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!

Castle above Velenje

Even though I’ve been to Velenje a few times before, this was my first time at the castle on top of the hill. The size of it actually surprised me, because I didn’t know it was that big. And it is very well kept and renovated, so it is great for a short visit. Not to mention the view from up there. You can see the whole valley, the city and surrounding nature from up there.
We didn’t go inside the castle because we were a little bit late for that, but we walked around it and enjoyed the views. That was enough. And what I really like about this castle is a wooden bridge that really gives that feeling of medieval drawbridge (even though this one wasn’t meant to be moved, or maybe it used to be in medieval times).
I actually don’t like Velenje very much. I never did. Probably because it is more industrial, coal mine oriented town, and to me it simply looks grey and depressing, but I do like some places in its surroundings – like the artificial lakes that exist because the tunnels of the mines collapsed (I think that was actually planned, it didn’t happen by accident). Now I guess I found another location that I like in the area of Velenje.
Next time I’ll try to visit the inside too. =)

Church of St. Pankracij above Slovenj Gradec

Few weeks ago this was a random trip to Koroška region in Slovenia. We didn’t have any real plans on what to visit or where exactly to go. This was one of the places we found. We were in Slovenj Gradec and we noticed there is a church on a hill nearby. It actually looked more like a castle from below. Well it actually is some mix of fortress and a church.
So we decided to visit it and at first we were driving around on the wrong streets before we figured it out how to get to the top. And when you are up there it is actually really nice, because it is surrounded with forest (and some house right next to it that doesn’t fit up there if you ask me). But hey, it was a nice random finding and worth the visit if you are in the area.

Feeling the space travel at KSEVT, Vitanje

Ok, so I didn’t actually feel the space travel, but this place gets you a step closer to that. KSEVT building is dedicated to space travel and it is named after Slovenian space technology pioneer Herman Potočnik Noordung. There is an exhibition dedicated to his life, then to his work, to some fictional space ideas and also a part that represents actual space travel things and problems. It is quite interesting, probably even more to those that are very into this stuff.
This place is in a small village named Vitanje in Koroška, Slovenia. For us that live in more central part of Slovenia this is more or less in the middle of nowhere, but to be honest, it is not that far away and the scenery is really nice and pure.
Why I wanted to visit this place is the architecture. The KSEVT building got some awards and to me it is simply amazing, even though I am often not very thrilled about modern architecture. I really wanted to see it, to go inside, to take some photos… So I did.

Ok, I just have to tell you a little bit about this building – it looks a bit like a space ship, maybe even more because it is in the middle of a small and very ordinary Slovenian village and its shape is round. At first it looks like the whole structure is made only by windows and metal, but it actually contains concrete and wooden elements too. It is designed so you walk uphill and then downhill around the building when you walk through the exhibition. It is similar on the roof, because you can go around in circle, uphill and downhill and there is also a roof that leans on one side, so when you see the roof windows and the other “straight” buildings in the area you are a little bit confused what is usual and what is unusual. There is a large round hole in the middle of the first floor and through it you can see the conference room on the ground level. To tell you in short – it is very unusual.

You can see everything I wrote on the photos, but I am sure you can’t feel and appreciate this amazing building if you don’t visit it. The only thing I am sorry about is that I didn’t take photos with my tripod, so in many cases I had to compensate with ISO. So if you ever pass Vitanje make sure you stop at the building and if you have a chance, go inside, visit it, experience the building and feel it. =)

Grožnjan, Istria

I know, I know… It’s been a really long time since my last post, but there was so much stuff going on that my photos were just waiting on the computer. I’m working on some projects and I took a lot of photos lately, but I just didn’t find time to edit them and write something. Nevertheless, today I managed to organize myself and with more than a month of delay, here are some photos from the last day of a weekend in Istria. You can read about the first two days at some previous blog posts – Day one at Novigrad and day two at Pelegrin and Poreč.

Anyway, we spent our third day at a small town (or maybe it is more a village) named Grožnjan. It is a bit more inland of Istria, close to Slovenian border, but I’ve never been there before. They say it is an artist town, mostly occupied by painters. I’ve heard about how great it is, how nice, full of live and so on… So maybe I expected a little bit too much out of it. I mean, yes, I did like it, but maybe I wasn’t so excited about it, because it was already a bit off season and there wasn’t so much going on. There were some people, some shops were still open, but in general my impression of this town was a bit too “slow and lazy” for my taste. It is probably very nice for retired people or for those seeking a lot of peace and art. I like that stuff too, but here it was just too much for my taste. But hey, if you are in the area, I still think it is worth the visit. If nothing else, the views are great from up there!

Oh, and just so you know – when you see the road sign for Grožnjan, turn that way and when you think you got lost and you maybe missed some road, well, you probably didn’t. There is just not many signs that would let you know you are going the right way. And when you reach the top there are parking spaces, so don’t worry, unless it is a day with a lot of tourists.