Category Archives: Shiplife

Dear Norway, you’re beautiful!

In my opinion, the best way to wrap up a long contract on the high seas is to a place where you can completely lose yourself in nature, get off the ship alone but not feel alone, and get lost on a path that leads you to waterfalls. There is no better way to conclude that time in any other place but in Norway.

I’ll tell you why.

The endless weeks after weeks that turn into months on end in the Caribbean filled with sun filled beach days drinking cocktails on the sand with your eye on the clock to get back to the ship can sometimes feel daunting (I’m not complaining even though it might sound like it). It’s great to visit the Caribbean but honestly not to ever live there. It’s great to visit but it gives me perspective on what I need in my daily life on land to be happy and not many checks are marked off in places like St. Kitts or Antigua (even though there’s nothing wrong with these places). Some ports you begin to favor and enjoy more than others sticking to your favorite go to restaurant joints as a system of finding comfort away from home like how I visit Tamarind in St.Kitts because I need my Indian fix.

sunset

Once our ship began the transatlantic crossing en route to Lisbon it all became smooth sailing. With long days at sea the reward became closer and closer. At night after a long day at my desk and a glass a wine later I would put my head down on my pillow to dream about the Portuguese tarts and warm cappuccinos waiting for me. Eventually once we reached Lisbon I enjoyed an entire “me afternoon” with those two things plus a little shopping to follow. Norway was next.

I did the same itinerary last year so there wasn’t a ton of suspense as Bergen, Alesund, Flam, Stavenger, and Geiranger were all on the itinerary but I couldn’t wait to come back to my favorite spots, cafes, parks, and fresh air!

waffles in Norway
Waffles in Flam

For any crew member who gets the chance to go to Norway take the first offer that comes your way. Why? Because there is no place like Norway in the world. Maybe New Zealand a little bit, but still. Cruising through the majestic fjords truly took my breath away. It was nothing but glorious. The cold fresh air and snow covered mountains left me speechless. Late sunsets at night took my breath way. I was glad to be far from the Caribbean and back into a magical land covered in snow where I could eat fresh waffles at a top of a mountain in Flam in slow motion. I don’t know many other experiences more magical than that. Truly.

The time I spent off the ship in Norway eased my exhaustion, worry, and mindless thoughts my thinking does to me from time to time. It’s the end of contract exhaustion I’m talking about. Where seven months of your life have been compacted into a small cabin, you have seen so many friends come and go, a few tears, lots of smiles, but you’re just ready to go home and cuddle with your dog and sleep forever.

Immersing myself in nature was just what my mind and body needed. After eating yummy Vietnamese food at the Zen Cafe in Bergen Jayson and I walked through a beautiful park to see flowers in full bloom. We were both equally surprised to see such greenery come to life and how multi cultural Bergen was as the second largest city in Norway. There were so my families from all over the world who seemed to be locals (speaking the language). I’m talking Chinese, middle east, Indian, and so on in Bergen. Super cool! I kind of lost myself in the local park at the greenery and spacious paths. It felt like time stood still a little bit and then I looked at the time and had to go back to work.

Bergen

Thank you nature,  snow, fjords, yummy Vietnamese food, excellent coffee shops, and flowers Norway. It was wonderful. I can’t wait to meet you again.

waterfalls

Bergen

For more information on how to get a job on a cruise ship check out Amanda’s guides here. Amanda at Get a Life at Sea has more than ten years of experiences working for a handful of cruise lines with a variety of job skills. She is the go to lady to talk to if you are serious about working on a cruise ship.

Crew members: Finding time to get off the ship

“Do you ever get to get off the ship?” This is just a snippet of the questions crew members are asked while working on the ship. If I wasn’t able to get off the ship and explore these amazing ports of call I would most definitely not be working on a cruise ship at all. And do I live on the cruise ship? All crew live on the cruise ship, together.

Kotor

Perks of being a crew member:

One of the coolest things crew members get to experience are the ports of call and to take tours all over the world when we’re not working. Depending on the position you have on board this will be the deciding factor for the length of time you have off. If you are a stateroom attendant or cleaner then your time will be a bit limited. If you are working in the casino you will be able to enjoy more time in port due to the fact that the casinos close when the ship is docked. Even activity hosts and dancers can enjoy more of the ports because shows and game shows are not scheduled while the ship is in port. It’s in the evening that the entertainment is picked up and schedules become bombarded with production shows in the theater, guest entertainers, and happenings around the ship.

Batu Caves, KL

 

Getting off the ship:
Depending on the job you have on board your time off the ship will differ from other crew members. As a youth staff counselor we have rotating schedules and everyday we work different hours. I like this very much. We have different roles we fulfill on the ship from assisting guests around the ship to handing out tender tickets when the waters are too shallow to dock in port there are various duties we do on the ship. With that said everyday is a different work schedule, a different port, and different duties. I like this change and rotation. It keeps me on my toes.
Keep in mind that the amount of time you get off the ship differs between departments. Enjoy your time wisely. Double check the time that crew need to be back on board. I have known two people who missed their ship! If you plan your time off the ship you can see so much! Across all cruise lines the housekeeping department works very long hours especially in port and have very limited time off. Know that depending on your department you work on the ship you will work various hours. For me, my hours fluctuate from day to day and I love it that way.
Villefranche
Breathtaking Villefrance

Sometimes I have those days where I just want wifi to connect with friends all over the world, check in with emails while drinking a latte wherever that place may be. I may have a nice break from work but I don’t have the energy to go sightseeing. If I get off at every single  port my body cannot keep up with taking tours and spending hours sightseeing. You are bound to slowly overexaust yourself leading you to get rundown and catch a cold. Been there done that!

To sum it all up:

The experiences that we take back with us are ours forever. From Cinque Terre (Italy)to snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) to swimming in the clear crystal waters of Bora Bora (French Polynesia) to rainforests in Costa Rica (Puerto Limon) I have taken these opportunities to discover more of this beautiful world with my free time. After three years of working on a cruise ship I can tell you that the world is truly majestic and full of more treasures than I ever thought possible.

I am so blessed for the lessons I have learned, the friendships I have made, the places that fill me up with wanderlust, the delicious foods I have been able to try and the opportunities that I have on board to grow and develop my skills. Until I feel #done with #shiplife I am going to continue falling in love with exploring the world.

For more information about #shiplife you can watch my videos here.

Building a unique skill set on cruise ships

Enjoying the St. Kitts railway

Did you know that people who work aboard cruise ships develop a very unique skill set and are faced a multitude of situations that actually benefit them when trying to apply for jobs on land? I am here tell you how crew members build and develop a unique skill set while working at sea.

Character Building on Cruise Ships:

To begin, before working on a cruise ship I didn’t exactly have the social graces that I have today. I wasn’t able to talk to anyone I met especially when I was meeting people from all over the world. Fast forward today and I can definitely tell you that its a very different story. Why? Because crew learn how to be adaptable, problem solvers, and outgoing while working on a cruise ship. It is our job to talk to guests and invite them to join our activities that we offer and make them feel welcome while they are on vacation. But I think I still have many moments off the ship where I despise having “small talk” with people I don’t even know.

I guess I have what you might call stranger danger. I don’t like it one bit. I really get exhausted having small talk with strangers. Unless I’m in a “mood” to chat and sort out the details of my day to be honest I really don’t bother. In fact, this happened to me the other day on the subway as I was on my way into Chinatown in NYC. A man about my age sits down next to me and sees my purple carry on. He asks me where I was coming from, what I was doing there, and how he just moved from Miami to NY (I just want to get to chinatown. I really don’t care about this conversation. Just get me there already). The conversation just got awkward fast so I occupied my fingers with my tablet looking at my map of how I could find my way to my hostel. Out in the real world I really don’t enjoy conversing with strangers. There is no need for me to have it. Back on the ship however it’s quite reversed.

Having an outgoing personality:

With more than 4,000 crew and guests in total on board my cruise ship you have to enjoy being in a small space and smiling and greeting guests. It comes so natural to me to have a flowing conversation and it’s very cool to get to know people from all corners of the globe. I have learned so much from where people call home from Samoa to Kuwait to Sweden to meeting a family from Saudi Arabia (mind you I have never met a person from Saudi before in my life so I got excited). I had already known quite a bit about life in Saudi for a woman so I had so many questions to ask this mom from SA. She was so impressed that I even was able to pronounce her capital correctly. You sharpen your conversation skills into becoming a natural in this kind of environment on board. Catch me off the ship and I find myself socially awkward!

One of the top skills you need to work on board is communicating effectively. You have to be able to get your point across immediately and over your own shyness quickly. Our ship represents over fifty nations and our spoken language on board is English. No matter where you come from you speak in all guest areas in English.

There is also no time and room for “dilly-dallying” on board. Problems need quick solutions. Solutions need answers. If something needs to be done, it’s done now, not tomorrow or the day after that. Guests pay a lot of money to cruise on modern luxury ships and customer service needs to be at tip-top shape to help and assist guests with their questions. Back on land we aren’t exposed to the same situations in our jobs that we face on the ship. I really believe that my speaking skills have greatly improved in the past year. In my workplace I give “open house” to parents and have to explain our program, hours of operations and so forth. I am speaking with parents and children from all over the world.

In conclusion:

Depending on what you do for work crew members sometimes have to speak in front of large groups of people (not one of my strengths) but I have improved very much since I started hosting youth talent shows and running my tender duties to guests as we arrive in our ports of call. That involves small talk (my favorite) and speaking on a microphone. Learning to speak effectively to other human beings is a life skill and I am in the process of mastering it!

Smile and be confident!

Unhacked: Being a vegetarian and working on cruise ships

Sharing a “veg” meal together in the dining room

Choosing to be veg

I am a big time foodie. I love my food.  I love eating fresh foods that are natural and prepared with care. I love exploring different cuisines, tastes, and flavors. A life without good food would be a very sad life indeed for me.

I want to begin by saying that deciding to be a vegetarian is a powerful lifestyle to reaps many benefits. Those who choose not to consume animal meat (as vegetarians) have made this decision for various reasons.  I have been a proud vegetarian the past seven years and I have reaped the health benefits in many forms; able to maintain a healthy weight (no yo-yo-ing), clear and bright skin complexion, etc.

I had a feeling that before working on ships that it might not be easy to eat the same way as I had been eating at home. Being a vegetarian at sea is not the easiest when you are away from your kitchen and all the foods that you know you need (that you can’t find). I am use to cooking my own meals based on fresh ingredients with no animal products. So it was no surprise to myself that being a vegetarian on a cruise ship turned out to be a little tricky and a constant work in progress.I will tell you that you CAN be a vegetarian on a cruise ship but you will definitely have to prepare well and know what your body needs to function and feel your best.

Let me explain.

Most meals prepared for crew in the mess are mostly meat based and also high in carbohydrates such as endless breads and pasta dishes. If you are going to work on a cruise ship expect to see a lot of choices full of carbohydrates. It can be hard and you might have to find quick solutions such as buying products off the ship or making special dining requests . I usually don’t eat a lot of pasta or breads anyways so this became a problem. With all the extra carbs I had been consuming I was feeling a bit more sluggish and tired and in the danger zone of a B12 deficiency. Nearly at the end of my first contract  my waistline had grown a size and I wasn’t feeling so great.

I felt a bit uprooted in my first long contract not having the foods that I loved on the ship so I had to seek a solution fast for my next contract. So while I was in port I found myself in the local grocers buying heaps of nuts, dried fruit, instant noodles, blueberries, greek yogurt, and local fruits. This made a huge difference right off the bat in the way that I felt and to maintain a healthy diet. Now I always scout out the best meals off the ship and the best snacks to take back with me to my cabin.

Finding the right supplements

Iherb and I have become the best of friends these days. This is my go to site for all things healthy and nutritious that I can ship directly to my ships warehouse and receive my products on embark day.

In order to truly survive eight months at sea I had to order supplements and snacks from iherb. This website has everything that you need when it comes to nutrition so I had to act fast. This is my absolute “go to” when I need to order a food haul. When ordering off the internet make sure that you type in the correct mailing address for your ship. For me, our home port was Miami so orders came in fast and I was able to pick them up on embark day (every Sunday). Having enough B vitamins and probiotics helped me out a lot because on the ship I’m not working idly, I’m always on the move and doing a lot of walking.

If you are new to iherb I highly recommend this site for all your healthy go-to’s. Products such as coconut oil, probiotics, crips, and aloe vera shampoo are my favorite items I like to order. When you are working away from home and you don’t know what products you can get abroad I just cut to the chase and order products that I can rely on from iherb.

For a complete list of my recent order from iherb you can view it here.

Eating in the crew mess

Aside from the crew mess, crew members working in the Entertainment department (staff) can enjoy the foods in the guests buffet as long as it isn’t too busy. Now this rule changes between cruise lines but for me I was able to enjoy the buffet upstairs as long as it wasn’t too busy. I was able to  enjoy fish (excellent source of

I found that my body reacted a bit badly to some of the prepared foods because simply said: I’m not use to foods prepared in all the sauces and butter. I never cook with butter back home and I eat very simply. I love whole foods cooked in extra virgin olive oil, quinoa, wraps, salads, and soups. I love to eat but not with all the sauces and extra caloric ingredients. Probiotics helped me out a lot on the ship to help me digest my food better end remove waste from my body because my tummy was getting bloated and I had a lot of gas at times.

 

When in doubt, do Chinese

#FOODTRIPS in port

To be honest one of the best adventures for me was going on a #foodtrip while docked in port. This became a ritual that I really looked forward to each port day. I would do a little research beforehand so that I had something really exciting to look forward to during my time off the ship. I will never forget my super healthy and fresh salad I got at Vegan Restoran Vin Tallin, Estonia. If you are a veggie or just want to experiment with a meal  other prepared with any meat products, I highly recommend giving this resto a visit. Food tripping is an actual hobby and has become my passion. Exploring different parts of the cities in port I would just soak up all that the menus had to offer and eat what my body was craving. This is a great way to learn more about a place.

Looking forward to finding the best foods in ports became a ritual that I really looked forward to. I can remember especially this summer doing a little research before we docked so I had a few top options of places that served vegetarian meals and also international fare that I love such as Vietnamese, Indian, and Korean. While sailing through the Caribbean and Baltics I was always craving korean food but believe it or not the only official Korean restaurant that I discovered was in downtown Southampton, England that had just opened up called Manna. The owners were really friendly and could not believe how much food my boyfriend and I had ordered. I remember the owner sharing with me how he left South Korea to live in England because competition in schools was very difficult for Korean kids so he decided to give his children a better experience growing up in England.

Keep in mind
Note: If you vegetarian and working on the cruise ship, you can make it happen. If you put your mind to and can find what you like in port and balance that with what is available on the ship then you can make it happen. Know what you like. For me, I loaded up on plenty of salads topped with plenty of beans (fiber and b vitamins) and lots of fish and eggs. While in port I picked up a lot of snacks that I love: berries, dried fruits, yogurt, fresh juices, dried seaweed, ramen noodles, and tons of peanut butter. I kept that stash in my cabin and that was my “go to” when I still felt hungry in between meals. or at the end of the day when i was starving. Check out iherb and have all your favorite groceries delivered to your home port.

With that said this was the best way to make my eight months at sea enjoyable. I really believe that if I cannot eat well I am unable to perform well. I love to eat well and food nurtures my body and helps me be my best. I know what I like, it’s just a matter of finding it. So while I port I always stock up on all the things that I love and eat local. Good luck to you!

For more information on how I manage my diet while working on ships you can follow my Youtube video here.