Monday, 29 April 2019

The journey begins.

The date is 19th of October, 1995.
As I walked up the gangway on M/V Seabourn Pride, in Piraeus, I was greeted by the Second Officer whom I was supposed to replace (relieve) as he was soon going on vacation. But first we needed an overlap, or a “handover period” in order for me to understand what my new job on this particular type of vessel included.
I was given two weeks to “shadow” the off-signing Second Officer, whom gave me a very good handover, for which I am forever grateful for. Thank you very much the professional handover Arild Oanes (if you read this).

Arild Oanes (background) and myself.

So off we went, from Piraeus, my first ever port with a non-military ship. And I had no idea what was laying ahead of me, or that I had landed my dream job for that sake. I would of course realise that later in my career. Because this job would for the next 25 years bring me to more than 100 countries and numerous (lost count) of exciting ports. I think I have landed on 125 or 126 countries in my life.
But first we would do cruises in the Easter part of the Mediterranean the first weeks of my trip. With ports like Mykonos and Santorini (Thira) the first few days, later in the week Crete and Rhodes in Greece. Then off to the “Turkish Riviera”, where we would visit Antalya, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Fethiye, and Analya.
Talk about exotic places for a Northern-European!

Santorini with the famous white houses on the cliffs.

Aghios Nikolaos, Crete. A typical scenic Greek port.

The last part of this long cruise also included a visit to Cyprus, as well as a stop in Haifa in Israel.

Then we finished off with a stop in Port Said in Egypt. And we ended up in Alexandria in Egypt, where we had a so called turnaround, which means we are changing (most of) the passengers, bringing onboard supplies, and also changing some crew. What a first 2 weeks this had been. And it had just barely started, because the next cruise would take us from Alexandria through the Suez Canal, into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, with plenty more destinations.

But first, before we sailed, we needed a pax drill. For those of you that have been cruising before, you know what this is. Pax is Passengers, a word used in most of the travel industry. The Pax drill is a Safety and lifeboat exercise, where everyone (normally only newly arrived Pax) is lined up at their Muster stations, where they are counted and given safety instructions. Almost as on the air planes, but a bit longer and more detailed info. This drill is compulsory to attend.

Then it was full standby for Officers and crew on the Bridge and in Engine Control room. And of course the Mooring decks for and aft, making ready to cast off and set sail as they say (with engines).

A Deck Officer (that is me) on the mooring deck operating mooring winch.

A sailor (Deck hand) handling mooring ropes and heaving line.

We have special maritime Pilots onboard during a transit of the Suez Canal. These pilots do very little except being the link between us and the local authorities. Nevertheless an important job, in case we get problems. Because there are still plenty “pockets” around the globe where they don’t speak good English yet.
And as we all know, the alternative to sail through the Suez Canal is to sail all the way around Africa, so it saves us several weeks.
The Suez Canal is by the way not that exciting. Maybe in the beginning when we sail past smaller towns and villages, and I remember I saw a lot of military installations, and lots of burned out equipment from the most recent conflict in the region.
But after a short while, there is just sand, sand, and more sand for a long long time. Only interesting we see are the other ships, all kinds of types, passing us the other way, also in a convoy. Because we all must sail in convoys here.

 A couple of the hips from our convoy.

Military material lined up. And a War memorial out in the desert.

As soon as we had entered out into the Suez Gulf, the Pilots left us, and we could continue on our own heading southwards to the Red Sea where our next port was. That port was Safaga (encircled on the attached map below), a small town (prox 40 000 people) with a fairly busy port with plenty of ferries that cross the red sea with mostly pilgrims.
But we stopped here for 2 days because several of the Pax had booked so called overland tours (extended tours) to see the Pyramids.

Safaga, small town with a busy port located in the Red Sea.

And after Safaga, we headed for a tiny place called Djibouti for a pit stop to fill bunkers ONLY. Because this country is very poor but is strategically located as a service port for shipping passing through the region.
This place gave me my first real eye-opener about how people in so called less developed countries can live. To see this poverty first hand was a real shock for me, and a lesson learned which I still to this day remember.

The next ports would be in the Indian Ocean, where we would visit places like Tanzania, Kenya, The Seychelles, The Maldives, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and India, before we entered South-East Asia.
Dream job? I think so.

The new kid on the block.

Next......South-East Asia.

Friday, 26 April 2019

A new career

A new career.

Seabourn Pride

After more than 20 years in the cruise industry, I remember several of my friends and family members asked me, how is it, to have this kind of job, and how come I left the Navy after 11 years to pursue a career in the cruise industry. 
I left the Navy basically because the Cold War was over and the budget cuts had started, which resulted in less and less sailing time. It became boring.
Never really talked much about my jobs when I was off the ships, unless people specifically asked me about them. Not easy to explain something which is extremely far from the work my friends and family do ashore.

Navy man.

When thinking back to when I started out, it was just a coincidence really that I ended up on cruise ships. As mentioned, I had been 11 years in the Navy and never ever had a single thought in my mind regarding this industry. Still, it took only 2 years from when I left the Navy to I ended up in what would be my dream job. And I never looked back.

The first time I actually saw a cruise ship up close was in the port of Tromso (Tromsø), in northern Norway when I still was in the Navy, back in 1992-1993. And it was one of those smaller type luxury cruise ships, not one of those Mega cruise ships we have nowadays. At first I wondered if this was a huge private yacht, or if it was a cruise ship. It was probably the most gorgeous ship I have ever seen in my life. I still remember it as it was yesterday.
So when I left the Navy in 1993 I was given a bonus, which was a basic salary paid each month if I went back to school. And so I did, I went home to my hometown (Bergen) and enrolled in to the Maritime Academy there. Not exactly a young student anymore, but this student was extremely motivated, which gave me good grades and one more year at the Academy before I had finished my transition (cross -over) to Merchant ships.

So after my last exam, I started to send out applications to all kinds of companies. No matter what it was, I sent to Cargo companies, Tanker companies, Off-shore companies, Ferry and Cruise Companies, etc. All I wanted was to go back to work as soon as possible, regardless of what type of ship I ended up on.
And it did not take long, probably just a couple of weeks, before the first reply came with an invitation to have an interview. And it was a small Cruise ship Company, running two small vessels, with the name Seabourn Cruise Line. Sounds familiar?

Seabourn Spirit & Pride together the last season, before they got sold.

Seabourn Cruise Line had 2 offices in those days, one in San Francisco (Hotel operations), and one in Oslo (Marine and Technical Ops). So I flew from Bergen to Oslo since I had applied for a job as a Deck officer.
The interview lasted half the day, which included a lunch together with those two gentlemen who did the interview. It was kind of weird to have lunch with the two very same people who might or might not hire me. I guess they also wanted to see if I could use a knife and fork. Hehehe
Back to the office after lunch for some more info, where they told me they probably would hire me as a Second Officer, but needed to finish another interview later in the afternoon. It was a Friday, so they told me they would call me on Monday morning. They asked if I had a last question before we finished, and I just said that if they decided to hire me, they would never regret it. And as promised, they called on Monday morning to inform me that I got the job. Needless to say maybe, but I was thrilled, and I repeated what I told them on Friday, “you will not regret it”.

Things happened very fast after this. I had to renew my passport, I had to get myself a seamans book (service book), I had to buy some personal effects to bring with me onboard. I had to inform my family I would off soon, for about 3-4 months. They needed to handle all my bills when i was away.
The Company sent me flight tickets and joining instructions a week after the confirmation. I would fly to Athens, Greece where a “ship’s agent” would meet me and bring me to the ship which was moored in the port of Piraeus, the19th of November, 1995.

My home for the next years.

Even though I was already an experienced adult, I could not suppress the feeling that I was excited about joining the ship. This was not only a new chapter in my life, but a whole new book really. A new life, very different from what I used to have. And still the biggest surprise was just waiting for me in Piraeus, because when I saw the ship, I got this flashback in my head.
And what was the surprise? When I saw the ship I was suppose to join, it was the same ship I had admired up in the port of Tromso a few years earlier! Imagine that shocker! Hard to describe the feeling really. 
I felt lucky. 

Found my dream job.

To be continued............

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

More ways to make airport delays.

Of all the FUCKED UP ways we can be delayed and piled up in an airport, this is certainly up among most creative.

How the fuck can we recognize our own luggage as it flies over a tv screen, when so many suitcases look the same. Was even a staffmember standing there to make sure all pax stared at this tv screen.

Heart Attack!

 I recently suffered a Heart Attack, which when I come to think about it was no surprise at all. I am overweight, middle aged, and in no goo...