Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Ship's crew socializing.

We have signed off and soon home on vacation. January 1997. We stayed at Holiday Inn, San Diego.

Thought I should write little bit about how the crewmembers socialize onboard a cruise ship when they are away from their homes for several months at the time. 
Most would of course think this is the same as when we are ashore (on land), but it is not, it is a bit different from what we are used to. And one of the main reasons is because we normally do not mingle with everyone in the beginning, as we would do when we are home. Back home, friends and family members do also represent many different trades. But they leave the work behind when they are finished for the day and head home. And why is that not the case onboard?

Socializing in the evening on the Crew deck.

Officers together 17th of May.

There are several reasons for this, which I know my colleagues will recognize immediately. Reasons which normally have nothing to do with our own personalities. But more about the various groups on the ship we belong to. Groups we belong to? I know it sounds a bit strange, but it actually makes sense.
The reason is the fact we crewmembers do not go home in the end of the day, but we live at our workplace for month after month. And we are also very different in what background or education we have, and not to forget the various types of work we do onboard. We become some extremely specialized groups at this workplace. Nerds maybe? πŸ˜†

Crew from the Deck Department together.

So in the beginning, when we have some time off (duty) and spend it with colleagues, we will often do that with someone we work close with. And we have a tendency to very often talk shop. Which is something we are aware of and we do try to reduce it. But nevertheless, we do talk a lot about our work when we are off duty since it is part of our life when we are onboard. Believe it or not, the work onboard affect our lives much more than work back home will do. Especially in the beginning of our careers.
Of course, as we get more experience, we will try to reduce the work-talk during our off time. And that will help increasing the quality of the the time off work.

The ship's Boatswain (Bosun) and myself.

So, we often see catering crew mingle with other catering crewmembers. Housekeeping crew with other from the same department. We have Deck Officers with other Deck Officers. Technical Officers with same. Entertainment Staff with each other. And so on. 
But as we all know, the rules always have exceptions. And this goes for the life onboard as well. We have the cross-department socializing onboard. This is when we mix with crew from the other departments we work closely with. This can be a waiter and a bartender, a stewardesse and a waiter (room service). A Navigator with a Engineer (Marine/Technical Officers), Housekeeping utilities and laundry crew. And so on. 
Not to forget the nationality feeling. Of course, we will many times feel more comfortable with people from our own country, regardless of what work they do. And especially if we are away from home, together with many other nationalities. Nothing wrong with that. We just feel more comfortable that way in the beginning.

Crew enjoying time together after a long day.

One of the main reasons for socializing with crew from other departments or nations is........................ romance. Oh yes, the romance is always there when hundreds or sometimes thousands of crewmembers work and live close together. Plenty of my colleagues have found their future spouses among their shipboard colleagues. In this case, we have the same as one will find in any other society (towns or cities). Crewmembers come together as couples, and crewmembers break up and find other to go out with. Same drama we will find back home.

Sometimes we use alternative venues for the parties. The Forecastle.

Socializing at Mooring deck Forward (Forecastle).

And then we have the Crew Bar. πŸ•πŸ·πŸΈπŸ»
A place I spent many hours in myself, when I was starting out in the Cruise Industry. Young and hopeful I was, with a lot of energy. Before I got older and got less energy. 😏😏
This is without a doubt the main place for socializing among the crewmembers. And it is cross-departmental of course. Depending upon the ship and company, the crew bar is normally open only in the evening, and for just a certain amount of hours in the evening. And as the name suggest, it is a bar. But it is more than just a bar. It is also a place where the crewmembers can meet and play games, chat, use computers (internet), or just hang out listening to the music from the bar. And sometimes organized (theme) parties are held here, for all the crew to enjoy, with food and beverages available, and a DJ playing music so the crew can dance as well.
And for a couple of hours, the crew can forget about their daily work, the various tasks and responsibilities they might have, and enjoy the time with their colleagues.

 In the Crew bar, back in the days we could smoke indoors.

The Crew bar.

And who knows, maybe someone meets the special one that evening, and they leave the bar together. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰

Crew who have Signed Off, and heading home wave goodbye to the ship. Honolulu, December 1996


Monday, 19 February 2018

To work on a Cruise ship, and see the world.

A young and excited Officer on a Cruise ship. I think it was taken in 1995 or 1996.

During all the years I have worked on cruise ships, one question which has come up again and again from friends and family members, is how it is possible to work on a cruise ship, and at the same time have time off to see the world. How is it that one can work full days, and still have the time and energy to be a tourist as well?

Actually, most comments I have received about being a Deck Officer (my job) on a cruise ship is that it is quite an easy thing to do, and the days are normally spent to sit out on the Deck and drink cocktails with umbrellas in, together with some sweet old ladies.  Or Hosting Dinner parties with several senior couples (and singles) in the fancy Formal uniform with all the gold stripes on. The majority of the “fancy pancy” stories come from other seafarers, who of course have never worked on a Cruise ship before.

Ready for a fancy Formal Dinner with guests. Not so young anymore.

As many hopefully will understand, these stories are a rather modified truth when it comes to how the Cruise Industry works, and what the crew actually do during the days onboard.  
Sure, it can be a “blast” with some spectacular places to visit and some nice socializing among the crewmembers. Many memories one cherish for the rest of our lives. I know I have thousands of some amazing memories I would not be without. 
Not to forget all the wonderful people I had the opportunity to meet and become friends with. Not surprisingly, many crewmembers find their future spouses among their colleagues onboard.

Filipino crew Socializing (1996).

Filipino crew, and myself Socializing (1996) . 

Filipino crew Socializing (1996).

But as with all other jobs, there are some days and weeks where one would consider just resign on the spot and fly home, from wherever the ship might be at that time. And that can easily be on the other side of the globe, and the crewmember will pay his/her own ticket if the resignation is on the spot. The heavy periods come very often during the holiday seasons, with Christmas as the worst for a crewmember. This is a period when many crewmembers feel lonely, despite the fact they work with hundreds, and sometimes thousands of other crew members. But they miss their families back home.

Then there are the periods where it is extra much work to do, and one feel one just work and work without any rest. Extra hard work? How can this be? After all, it is on a fancy Cruise Ship.

 Chief Purser's Office.

 Housekeeper's Office.

Look out on the Bridge.


 Deckhand prepare for Arrival.

Helmsman on the Bridge.

The truth is that in average, a regular crewmember on ships in general normally work between 10 and 12 hour per day, 7 days a week, for many months. How many months varies based upon the job and rank. It can be from 3 months and up to 12 months sometimes. Unfair higher ranks have less months onboard? Well, nobody started with high rank. Everybody onboard, no matter who they are, normally starts on the bottom of the hierarchy, so the Senior Officers did their long trips as well.

In one Company I worked for, which operated fairly small luxury cruise ships, the crew members onboard normally pulled 13 hours in average, day in and day out, week after week. And if one wants to have some leisure time as well, careful planning is in order to prevent fatigue.

 Navigator working on the Bridge.

Myself coming out of a tank, after an inspection.

 The Bar Manager prepare.

The Security Officer.

Normally most crew and Officer are doing shifts when they are onboard. The watchkeepers on the Bridge (Navigators) and the Engine (control room) are doing their shifts, with some hours in the middle of the day with regular maintenance of equipment as Safety (Fire fighting and Life saving) equipment, Security equipment, Engine equipment, Electrical equipment, and of course repair work of all kinds. After all, it is not possible to just call someone from outside to do it. The Crew do it.

The Staff in the Hotel Department will provide the service you can find in all Hotels and Resorts around the world. And they too will work in shifts, and longer periods when the passengers are receiving the services. Just as you will find in any Bar, Night Club (Entertainment), Spa, or Restaurant in the cities around the world.


 The Spa reception.

 Nail tech in the Spa.


Preparation in the Crew Mess Room.

Let's talk about my last job. The title was called Staff Captain. It is like a Chief Officer on some smaller ships, or kind of a Vice Captain.
Normally the Staffie (the nick name) is in charge of all the maintenance outside the technical spaces, as well as all the ship's tanks and spaces of any sort. Staffie is also in charge of the Navigators, the Security Officer, regular maintenance staff,  all the Sailors (Deckhands), the Safety Officer and safety staff, and sometimes even the Hospital with Doctor and Nurses(yes it is a regular Hospital onboard). In addition the Staffie will also be in charge of a Budget for the Department, and making sure spare parts, consumable maintenance stuff, services from outside companies are ordered, writing maintenance reports and service reports, etc. 

Captain and Staffie will always be on the Bridge early in the mornings, sometimes 4 AM, sometimes 10 AM, depending on the length of the Pilotage in to next port. 
And of course Staffie also liaise with the Offices shoreside in regards to the Crew in the department.
Plenty maintenance inspections on a ship. Especially tank inspections of all sorts (fuel tanks, fresh water tanks, sewage tanks, etc).

Bar Staff all day at a beach to provide for the Passengers.

 Myself Shuttling passengers ashore in a Pacific Island.

My first Hosted Dinner party.  I was so nervous. You see me?

So the days for every crewmember are normally very long. But most will have the days split up in periods, with the possibilities for some rest in between the shifts. 
Then there will be a few hours late in the evening as well, for  some socializing among the crew, in the Crew bar, or maybe just hang out in a crew cabin with friends to watch tv or chat.

Normally, if we have had a port day, which cruise ships most often have, the crew will probably go ashore for a couple of hours, to be a little tourist, and then return to the ship for the afternoon and evening shift. When the crew do it this way, normally it is straight to bed in the evening  after last shift, since it has then been a long day without any rest.

 Me inspecting tanks and other spaces during daytime.

Ready for a Formal dinner again. Imagine, I was checking the Sewage tank just before this picture.

So there you have it. If the crew wants to see the world when working on cruise ships, they MUST carefully plan their days, in order to avoid fatigue. It is NOT possible to work full days, then spend their time off ashore, and then socializing with the colleagues in the evenings for a longer period. You will be exhausted pretty soon.

Is it worth it? To be so many months away for you dear ones back home? I guess that depends upon how you can take it. This job is NOT for everyone. But for young energetic single people, I will most definitely recommend it. It is a fantastic period in the life.

Corinth Canal.


Alaska. me driving the Rescue Boat with the ship's Photographer.

 Me, Greenland, around 1997-1999

 Me, Norway of course.

Me, in my hometown Bergen.

So there you go, One can work hard and play hard when working on cruise ships. 
But first of all, it is a  job.

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