Monthly Archives: October 2017

I Have A Little Confession To Make…

Friday 20th October

I have a confession to make. I did laundry the other day and I didn’t write a blog. Sorry! I know you probably would never find out and/or care, but I felt guilty and thought that I confess my sin to you all.

Anyway not that much has been happening since I last wrote, apart from work, work, work, and more work. Today though, I did take a morning off from my day job (becoming a Toy Tycoon (technically my night job is my real job because the casino is mostly only open in evenings)), and ventured off the ship on a shore excursion as an escort.

For those of you not in the know, or those with a dirty mind, being an escort means that you accompany a tour, rate and review the tour and make sure that everything runs smoothly and that you solve any problems like lost wallets or lost guests. It’s not a polite form of prostitution or a way to make a quick buck. Sadly.

Anyway, the tour that I’d selected to accompany was “St. Tropez By Boat”! As if I don’t get enough of boats in the other 364 days of the year…

The tour left from the port of St. Raphaël in France, which although delightful, is sadly too small to accept a ship of our size. This means getting a “tender boat” to shore to start the tour.

For those of you unfamiliar with cruising or its parlance, a tender boat is just a slightly dolled up lifeboat that ferries passengers back and forth from the anchor point to land.

It’s fun the first time and after that it’s just a tedious way of getting outside to the real world and usually a major stumbling block for crew to go ashore at all, as obviously (and I guess justifiably) it’s guests that have priority.

This means we can’t normally get off until nearly lunchtime, by which time we’d need to be in the queue to come back, as tendering shortens crew back on board time quite considerably. All in all its a giant pain in the ass and a very effective way of missing the ship or at least getting in very hot water for missing curfew.

So, back to the tour. With the tours meeting in the Broadway Show Lounge thirty minutes before departure time, it meant a very early start. Now an alarm call at 6.45am back in my racehorse trainer days was definitely something of a lie in. However these days I work until 3am, so anything before 9am is like my worst nightmare.

Upon wrestling my way out from under the duvet and stumbling in to the tiny bathroom, I realised that I resembled a particularly nasty cast member of a horror movie when I looked in the mirror. Excellent. What a way to wow the St. Tropez glitterati…

After my shower, I hurriedly threw on some clothes, picked up my rucksack, which I’d cleverly packed the night before, put on my sunglasses and headed up to the buffet on deck 9 to sample some breakfast for only the second time this contract.

It was so early, and the smell of frying food was so overpowering, that I decided to opt for a packed lunch instead of breakfast. Sneaking my stash of fruit, pain au chocolat, and self made bacon brioche butties into my backpack, I raced back down the stairs arriving at the designated meeting point at a very a prompt 7.28am.

I’d also been saavy enough to check the day’s weather forecast before I’d gone to sleep a few hours earlier. Something that by the looks of it most of the guests on tour had failed to do. I think that they were dressing for the weather that they wanted it to be, not what the weather actually was outside.

As we boarded the tender boat, the sun was only just hovering above the horizon and it was far from warm. I was already wrapped up in my t-shirt, hoodie and puffa jacket, whilst those around me were shivering in shorts and sandals. Amy 1 – Guests 0.

As the boat bobbed it’s way to shore, I was beinging to rethink the wisdom of my booking a tour at all. It was dam early, I was extremely tired and despite my three layers of clothes I was still bloody freezing. 19°c just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.

By 8.45am I was seated on what was already my third boat of the day, but my mood improved considerably when I took the executive decision to start my lunch picnic a little early. I unwrapped the sausages, which were still warm, and scoffed them down along with two boiled eggs and two sugar encrusted bacon brioches. Thanks TUI! (Hey, food in France is super expensive and I’m a poor impoverished crew member!).

The boat ride to St. Tropez took the best part of an hour, which lead to one guest complaining that he wouldn’t have come on the tour of he’d’ve know he was going to spend all day on an effing boat. While my tired body, which also longed to be somewhere else, sympathised with him, I couldn’t help but wonder what he’d envisaged a tour named St. Tropez By Boat would actually be like. A coach trip? A trolley train? The clue is in the fine print people, or even clearly hidden in plain view in the title in some cases…

I also sympathised with the girl who puked into many paper bags for the full 50 minutes, but I wished she’d kept the noise down a bit as it was threatening to curtail my ferocious appetite.

Finally though, we reached St. Tropez and pulled into the port amongst a flotilla of fancy sailing ships and over the top yachts. A sight to be seen that’s for sure.

Upon setting foot on land, we were given the choice of following our tour guide Stéphanie, or exploring on our own. I decided to ditch Stéphanie’s interesting sounding talk and set off for the number two thing to do in St. Tropez according to TripAdvisor. (Number 1 was the beach and I was still wrapped up in three layers.).

The Citadel Historical Nautical Museum was located up a short step hill, but the slight amount of effort needed was worth it, just for the views alone.

The €3 entry fee also made it significantly cheaper than most drinks for sale in St. Tropez, with one cafe I passed advertising an Orangina for a whopping €16. That’s like an entire week’s salary!

The Citadel, which had one been the fort to guarded the port, had geniusly been turned into a tiny but impressive museum, with just about the cleverest use of space that you’ll ever see.

After reading some of the interesting exhibits, there was just enough time for a quick tour around the grounds to check out the many topless silhouetted statues, before stopping to finish off my picnic on a park bench. No €99 croqué monsieurs for me thank you very much, and it was just so quiet and peaceful, such a utopia after another 5 months living on a cruise ship.

With the return trip to St. Raphaël leaving at midday, I decided to take the long cut back to the jetty and walked through the tented regatta area, which was hosting 2017 Festival of Sails. There was some stunning looking craft on show, including some wonderfully crafted old fashioned wooden schooners, along with amazing local artwork and some ridiculously priced polo shirts.

On the way back across the water, the tiredness overcame me, so decided to lay down and prayed that I wouldn’t lose my small slip on shoes to the ocean. Even though the sun was now fully out, it was still super chilly with the wind blowing as we tore across the water and I was again thankful of my jacket. Amy 2 – Guests 0.

Much to the relief of the poor girl who’d been sea sick on the way over to St. Tropez, and also chundered the whole way back, we reached St. Raphaël just before 1pm and were invited to explore the beautiful town, or catch a tender back to the Discovery. Been there done that, I’m going back to bed thank you very much!!

So while the green-faced girl sat on the dock and contemplated booking a hotel room in St. Raphaël so that she wouldn’t have to take the tender back to the ship, I chose option 2 and caught the lifeboat to the final ship of the day, my home vessel of the Discovery, just in time for afternoon tea. I realised that there was still time to fit in a bit of Toy Tycooning before my card dealing shift started, meaning I’ve actually taken time off from sleeping, not from working. Oh Joy! The guests better brave themselves for an extra angry Amy tonight…

RETRACTION: I’m Not A Complete Psycho

Friday 6th October 2017

Having just re-read last week’s entry I thought that I better do some damage control swiftly, before I jolly well end up getting fired. I feel like I made myself sound like a complete psycho in that post, when in reality only one of my multiple personalities has seriously detrimental anger issues.

When working with the guests I can be delightful at times, and often receive multiple and glowingly positive comments. You see I can be as gracious and charming as the next person in short bursts, it’s just the back-to-back cruising guests who stay for two weeks and insist on playing at the tables for ten hours every single night that are guaranteed to catch a glimpse of my darker side.

An odd few guests actually love my sarcastic quips and thrive on what they call “banter”. I find that there’s even a specific time of day that my special brand of humour is best received, which is usually very late at night, during the last few hours of gaming, when the imbibed patrons finally tune in to my idiosyncratic wave length.

Last night for instance, inspired by the need to be lovely and get myself back in the good books, I was a delight. To everyone. For the whole evening! This was certainly a first and now I fear that I’ve set the bar too high as far as everyone’s expectations of my behaviour go and from now on in they’re going to be constantly disappointed.

I discussed the guest’s days, likes, dislikes, dinner habits, answered a barrage of increasingly personal and intrusive questions, all without a hint of sarcasm or disdain. I showed new guests how to play our games and patiently answered their questions about the rules and gave advice on the best ways to win. I even offered hints and tips for the best things to do in the next port of call, pointed out the lights on a passing island and dished out interesting and informed geographical facts about the location, plus helped one old dear find the bathroom just in time before she answered nature’s call all over the floor.

You see I can do it, and I know full well that I can. It’s just the consistency that I struggle with. Every night starts the same way, good intentions, a few polite repartees followed by a message of good fortune, a offer of a drink from the bar and then it all starts to fall apart…

The questions start, the comments about the cards or hand begin, and my brain starts to groan. You see I’ve heard it all before. I know that your one card away from a good combination. I know that you hate 16. I know that the waiter/ess is taking forever and that your mortally thirsty. I know that it’s only £2 to play in your local casino and that a 5 card trick counts in your Grandma’s kitchen. I’m also sure that the service is quicker on other ships, that you’d prefer a “real” roulette table with a “real” dealer/therapist to tell all of your problems to, rather than our funky modern electronic version that pays out money better than an ATM. And as delighted as I am to hear in detail about all 87 of your previous cruises, I’ve actually heard it all before.

And by the way I don’t get to keep the money that the casino makes, the money that you insist that I take from you, but in reality you actually give willingly to me.

I try hard to remain cordial and polite as the questions and comments flood in, but usually after about question number 10 bad Amy takes over and the sarcasm starts to flow.

“Is it a complete deck that you play with here on the poker table?” one gentleman asks?

“No Sir, we take all the aces out before you get here each night.” I reply deadpan.

“I’ve got absolutely no idea what I’m doing!” shrieks one intoxicated lady as she stumbles into a seat on the blackjack table. 

I lean closer across the table and whisper conspiratorially “Neither have I.”

When asked by one of the many wondrous spectators how long it took me to learn how to shuffle like that, I reply instantly with “4 Years at University.”

“Gosh really?” Is normally the response, “I didn’t know that you could get a degree in being a croupier!”

No neither did I, probably best you don’t Google that fact either, I silently smile.

If it was just the lovely guests and their incessant questions that I had to endure each night, then I could probably be slightly more pleasant for longer, but unfortunately our nano-casino is located in a corner of the “Live Room” a delightful live music venue.

Some of the musical talent on the ship is excellent. Some of it less so. Trinity, the three piece ensemble from Manilla in the Philippines, are top notch. Their guitar player is incredible and a joy to listen to.

Igor, the pianist, who represented his native Croatia in the Eurovision Song Contest, is also supremely talented. But even my favourite musicians can get a little repetitive when heard three or four times a day, seven days a week for months on end.

Imagine then my feelings of hostility towards the melancholy solo guitar artist, who has an exceptional talent of making every single song sound whiny.

By now, over 13 months working on this particular vessel, I know every beat of every track in every set. I feel like I could duet with most of the singers, albeit in an out of tune scaled cat kind of way.

Trying to deal cards and explain the vagaries of three card poker to some hard of hearing octogenarian, over the sound of the five piece party band not only gives me a sore throat but a sore head also.

From the time I start work, to the time I finish, there’s a constant stream of big hits, old classics and far too much ABBA. I hear Money, Money, Money played on the saxophone, piano, keyboard, drums and guitar on average 6 times a night.

Sunday nights is “Band Jam” night, a cacophonique mix of all the instrumentalists trying to out play and out sing each other. The 19 minute version of Tina Turner’s smash hit “Proud Mary”, that draws down the curtain on the chaotic set is like a form of cruel and unusual torture. Even hearing the first few bars of that tune is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat.

And don’t get me started on the “Show Team” who come and caterwaul with the band at midnight on a Monday…

Honestly I’m not a fan of music at all. I prefer silence as my sound of choice and can’t wait for the day when a mime artist is signed up to entertain the non gambling guests in the Live Room.

But just as the day starts the same, the soundtrack is the same, the day also ends in the same way. At about 1am, just as the music is starting to wind down, I feel pangs of remorse. These poor innocent folk are on holiday, simply trying to enjoy their vacation from work, life and the daily grind. They don’t deserve my vitriol. I start to raise my game again. A kindly smile, a consolatory sad face when they lose, a non sarcastic joke. I’ll even go to the bar and fetch them a drink in person if they want.

As they cash in their final chips, play the last few hands, I wish them all the best for tomorrow, remind then to set their alarm for their excursion, tell them to come back and try their luck again.

With a good beginning and a good ending, let’s just hope that they missed the middle part and that my cankerous reorts were drowned out amongst the sounds of Tom Jones’s delightful Delilah and Neil Diamond’s well loved Sweet Caroline…