My 2016 Ship Life

Long time has pass since I last wrote. I guess that should tell you I was a bit too busy enjoying life. =) So what happened this year? My new adventure started in February. I decided to return to ship life and start a new adventure with a different company. I got hired as a cruise ship photographer by American company named Image Group. So yes, I spent few months on the waves again and that’s more or less the reason I didn’t write anything on this blog. When you’re on board it’s just hard to find any free time to write, and when I do have time I spend it to rest, relax and have fun. =)

In February I flew to Miami where I joined the rest of us “new hires” and we all attended a few day training program. We were a fun international group and I could say we got along very well, considering we only met each other. For most of us this was our first time in USA, so we were all excited about small things. We were all impressed by cars in Miami, the avenues, the width of the roads and of course we were unable to resist some typical things we see online and on TV – Walmart… =D I know, for Americans probably silly thing to be excited about – for us, this was fun experience, because we hear so much about it. So yes, we all had to go to Walmart. =D Beside this unusual tourist experience we also went downtown to Miami Beach. Sadly we didn’t have much time to really enjoy it, but we had few hours and that was ok with us. Few drinks, some food, see the famous beach, stare at amazing cars that passed by and we even saw CSI van parked in front of some house! Now that was a proper TV scene. We kept saying: “OMG, look, it’s like in the movies!” =D

Last day of the training they told us what are our assignments and which ship will we be joining. I was one of the first ones to be told I was going to Australia. I was shocked and happy at the same time. I expected some Caribbean or Europe, instead I got the land down under! I checked the itinerary and I was immediately excited. I was joining in Brisbane in Australia, then we had circular navigation around Australian continent together with Tasmania. Then followed some New Zealand and crossing the Pacific Ocean with stops on French Polynesian islands and Hawaii. After that we had two weeks of dry dock in Portland, Oregon and after that 4 months of cruising in Alaska and in the end of my contract another crossing of Pacific back towards Australia. I was really surprised in a positive way, because I don’t think I ever imagined I’d actually visit this kind of places ever in my life.

So… First I was laughing because I packed one sarong with Hawaii text, some snickers with brand name Australian and another pair with brand name Polynesian. It was almost like I was packing and buying stuff that later led me to these locations. I thought it was really funny. But since my religion is “Law of attraction”, maybe that was it… =)

I started my journey in Slovenia, flew to Miami for those few days, then all across the US with airport stop in Los Angeles and continued my journey to Brisbane, Australia. Let me just say that I’ve been dreaming about LA since I was 16 and I always wanted to live there, even though I haven’t been there yet. But for me just changing flights at LAX was like a dream come true. The view of the city from the sky, the streets, lights and the airport itself… My eyes got a bit wet, and trust me, I don’t cry easily. When you dream about something so passionately and you can touch just a little bit of those dreams in real world, it’s absolutely indescribable experience. I went for some food at the airport and for the first time in my life I opened a fortune cookie – it said “Your future is bright”. I still carry this paper with me in my wallet and it gives me extra dose of optimism every time I look at it. =)

All I can say – my journey started absolutely amazing, even though I didn’t have Valentine’s day this year… Ok, this is another interesting story. =) My flight from LA was around 10PM local time on 13th February and because of the international date line in between I landed in Australia on 15th February, so I basically skipped the whole 14th February. Haha! My brother said to me: “Forever alone.” =D Haha!
So, let’s try to summon up these 8 months. In Australia I had a chance to cuddle a koala bear, pet a kangaroo, see some massive bats, some crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, dingo, seen the lightening hit the ground, touched the Sydney Opera house, snorkelled at The Great Barrier Reef and I visited some cool museums. Once I was on the forward outside deck in the middle of the night and I’ve seen dolphins jumping out next to the ship – absolutely amazing!

In New Zealand I’ve seen amazing Milford Sounds fjords, done some nice hiking and visited WETA workshop museum – the place where they make movie props. WETA is most famous for props in movies Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, but also Narnia, District 9 and many more. I took some photos at the shop and in front of the building, but we were not allowed to take photos inside. Let me just tell you I touched the mithril, seen original armors and weapons and I even held an original gun from the movie District 9. For movie buffs and LOTR fans this is close to paradise. =D
From there we actually did go to proper paradise. We had stops in Bora-Bora, Tahiti and Morea – three French Polynesian islands with proper tropical climate, palm trees, white sandy beaches and turquoise sea. I visited those small wooden houses that are built above the water, I’ve seen some amazing jungles and I was snorkeling with reef sharks and sting rays. It was absolutely amazing!

Another paradise stop were Hawaii. We visited Maui, Oahu, The Big Island and Kauai. I’ve been to the famous Waikiki Beach, I’ve seen volcanos and even a real lava flow coming into the ocean, I was swimming with turtles (we randomly encountered them while snorkeling), I’ve eaten at the famous Duke’s restaurant, seen dolphins, seen some waterfalls and I even learned how to surf! I guess I couldn’t pick a better place to learn this sport than the islands where it all started. =) Although I was told later on in the day that they spotted a great white shark just at the area where I was surfing… I guess luck really is on my side. =) Nevertheless, from now on Hawaiian Islands are my favorite place in the world and I think plumeria is now my favorite flower. =)

Following all these paradise islands there was dry dock in Portland, Oregon waiting for our ship. We disembarked all the guests and basically crew had the whole ship for ourselves. Well, obviously we had quite a lot of limitations, because a lot of areas were closed for maintenance. But we did eat at the main self-service dining room called Windjammer and we didn’t have to wear our uniforms (that was the most awesome part for most of us). Now and then certain sections of the ship would be without electricity or water, but hey, that was part of the fun of the dry dock. Photo team was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have much work to do during dry dock. That meant we had a looooot of free time. And that meant – have fun, enjoy, relax, discover, explore… One day we rented a car and went to see the famous Multnomah Falls. I actually had this place as desktop background on my computer for years and for a long time I thought it was some sort of fantasy style illustration and learned years later that this place actually exists. I had no idea that’s so close to Portland, so imagine my excitement when I realized we can drive to that place! This was like a dream come true for me and I think all my friends were really glad I suggested we go there. It was spectacular! =D

Beside exploring the waterfalls we’ve also done some hiking in the park above Portland, we visited the river side, we’ve all done some shopping, visited famous Saturday market, we even went to a strip club (Hey, they say try everything once in your life… Well, except drugs and other illegal stuff – don’t do that.). I even got a lap dance from some sexy male stripper. Never thought I’ll ever experience that, haha! =D Besides all that I even visited a “Filmed by Bike” festival, because my friend’s girlfriend was there representing their video. They even won some award there, so I’m definitely glad I went. And it was absolutely amazing feeling to meet up with another Slovenian. =D And since she knows my brother I even managed to give her some small souvenirs to take them back home and give them to my family when she comes back. =D

So… When the ship was back in the water we sailed towards Vancouver, Canada, got our new round of guests and started our Alaskan season. Four months of Alaska… For many people real fun and amazing experiences, for me it was kind of torture… Yes, I agree Alaskan wilderness and nature looks beautiful, but the climate is just not what I crave for and I’m used to seeing mountains every day, because I live under the Alps. I guess few cruises would be nice, but few months were too much for me. First few weeks we also had nice warm sunny weather and later on we had a lot of rainy and cloudy cruises. But I did see some whales, I’ve seen how the glacier ice is caving and falling into the water, I’ve seen some nice lakes, mountains and forests. Our last cruises we were even lucky enough to see northern lights. But even with all that beauty of nature, my head was set on tropical places and palm trees. =)
Luckily I was on board for another crossing, so I got Hawaii and French Polynesia one more time before flying back home. I must say that when I was on board we were quite lucky with the Ocean Gods and we didn’t have any really bad weather. We had a big storm a day before my departure home, but it didn’t feel that bad. It did look rather spectacular, because we were in the middle of Pacific, black night all around us, strong wind and then the whole sky would turn white when the lightening started. Amazing and a bit scary feeling, but I’m happy I’ve seen something as impressive as this.

I was flying home from Wellington in New Zealand, to Melbourne, to Dubai, to Frankfurt and in the end to Ljubljana. I had 28 hours in the air, 38 travel hours all together. This was for sure the longest journey I had so far. =)
When I look back I can only say these eight months were absolutely spectacular and I’m so glad I’ve done it all. On board I met some amazing people, got great friends, had the best parties, explored so much, seen places I never thought I’ll ever see, had experiences I never believed I can possible have and I came home believing anything is possible even more than before. It’s hard to explain to people how “ship life” works and how it changes a person. For sure it’s not for everybody. I mean, I’ve seen people quitting after few weeks, crying after few hours, being home sick and just had enough of being around people. But to me, this is the best adventure of my life so far. I truly feel blessed and often still can’t believe all this is happening to me, because it feels like a movie. But it is true, it’s my reality. =D
Thank you all that shared time with me in these few months, all of you that I consider my ship friends and everybody that was crazy enough to do some of these adventures with me. =D I’m also attaching a video of my adventures… =)

Video: Radiance of the Seas 2016

So now I’m already on the way towards new adventure… I’ll let you know about this one when I return. =) For now I just wish you all great start of New Year and keep dreaming – dreams do come true! =D

Experiencing Philippines 2015

Ah yes, another late blog post. But better late than never! So, long story short… Fell in love with Filipino while I was working on a cruise ship, so I decided to visit him when we were both off ships. I was thinking I might stay there at first, by my plans soon changed, so I just decided to have a time of my life, enjoy the country, travel and have fun!

This was my first visit of Asia and my first really long flight, but I wasn’t too nervous. I just took it as another adventure. My flight was from Venice (Italy) to Istanbul and then to Manila. It was really funny because I bumped into another Slovenian on my first flight and then in Istanbul two Slovenian couples were standing next to me, so we talked a bit which places are they planning to visit in Philippines and so on. Seriously, there is 2.000.000 of us Slovenians, but we seem to be everywhere… =D

 

Anyway, at the airport Joe was waiting for me and his dad picked us up. He took us to Joe’s brother’s house, where we were staying for most of the time. It’s just a bit south of Manila in a smaller town. For me this was my first “Asia experience”, first time being in such traffic, seeing all these weird vehicles, so many people, such different buildings, smell, noise and heath… Then followed the experience of living “as locals” in Philippines… Using the tricycles and jeepneys to get anywhere, buying stuff at some random stands in the middle of the street, watching local tv shows (there is one around noon that everybody is watching but I failed to see why it was so interesting), eating like locals (which means going to fast food restaurants too – they love it)…

The biggest shockers for me happened first and second night. I went downstairs to the bathroom in the middle of the night and there was small roach waiting for me in front of the door. I hate bugs, I seriously hate them and I’m scared of them and they are disgusting! Second night I nearly died because there was not one small one, but two large cockroaches running around the ground floor so I couldn’t even get to the toilet! Then one night I went to the kitchen (that’s where they originated) and I wanted to take a plate and another one crawled out and ran across kitchen counter. Holy sh*t! By the end I learned not to be on the ground floor after about 10 p.m., that’s when they come out… But sadly I learned later that they are everywhere around Philippines and that they get into any house, and they can get much higher than ground floor… Yay, great news… NOT!

 

Ok, let’s leave these disgusting menaces now… =) So, we did some sightseeing around Manila. We had to take few jeepney rides and a bus to get to city center. I managed to experience proper traffic, but actually I learned later that it can get even worse… Around 6 a.m. traffic already starts, by 8 all vehicles basically stop, or at least I have no idea how anything there moves for more than 1m. We went to the fortress and old city, which is kinda nice, but to be honest, I’ve seen so many more beautiful historic places that this one didn’t really feel special to me.

We even went to Tondo, area where most tourists don’t go because it’s more of a ghetto place and it’s considered dangerous for white people, but being with a local makes it a bit safer and easier. I was actually really happy to see this place, because you can see how so many people live in such small poor apartments. Eye opening experience, honestly. But funny, most still find a way to own a tv, smart phones and stuff that we actually consider as a bit of a luxury. We also visited Divisoria – shopping area with cheap stuff, fake brands and you can buy everything you can imagine! And it’s soooooooooo crowded!

Then we went to another extreme – to Mall of Asia, one of the biggest shopping malls in the world. It’s huge, at least for me… It’s posh, full of expensive brands, restaurants, cinemas and even ice skating ring, but every weekend they have fireworks in the evening… That day I went from one world to another in few hours, it couldn’t be more black and white. You can’t see this kind of extremes in Slovenia, not even by far!

Then one day we went to Enchanted Kingdom, small amusement park (that is actually the largest in Philippines), which had one or two really awesome roller coasters and some cool water rides. And I love extreme thrill rides… =)

 

Tagaytay was also on our list of places we wanted to see. It’s a bit south of Manila and it’s a town by a lake and there is the world’s smallest volcano in the middle of the lake. It was a bit cloudy, foggy and rainy day, but that didn’t really ruin the day. On one of the viewpoints they have zip-line, so we had to do that. That was fun (and cheap and you also get free photo)! But to be honest, I don’t know, it was ok, but I’m not sure if it’s worth all the drive… Maybe on a sunny day.

 

Our first “proper getaway” was when we visited “Joe’s island” Marinduque, an island not so far from Manila. We had to travel in night time, so we left house in the evening, got to ferry terminal around 2 a.m., had ferry around 4 a.m., got to the island around 6 a.m., got to Joe’s house around 7 a.m.. This was totally different extreme from what I saw around Manila. Peace, quiet, no traffic, just nature and palm trees everywhere! His house is kinda on top of a hill in the middle of the forest and rice fields. Beautiful getaway, which is cool, but also a bit too disconnected from civilization for me. But it was nice for few days. We got some fresh coconuts, pineapples, bananas and mangoes. I was also a huge attraction in the area, because apparently I was the first white person that came to that hill. All distant family members came to see me and we even got invited to a funeral. What the hell?! So ok, I went. But it wasn’t really a funeral, it was that thing where they all gather around deceased person. But Filipinos manage to make a party out of it, everybody is laughing, eating and getting drunk. And this time it was an opportunity for all the local kids to take photos with me… I felt so strange, I’ve never felt such an outsider before! They were all really nice to me, but still, when I walked into that area it felt like in movies where music stops and everybody turns around and looks at you. Creepy!

One day we went to the beach, but that took us one hour with tricycle (these things are so slow…). Well, it was a nice beach and it had some nice huts for shade. But I hated the water, because there were coral and stone areas in the water and soooooo many large black sea urchins! I love seaside and I love to be in the water, but I couldn’t really enjoy it this time. Another thing – most Filipinos wear t-shirts and shorts on a beach, especially girls. I was told a bit because they don’t want to get tanned, a bit because they’re not really confident apparently. This isn’t a touristic destination, so I was the only white person at the beach and I was in my bikini, so I felt uncomfortable that everybody was staring at me. Later on a white couple came by, so apparently I some tourists do come there…

Well going to that island took us about 6 hours, while going back took us about 12 hours… Seriously, don’t be surprised if your ride stays still for an hour because there is still one free seat that they need to fill. Yay… =) Almost nothing and almost nobody is on time there…

 

Then we had another great trip when we visited our friend from the ship that lives just a bit north of Manila. Funny, but his grandpa just had his birthday party when we arrived. Once again, everybody was so happy to meet me and they took me in as part of the family. We drank, sung videoke and had fun. It’s amazing how Filipinos make you feel welcome, even though you’re a total outsider.

 

My favorite part of the whole month I spent in Philippines was when we went to Palawan, which is considered the most beautiful island in the world. Well, first our flight was delayed and instead of arriving there 7 p.m. we got there 7 a.m.. Jaka, a Slovenian that lives there arranged everything during our stay there, so he got us some cheap but nice hotels and recommended which tours were the best to take.

As soon as we arrived we had our first tour to the Underground River. Another typical Filipino “organization” – whole group gets to the location, but then there is a line of tourists and your tour guide gets a number and then you wait for hours for your turn. You have to schedule a tour in advance anyway, so they could just tell you what time to come… Oh well, luckily our tour guide suggested we go on a canoe ride through mangrove forest while we were waiting. I always liked mangroves. Maybe because we don’t have them in my country. I felt a bit like Pocahontas. It was peaceful, you could feel and hear the nature, not just see it. Beautiful!

After that we had on a typical bamboo boat, fought with high waves and arrived to our destination – the Underground River. Oh, what a beautiful place! First you walk through meters through jungle, then you arrive at some hidden bay and you can see water going inside the cave. They put few of us in these canoes again and our tour guide paddled us inside. It’s beautiful because there are no lights, only a tour guide turns his flashlight in direction he wants. Quiet, peace, different stalactite above your head, you can hear water dripping and there is dark water everywhere around you… Truly one of the most mysterious and beautiful places I’ve ever visited. I loved it!

After our cave adventure we went to El Nido in northern part of Palawan. It’s probably the most visited tourist spot in the whole Philippines. It took us about 6 hours with a van from Puerto Princessa to get there, but it’s totally worth it. Our hotel was in the center of the small town, just second line from the beach. I felt so much more comfortable there, because that area is full of white people and a lot of them actually live there. We had a tour next day and it was supposed to start at 9, but it started 10 a.m.. As soon as the boat got out of the bay there was a gorgeous view on all the small islands and islets scattered around the area. We stopped at one beach for a swim in a tropical paradise. Then we went to another island and stopped in a bay where they offered kayaks to get to Small Lagoon, because rocks in the area are sharp and there are some poisonous creatures on the sea floor. So we rented a kayak and we had to go through a small tunnel to reach this hidden lagoon and once you get out on the other side it’s like a new world. It’s beautiful and mysterious, there are high grey cliffs around you and you really feel small. Then we were supposed to have lunch on another island, but our boat broke down, so we had to have lunch on a small “Robinson” beach in the bay. Oh, what a “torture”! Food, sea, sandy beach and palm trees… I really didn’t mind being stuck there for about two hours! =D

So after our tummies were full we got another boat. This one was named Fast and Furious, so we were confident it will work! =D We went to a Hidden Lagoon this time. I thought the last one was hidden, but at this one you actually had to climb through a hole in a rock to get into a small lagoon, again surrounded by majestic high cliffs. And our last stop was the Big Lagoon, where we had an option to walk into the lagoon or to do some snorkeling. Because I simply love snorkeling I decided for that and I’ll never be sorry I took this option. There is a coral reef full of corals and colorful fish! I had my underwater camera with me, but I never imagined fish would swim towards me and stop in front to “pose” for my camera. Seriously, I started laughing because some of them just stared at me! Hilarious and magnificent experience! I loved every second of it! =D

Sadly we didn’t have much time, so next day we spent a morning at the beach and then we had to go back to Puerto Princessa. In the evening we went to an Italian restaurant that I heard about and the owner is Slovenian. We bumped into our tourist agency guy, Jaka as well! But the funniest thing was when those four Slovenians I met at the airport in Istanbul came in the restaurant and suddenly we were a majority! =D

Ah, Palawan, totally worth visiting and I’d love to revisit it one day. Truly magnificent island and I can understand now why they say it’s the most beautiful in the world. Well, roads and houses could be better, as they could be everywhere in Philippines, but this is not why you travel and visit beautiful nature. =)

 

Before I left we still had few days and we couldn’t book a tour to Segada and rice fields in the north, so we decided just to go to Subic and have some time at the beach there. Well, not really what I expected, but still better than to stay in Manila. What I didn’t know and nobody told me beforehand, that this area is mostly famous for prostitution and not really for sandy beaches… =D Oops! Well, we still spent some nice time at the beach and they offer great deals for scuba diving, but we decided just for snorkeling again. Ah, bad idea! There is a port on the other side of the bay, so you don’t get that feeling of paradise and water is far from clear. Boat took us to a small island in the middle of the bay, but the whole area is surrounded with large sea urchins! Really, not much to see beside sea urchins. But the worst thing was when my whole body felt itchy and I couldn’t even swim anymore, I just had to scratch myself! Joe told me it was because sea urchins put some toxins into the water to drive away potential predators. So yeah, not really the best snorkeling site…

But the funniest thing at the Subic beach are the “floating bars”, that are built on a raft and they have some other raft that takes you there. What I didn’t know and believe until I saw it, was that around noon some girls in short skirts and high heels get on the raft to the bar. A bit later a group of American guys goes over and then it you can hear the laughter… Raft is just enough far away from the beach that you can but can’t see what’s going on there, but when you kinda figure out you know that it’s all kinds of “dirty stuff”. Kinda awkward if you don’t know and you might be at the beach with a kid or something. =) So if you ever go to Subic, expect that… But honestly, I wouldn’t recommend visiting that place, there are so many much more beautiful locations!

 

That’s how a month passed by really quickly and I had to go back home. Yes, I had planned to stay there, but once I got there I realized I’d need to have some more savings. And after being there for a while I realized there is just no way could I live in metro Manila area. It’s too different, to polluted, too dirty, too smelly, too much traffic, too crowded and really not what I want. And to be honest, when you’re a tourist there you don’t’ really care about make-up, you wear sporty clothes, you don’t care about sweat too much, but when I realized if I’d live there and go to work, meetings and have to dress up a bit better, I think I’d hate it! To dress nicely and then drive around with public transportation it’s easy to get clothes dirty or torn, but also you sweat like a pig, so if you just washed your hair, before you reach your destination you already look like you didn’t shower for a week. So yeah, I guess it’s true, moisture and high temperatures start to annoy you, because it’s always like that. Probably if your job is not an office job and you don’t have meetings or you don’t have to drive far away it’s ok, but otherwise I’d really get annoyed.

If I’d stay in Philippines I’d pick Palawan, but it would have to be a house on a beach or very close to the beach, otherwise that just wouldn’t be it. And I think I’d have to say goodbye to my photography career, because if you’re not a wedding or family photographer there is not really a chance to earn any money there. Or maybe I just didn’t see it…

 

So that’s it for now, but before I let you all go, I just made a bit of a sum-up of things that I found unusual, weird or “not expected” in Philippines.

  • Toilet paper is not really a common thing, most people just use water – I have no idea how that works, well, I can imagine, but I don’t really want to… =D So I rather just had tissues with me everywhere I went.
  • There is a security check every time you go in a larger grocery store or a shopping mall.
  • You can get normal shower, but a lot of locals just have a bucket of water… It’s not so unusual if you only have one pipe with running water inside or outside the house and you just use buckets.
  • In some remote places there is running water only few times per day for few minutes!
  • Around larger cities – traffic, traffic everywhere, all the time, but especially around rush hours!
  • Their weird roosters shout all the time! Seriously, every half hour or so, even in the middle of the night. And yes, they have chicken and roosters in the middle of the city as well.
  • A lot of stray cats and dogs everywhere.
  • If you’re white most locals assume you’re rich and famous, so most likely they’ll want to have photos with you, or they’ll ask for some money. And yes, everybody stares at you, especially at not so touristic places.
  • In Manila prepare for smog, bad smell and loud noise!
  • There is “Filipino time” for a lot of things – which means people will be late for few hours…
  • If you shop where most locals do (like Divisoria in Manila) you can get seriously cheap stuff!
  • Prepare to see cockroaches in the evening, sometimes even on the streets…
  • Watch your step EVERYWHERE and ALL THE TIME, because there are often some open shafts, holes, cables and trash lying on the ground, but also look above, because sometimes old electric cables are hanging really low and you can hit your head (almost happened to me).

My opinion overall – amazing country for adventurers, totally awesome to spend your vacation there, awesome islands and beaches and I would totally do it again and again, but I can’t see myself living there. After being at home for a month after the visit, I feel this even more, but I’m grateful I was able to experience it a bit different than most tourists. I could say I saw less, but experienced more. Next time I need to visit some more islands! =D

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!

FIRST DAYS AT SEA

Even though I went to sleep at 23:00, if I consider the new time zone, that is actually 1:00 in the morning at central European time, so it was late. But I woke up at around 7:00 on the new time zone, so that is 9:00 back home. I thought I will sleep longer, but it seems that was all the sleep I needed. I had some free time because of that, so I went through the brochures in my cabin, to learn more about the ship and the following cruises. On one of the papers there was a quote: “Some people dream their dreams, others stay awake and live them.” That sentence really made me think and I realized that I tried to live my dreams for so long, and now it is actually happening, or at least it seems so.
Then I met with the videographer that I will be replacing and I followed her around when she was filming. Of course I know how to make videos, but I had to learn a little bit what to shoot on these cruises. Since this was a day at sea, we had to film some events and activities on board. There was some game with small balls and to me that was quite funny, because the ship is constantly moving and the balls aren’t really going in right directions. The darts were quite “normal”, considering the waves. Then we went on the top deck to film some golf that is actually more like a mini golf. But that was a lot of fun for me, because it was my first time on the top deck and it was sunny and quite warm! There was an ocean all around us and it did feel a little bit surreal…
And the big surprise (for me) with the events – the dolphin races… Sounds interesting, I know. I had no idea what that is. Now I do… =) There are like wooden statues in a shape of dolphins and you need a player for every statue. The statues are quite big, so the player stands behind it and actually moves with it. The game master then throws the dice and whichever number is up, that player needs to move one field further (there is like a board with fields on the ground). To me, seeing this game for the first time was really funny. The team leading the whole event sure knows how to make it attractive and fun. I have to tell my mom about this game, this will be like an extreme sport for her. =)
I have to admit, I love this experience so far, but I really have to get used to the waves. Usually I don’t get sea sickness, but this time I am on the ship for much longer then I am used to and on bigger waves. I just feel a little dizzy most of the time, especially when I don’t sit down for few hours. It happened to me that I felt sick for a moment, so I just had to sit down and let it pass. Luckily I was ok and there was no dirty ending… =) But I’m sure I’ll get used to it sooner or later. At the moment I am just happy for every free moment that I can sit down or get in my room to lie down for a while. It helps a lot. I feel kind of bad that I am not outside enjoying the sun on the deck, but I really need to get used to all this. I am sure I’ll have enough time for the deck and the sun in next few months.
Oh, and I really need to mention the people. I know I’ve only been here for two days now, but I already met many people. The staff and the guests are all very nice and they are all willing to say few words with you. I am sure there will be some bad experiences along the way, but for now I can only say that I have never been surrounded by so many nice people.

Foz do Arelho and rush to ESAD (day 117)

Day 117, Monday, 14.01.2013
Funny, it was another day when I didn’t have any problems with waking up early. I got up at 7:30 today, so I had enough time for all the morning stuff and I didn’t have to rush. So, why did I wake up that early? Gaja and I decided to go to Foz do Arelho today, because we both needed some more photos for our Friday class and we both needed to go to the coastline for those photos. We got on a bus at 9:00am. I checked the weather forecast for today on four different pages and they all said it will be sunny throughout the whole day. Well that was not really the case. It was mostly cloudy, with some sunny moments. =) But we were happy that at least it wasn’t raining.
So we arrived to Foz, we went to the beach and took all the photos we needed. It was nice to see the ocean again, but it was very windy, so it wasn’t so pleasant. But I was a bit surprised to see the empty beach, only few people here and there, simply walking on a beach. Even the streets were more or less empty. It seemed like a ghost town. I guess that’s how these places look like when it’s not a touristic season and the weather isn’t very nice… No matter what, to see and smell the ocean and to hear the waves, well that’s just priceless and it feels good every time. =)
We returned to Caldas da Rainha at around 13:00 and we rushed home to cook some lunch. Right after that we hurried to ESAD, because we had a class and we had to represent our final works. As usually, we sat there for quite a while, before it was our turn to tell something about our photos. I really don’t get it, but again, my photos were obviously not good enough to the professor. Now he prefers the ones I did the last time. I don’t understand why is he confusing me like that and I’m really not sure what to think about any of those photos. It’s weird. But ok, I don’t care anymore. My work here is done and I just have to wait for him to grade my photos.
It was quite a busy day and we returned back home just before dark. Then I needed some time to simply breathe and forget about everything. You know, those moments when you just let your mind drift away for a while. =) And now I just edited some photos from today, though they are not really mine. Gaja is the one to take the credit for them. =)