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

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Sailing – Day 4 – From Levrnaka to Biograd

Last day of our sailing trip. Great day, but sad at the same time, because we knew all that crazy world was waiting for us out there and this relaxed life on sailboat will go away… So we had to make this day count. We started it with a hike up the hill at Levrnaka. Our plan was to watch the sunrise from the top, but sadly there were clouds on the east side. But hey, it was still nice and the views were amazing.
There is a cross on top of the hill, but it seems you can find a cross on more or less every hill. But I am not sure if the same goes for stacking stones. On top of the hill there is a lot of stacked stones, some already look like a large pile, some are just few stones on top of another. Supposedly these bring luck. You grab a stone, you make a wish and you put it on one of the piles. I was joking what happens if you take few stones away from the pile, does that mean some people will not have their wish granted? I wasn’t so evil, so I didn’t do that… =D
When we climbed down we had some fun at the beach. We were like little kids, throwing stones in the water… But it was time for departure so we put our sails up and went into direction of Dugi Otok. We passed Sestrice, an island with amazing lighthouse, and if you ask me, that is the best thing at Kornati. Ok, yes, cliffs are amazing too, but this one is so iconic. At the narrow crossing between Kornati and Dugi Otok we passed ruins of Roman villa. When I see stuff like that my imagination starts working and I immediately though about the life 2000 years back. Sometimes I really wish I could live in that era.
Our next stop was small town Sali, that is actually the largest town at Dugi Otok. Guys cooked the fish they caught, so they had them for breakfast. I imagine it must have felt really cool to eat that well earned food, but I skipped that. I had enough vegan food with me. =)
On our way to Sali we passed a regatta and it seemed winds were great. And they sure were. On our way to marina in Biograd we were so lucky. The wind was just perfect and we were leaned to one side so we were able to touch the water with our feet! Really cool, but not so much for me – I was cooking inside! Well that was fun! And on top of all, our charter boat decided to clog the kitchen sink so it was full of water and it almost spilled. Luckily we were able to “take” some water out right on time.
Anyway, that was more or less the end of our trip. I needed it, I wanted it, I got it! I just hope we will be able to repeat it next year! =D

Blog post about our Day 1.
Blog post about our Day 2.
Blog post about our Day 3.

Sailing – Day 3 – From Žirje to Levrnaka

Another early morning and start of our day at sunrise. It is funny how nobody feels like sleeping late while on a sailboat. Your body just wants you to get up early and you don’t mind. It feels like if you don’t get up early you will miss something important (like sunrise for example). Right before we lifted our anchor guys decided they want to try to catch a fish or two, and who would guess, they actually did! So it was another great start of the day (at least for us, not for the fish). =)
This day was all about Kornati, the famous Croatian islands… to be honest, they are not so amazing. I mean, they are quite special and interesting, but I’ve sailed between these islands a few times before and you get a bit tired of them. They all look almost the same, with almost no trees, just rocks, grass and bushes. The only really amazing thing about them are the cliffs – these really are a true art of nature. Kornati probably look better from the sky, so perhaps I should take a trip with a plane someday.
We all really wanted to see the dolphins and this was obviously our lucky day, though we did see only one dolphin and even this one was quite far from our boat. But hey, we did see it, so it counts!
It is also quite special experience to have a lunch while passing the beautiful cliffs of Kornati islands. Ah, Croatia does have some unique charms. Well the fun part of the day was “rope dragging”. We threw a rope in the water and boys held on to it. At first they just had a little bit fun, but when we accelerated and our sailboat gained some speed they were all laughing so hard and yelling they can’t hold on any more and how they were about to lose their swim shorts… That is when the fun part really started. =D
We finished our amazing day at Levrnaka. We tied our rope to the pier of the tavern (that is also named Levrnaka). Before we finished our day we all went to the bay on the other side of the hill, that is supposed to be one of the most beautiful bays in Croatia (or maybe Adriatic Sea). And it truly is beautiful (photos of it in Day 4). So we went for a swim, had fun with sand in the water and enjoyed the rest of the day. One of the best days, really… =D

Blog post about our Day 1.
Blog post about our Day 2.
Blog post about our Day 4.

Sailing – Day 2 – From Drvenik to Žirje

Our second day of sailing started at Drvenik. We woke up in time of sunrise. We were still a bit sleepy, but the whole energy of nature and sailing woke us up very fast. Sun rays were peeking from behind the clouds and the whole scene looked even more magical. We agreed that the day started amazing.
While we were sailing we saw some tuna fish jumping out of the water again, but this time they were a bit further away. We passed some cute lighthouses, small church in the middle of nowhere and remains of ex Yugoslavian army bunkers. On these islands there is always so much to see. This day was warm an sunny, even though it was already October. Weather was like in the start or in the end of summer and we were all so happy to be able to enjoy the sailing only in our swimsuits. Winds were not so kind with us, but we did manage to sail a little bit. And of course most of the guys on a boat wanted to experience how it is when you are on top of the mast, they just had to try it. So this day we pulled two of them up and they took some photos and made some videos with GoPro camera (I still didn’t manage to go through those photos and maybe edit a video).
We stopped in a town named Žirje (that is as usually on an island with the same name), because we needed few things from the shop – and the shop there is in a place that is probably an ex garage. From there we sailed to a bay around the corner and we anchored there. Some guys went to the shore and to a local tavern, some of us stayed on board and did some chores, cooked dinner and so on. It was a little bit drunk night for some of the guys, but I think that will be the night most of them will remember as the funniest… =)

Blog post about our Day 1.
Blog post about our Day 3.
Blog post about our Day 4.

Sailing – Day 1 – From Trogir to Drvenik

About a month ago I went sailing in Croatia with some friends for four days. We were lucky to catch very warm sunny days at start of the autumn. Actually we had better weather than it was in the middle of summer and the water was still so warm we were able to swim. It was really great time off.
I’ll divide these posts on days again, so here is our first day. We started in marina Trogir, but our first day was a little bit cloudy. Just when we got around the corner (by corner I mean behind the cape) we noticed something jumping out of the water. At first we thought about dolphins, but no, there was a group of tuna fish chasing a group of smaller fish. They were jumping out and they really made a show for us. We’ve all been to the seaside before, most of us have been on a boat before, but none of us have ever seen these fish jumping out like this. It was amazing, even more because we just started our short vacation.
We sailed to some bay, where we stopped for a swim, then we continued our trip to the island Veli Drvenik. Me and my brother call this town a “Fail village”, because there is so much weird stuff. They have a lot of old cars, most of them broken and abandoned, but they don’t remove them, they just push them to some field or in some corner and that’s it. It’s also funny how they “fix” cars and other stuff with things you would never think of. Also some roads that lead to the houses are very narrow and you wouldn’t think any car goes there, but obviously it does and some people even think they have to mark their property with a “Private parking” sign… I have no idea who would park a car there anyway… So yeah, it really is a little bit like a “Fail village”. It makes you laugh on every corner. =)
Anyway, that was our first day and here are the photos.

Blog post about our Day 2.
Blog post about our Day 3.
Blog post about our Day 4.