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!

All good things must come to an end

End of my exchange
Ok so I’m very sorry for this long pause. I was quite busy last days of my Erasmus exchange in Portugal. I had to arrange some papers about the whole experience, and then I had to pack my things and manage the whole weight problem with the luggage. You know, we had a 20kg weight limit for our flight, but luckily no weight limit for our hold baggage, so the heaviest things were in my hand luggage. But I still had a bit too much luggage and I figured that all of my shoes weight the most, so I made an extra package that I sent back home with some package service that had the best offer. So the heaviest things were in that extra package. I think that was a good idea and at the end it was much cheaper than it would as an extra luggage on an airplane.
Anyway, before I went back home I found some time for one day trip to Lisbon. I went by myself, but that was totally fine by me. I actually kind of liked being on my own for a day and just going around on my own. =) So I went to Gulbenkian Museum, because I really wanted to see it. I must say that first thing that surprised me was that the entrance fee for students is only 2€, which I think it’s really cheap. Well I must say I was quite impressed with the museum. It’s not that large that I thought it will be, but it was much different from what I’m used to see in museums usually. There weren’t many ancient Egyptian, Greek or Roman artifacts, but I was really positively surprised when I saw all ancient Turkish tiles, rugs and ceramics. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that before. Also they have a really interesting and nice collection of ancient Chinese porcelain, that I’ve never saw before. Now I know why they say “China porcelain”. =) It’s really something totally unique and special, with so many details that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Also museum has some famous paintings and sculptures of artists like Rodin, Monet, Manet, Turner and so on. Well yes, I am a bit of art history fan, so that was a little bit like a theme park for me. =) Also they have a special room that is dedicated to an artist René Lalique and I must say that his works really impressed me. They are amazing and worth checking out for sure.
So yeah, after the museum I walked to city center and explored Lisbon a bit more. I was lucky that it was nice warm sunny day, so I passed some parks and enjoyed the day to the maximum. I realized that after few visits, I almost knew Lisbon and directions in which I was going, because every time that I was there I walked and didn’t use subway that much. So it was nice and I went up to Bairro Alto, because I didn’t explore it that much yet and I was impressed with the view that opens up there. You can see a large part of the city and on a sunny day that is really nice to see. =) Then my other mission in Lisbon were some shoes I found online and I knew there is a store in that has them. So I went there and yes, they had them, I tried them and they fit. So yes, I bought myself a pair of amazing new creepers. =)
Then I walked through the old part of the town a bit more, but before the sun went down I decided to go on a subway and I got to the bus station right about time when the sun already set. I wanted to avoid walking around Lisbon alone in the middle of the night, because a lot of people were saying it’s not safe and I must admit, sometimes I felt a bit weird even daytime. I think I stood out a bit and men there are often a bit offensive, because I heard some pretty weird words that were meant for me… I understood that much of Portuguese language… So yeah, I didn’t want to risk anything.
Yeah, my last days were quite busy. =) Also the day of the return Damir and I went together and first thing that happened was a funny thing, because we wanted to catch a bus from Caldas da Rainha to Lisbon and it was supposed to leave at 10:00 and we were there 15 minutes early, but the bus for Lisbon was already there. Then we realized it’s the bus that should leave the station 10 minutes ago. At the end we boarded the same bus and it left the station at 09:55, which means it was ok for us, but the truth is that should leave 20 minutes earlier. And I don’t know why it didn’t, because the only thing that kept them there was a driver that was standing outside and smoking his cigarette. Funny people these Portuguese… =)
On an airport they were much stricter when it came to the luggage and especially when it came to hand luggage. The size had to be totally right, so I had a bit of a problem because my bag was the right size, but I put so much stuff inside it got a bit too wide. =) Luckily Damir had some space in his baggage, so we solved the problem. =) Anyway, the trip home was a bit annoying, because on a bus to Lisbon the air was really bad and we felt a bit sick, then the bus to the airport was shaking and bouncing like crazy and at the airplane also wasn’t much better. It was smaller plane than the last time, so there was not much space for our legs. I’m a bit taller and so my knees were already touching the seat in front of me when I sat down. Also the air inside was awful and we had some problems with turbulence through the whole trip. Ok, turbulence doesn’t bother me much, but when you combine it with this small plane and bad air, it gets annoying.
Then we arrived to Venice… Well it was raining really hard there and it was much colder than I was used to. But the worst was yet to come, because in Slovenia it was snowing really hard and we had to drive carefully and slowly. There were signs all the way that truck drivers should get off the highway, but most of them ignored that and just kept on driving. So it was quite a mess on a road and these truck drivers are maniacs and they drive like crazy and fast and I felt uncomfortable because of it. One in front of us started to slide a bit from one side of the highway to another, but he managed to get a grip and everything was ok, but it could be a mess. So yeah, it was really tough day and I was very tired when I arrived home.
The next day at the evening I already got visitors – two of the Brazilian exchange students that went on a Euro-trip before they returned back home. So they stayed at my place for 3 nights and we had a lot of fun. Damir and I took them around Slovenia to show them some nice places. And they were lucky come this winter, because there is a lot of snow, so they were able to sledge for their first time, we had a snow fight, we made a snowman and we shoveled the snow in front of my house. So I’m really happy they came to visit before they went back to Brazil. I’ll miss them, but hopefully one day I’ll be able to visit them and I’ll see Brazil. =) Guys, if you’re reading this, you are awesome and I’m so lucky that I had a chance to meet you and host you at my place! =)
Anyway, now I’m at home, I’m almost used to life here now, though some things are still a bit weird to me. I mean, it is snow here! =) But well, for now I’m happy that I decided to return and stay at home, because now I can work on my diploma and there is so much going on now it’s just crazy! I just got a bit of rest, now I’m already running around and working like crazy, but I love it! I missed busy days in Portugal, so now here I have it! =) From now on I’ll see how many blog posts I will write. I’m sure it’s not going to be every day, but I’ll try to write as much as possible. Probably I’ll post them only when I’ll have some new photos to show. =)
Ok so this is it for now. I’m thankful for the whole student exchange experience, I’m glad I did it, I would do it again, but I had enough. =) Life is awesome, be happy and find something good in every bad thing! =)

Óbidos in photos (day 128)

Day 128, Sunday, 27.01.2013
Ok so I spent most of my morning in front of my computer again. And no, I’m not just wasting my time and doing nothing, I’m actually usually editing some photos, checking some photo contests, searching inspirations and so on. I try to be productive, even though I stay at home. The weather was Portuguese again. A bit cloudy, a bit rainy and in the end even a bit sunny. But the forecast for next few days looks promising and I really hope it will really be like that. It says it will be 20°C on Wednesday, so I hope that’s true. =)
Beside that I finished packing that box that I will send home tomorrow, so that is done. I just have to put some more duct tape around it to make sure it stays in one piece. I became a bit worried when I tried to lift the box and I realized that it is full of moisture and the carton is just bending and almost loosing shape! So yeah, I really have to put a lot of duct tape around it, just to make sure. =)
Well anyway, I had a happy day, I’m in a good mood, I laughed a lot and I edited some more photos that I did yesterday. Here are some of them. =)

Goodbye Óbidos (days 126-127)

Day 126, Friday, 25.01.2013
Well I slept a bit longer again, though I should wake up earlier, because I wanted to go to school with Gaja. I wanted to talk to our Erasmus coordinator here, but I was just totally out and sleepy that I decided to go to that office on Monday. =) And the weather outside was so weird again. It wasn’t raining, but it was cloudy and it felt like it will rain all the time. You know that feeling in the air, the pressure and moisture… Ah, Portuguese weather… Well so I was packing some things in that box that I will send back home, doing some stuff on my computer and just being a bit lazy. Well it was a bit weird day, what else can I say. And also I’m a bit sick of Portugal and the weather doesn’t help much, so I’m a little bored and so on… Oh well. =)

Day 127, Saturday, 26.01.2013

Finally the weather forecast said it will be a nice day! No rain, maybe even some sun! Yay! So first thing in the morning I did some laundry, because it’s been a while since I was able to put clothes out to dry without worrying if it will start to rain or not. Then I had a bit larger breakfast and then I prepared my backpack with some essential things and left the apartment. I went on a bus to Óbidos. Gaja didn’t want to join me and Damir said he will come a bit later by bike, so it was just me. But I enjoyed it! Well it’s usually more fun when you have some company, at least to me, but in this case I had a lot of time to simply walk around the town and take some photos without having to consider my company could be bored. So I took a lot of photos of those old buildings, windows, stairs, doors, city wall and so on. I think I’ll have to take some time to edit them. =)
Anyway, I bought some souvenirs for my family, enjoyed the sunny day, took photos and had fun by simply being there. =) I really like Óbidos, though after 3 hours you really run out of options what else to do by yourself there. But then right in time Damir arrived with his bike so we went for another walk through the town and we went behind the city walls where he remembered that the last time we saw some adrenaline park or something. So we went to search for it and found it. It’s not actually an adrenalin park, but it is some sort of activity area where you climb and risk some injuries… =D My shoes were not the right ones for this kind of stuff so I didn’t try to do anything stupid, especially when I saw that even Damir in his skater shoes was having some trouble. But as usually he had to try everything and so he was climbing on those requisites. I called him “Monkey Boy” once again… =)
Then we bumped into three Erasmus girls and we talked a bit, once again said goodbye and good luck and everything. It’s funny because we did that probably like three times now and of course we always thing it’s the last time, but somehow here we are again… =) Well Damir and I decided to go for a drink in the city, but when I saw they serve fruit I decided to order mango cut into slices. I never saw this as part of the regular offer in any bar or restaurant. I really liked it. Then Damir went back home with his bike and I went to the bus stop about 10 minutes early. I was really surprised that the bus arrived about 5 minutes before it was supposed to. And it didn’t wait until the right time, so if anyone would get on a station a minute or two later they would miss the bus. That really surprised me, because it’s so unusual that something in Portugal would actually be before the schedule. Oh well, at least I was on time and so I arrived home as planned. =) I’ll post more photos tomorrow. =)

Having fun on my own! =)
Having fun on my own! =)
My bridge and my castle! =)
My bridge and my castle! =)

Last drinks with Erasmus people (days 124-125)

Day 124, Wednesday, 23.01.2013
I went to the Staples building in the morning, because on the internet is said there is also a GLS office and I wanted to ask them if the prices that are online are the right ones. In Portugal you never know, so I thought it will be better if I check. Gaja went with me. We got to the Staples building and we were looking for some sort of a sign or anything that would let us know there actually is a GLS office. No signs anywhere. We went inside and asked those people that work at the information desk and they showed us another counter in the corner. We were looking for some GLS sign there, but again, there was none. Well we went to the counter anyway and asked a man that worked there and he said: “Yes, this is GLS office.” Really?! Where are the signs? How are we supposed to know? That’s really so weird. =) Anyway, we got all the information we needed and Gaja and I bought our own big box for the package. It’s 50x40x40 cm, so it’s quite large. It was funny to carry it back home, because it wasn’t in the shape of the box, but it was just a large piece of carton. Because it was windy it was quite a project to get it home in one piece. =)
Then I tried to study Portuguese a bit more, but I just felt like nothing is getting in my head, so I decided to stop. Then right before we were supposed to leave the apartment I realized I once again forgot how you say sixteen. I looked at the dictionary, saw that it’s “dezasseis” and so I closed the dictionary. Right away I was like: “Wait what it is again?” =) Damir was laughing at me, but then he realized he has the same problem. Hahaha! =D
Anyway, we went to school and we had our Portuguese exam. First it was the oral exam and we had to talk to each other and sort of have a bit of conversation. Gaja and I had to compare our mothers. It was a bit funny and weird and we were all a bit lost… Oh well, we got through. Then we had the hearing exam and I didn’t understand one of the sentences even a bit. It was just said so fast! Then it was time for written part of exam and I think I did ok, but there were some exercises that I just had to guess. And there was a problem that I had to write down parts of human face, but I only knew eyes, nose, and then I wrote mouth instead of the lips and I was guessing how the teeth were… But that was ok, because some other guys had parts of human body and nobody knew anything! We had this in some papers, but we never talked about it at school so nobody knew that we were actually supposed to know all these things! I have to say that we are all a bit disappointed by our language professor. I know she’s young, but her learning system just doesn’t work very well and she really didn’t tell us much about what are we supposed to know for the exam. Oh well, I believe I will pass; I just know that I will not have that many points. =)
After the exam we decided to go on a drink with our class mates. Well actually it was a dinner, but I ate so much for lunch that I only ate a fruit salad. =) But the whole point was just to hang out a bit, to enjoy the company for the last time and so on. It was fun and we talked a lot, laughed and so on. I already said to all the guys that if anyone will visit Slovenia they are more than welcome to stay at my place. And they were all nice and offered the same in return. Maybe I’ll use the opportunity some time. =) Anyway, I liked the evening.

Day 125, Thursday, 24.01.2013

Since I went to bed a bit late, I woke up around a little before 10:00, which is quite late for my standards. Oh well, why not… Well I talked to my family via Skype quite a lot. I’m starting to miss them all and I can’t wait to return and hug them. That means a lot you know, because I wasn’t much of a hugger until now. But I’m sure that when I’ll return I’m going to hug everybody like crazy! And I have to film the reaction of my dog when I return. I’m sure it will be so funny. Maybe he will just stare at me and have no idea what to do, or maybe he will just jump around me like crazy, or maybe it will be just like he maybe didn’t see me for few hours… Who would know, but I just need a video of the reaction. =)
Through the day I packed some things in that box I bought yesterday, so now it’s half full. I still need to put my weight lifts in it and my ball for sitting, then I think that will be more or less it. Oh and one more pair of shoes probably. So the heaviest things will go home in this package and I’m sure I will not have any problems with too heavy luggage at the airport. I think this is the best solution.
In the evening I forgot that we were supposed to meet at bar square with some Erasmus people that are still in the city. We were supposed to meet at 23:30 and that is really late time for me, because I’m more of a morning person and I usually go to sleep at around midnight. So luckily Damir reminded me and so I had to get over my comfortable zone in bed. Gaja didn’t join us this time, because she rather stayed at home. Well we did go and so we met with Latvians, Brazilian guy, some Spanish girls and one German girl that I barely saw her during last few months. Well it was fun and we talked a lot. Lucas always has some funny stories to tell. The rain didn’t stop us! We sat under the roof and we had fun. Once again I told everybody that they are welcome to stay at my place if they ever visit Slovenia. It really like meeting people from other countries and so I would really be happy if any of them will come to visit some time. And now it was really that time when we realized that we are going different ways and who know when we will see each other again…
Anyway, we got home late and I was all cold and I just couldn’t wait to get in my bad and warm myself under the blanket. I would warm myself over the fireplace or radiator if we had one… Well we have a small radiator but Gaja has it in her room, but she was already asleep when we arrived home. So the blanket was my friend. =)