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!

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

15. and 16. DECEMBER 2014 – SANTA CRUZ, TENERIFE

15. DECEMBER
We reached the city Santa Cruz on Tenerife island, but since it was the last whole day of this cruise we were quite busy at the gallery. After we finished with work I decided to go for a walk around the town, because the scenery looked really nice through the window. And of course I often heard about Tenerife and everybody loved it, so I had to see at least a little bit.
As soon as I stepped on the shore I fell in love with the island. The views were gorgeous! High green hills, palm trees and the city that seemed just the right size. I walked through the town and I was amazed by the architecture. There is a beautiful fountain with two very interesting modern buildings that have the roof covered with plants. I always liked that type of architecture. Beside that I was impressed by other buildings as well, because most of them are historical and with some character. Another thing I loved was the street in old town, more like an avenue, but it’s a pedestrian zone, so there were no cars. The whole length of the street was full of trees, benches and really nice shops. At one part of the street I reached a small square with more amazing and unique trees. I realized I was in front of the city hall or something like that. There were also a lot of red Christmas star flowers – I am not sure how they are actually called, but I know them as Christmas star flowers. I had no idea they can just grow outdoors like that. In Slovenia we usually have them indoors.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the walk around the city. I was impressed by the amount of nice shops as well. I don’t really shop a lot, but this time I actually needed some new clothes and accessories, a little bit also because I didn’t pack a lot of stuff. Well I didn’t buy any clothes, but I managed to get a really useful purse that can be used in three different combinations. Very interesting. So yay, a successful day if you ask me.
When I was returning back to the ship I was looking at the houses on top of the hills and I imagined how nice views they must have from up there. I was a little bit sad, because I didn’t have time to explore the island or the rest of the city, but I decided that I will return some day. So far this is one of my favourite locations I have ever visited. Actually, I was so impressed by the city and I felt so at home that I said to myself that this might be my dream place to live someday. Well, first I would still like to visit and try to live in California, but if that plan fails, I think I found my plan B.
Anyway, in the evening we went out again, had some drinks, went to the night club and so on. I wasn’t really in the mood for party and I was quite tired, so I went back to the ship sooner than most of the others. And also we had to work in the morning, so I really needed some sleep.

16. DECEMBER
This was the last cruise day, so people were leaving in the morning. The girl I was replacing left as well, so we had to say goodbye. I must say I will miss her, even though I knew her for only a week, but she was really nice and we got along very well. I hope we’ll still keep in touch.
Anyway, again I had to work in the morning and later a new group of people arrived, so I had to shoot the video again. I got some really nice shots. After all that I had to edit all the footage and I did it faster than I thought I would, but when I exported the video I realized I forgot about some settings at the beginning, so I had to do everything all over again. Oh well, it happens, but now I know about this mistake and I will hopefully not do it again. So yeah, quite a busy day and sadly no time for me to have a walk around the city again. Hopefully next time, if nothing else, I’ll book my vacation here.