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? =)

11. DECEMBER 2014 – SAO VINCENTE ISLAND, CAPE VERDE

I really want to have this blog more up to date, but the internet on the ship often doesn’t work and even if it does, it is usually too slow to upload any photos. So there is no other way than to wait for some good Wi-Fi spot when we will be at some harbour, but that is if I will have time to use it of course.
So anyway, this day our ship was at the harbour at the town Mindelo on the island of Sao Vincente. This time I was assigned as an escort to one of the buses that went on the short trip around the island. It was about four hours long trip and we visited some locations around Mindelo, African market, fruit market, handicraft museum and cultural centre. Very interesting to see, though I wasn’t really able to pay much attention, because I had to work – that means I was running around with my camera and clumsy tripod. =)
From the city we went up to the closest mountains to get some nice views, although the visibility wasn’t the best and the wind up there was really blowing like crazy. While I was filming the wind was actually shaking the heavy tripod, but I noticed that later when I was editing the footage. We went to some sand dunes at the coast. The sand gets to the island from the Sahara desert and they say that when the wind is blowing from that direction the visibility can be even worse. So yeah, we got the chance to walk on the desert sand.
After that we went to a small town that is quite popular spot for tourists and locals with a bit more money. You noticed that right away because the houses looked much nicer and finished. They said that a lot of the houses are owned by the people that live abroad, so they are mostly used just as summer houses. But it’s nice, right at the sea side with nice beach and great waves and winds for surfing, kiting or windsurfing. Well at that town we stopped at some local restaurant where we had a snack and got the chance to see a traditional local dance. Seems like people of Cape Verde enjoy some sort of mating dance, or at least it seemed that way. And oh my, after the main dance was over they pulled people out of the crowd to dance with them… and guess what, that guy decided to pick me… My resistance didn’t really work, he just pulled me out on a dance floor… Haha! But hey, I admit, it was quite fun, even though I looked very dumb and I had no idea what I was doing. =)
We returned back to the ship quite early, so I just ate some lunch and went for a short walk to the town of Mindelo. I decided to buy some souvenirs, because I would like to have something small from every location we visit if there will be a chance. This time I bought a nice pair of earrings that are actually made out of sea shell.
I must admit, all these trips are quite tiring, especially because when I get back I must still edit all the footage from the day. But when you think about it, this is why I get to see all the interesting places! So yeah, totally worth it!

10. DECEMBER 2014 – SAN ANTAO ISLAND, CAPE VERDE

We started our day at the Porto Novo on San Antao island, still part of Cape Verde. There were no docks big enough for our ship, so we were anchored nearby and we were tendering to the coast. I knew what tendering was, but I have never done it with one of the large tender boats.
Again, many small buses waited there for us. This day it first the first time I did all the video, so I was carrying around the tripod, which can be quite annoying sometimes. We drove through the mountains, first they were quite dry, later very green and full of different plants. Well mostly there were palm trees and sugar canes. Well this supposed to be the most beautiful of the Cape Verde islands, so our expectations were quite high. It was beautiful and again the views were amazing, but I still think I liked the one yesterday a bit more. I can’t decide. This one has really tall mountains, very deep valleys and more or less just black rocky beaches and cliffs. But it is funny how you see people and lonely houses in the middle of nowhere. You have no idea how to get to those houses and they are so far from any other house, village or town, that you really don’t know how they get anywhere. I know these people are used to it and they don’t need much, also they mostly grow all the food they need, but still, it is very unusual to us.
We stopped many times to take photos and all the views reminded me of parts of Asia from time to time, especially because there were terraces everywhere. The terrain is most of the time so steep that they really don’t have a choice, but to build terraces, where they grow different fruits and vegetables.
Once again our lunch was very good and even I was able to find something for myself. I ate some fruit that I have no idea what is was. It was peeled, so I couldn’t see how it originally looked like and I forgot to ask. It was small, like a size of a kiwi fruit, but it was red and tasted totally different, but very good.
So to put it in short, it was another amazing day full of beautiful views. Hopefully my videos will look great when I check them out and edit them all together. Once again, I feel tired, but blessed to be part of this amazing opportunity, or adventure if you will… =)

9. DECEMBER 2014 – SANTIAGO ISLAND, CAPE VERDE

Yay, my first day on a real trip off the ship! We arrived at the port in Praia on the Santiago island in the morning. I accompanied the group that went on a discovery tour around the Santiago island. There were more mini buses and I was on one of them with a smaller group of people. As soon as we left the port we passed some stands that immediately let us know that we were in Africa. Cape Verde were actually part of Portugal, because they were colonized, but they are really close to Africa, so they still have a lot of original culture. Well we passed these stands that were more or less just few sticks and plastic roof or something like that and they sold different goods. And another thing I didn’t expect – women carrying the buckets on their heads. I had no idea that is typical on these islands as well.
Our first stop was at some distillery in the middle of some valley. Then we drove up and down the hills and mountains and you could see that we were in or on the crater of an old volcano. It is not active anymore, but you can see the shape. And the vistas, the scenery, the views – oh, simply amazing! I fell in love with it right away! And the palm trees everywhere! Oh, I love palm trees. When we drove along these mountains and greenery I couldn’t believe how blessed I am to experience something like this. All these beautiful sights made me even forget there is a lot of litter everywhere. Yes, it is quite dirty, but mostly because people are not yet educated very well about this problem. Our guide said things are better now, but they still need some more time and better education.
Well the problem with this island is that it didn’t get much rain, especially this year, so the grounds are quite dry. There is still a lot of poverty, so the houses are very simple and most of them unfinished. But it is amazing how all the people we saw looked so happy. Everybody was smiling, waving at us, talking or laughing. Our guide, a local, told us that they are peaceful nation and even though they don’t have much, they appreciate what they have. Even when life is hard they don’t just sit and wait for better times, like many people in more civilized world do. He said they know you must do something and changes will come sooner or later. I love their way of thinking and it seems it is working very well for them.
We visited some botanical gardens that didn’t really impress me. They looked more like just bunch of paths through some forest or something like that. Nothing special to be honest. What shocked me there, was a photo one of the tourists showed me after he went on a toilet. There was a huge black spider, so I was really happy I didn’t go to the toilet at that location.
And right after I just realized that there are obviously large spiders on the island, we drove in our minibus and we passed some spider web with large spiders. At first I thought that must be some decoration or something, because it was right in front of some house and it almost looked like a fence made of net. Well I wasn’t so lucky, those were real spiders and they were everywhere! They were really large, probably about 7 or 8cm (with their legs of course), but luckily we didn’t see any of them moving. They were just sitting there on their nets. I still didn’t wanted to approach them, but I was brave enough to take a photo.
Our last stop was on the other side of the island, at the most beautiful beach they have. It is beautiful, it is sandy and it has palm trees… Exotic, as you would expect. It is just sad that all the unfinished, ruined and poor buildings kind of destroy the whole image. But it is very nice that is right next to town, so you can see the local fishing boats and people working at the beach. Really great experience to see the locals, not just tourists. We had lunch there and I usually have some problems with food, because I am vegan (if there is no other choice I eat something vegetarian as well, these days I ate few pieces of meat after about three or four years, but it just didn’t feel right and my stomach didn’t like it, so I guess that proves I really should stay vegan). Well this time there were a lot of local vegetables and fruits available, so I had no problem finding something for my taste. And I ate one of those cute little local bananas and they are really so much better than the ones we buy in supermarkets in Europe. Much sweeter and full of taste! I wanted to try one of these for such a long time…
We were returning along the coast, so this time we could only see the mountains more in the distance. But it was amazing and we passed some interesting bays and valleys. What made it so much funnier were the cows, donkeys, goats and chicken that crossed the road more or less on every corner. We almost hit few of them, but luckily we didn’t (though I heard one of the bussed did ran over the chicken). I mean, you don’t get to see this kind of a simple life everywhere and all that made the whole experience even more unique.
Well to put it together, I loved the day and I am starting to love this job more and more. It can be quite tough and busy, but in the end all the travelling, seeing new places and meeting new interesting people really make it all worth it. I think I still don’t really get that all this is actually real and I am the one that is able to experience it. That’s probably what happens when your dreams come true. Dare to dream big no matter what others say!