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Posts Tagged ‘cruise’

Spent Independence Day going snorkeling at Turtle Cove in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Saw several cool fish and 6 or 7 green sea turtles – hoping my underwater disposable camera won’t let me down.

Back on the ship, the lobby is decorated for the holiday, including this piece.  I saw it and my immediate thought was “that’s the most disturbing 4th of July decoration I’ve ever seen – there’s no way an American did this.”  Am I the only one who finds it odd?  As one of only 10 U.S. crewmembers on the ship, I’m considering mentioning this to the (international) cruise staff so they’re aware that the American passengers might find this decoration atypical.  But maybe it’s just me…

DSCN7737

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My sister Carolyn just spent the last cruise onboard with me. We had so much fun! Here’s us sailing out of San Francisco:

Here we are on the ship sailing in Tracy Arm Fjord:

And here we are playing some serious shuffleboard:

We also went glacier viewing, disco dancing, and whale watching, enjoyed several shows in the ship’s lounges, ate a lot, and laughed a lot. Fun, fun, fun!

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Ship size

I thought I’d give you an idea of how large my cruise ship is with a list of random facts…

  • – there are 14 decks. I live on deck 4. I teach on deck 12 and on deck 5.
  • – 3 trips around the Promenade Deck (deck 7) equals one mile
  • – it weighs 77,000 tons
  • – it can hold up to 1,950 passengers and an additional 900 crew members
  • – it contains 2 formal dining rooms (deck 5), 2 large buffet areas (deck 14), a pizzeria (deck 8), a steakhouse restaurant (deck 14), and a coffee bar for passengers (deck 5). This is in addition to the crew cafeteria, the staff mess, and the officer mess (all on deck 5).
  • – it has a large passenger gym, a sports court (to play basketball, volleyball, etc.), and a small crew gym. There is also a full-service spa.
  • – There is a room with 2 printing presses where they print all of the daily menus, newsletters and other publications for the ship.
  • – There are two stage/lounge areas to host dance shows, lectures, comedians, etc. There is also a night club, a casino, and a video game room/youth center.
  • – There is a storage area filled with large rolls of carpet. There is also a carpet fitter who works on the ship. If there is a stain in some carpeting, they remove it and install new carpeting. They recently re-carpeted the whole ward room, I guess just to make it look nicer.

In other news, a crewmember went AWOL the other day in San Francisco. Our sailing was delayed for over an hour because he failed to return to the ship. We finally left without him. I guess this is not completely surprising as crewmembers have been known to just not come back onboard and instead disappear into the U.S. Word on the ship is that this is particularly common among the Nepalese crewmembers (the missing crewmember was from Nepal

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quick update

The norovirus outbreak is under control and we are back to our regular green level. Several crew members celebrated by having dinner in the passenger buffet the first night we were back to green. I’m glad I get to go back out on the decks now. Also went to a lecture on whales, and saw a comedian the other night.

Yesterday I went on an afternoon tour in a rain forest in Ketchikan. Didn’t see any black bears, but learned a lot about the plant life in the area. I’ll try to upload some photos when I have more time. Today we’re in Juneau and I have the day off. I’m going to go on another rain forest hike then on a whale watching tour. I’m hoping to see some orcas this time rather than the same old boring humpbacks I keep seeing everywhere. Ha ha, only kidding – I still get excited when I see a whale, no matter what species.

The other night I went to a disco (in American English that would be dance party) in the crew bar and it was FUN! I haven’t gone out dancing to loud crappy music in a long time, and I really needed it. There’s going to be another disco celebrating Canada Day on July 1st. A lot of my friends here on the ship are Canadian so it should be great fun, eh?

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Red level

On Friday there were 4 cases of Norovirus among passengers on this cruise, which spurred the officers to change our health risk from the normal green level to yellow. Norovirus is basically a GI bug that causes diarrhea and vomiting, and can spread quite quickly on cruise ships because of the close quarters everyone shares. Yellow level means that crew members do not have any deck privileges. I can’t go to any shows. I can’t eat in the passenger areas. I can’t walk around the promenade deck. I can’t visit the shops or art gallery. I can only stay in crew areas. Basically, I now know what life is like for most of my students, and it feels very limited. Today they just moved it up to red level. One of the nurses told me there are now 24 passengers and 3 or 4 crew with the virus. Red level means all buffets close down. No one in passenger or crew areas can serve themselves. The most recent crew disco was cancelled. My English classes have been suspended. Crewmembers are sanitizing everything. Crew might not even be allowed off the ship when we’re in San Francisco tomorrow! People who have worked on cruise ships before warn me that this is when people start going loopy. Excuse me while I go wash my hands now…

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I’ve been trying to describe what life is like on a cruise ship, and I this is the best way I’ve been able to capture all the influences: imagine crossing a luxury hotel (passenger areas) with a college dorm (crew areas) and putting it all on a military/maritime background. Then introduce a caste system and you about have it. I’m very lucky because I have passenger privileges and have a ranking similar to an officer, so I can go in passenger areas, take part in passenger activities if I’m not working, stroll around the promenade deck, go in some officer areas, etc. Crew members lower in the caste system are not allowed to go in passenger areas, which means they are confined to the lower decks of the ship and can’t even go outside unless their work is outside! It’s like being trapped in a submarine. I’m so glad I can go outside and have been making a habit of walking around each day to get some fresh air and sunlight. I can also eat in any of the dining areas, which are (in order of quality): passenger areas (during off times), officer mess, staff mess, crew mess. The lowest caste crewmembers can only eat in the crew mess. I walk through there most days. The food looks disgusting. One of my students who is a utility cleaner said that some days he feels like he’s in prison. I feel bad for them.

The military influences are most evident from the uniforms most people have to wear (but not me!) and titles. For example, the captain is called Captain. Not Marco. The staff captain (second in command) is called Staff Captain or Staffy. Not Paolo. The security officer is called SECO (pronounced seek-o). Not Hannah. The chief engineer is called Chief. Not…, well, I don’t even know his real name. It’s strange. In fact, I met the Staff Captain at the Juneau airport when I very first arrived because we were both joining the ship the same day. He introduced himself by saying “I’m Staff Captain” to which I responded “I’m Stephanie.” I thought it was weird. But after a couple of days I learned that he has really high status and I was glad I didn’t make a joke about him not giving his name.

When crew are not working hard, they’re playing hard. This is where the dorm atmosphere comes in. Drinking is probably the number one leisure activity for crew members. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that – it just reminds me a lot of college weekend life. Except there are no weekends here. It’s just an everyday occurrence. It’s a lot like living in a dorm again, except it’s a giant dorm that floats up and down the Pacific Coast, and most of the dormers are international students.

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When the corporate office warned me that shipboard life has its own culture, they weren’t joking. Just one aspect that I am still adjusting to is the new vocabulary. I’ve had to learn totally new words, such as:

To tender = when a ship doesn’t dock at a pier but instead anchors out at sea. Passengers have to get off the ship onto little boats, which take them to land. I haven’t had to do this yet but it sounds a bit complicated.

To muster = to gather in a designated place in the case of an emergency. If the emergency alarm sounds I’m supposed to grab my life jacket from my cabin and muster in one of the lounges.

The bridge = where the captains or officers navigate the ship. I guess they use this term in Star Trek, but that didn’t mean anything to me.

Purser = I’m still not totally clear on this one, but it’s kind of like a customer service agent for the passengers. People who work at the front desk are pursers, but there are other kinds of pursers too that I don’t quite understand yet.

Ward Room (or Wardy)= a special lounge just for officers. Regular crew are not allowed in this bar/area, although I sometimes teach my classes in this room.

There are also several new terms I’ve had to start using instead of my common shoreside vocabulary, such as:

Ship or Vessel (not boat – this is an important one!)

Deck (not floor) I keep saying things like “what floor is the conference room on”

Port (not left)

Starboard (not right)

Forward (not front)

Aft (not back)

Mess (not cafeteria)

Galley (not kitchen)

Atrium (not lobby)

Embark (not board)

Disembark (not deboard)

I feel like I’m learning a new language myself!

In other news: Yesterday evening I was taking a walk outside around the promenade deck when an announcement came over the PA system that there was a whale on the port side. I thought to myself “Hey, I’m on the port side!” (A week ago I wouldn’t have known that.) I looked over just in time to see a whale surface right below me! It was so exciting! Then I was invited to a wine and cheese party in the Ward Room – ooh la la!

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