My 2016 Ship Life

Long time has pass since I last wrote. I guess that should tell you I was a bit too busy enjoying life. =) So what happened this year? My new adventure started in February. I decided to return to ship life and start a new adventure with a different company. I got hired as a cruise ship photographer by American company named Image Group. So yes, I spent few months on the waves again and that’s more or less the reason I didn’t write anything on this blog. When you’re on board it’s just hard to find any free time to write, and when I do have time I spend it to rest, relax and have fun. =)

In February I flew to Miami where I joined the rest of us “new hires” and we all attended a few day training program. We were a fun international group and I could say we got along very well, considering we only met each other. For most of us this was our first time in USA, so we were all excited about small things. We were all impressed by cars in Miami, the avenues, the width of the roads and of course we were unable to resist some typical things we see online and on TV – Walmart… =D I know, for Americans probably silly thing to be excited about – for us, this was fun experience, because we hear so much about it. So yes, we all had to go to Walmart. =D Beside this unusual tourist experience we also went downtown to Miami Beach. Sadly we didn’t have much time to really enjoy it, but we had few hours and that was ok with us. Few drinks, some food, see the famous beach, stare at amazing cars that passed by and we even saw CSI van parked in front of some house! Now that was a proper TV scene. We kept saying: “OMG, look, it’s like in the movies!” =D

Last day of the training they told us what are our assignments and which ship will we be joining. I was one of the first ones to be told I was going to Australia. I was shocked and happy at the same time. I expected some Caribbean or Europe, instead I got the land down under! I checked the itinerary and I was immediately excited. I was joining in Brisbane in Australia, then we had circular navigation around Australian continent together with Tasmania. Then followed some New Zealand and crossing the Pacific Ocean with stops on French Polynesian islands and Hawaii. After that we had two weeks of dry dock in Portland, Oregon and after that 4 months of cruising in Alaska and in the end of my contract another crossing of Pacific back towards Australia. I was really surprised in a positive way, because I don’t think I ever imagined I’d actually visit this kind of places ever in my life.

So… First I was laughing because I packed one sarong with Hawaii text, some snickers with brand name Australian and another pair with brand name Polynesian. It was almost like I was packing and buying stuff that later led me to these locations. I thought it was really funny. But since my religion is “Law of attraction”, maybe that was it… =)

I started my journey in Slovenia, flew to Miami for those few days, then all across the US with airport stop in Los Angeles and continued my journey to Brisbane, Australia. Let me just say that I’ve been dreaming about LA since I was 16 and I always wanted to live there, even though I haven’t been there yet. But for me just changing flights at LAX was like a dream come true. The view of the city from the sky, the streets, lights and the airport itself… My eyes got a bit wet, and trust me, I don’t cry easily. When you dream about something so passionately and you can touch just a little bit of those dreams in real world, it’s absolutely indescribable experience. I went for some food at the airport and for the first time in my life I opened a fortune cookie – it said “Your future is bright”. I still carry this paper with me in my wallet and it gives me extra dose of optimism every time I look at it. =)

All I can say – my journey started absolutely amazing, even though I didn’t have Valentine’s day this year… Ok, this is another interesting story. =) My flight from LA was around 10PM local time on 13th February and because of the international date line in between I landed in Australia on 15th February, so I basically skipped the whole 14th February. Haha! My brother said to me: “Forever alone.” =D Haha!
So, let’s try to summon up these 8 months. In Australia I had a chance to cuddle a koala bear, pet a kangaroo, see some massive bats, some crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, dingo, seen the lightening hit the ground, touched the Sydney Opera house, snorkelled at The Great Barrier Reef and I visited some cool museums. Once I was on the forward outside deck in the middle of the night and I’ve seen dolphins jumping out next to the ship – absolutely amazing!

In New Zealand I’ve seen amazing Milford Sounds fjords, done some nice hiking and visited WETA workshop museum – the place where they make movie props. WETA is most famous for props in movies Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, but also Narnia, District 9 and many more. I took some photos at the shop and in front of the building, but we were not allowed to take photos inside. Let me just tell you I touched the mithril, seen original armors and weapons and I even held an original gun from the movie District 9. For movie buffs and LOTR fans this is close to paradise. =D
From there we actually did go to proper paradise. We had stops in Bora-Bora, Tahiti and Morea – three French Polynesian islands with proper tropical climate, palm trees, white sandy beaches and turquoise sea. I visited those small wooden houses that are built above the water, I’ve seen some amazing jungles and I was snorkeling with reef sharks and sting rays. It was absolutely amazing!

Another paradise stop were Hawaii. We visited Maui, Oahu, The Big Island and Kauai. I’ve been to the famous Waikiki Beach, I’ve seen volcanos and even a real lava flow coming into the ocean, I was swimming with turtles (we randomly encountered them while snorkeling), I’ve eaten at the famous Duke’s restaurant, seen dolphins, seen some waterfalls and I even learned how to surf! I guess I couldn’t pick a better place to learn this sport than the islands where it all started. =) Although I was told later on in the day that they spotted a great white shark just at the area where I was surfing… I guess luck really is on my side. =) Nevertheless, from now on Hawaiian Islands are my favorite place in the world and I think plumeria is now my favorite flower. =)

Following all these paradise islands there was dry dock in Portland, Oregon waiting for our ship. We disembarked all the guests and basically crew had the whole ship for ourselves. Well, obviously we had quite a lot of limitations, because a lot of areas were closed for maintenance. But we did eat at the main self-service dining room called Windjammer and we didn’t have to wear our uniforms (that was the most awesome part for most of us). Now and then certain sections of the ship would be without electricity or water, but hey, that was part of the fun of the dry dock. Photo team was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have much work to do during dry dock. That meant we had a looooot of free time. And that meant – have fun, enjoy, relax, discover, explore… One day we rented a car and went to see the famous Multnomah Falls. I actually had this place as desktop background on my computer for years and for a long time I thought it was some sort of fantasy style illustration and learned years later that this place actually exists. I had no idea that’s so close to Portland, so imagine my excitement when I realized we can drive to that place! This was like a dream come true for me and I think all my friends were really glad I suggested we go there. It was spectacular! =D

Beside exploring the waterfalls we’ve also done some hiking in the park above Portland, we visited the river side, we’ve all done some shopping, visited famous Saturday market, we even went to a strip club (Hey, they say try everything once in your life… Well, except drugs and other illegal stuff – don’t do that.). I even got a lap dance from some sexy male stripper. Never thought I’ll ever experience that, haha! =D Besides all that I even visited a “Filmed by Bike” festival, because my friend’s girlfriend was there representing their video. They even won some award there, so I’m definitely glad I went. And it was absolutely amazing feeling to meet up with another Slovenian. =D And since she knows my brother I even managed to give her some small souvenirs to take them back home and give them to my family when she comes back. =D

So… When the ship was back in the water we sailed towards Vancouver, Canada, got our new round of guests and started our Alaskan season. Four months of Alaska… For many people real fun and amazing experiences, for me it was kind of torture… Yes, I agree Alaskan wilderness and nature looks beautiful, but the climate is just not what I crave for and I’m used to seeing mountains every day, because I live under the Alps. I guess few cruises would be nice, but few months were too much for me. First few weeks we also had nice warm sunny weather and later on we had a lot of rainy and cloudy cruises. But I did see some whales, I’ve seen how the glacier ice is caving and falling into the water, I’ve seen some nice lakes, mountains and forests. Our last cruises we were even lucky enough to see northern lights. But even with all that beauty of nature, my head was set on tropical places and palm trees. =)
Luckily I was on board for another crossing, so I got Hawaii and French Polynesia one more time before flying back home. I must say that when I was on board we were quite lucky with the Ocean Gods and we didn’t have any really bad weather. We had a big storm a day before my departure home, but it didn’t feel that bad. It did look rather spectacular, because we were in the middle of Pacific, black night all around us, strong wind and then the whole sky would turn white when the lightening started. Amazing and a bit scary feeling, but I’m happy I’ve seen something as impressive as this.

I was flying home from Wellington in New Zealand, to Melbourne, to Dubai, to Frankfurt and in the end to Ljubljana. I had 28 hours in the air, 38 travel hours all together. This was for sure the longest journey I had so far. =)
When I look back I can only say these eight months were absolutely spectacular and I’m so glad I’ve done it all. On board I met some amazing people, got great friends, had the best parties, explored so much, seen places I never thought I’ll ever see, had experiences I never believed I can possible have and I came home believing anything is possible even more than before. It’s hard to explain to people how “ship life” works and how it changes a person. For sure it’s not for everybody. I mean, I’ve seen people quitting after few weeks, crying after few hours, being home sick and just had enough of being around people. But to me, this is the best adventure of my life so far. I truly feel blessed and often still can’t believe all this is happening to me, because it feels like a movie. But it is true, it’s my reality. =D
Thank you all that shared time with me in these few months, all of you that I consider my ship friends and everybody that was crazy enough to do some of these adventures with me. =D I’m also attaching a video of my adventures… =)

Video: Radiance of the Seas 2016

So now I’m already on the way towards new adventure… I’ll let you know about this one when I return. =) For now I just wish you all great start of New Year and keep dreaming – dreams do come true! =D

My “ship life” adventure of year 2015

It’s been a long time since my last blog post, more than one year. I guess this confirms that year 2015 was totally crazy and busy year for me – luckily in a good way!

This blog post is more or less a sum up of most of the year, or at least the part that includes the whole “ship life” experience. Soon after I joined I started making selfies on every location I visited. It started just as photos to send to my family to show them I’m fine, but then I came up with an idea to make a “selfie album”. So that’s why this post is not about great photography but about my crazy adventure.

As I already mentioned in posts before, I got a job as a videographer on a cruise ship. It all happened really fast. I had a Skype interview on Friday, in the end of the interview I was given a weekend to think about it, Friday after that I already had to fly and join the ship. It was my first time to travel totally by myself, so it was one of a kind experience full of emotions and second thoughts. I always wanted to travel, I always wanted to work abroad, but when it all started happening I just couldn’t believe it I was so lucky.

 

I joined a ship Fred Olsen Braemar on one of the Canary Islands named La Palma. We cruised to Cape Verde, then back to Canary Islands. Last day of year 2014 we were in Tenerife, we waited to see the fireworks and soon after that we set sail across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s such a magnificent feeling crossing the ocean. I felt a bit like explorers once and when you look around and all you can see is ocean, you feel the wind in your hair… I went on top deck in the middle of a night when we were really somewhere half way across the ocean and it was full moon, clear sky and nobody else outside on the deck. I just lied down on one of the recliners and enjoyed the peace and I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I said to myself that the only thing missing now is a shooting star and boom, there it was! Truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced.

Then I had the best time ever when we had two months cruising around Caribbean islands! I never imagined I’ll see these exotic tropical islands, but now I had two months of sunshine, palm trees, warm ocean, sandy beaches and amazing company all the time. One day we were in Antigua, then Aruba, Curacao, Saint Marteen, British Virgin Islands, we even visited Colombia and Panama. I couldn’t believe I was able to see the Panama Canal, then Panama City and I actually went on a historic train ride from Atlantic to Pacific coast! We also visited Havana and Santiago de Cuba where I visited so many historic places and I experienced my own version of the movie Dirty Dancing! I got a chance to swim with the dolphins at St. Kitts, let air planes fly really just few meters above my head at Maho Beach on St. Maarten (you gotta check my video!), drank crazy style at Boatyard on Barbados… (Check my other “Caribbean fun” video!)

Then we crossed the Atlantic Ocean again, made a short stop on Azores, then in Dover in UK, then we were off to the north. From hot summer weather to cold winter days in Norway in about a week… Our first cruise in these parts was probably the most unique one, because we went all the way up to Tromso where we even managed to see the northern lights, then we watched the total solar eclipse, amazing fjords, waterfalls and beautiful mountains. We actually had quite few cruises around Scandinavia, so I managed to see truly magnificent nature and cities. I’ve done some cool tours like the very steep Flam railway, I’ve seen the oldest wooden church in the world, I’ve seen so many Viking stuff I can’t even remember them all, houses with grass roofs, waterfalls, flowers, glaciers and even a small snow avalanche!

So all together in Europe I think we visited Norway, Finland, Sweden, Faroe Islands, Denmark, Germany, Saint Petersburg in Russia (but I couldn’t get off because I didn’t have a proper Seaman’s book – but I went on a pier just to say I stood on Russian ground! Ha!), then Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Ireland and UK. I think these are all… I liked so many places but I think on top of my list I would put Spain. Maybe because I visited Alhambra and Alcazar palaces which were on my bucketlist and they are truly so impressive. I’m a big Game of Thrones fan, so I was so excited to realize that some scenes were shot in Alcazar palace and I’ve also seen one of the castles in Ireland that they used for Iron Islands.

 

Now I know all this travel sounds really good and that’s why so many people tell me I didn’t really worked, I just enjoyed… Well no. I actually worked a lot! I had to film passengers getting on board on their first day, some sail-away and sail-in scenes, all the locations we visited and tours I went on, different shows on board and special events. When necessary I had to be a photographer as well, shooting portraits on gala/formal nights, I’ve done all the video editing myself as well, then we had to sell our products at the photo gallery… So actually sometimes I worked more than 10 hours every day, sometimes I was lucky and maybe I worked only about 6 hours in one day… Rarely did it happen that I worked even less. But in general it really depended from cruise to cruise. It’s a stressful job because you need to film so many things, then you edit, then it all needs to be done by the last day of the cruise, so the passengers can collect the DVD’s of their cruise…

On Braemar we were only a team of three – Photo Manager, Photographer and me, Videographer. After Caribbean our team got new Photo Manager and there were quite a lot of changes. I don’t mind changes, but after a while I realized most of these changes were not good. Maybe the sales were better, but the team spirit went down and my energy and motivation got really low. So I managed to get the issue solved by requesting to be transferred and so I ended up joining Fred Olsen Balmoral. We were team of four there and my energy got restored, team spirit was great and I managed to meet more amazing people.

 

Let me tell you a little bit about life on board. We eat at the crew mess (or some of us had the privilege to eat in officers mess or in one of the passenger restaurants too), food is different than the one we eat at home so it takes a while to get used to it, we have crew areas where we can hang out, we had some movie nights, karaoke nights, bingo nights and of course we had crew parties. Well we didn’t have parties too often, but without them most of the crew would go crazy, because you can’t just work all the time. That’s probably also the reason why crew parties are the most awesome parties you can ever go to, because basically everybody is your friend and once you get to know enough people and you truly relax you have the best time, you get amazing friends and you easily fall in love…

We had our cabins (rooms) below sea level and there is not a lot of space. Most of us shared our cabin with another cabin mate, some guys had cabin for four, so it’s very important to get along with more or less everybody, because you’re more or less stuck with these people for few months. But I was always lucky to have the best cabin mates and we became good friends. Also there were the water-tight doors that have this annoying sound when they close or open (which is when we arrive or depart from port), then some of us had cabins above the engine room so the whole room is noisy and keeps shaking, then some had cabin above the water tank and you can hear it splashing… Also you shouldn’t think about the ocean just behind the wall… Oh and I forgot to mention that crew wi-fi is expensive and very slow, so it’s good if you’re not too home sick. But that’s why we usually search good wi-fi spots when we reach the ports…

And beside all this, there are also passenger and crew drills, where every crew member has an emergency station and everybody knows where they’re supposed to go in a case of emergency. Every person on board has designated life boat or life raft, everybody has their role. Crew drills were once a week, but if you went on a tour or you were working you were allowed to be excused sometimes. So no joking around – ship life is a serious thing!

People ask me which ship I preferred working on and I can’t really say, because both of them had good and bad moments, but mostly it all depends what kind of people surround you. Now that I look back I can only say that the whole experience was amazing and priceless.

 

I returned back home in August, so I’ve been on board the ships for a bit longer than 8 months. At first I enjoyed some rest, free time and doing absolutely nothing. I had to get used to sunlight waking me up, hearing birds outside, and seeing the same view every day… Funny, but all these normal things become unusual when you come back from the ship. I’ve been posting quite a lot on Facebook to keep my family and friends a bit up to date where I am and what’s going on with me, but when I got home I couldn’t believe how many people wanted me to describe my experience and show some photos. I still can’t really believe this adventure happened to me, but when I see reactions of others I truly start to appreciate that this is really not something everybody experiences. I guess I dreamt for so long about traveling and working abroad that sooner or later it had to happen. It might sound cheesy, but now I really believe dreams come true. =)

There is so much more I could tell, but I think this post is already really long, but you’re more than welcome to ask me if you’d like to know more. =) Thanks a lot for reading!

Energija Team – Strunjan 2014

Here it is, first official video I made for a local bike club Energija Team. They had some preparations for new biking season. Most of the team members went to Slovenian coast on Tuesday, 18. February, and they already made some footage with their GoPro cameras, but most of it was made after my arrival. I arrived there on Friday evening and I was filming for about two days. It was a bit working weekend for me, but I must say I really enjoyed it and it was fun to work with these guys. It actually doesn’t feel like work when everything is so much fun. =)

I think it was the funniest thing when guys realized I was not kidding we were going to make a “human text” for the video and photo. And they were quite confused how to create the letters, even though I had a sketch for every letter. You can see some of the confusion at the end of the video. =)

Energija! text with human letters
Energija! text with human letters

Video is not as awesome as it could be, but considering the time and equipment, I think we did a good job. I’m always critical, but I know there is sooo much to improve, so let’s hope all future videos will be an obvious progress. We learn from mistakes so… =)

Anyway, video and my human “Energija!” text photo were also published on Mtb.si, but you can also see the video in this blog post or directly on YouTube.

Animateka 2013

I’ve been quite busy this last week, because it was time of Animateka – Animation Festival that was going on in Ljubljana for the 10th year in a row now. I was part of the video team and my job was to daily edit videos and interviews that others did during the day. There was a lot of material, so luckily I wasn’t the only one for this job. I must say, it feels quite good now that it is over. I think I had a bit too much computer work these days and I think my laptop feels tired too… Poor machine, he was more or less in “render” or “export” mode most of the time. =)
Anyway, I just wanted to share a playlist on which there are all the videos I edited.

54th October Salon in Belgrade, Serbia

As I said in my previous blog post, I’ve been very busy lately. One of the things that occupied me the most, was a video project curated by Red Min(e)d group. I was invited to make a video documentation of some events and debates during the first few days after opening of 54th October Salon, a modern art exhibition in Belgrade, Serbia.
At first I was a bit scared, because I always have this feeling that I’m not up to the task, I see what could go wrong, I see so many reasons why I shouldn’t accept the offer and so on. But then I realized that I already did this sort of job for the same group last year and obviously they liked what I did, otherwise they wouldn’t ask me to do this one more time. So yes, I accepted the offer, because I knew this is a great opportunity and also it was quite a big step for me, because this is the first project out of school, that wasn’t in Slovenia. It is one step closer to my dream – have a job that allows you to travel, see new places and meet new people. And that is exactly what it was.
I was in Belgrade for only four days (actually it was more like three full days) and I was very busy most of the time, so I didn’t have much time for sightseeing, but I didn’t mind. I loved the feeling of being in some large city for the first time, seeing new streets and buildings just by passing by while going to the location of exhibition, having contact with local people… But what gave me even more inspiration was meeting all these international artist, just listening to their stories, about their art works and even to actually talk with some of them. It really inspired me and made me want to create more art, to dare more…
So yes, I’m very grateful for this opportunity. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, because this experience really was priceless.
You can check a playlist of videos I made there.

Main hall of the building with exhibition
Main hall of the building with exhibition

Free time spent cycling along Sava river in Belgrade
Free time spent cycling along Sava river in Belgrade