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!

21. DECEMBER 2014 – SAO VINCENTE ISLAND, CAPE VERDE

I went on the same tour as the last time, so my day started quite early. This time I had a different tour guide, but he was very nice and friendly and he really shared a lot of new information that I didn’t hear the last time. We had a bit different order this time and a bit different timing at every stop, but I think all that was better this time. I had enough time to get some great shots at every location. This time I took my own tripod with me, because it is much lighter and easier to use, even though it doesn’t have smooth movements and it gets a bit shaky when it’s windy. But I think I still managed to get some nice footage.
And I kind of enjoy when people ask me questions about the videos and about this job in general. And everybody is interested in when I am from. I met some people that have been to Slovenia before and they all said they loved it and that it is a beautiful country. I know it is, I love our mountains and scenery too, but I guess I am just used to it.
When I got back I quickly ate some lunch and then my roommate and I went to the beach. Ah, nice sandy beach. Last time we were in Mindelo we went to the beach at night and it seemed a bit ugly and dirty. Today we went during the day and we couldn’t be more wrong. The beach was so nice! Amazing turquoise blue water, sandy beach and not too many people! Ah, perfect, even though it was quite windy. But we didn’t care. We went into water just to have a short swim and it was so nice. The water was quite warm. And the views were amazing, even though the beach is right around the corner of the port. It’s all the mountains and the nearby islands that make it nice. The best is probably some small island that looks more like a large high rock in the middle of water. We enjoyed the warm sunny weather and we just lied on a beach for about an hour. We had sand all over us, but we didn’t care, it was worth it. Things like this really make you love this job even more. How many jobs do you know that allow you to spend some free time on a nearby beach, possibly different beach every few days? =)

19. and 20. DECEMBER 2014 – SEA DAYS

19. DECEMBER
Because it is a new cruise and it’s a sea day I decided to film some sea day activities again. I must admit, shooting the same events every cruise will become boring soon, but on the other hand, you know exactly what to expect so it is quite easy. And if you make a mistake once, for example, you realize that some corner isn’t very good for shooting, you can change your position next time. So it’s great opportunity to learn.
Anyway, nothing special happened, just an ordinary day. But in the evening there was another party, this time across the hallway from our room, where the crew day room is. We went there just for a short while, but we wanted to get some sleep, so we left quite early. I see what they mean now when they say you start to appreciate the afternoon naps. =)

20. DECEMBER
Well another sea day, ordinary routine, except today we put a table with some of our retail stuff in front of the gallery. Interesting how many people stop and actually look and buy the things on the table, when I compare it with regular days when we have all this behind the glass window. But I guess we are all like that.
During the day there was a special event during tea time. They had so many different cakes, snacks and desserts, mostly with some Christmas decoration. And the crew that served the food had Christmas hats on, some were dressed as elves and we even had Santa Claus, though he was a bit skinny and had no beard, but hey, we had some Christmas spirit! Most of us really don’t feel the whole holiday time, because we are all working and it is simply too warm for this season. But on the other hand we all like warm weather.
In the evening we decided to get some Christmas spirit anyway, so a small group gathered and we watched the movie Elf. It was nice to just hang out a bit and enjoy the movie. We decided we will do that more often and every time someone else will pick the movie. It sounds like a good idea, but we will see. =)

18. DECEMBER 2014 – SAN SEBASTIAN, LA GOMERA

Today I went on a trip around the island again. This time we’ve been on the island La Gomera, part of Canary Islands. Nice island, a little smaller than the others I think and it’s shape is almost round. But it has a lot of mountains, valleys and a lot of cliffs and rocky coastline. But it sure does look pretty amazing. I liked the scenery, although it is a little bit “empty” island, because there isn’t many villages and not many random houses in the middle of nowhere. But maybe that’s what makes it more pure.
I think my favourite part of the trip was when we were driving through some jungle. Our guide said that forest is part of Unesco natural heritage and it’s a national park. The whole forest is one of the oldest on the world, if I remember right, and once when these islands were still part of the mainland, this was part of a large forest that grew through the large part of Europe, part of northern Africa and what are now as Canary islands. If I remember the facts right, this is the largest part of it that still exists and there are few smaller parts on other Canary islands. When you drive through it you really see it is a jungle and I feel a little sad because we didn’t go out of the bus there and maybe walk through it a little. Maybe that’s a good enough reason to return some day. They say this island is great for hiking and mountain biking, so I guess I should revisit.
So I had another amazing trip full of gorgeous scenic. Because the girl I was replacing just left two days ago, this was the first time I was filming all by myself. Now I got the real picture how my job will look like in the next few months. To be honest… I love it! I’ve been here for about two weeks now and I still enjoy it so much! From time to time I still can’t believe I am here! And if there is something I don’t like too much I just ignore it, I’m not letting any stuff to destroy my happy moments. Well to be honest, there are not many things that I wouldn’t like anyway. =D

17. DECEMBER 2014 – LAS PALMAS, GRAND CANARIA

My first safety drill is behind me now. Interesting, but I really hope we’ll never have to do all the stuff for real. I still have some more training to do in the next few days, you know, the basic safety stuff. But it’s for our own good that we know all that.
Anyway, because of the drill and the rainy weather I didn’t go on any tour, so we had some free time until the early evening. We decided to go to the shopping mall on the other side of the city. Girls needed some Christmas stuff and we all needed some new clothes. I decided to buy myself some sporty pants, because they are so comfortable and I love to wear them when I have some time off and I am just sitting in my room. Since the holidays are almost here I decided I need something a little shiny for the Christmas evening, but also it must be something I could wear through the year too. Because I have a black skirt with me, I decided to buy a silver shirt. I wanted a silver shirt for a long time now, but I never saw one that I would like. They always have some large shiny pieces that I don’t like, or the shirt looks nice, but the colour is wrong and so on. So the last shop I went in, there it was, a perfect shirt, but sadly it was in gold colour. I asked the shop keeper if they maybe have silver ones as well, and who would guess, they did! So I found the shirt I wanted! Now I’ll be shiny! =)