Tuesday, 24 September 2019

The various jobs on a cruise ship, part I.

My present work place, and home away from home. 750 Crew members.

After a series of stories about my first years in the cruise industry, with a lot of positive comments. I thought it might be time to write something about the various jobs and departments one will find on a cruise ship. 
If you have no experience at all with cruise ships whether it is as a crewmember (or shoreside staff), passenger, or travel agent, you will be surprised about how many jobs there are on a cruise ship. 
Too many to list and explain here, as there are probably about 70 different types of jobs and it would take pages upon pages. So I will mention the most regular ones, which is not necessarily the most important ones. Because on a cruise ship, there is no job which is more important than another job!

Seabourn Legend Crew picture. Only 173 crewmembers on this ship.

First thing to remember is the fact a Cruise ship is a Hotel or resort, on a keel. Actually, come to think of it, it is more a town or small city on a keel. This is because whatever you find in a hotel/resort or in a town these days, you will most likely find many of the same jobs on a cruise ship. There is very little that can not be done on a modern cruise ship these days. Especially the larger ships.

A hotel on a keel.

All the workers onboard, or the Crewmembers, are normally assigned to one of the 3 main departments onboard. It might be the Hotel department which is by far the largest, Technical (Engine) department, or the Deck (navigators, etc) department. In addition, a ship normally sails around with some outside contractors, trainors (teaching crew), and guest entertainers.  Let's have a look at the various Main and Sub departments, because each main department is divided into smaller departments with their own managers and Supervisors. 

Hotel staff.

 Deck hand

Technical staff.

Engine Department.
I will start with the Technical Department, or the Engine department which it is most of the times called. This department is not surprisingly in charge of all the stuff which is related to maintaining and/or operating most of the electrical/technical and mechanical equipment, and all the big and small Engines and motors of course.

The one in charge of the Department is the Chief Engineer or "The Chief" which he (or she) is often called. An Engine Officer whom has come up from the floor after the education, and worked through all the Engine Officer ranks, something which takes many years to do.  And the Chief is of course responsible for the departments performance in all regards, as well as in charge of budgets for repairs, maintenance, order future spare parts, order fuel for future voyages, within the size of budget given by the Company. Several of the Chief Engineers end up as Technical Superindendent shoreside.

 Chief Engineer Paul Haugland.

Chief Engineer Sven Ludvigsen.

Chief Engineer Knut Ivar Lier (and myself).

Just like the other main departments, the Engine department has several Sub departments with their managers/supervisors. The Staff Chief Engineer takes care of the daily routines and is in charge of all the motor men, greasers, and all the Engine Officers. The Chief Electrician has all the various types of electricians and Electronics officers. And most of the times you will also find the IT department in the Technical department. Yep, the "geeks" and "nerds" belong to the Engine department. I apologize for the silly nicknames guys. 😉
The IT department has become a more and more important department in these modern days. Each and every office onboard seem to have a computer workstation, with single or multi-screens, as well as printers (and scanners), depending who occupies this office. The Bridge is packed with computerized stuff. And so is the Engine Control room.

Two IT Officers from Seabourn. They just pulled the main cable by mistake.

Another sub department will be the Refer Engineer and his crew. Or the Refrigerating Officer, which is his official title. But he is often just just called "The Refer". Can you imagine how many small, medium and huge walk-inn fridges and cooled store-rooms there are on a cruise ship? Not forget all the huge air con units and numerous of fan rooms. Every single room for passengers and crew will these days have air condition and ventilation installed. Every single passenger cabin will of course have fridges, as well as most of the Officers and crew cabins. All these will be in need for some sort of regular maintenance or repairs.

 Technical crew repairing stuff.

 Maintenance on an Engine.

Installation of equipment on the Bridge.

The Engine department has numerous of workshops to repair and maintain all the items onboard, where we can find some of the ship's carpenters, repairmen (mechanical), electricians, and other service people. 
And of course we have the Engine Control Room , where we always have Engine Officers and ratings (motormen, electricians, greasers, etc) on duty in order to make sure the ship's electrical supplies and propulsion systems are operating safely. They even control most of the ventilation and air condition from the Engine Control room. Whenever I visit the ECR, I make sure I never lean up against anything.

The Engine Control room on the Seabourn Legend.

Already mentioned the The Chief Electrician and his people. they take care of...correct everything electrical or electronic. This includes simple items as light bulbs, light switches, dimmer switches, televisions sets, search lights, navigations lights in the masts. Or more complicated items as Radars on the bridge, special buttons, switches, or levers on the Bridge and Engine control room. Various gauges in all kinds of rooms or on equipment, electrical wiring everywhere like in a big building or a city. You name what Electricians do shoreside, and they do the same onboard, in addition to the ship technical stuff. 

Chief Electrician Ulf Solberg. Hit his head inside a consol.

The Engine Department also take care of the technical upkeep of all the various whirlpools (hot tubs), and swimming pools onboard, as well as all the equipment the Entertainment department use.
Not to forget all the pipes onboard which transports waste water (black and grey water), fuel oil, lub oil, technical waste water, and freshwater. All the various types of pumps for Sewage (black water), Grey water (showers and sinks), Fuel, and everything you will find in the bathroom.
I apologize for not remember all the things this department is responsible for. One thing is for sure, it is absolutely incredible what "know How' they have combined when it comes to technical stuff in this department.

Staff Chief Engineer Slawomir.

Welder from Engine Department.

Next, let's have a look at the Deck Department.

Friday, 20 September 2019

The journey continued to Hong Kong.

Seabourn Pride at anchor in Halong bay.

After we had been to Halong Bay and finished with South East Asia, which had included Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, it was time for the final leg of this absolutely amazing (and everyone's favourite) cruise. And for me, being in this part of the world for the first time in my life, it was so many new impressions, which still came thick and fast.
We were now heading for Hong Kong where we would "turn around" (embarkation day again),  but with a seaday first, which would bring us through the Hainan Strait as well.

From Halong Bay to Hong Kong, via Hainan Strait.

As indicated on the chart, the next day at sea was first a crossing over the Gulf of Tonkin, a historic place for those who are interested in the Vietnam War. Then we sailed through the Hainan Strait, which has lots of traffic, which made the seaday not as relaxed as sea days can be. We had to double up on the bridge the entire day, with the on duty Navigator plus the Captain or Staff Captain, 2 look outs, and a helmsman (quartermaster).

Staff Captain Dag Os, on the Bridge. Quartermaster Alfeo Armilla at the helm.

After the day it took to enter, transit and leave the Hainan Strait, we went back to regular sea watches again with a Navigator on duty and a look out (a Deckhand on duty). Before we again would double up as we were approaching Hong Kong in the early morning hours.

First Mate Kaare Kolseth on duty on the bridge.

We started to approach Hong Kong very early in the morning, with a lot of ship traffic. As one can see from some of the pictures, it was lot of haze in the early hours, before the sun "burned" it away. Interesting to see how they have been building upwards, as the area of Hong Kong over the years got more and more restricted for real estate development.

High riser apartment buildings.

Haze in the morning hours.

So this cruise was coming to an end now, and we would have an overnight as well here in Hong Kong. Another special thing was the fact that the "Christmas cruise" would also start from Hong Kong. Which meant I would spend my first Christmas and new year on a cruise ship. Had been doing it many times already while in the navy. But this would be something completely different.

These kinds of boats have by now, more or less disappeared.

The incredible light show they put on at night in Hong Kong (and other cities  later on) was absolutely amazing. Never experienced this before. I can only imagine the energy usage of all these amazing lights. These days, it would not be wise I guess. The pictures I have posted here are not of the best quality as I tried to hold a camera at night time, with no flash.

Merry Xmas.

Light show.

However, we would NOT "turn around" in this exciting port, which I never had visited before. Because we were actually heading for a scheduled 2-3 week long Dry Docking first. But we would have an overnight. 

The season's upon us.

Not good quality, but you get the point.

We stayed next to the Star ferry pier.

Again, many of these evening and night pictures are of poor quality since I really have no idea how to take good shots in the dark.

Light show on display from the buildings.

We stayed alongside on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong.

So, after the scheduled Dry Docking, we we would head back the same way towards Singapore again for another turn around. Something many of my colleagues strangely enough did NOT look forward to. Little did I know how hard it can be for our colleagues in the Hotel Department onboard during a Christmas and New year cruise.

Next, to celebrate the special holiday seasons onboard as a crew member.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Halong Bay, Vietnam.

At anchor overnight in Halong bay. The town of Hon Gai in front of us.

Then we were heading to a place I really had been looking forward to. The world famous Halong Bay (or Ha Long bay), in northern Vietnam. A bay dotted with small and big islets which seem to have been growing up from the bottom a long time ago. I think I read somewhere it is approximately 2000 tiny islands or islets here. 
A place which of course is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And also made famous many times by various movies as James Bond (Tomorrow never dies), Pan, the classic movie Indochine, and of course the latest which is Kong: Skull Island.
This place must be experienced if you find yourself in this part of the world.

Halong bay. Usually some haze early in the morning.

Thousands of small islands and islets popping growing out of the water.

As this place is absolutely incredible, so I will add much more pictures than normally do this time. This so people really can get a taste of this place. 

Local traffic. 

Floating mobile home.

We normally arrive the Pilot station around 5 AM, in order to make sure we can transit through the channel between all the islands as slowly as possible. You really need a maritime Pilot here, because the nautical charts covering this area is based upon information collected by the French authorities back in the 40s and 50s. In other words, not exactly updated.
So by using the GPS, which many think is a magic box, is nothing less than dangerous, as we will run aground immediately. The charts are not according to the GPS, easy as that. So we are without a doubt dependent upon good local knowledge, which these pilots have.

Interesting shapes and formations.

Look at that gap under the island! It looks like a..........correct, another cruise ship.

As soon as we have anchored, around 9-10 AM, local tour boats start to show up, and tie up alongside our ship's side. This so we can start as soon as possible to get our dear passengers off so they can get on their way on their planned excursions. This particular operation is a little "nightmarish" because it is all before a deadline, and hardly anyone speaks a word English, and none of us speak Vietnamese. So we are again very dependent upon some of our local agents to get this run smoothly.

 Local tour boat.

Tour boat.

Normally when cruise ships are visiting they will stay for 2 days (an overnight), so the passengers can get as much as possible of all the cultural and nature experiences. You just can't get it all within a day or so. So we normally are at anchor since there are not that much space at the local docks (berths). Unless you happen to work on one of the smaller types of cruise ships, then you can go alongside in the container port in the town Hon Gai, in the end of the bay.

Hon Gai town, were we tendered in to.

Sun setting over Halong Bay

No matter how stressful the first morning might be, it always goes well. We know what is expected from us and them, and it was easy to see my colleagues had done this many times before. Their professionalism was impressive.
Of course, as in so many other places in the world, the locals might seem like they are in a state of chaos, but they are actually just using a system which we are not used to. They always manage to do their part well.

Some locals appeared after dark.

Asking for handouts.

Of course, when we are visiting places like this, the ship's crew members will also use the opportunity to proceed ashore and discover the local sights and sounds as well. So did I, as soon as I was off duty for some hours, I went ashore with some of my colleagues. A ship's crew ID and US dollars in the pocket, and a camera over the shoulder. Why US dollars and not the local Vietnamese Dong? Because you probably can use US Dollars on the planet Mars as well, if there is life there.

A small shrine on the top.

I just have to repeat myself again, if you happen to be in the region, you must experience Halong Bay. You will never regret it.

After we finished with this magnificent place, we were having a seaday transiting towards the end of this spectacular cruise, which was Hong Kong.

Friday, 6 September 2019

To DaNang, and a stop in Haiphong, Vietnam.

Local dock workers having a break.

We had just visited the exciting city of Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, which is the official name, and heading down the Saigon river again. And next stop would be the city of Da Nang, a big fishery port and later on a stop in the commercial port of Haiphong, in the northern part of Vietnam. And once again, exciting ports far away from home were waiting for us as we continued this amazing cruise towards Hong Kong.

Fishing port.

Da Nang is very famous for many things, and in particularly because of the Vietnam War. Something most of us who are following history are aware of. This area has been populated for thousands of years, and with populare trips to the old Imperial city of Hue, just about 100 Kms away. Da Nang is a city with approximately one million people, and it is a mix of old and new /modern culture.

Local fishermen.

It is a huge fishing port, but it is also very famous for its marble production. Very cheap marble which one can get shipped home for a low price. This is something you just have to follow up if you visit Da Nang.
Of course, another thing which is maybe not that known to all yet, is the fact there are some amazing beaches near the city. This is a well know fact among all the American service men and women who was stationed in this area during the war. 

Big and smaller fishing wessels and work boats.

After Da Nang, it was on our way to Northern Vietnam, and with an overnight stop in the huge port of Haiphong. This city is among the biggest in Vietnam with more than 2 million people. And you have to sail up a tidal river here as well. Something which will make us stay for more than a day, since we are dependent upon the right tide to proceed down river again.

Hai Phong, Vietnam

Alongside a huge commercial port.

The capital city Hanoi is inland, so Haiphon is also the nearest big port used. I think the distance is not more than 120 Km.
I believe some of our passengers went on a so called "overland" tour to Hanoi from here. Which means they either stay over night there or come back late the same day.

Local tour operators standing by with their buses. Note the Christmas three on the pier. 😁

Vietnam is really a special place to visit, and not only because of the Vietnam War. The people are very hospitable, and it is amazing to see how indistrous they are. They seem to be able to make anything work, whatever little they have. When you travel north-south (or south-north), you might notice they are a little different from each other in many ways, as we are as well back home from region to region. 
You will see that the people in the southern part look more similar to their neighbours in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. And in the north they look a little bit more like their neighbors to the north and east (China). Another thing very noticeable is the fact they are better in English in the southern part.

Local workforce have a break and watching us.

As already mentioned, this is a huge commercial port, with no cruise port. So we had to tie up next to all kinds of general cargo vessels, in all kinds of state (maintenance wise). This is not exactly a daily sight for the locals, so they were very curious. It was like the Circus is in town, and we were the circus freaks. 😁
Extremely interesting to observe for my first time. 
However, little did I know what was waiting for me at next stop, the world famous Halong bay.

Next stop,  something for anyone's "bucket list" if you plan to visit South-East Asia.....Halong Bay.

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