My travels on Harmony of the Seas 2016/2017

Seems like I’m really going from one adventure to another, that’s why last few years I couldn’t keep up with blogging as much as I’d want to. I remember the day when I was on my first ship and we docked in Copenhagen. We saw a massive ship in the distance, it was Oasis of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in the world at the time. I said I’d love to work on a ship that size one day and my friends looked at me like I’m completely crazy: “Why the hell would you want that!? It must be too many people and too much work to do!”

Well… less than two years later, November 2016, I joined what is at the moment the biggest cruise ship in the world (which is just a tiny bit bigger than Oasis of the Seas), Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas. I can’t describe how excited I was when I heard the news that I’m joining this massive ship. Another dream came true… =D I joined the ship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When I was reaching the terminal I could see the massive thing that looked like a building. I was so excited.

Again I joined as a photographer. Well, Staff Photographer to be more specific and in a bit more than a month I finally got my promotion to Senior Photographer. By the end of the contract I signed up for a Private Studio Photographer position, so I started my training, which kind of gave me a position of a studio assistant.

Ok, so, the ship is absolutely amazing, but I think I’ll write another post about the ship… =) Before I joined I was a little worried how will I cope with so many people, such a big team, and so many guests. I mean, the ship holds around 6500 guests and about 2500 crew members. Only in photo team, it was I think 27 of us, so that worried me the most because these were the people I will really see every day and we all kind of had to get along. I was surprised, but this was the best team I ever had. People I met and worked with this contract were the best people (well, there is always one or two exceptions, but ok, nobody forces you to hang out with them…). =D We worked as a team, we went out together and we had fun and enjoyed the parties together.

Honestly, this contract I wasn’t actually that excited about the locations we visited. I mean… I was… But we were doing the same itinerary all the time, so you get used to it. And I kind of didn’t really want to spend much money for too much crazy stuff and too much sightseeing. I still saw a lot, had probably too much fun, tried new stuff, seen new places, but somehow this contract I lost a little bit of that passion for going out and taking a bunch of photos. I still tried to go out every time when we were in port, I skipped only a few days… This time when I went out I usually just tried to relax, enjoy, be in good company and forget about work and worries. Honestly, one of my favorite things was to go out in the Bahamas and just lie on a beach for an hour our two (usually I didn’t have more time).

 

Bahamas

So let me say something about the places I visited during this contract. High up on my wish list were definitely the Bahamas and I was lucky enough to visit Nassau. Sadly we didn’t have much time there, so I only went around the town usually and to the nearest beach. But I liked it there, I just wish I would have more time to actually explore the area. One thing I didn’t do and remains on my bucket list is the Atlantis resort water park with one of the most extreme waterslides in the world. I did visit the resort and the aquarium, just not the water park. But it’s ok, I fell in love with the resort itself. Seriously, I was dreaming about seeing this place for soooo long and when I actually got there I couldn’t stop smiling. Like a happy kid! Some girls want to go to Disneyworld, I just wanted to go to Atlantis. All this ocean theme is more my thing… =) Décor and the details there are absolutely stunning and I loved the aquarium and everything. I don’t really like cheesy and too much girly stuff, but I felt a bit like a little mermaid there. =D

St. Thomas

Another stop was St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Because our ship was so massive we docked at a different port than most cruise ships, but there are plenty of shuttle buses and taxis available, so no problem. Few times I again went to the nearest beach, which was about 20min walk away. Few times I took a shuttle to the other port, where it was some good places to do shopping. Once I actually saw my previous ship, Fred Olsen Balmoral, docked there, but sadly I couldn’t reach any of my friends that were still on it. Oh well, it was cute to see my previous home. =) And once we took a cable car on top of a hill where we got a beautiful view down on the island, bays, ships, and the ocean. It was great! Oh, and once we went to Magens Bay, apparently one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Honestly, I thought it was really nice, but I’ve seen better. Well actually it’s quite busy, so that doesn’t make it as beautiful, but if you keep walking a bit further down the beach, away from all the bars, it gets much emptier and so much more enjoyable.

St. Maarten

Ok then let’s move on to St. Maarten, one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean. This island is just pure awesomeness. I like the town, it’s cute, it’s not too small, not too big, there is a great beach right there in town and it has some cool shops as well. But definitely, the best thing in the whole island is my favorite fun beach ever, Maho Beach, the one with the airport right by the beach. I’ve been there before, you can check my old video to see how it looks like and why it’s so awesome. This contract I’ve been there twice and the second time was right on my birthday. Honestly, I don’t think I could pick a better spot out of the whole itinerary to be there for my birthday. I loved it! First of all, the whole airport experience is so much fun, just to see the planes landing, to be just a few meters under them and on top of all to stand behind the planes when they take off. Those jet blasts are sometimes really crazy and they blow everything away – one of my friend’s phone got blown away for example… He was holding the selfie stick, but apparently, the phone got jealous or something, so it got blown away in a jet blast. Kind of funny, but also sad, since we couldn’t find a phone after that… But on my birthday the planes were not the only cool thing there. We loved the big waves! At first, they didn’t seem that crazy, but then we were in the water and suddenly quite a big wave was coming towards us – my friend and I thought we can beat the nature and stand strong… Ha, we couldn’t be more wrong. When I opened my eyes I was sitting on a beach. =D Throwing ourselves in the waves and being covered with sand was probably the best thing I ever did on my birthday. =D

Haiti

Let me mention Labadee in Haiti… Well, Labadee is basically a large area that’s privately owned by Royal Caribbean, so only RCCL and its sister companies ships can visit this port. The whole place is all about beach time, sunbathing, relaxing and having fun. There is a long zip-line you can try, kayaks, slides, jet skis and a bunch of other activities and tours you can do. Well for us photographers that meant not really having much time, since we had to shoot at the gangway, or on a beach… I would probably like Labadee as a guest, but I absolutely hated standing in the sun for hours – and I love the sun, but what’s too much is too much. Oh well… At least few times we managed to have some fun kayaking and visiting Belly Beach for some local lunch. =)

Jamaica

Then we had Jamaica… Yes, I know, I’m horrible, I actually didn’t go out in Jamaica at all. Every time I only went out to the nearest bar for some Wi-Fi, plus they had a swimming pool… Once my friend and I decided we’ll go and explore the world outside the terminal, and since we couldn’t get more people to go out with us, it was just two of us and so all the taxi rides would be too expensive. So basically we walked around few blocks and were offered weed, a ride or braids on every single step. I hated that, so we got a bit grumpy and decided to just go back to the port. I’m sure Jamaica is amazing when you go out to some beach or waterfalls or so, but seriously, I didn’t want to spend a fortune or I didn’t get enough people to split the fare. Actually, I don’t regret it that much, but oh well, what’s done is done.

Cozumel, Mexico

One of the everybody’s favorite ports is Cozumel, Mexico. This place is always fun because it’s cheap and it’s so many things you can do. Once we had a crew party on a beach, then another time I went to get a new tattoo (yes, I love it and it’s awesome and I would do it again!). =) It was also a great place to go shopping because out of all ports this one was the cheapest. Food, clothes, everything! Well, probably the best time I ever had in Cozumel was when some of us rented two Jeeps and we made a bit of a road trip around the island. It was freaking awesome, like in movies or music videos, so much fun! You know, girls in bikinis, boys driving, drinking beer, off-road driving through some bushes, ocean view… Well, one of the guys knew about some private beach, so we kind of snuck through the fence and enjoyed our own private place, had fun in the water, took funny photos… Well, then the owner of the place came and told us we need to leave, but who cares, since we were about to leave anyway! Haha! Seriously, so much fun! Then another time we rented scooters and drove around, again went to a beach, enjoyed few drinks (personally I fell in love with Kraken – Rum and coke, it makes me feel like a pirate), went in the water… I’m sure these will always be one of my favorite memories. =D

Well from Cozumel you can actually take a ferry and go to the mainland to a town named Playa del Carmen. I went there once because I needed some clothes and I was told this was the best place for shopping. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. I mean, there is a lot of shops, but I didn’t really find anything much different than at home and the prices seemed quite similar, even though everybody was saying it’s cheap. But it’s a really cute city, I liked walking through it and I loved the spirit of the town, the colors and the people. Worth visiting for vacation I’d say. Once I took a tour from there and I went to see the pyramids. Well, I wanted to see Chichen Itza, but I realized I wouldn’t have much time there, so I’ll leave that for some other time. Instead, I went to see Coba Pyramids and it was absolutely awesome because I wanted to climb an ancient pyramid since I was a kid. And I did it, I climbed up a Mayan pyramid! How cool is that?! I loved it! I can’t describe the feeling when I reached the top and realized I’m standing on such a magnificent and so old architecture! On days like that, I honestly can’t believe how blessed I am to be able to see and experience such amazing moments! Besides this awesome spot, my tour included another thing I always wanted to do – swimming in cenote cave. We visited a nearby place, where you take spiral stairs down in the ground. When we reached the bottom there was a wooden platform and stairs that take you in the water. Absolutely amazing and magical! Yes, it’s a cave, no natural light, just some artificial lights so you at least see where you are. But yeah, the whole cave is basically a lake. There is water all around and we were able to swim, jump in and I even took my snorkeling gear and decided to explore the world under the water. Well, it’s very dark, so you can’t see that much, but there is enough light to make everything a bit visible and creepy at the same time. Magnificent!

Puerto Rico

And then the last port we visited, but when I was on board sadly only twice and I was able to get out only once – Puerto Rico! Oh my, I know why everybody loves this place – it’s awesome! The city is absolutely fantastic, full of colors, charm, history and besides it has some really cool fortresses! I went to see San Felipe del Morro, which stands at the edge of a bay, guarding the city. It’s definitely worth a visit! This is another place I’d love to return one day and explore it more on my own because sadly, my time there was very limited.

 

Honestly, this contract I was quite tired, especially last few months. I can’t complain about the schedule or the team or the ship, all of it was amazing, but I think what made me so exhausted was a number of people we were dealing with every single day. I always loved going out and exploring ports, but this time I needed to rest more than previous contracts. Well, I admit, there were some cool parties that I simply didn’t want to miss, so of course, I had to go to the party and then in the morning, we had to work… Oh, the suffering… But hey, it was fun, so it was worth it and we have funny stories to tell now. =D Well, actually if all you do is work and sleep you go crazy, so every now and then you really need to go and enjoy the party, have fun, try not to drink too much… Actually, as crew members we were not allowed to drink too much – we’re supposed to be “able to drive a car”. Well… we all know how that goes and sometimes you have that one drink too much, maybe two… But yeah, you can get fired for being over the limit, so better be careful.

Anyway, yes, this contract was super fun, I loved it, but I just wish I wouldn’t be that tired… But as I said, still worth it, since I met so many amazing people, plus I can say I worked on world’s largest cruise ship. =D Yaaay!

When I was leaving the ship I was happy, but as usually, sad as well. It was my second home, my second family and it was awesome… =D

Now I hope you’ll enjoy the photos… =)

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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!