now showing: Grand arrival in Grand Bahama.

The water has nearly all been drained out now, with only the dregs still remaining and soon it will be an actual dry dock. The first of the gangways are now in position and lead sharply upwards from deck 4 to the concrete jetty above. We’ll get our first taste of shoreside soon as at 11am were going to do a ship to shore emergency drill.

The biggest job onboard today would seem to be offloading all of the gigantic piles of rubbish that have accumulated over the last few days, once all that has gone, it will be on with the last of the deconstruction and the commencement of the reconstruction work. It’s one of the most interesting aspects of our fire watching duty, doing our fire rounds at night and seeing the daily progress taking shape. I can’t imagine what the ship will look like in just over 4 weeks time!

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A Royal Caribbean ship docked near us in the Grand Bahama Shipyard.

In between our shifts, Natasha and I have been keeping ourselves amused by watching episodes of Bad Girls on her computer in the cabin. Bad Girls is an old British TV series from the late 90s about a women’s prison. I watched it when it was originally shown in the UK and it’s hilarious to re-watch all these years later, not least because of the many alarming similarities between the jail layout and our own bunk filled cells/cabins!!

I’m looking forward to going out and exploring the nearest town of Port Lucaya when we get a chance, which won’t be until Sunday or Tuesday due to the In Port Manning duties that remain despite being in dry dock. As soon as I get the chance I’m getting out of this building site for a few hours though. White sandy beaches here I come!