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.

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.