Friday, 25 October 2019

When bad weather sets in.

A photoshopped picture.

I have over the years been asked so many times about how it is to work on a cruise ship when bad weather sets in. Well, as I always would reply, it kind of depends of the ship’s size and how bad the weather is. But regardless of this we will of course notice the weather one way or another. It might only be some slight roll (side to side), or slow pitching (up and down with the bow), which normally would make crew and passenger just become a bit sleepy.
Or, on the other side of the scale, we can experience the most brutal movements, which can in in worst case make people lose balance and fall, if they don’t hold on to something. The latter can of course make some of our passengers and maybe a few crewmembers a bit nervous. One thing is for sure, if we experience very bad weather, it will affect all crew in one way or another, as well as the passengers of course. So when the really bad weather sets in, and lots of people on-board get sick, both Passengers and Crew members. The ship can sometimes in bad weather look like a ghost ship with hardly anyone around. 

Captain Toennis Soerensen checking the decks before bad weather.

Many people will experience some sort of nausea, and some will be so sick they throw up a lot and feel drained for all the energy in their bodies. Because it is normally a long time since last time the ship experienced really bad weather, since we always try to operate in areas where the prevailing weather is good for cruising. So bad weather will naturally affect the level of service the crew can provide for the passengers since less crew members will be on duty, and the ones who are on duty will be less effective. 
Luckily, the vast majority (if not all) of the passengers will have an understanding of why service slows down, as well as the efficiency among the crew. But nevertheless, the show must go on and the crew know this. And many crew members do their tasks despite not feeling too well, since they do not want to be an extra burden for their colleagues who might have to do extra work in order to fill in for you if you are sick. We all have experienced how it is when some of our colleagues are sick and the rest of us must cover their duties. And when this happens, we older and more experienced crew members will offer advice to our newest colleagues in regards to how to reduce the risk of getting sea-sick, and how to get over it.

We had to quickly re positioning from an anchorage once, our tender-boats followed.

Remember back, when working on a smaller size cruise ship and the weather was not the best, the Room Stewards and Stewardesses who were supposed to take care of the passenger cabins twice a day would stand in the passenger corridors for ages, staring at those Do Not Disturb signs. Hoping the passengers would leave their cabins so they could take care of them. 
This could be a nightmarish exercise for the staff, since many of the passengers never leave their cabins during bad weather, or at least wait as long as possible hoping for improvement in the weather. So the brave crew stood there waiting and waiting, sometimes for hours, like loyal soldiers, some of them ash grey in their faces. Impressive stuff boys and girls. My hat off for you brilliant colleagues.

Heavy pitching.

Sometimes we can experience such brutal weather, we just have to ride it out by heading up against the waves with as little speed as possible, just enough to steer the ship until the weather starts to improve, or we have passed the area affected. This can take hours and and in some cases days, and is an extremely tiring period for all on-board the ship. Especially the watch keeping personnel, because they normally have shorter periods of sleep than rest of the crew, and need to be on duty again at set times. So if they struggle to sleep when off duty, they will sooner or later start to experience some fatigue.

Pursers riding the storm out. Still in good mood. 

Story time - Here is one little story I don't forget.
We had finished the summer season in Europe, and the so called re-positioning cruise started out from London, and would end in Boston. We would call one of the British channel cities, then on to Ireland (Cork or Cobh), then up to the Orkney's, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland (Canada), and towards Boston. In other words, we would do a North Atlantic crossing during the autumn. And we always hated this crossing, because it would be rough. We knew that.
As soon as we left Ireland and heading north, the weather started to become bad and it didn't take long before we had to slow down in order not to slam into the big waves. A storm had started to develop moving eastwards towards the Orkney's and Norway, and this was in our planned course line. So we slowed down to make it less uncomfortable for the people on-board, to avoid damages to the ship, and to give the storm center time to move away from us. But we could not avoid it totally, since these systems normally stretches over many miles. We just had to limit the effect it had on us.

 Time to close the shop on-board.

Sorry, this restaurant is closed.

I was the 4-8 (16-20) watch-keeper on the Bridge back then. It was pitch dark outside, it was pouring down with rain, and the wind was really making a lot of noise. Each time the ship's bow slammed into the waves the entire ship shook with a shock wave being sent through the entire ship. You had this feeling the ship was in the air for just a split second just before it hit the waves. And a second after it hit a wave, lots of sea spray hit the bridge windows. And every time we got ready to get down in case the windows got pushed inn. Something which had happened some years earlier (I was not on-board then).
Nobody said a single work on the Bridge. I stared at the radar screen all the time, and the two (double) look outs were staring intensely out the windows and into the dark to see if they spotted any lights from smaller boats I could not pick upon the radar. This went on for almost two hours. Very tiring for all of us to try to see something in the dark, which is not there.

Needless to say, the show was cancelled.

The the door to the Bridge was opened, and in came the Captain (Captain Leif Rodahl), he had given up sleeping. He went over to the table were we kept the weather faxes received the last hours. No internet those days, so the weather information came on special weather fax machines which monitored certain frequencies. The Captain stood there reading the faxes and calculated how long before we had passed this storm center, before he moved over to where I stood in front of the second radar on the Bridge. No words except for a "Good morning" were exchanged. And we stood there both looking at our radar screens in silence and sometimes making ready to get down when the sea spray hit the bridge windows. This went on for another hour or so.

I skipped the gym.

We finally started to have some daylight, which meant we soon would be able to see out the windows again. So we started to see the waves more clearly now, and we could observe these huge heavy waves building up and towering in front of the ship, before they would break over the ship's bow. We all just stared out the windows now almost as hypnotized, just watching the brutal side of nature treating us as we were onboard a paper-boat. Still, nothing was said, we all just watched it in silence.

And then suddenly someone broke the silence, it was the Captain, and he said exactly what we all had been thinking......"I kind of wish it was still dark outside". And my reaction? I started to laugh almost hysterical. We all laughed out loud on the Bridge, including the Captain as he just realized how funny it actually was. It was like we all needed this outburst, a release of tension. 

A few more hours and we had finally passed the storm, and the crew (still sick) could start the clean up procedure throughout the ship. And one lessons learned was of course....... (look at the pictures), make ready for sea next time.

An attempt to make a X-mas picture before bad weather sets in.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

The various jobs on a cruise ship, part III.

The Seabourn Pride 2009. Picture was shot by Chief Engineer Arvid Joakimsen, and sent to me.

In parts one and two, I talked about the Engine Department and the Deck department. And in this part I will write about the by far biggest department onboard, the Hotel Department. After all, as already mentioned, it is a hotel on keel. With all the different types of jobs one can find in any hotel or resort ashore.

Together with Hotel Manager Laurent Lalouer (sitting).

Hotel Department.
The fact this department is the largest and with many familiar positions (jobs) is of course not a surprise to anyone. One does not need to have any experience within cruise ships or the travel industry to figure this out. And as I wrote about regarding the two other main departments onboard, this department is also divided into several Sub departments with their own Managers and Supervisors. And they all report upwards in their system to The Hotel Manager, or in some ships the General Manager.
And once again, just as with the two other departments, the one on top is responsible for the entire department's performance in regards to the budgets given and the service provided and making sure the passengers are so satisfied that they will return. 
Let's have a look at how this department is split into several smaller departments.

Bar Manager Roland Nema checking the inventory.

The Bar departement headed by Bar Manager is running all the bars onboard, with bartenders, bar waiters and waitresses, utilities hidden behind the bars taking care of the pantries and washing all the equipment and getting stock from the main provision rooms.
Furthermore they also have lots of staff who are involved in taking care of the passengers around the pools and hot tubs out on open decks, by providing towels and arranging sun chairs, bringing cocktails or other beverages, and so on.

Dressed up for a Formal night, together with Bar Waiter and Bar Waitress.

A Seabourn favorite, Nelson Rojas.

Then you have the Housekeeping department headed by the Housekeeper, with all the room stewards and stewardesses who take care of all the staterooms, or cabins. All the Hotel utilities who takes care of the corridors and staircases, and other public rooms, polishing brass and stainless steel, emptying garbage bins everywhere, and vacuuming the carpets. And not to forget the people behind the scenes down in the Laundry rooms, where laundry crew, linen keepers and tailors work.

Housekeeper Linda Duvenhage.

Housekeeper Sonja Johannesen and two stewardesses.

Stewardesses relaxing during time off out on deck.  

Anther big sub-department is of course the restaurant crew, headed by the Restaurant Manager, or Maitre D'hotel which he or she is called on some ships. A very big department with Head waiters (Supervisors) who follow up assigned sectors in one of the restaurants onboard, where the regular waiters are working, together with the runners who bring the food from the the galleys (kitchens) to the waiter stations, and bring dirty dishes back to the galleys.

The main restaurant (2 deck) on Marella Discovery 2.

Restaurant staff lined up on the pier.

Bar and Restaurant staff also work on the beach when we are at anchor (in the background).

The Galley Department is another huge department on any cruise ship. Headed by the Chef De Cuisine and his second in charge Sous Chef. With numerous of Chefs and Cooks who deal with meat, soups, sauces, fish, poultry, and what else they might need to make in a modern kitchen (galley). 
Several galleys around the ship depending upon how many big and small restaurants, bistros, and other eateries the ship has. Of course there are also a bakery in every cruise ship, with regular Bakers as well as Pastry Chefs, with their helping staff. 
The department also has a big number of galley (and waste/garbage room) utilities who helps with washing equipment, decks and bulkheads (and operating the machines), and help out serving in the Crew and Officers Mess rooms.

Chef De Cuisine John Pugh lending a hand during a crew B-B-Q night.

Assistant Housekeeper Claire Maasdorp and other crew in the Crew mess. 

Hamburgers on the menu today?

The Galley department, Restaurants, and Bar department are all supported by another department which is headed by the Food & Beverage Manager, who is one of the ship's senior officers as well. This depends on the size of the ships, as the smaller ones will have the Provisions master as the head. But on the larger vessels with huge amount of supplies, worth a lot of money, there will normally be a F&B manager in charge.

Part of the huge galley being maintained.

Galley staff having a break, watching a contractor.

Why the galley staff wear HardHats? Because even in Dry Dock they work.

The next sub department within the Hotel Department's organization is the Entertainment department, headed by the Cruise Director. And here we can find....correct, all kinds of entertainment staff, such as single entertainers as Stand Up, singers playing on a Piano or a guitar, various enrichment lectures, dance teachers, and so on. The ship's bands (there can be several on same ship) belong to this department, as well as groups of professional dancers. Basically anything which can entertain or activate the passengers in some way.
Not the largest department, but nevertheless a very important department, because the customers (passengers) will want to have entertainment, regardless of where they find themself in the world. And they want it to be as professional as possible.

Cruise Director Martyn Payne makes an announcement from on Bridge P.A.

Cruise Director David E. Green makes an announcement. I miss you my dear dear friend R.I.P.

Ready for the evening's show.

Other sub departments in the Hotel might be the Spa. Which is the Saloon where you can get a haircut, your nails done, a massage if you like. You will also find the gym in this area, because you will find a Gym in all cruise ships these days, equipped with whatever machines you might find in your local gym back home. I always brag about the fact that I go to the Gym every single day, which is true, in order to inspect it. 😆  Silly, yes I know.
And of course, you will also find all the Saunas and steam rooms here.

Foot therapy anyone?

Having nails done.

Spa Manager Diane Jubb, from Liverpool.

Other smaller departments include The Travel (or Destinations) department, who arrange all the tours/excursions for the ship's passengers in the various ports. We have a range of shops onboard selling snacks, all kinds of toiletries, perfumes and colognes, watches, clothing, etc. Tax Free of course.

Destinations Service staff om Marella Discover 2.

We have of course the Pursers (Chief Purser & Crew Purser). And the Guest Relations department. The name differs from company to company. This is the reception with all their staff, with a special Officer with the title Guest Relations Manager heading them. And I tell you, having observed the staff in the reception upon a turnaround day when 2000 guests leave and another 2000 arrive, it can be a very stressful job. Talk about sometimes being in the trenches. Can you imagine how it is to sit there and take the heat from lots and lots of people who are angry, or frustrated, or just need to report something? It takes some special skills to handle this calmly. Not a job for my personality. I really admire these colleagues of mine.

Receptionists from a Seabourn ship.

The Chief Purser and Crew Purser are two Administrative Officers who will take care of lots of paperwork and also finances. The Chief Purser is in charge of all the ship's official documentation in regards to being "cleared" each time we arrive a port and new country. The Chief Purser is kind of the ship's Liaison Officer who will work closely with the various ship's agents in the ports, as well as dealing with the Officials such as Immigrations officers, customs officers, etc. He/she will also be in charge of the ship's official cash reserve which is carried around with us, which must sometimes be declared.

Chief Purser (standing) and Crew Purser, on a Seabourn ship.

The Crew Purser is, as the title suggests, the Purser who has all the Administrative paperwork regarding the Crew. The Crew Purser is the link between the ship and personnel office shoreside (Company). All crewmembers must hand in their passports and various types of certification (proof we can work there), as long as we are on the ship. And this is taken care of by the Crew Purser. The Crew Purser will also provide the on-signing (returning or new hires) crew with various types of information when they arrive the ship and also give a cabin key the to crew. Same again when crew is leaving for any reason (vacation, transfer, quit, etc), the key is collected, and passport, certificates are handed back to the crewmember again. This Purser also takes care of the ship side of travel arrangements for the crew, and hand them their tickets/itineraries when they leave the ship.


In Pursers Office. Looking at this picture, it seems as Doctor Socrates will sign on.

So to sum it up, the amount of jobs you can find on a cruise is the same as shoreside, and with additional ship based jobs as well. I have most likely forgotten about some of the smaller departments or jobs, which I apologize for. No wonder we are like a floating town or small city.

Guess which department onboard these two belong?

The pictures below was from a Blessing of a Marriage (between two crew members) we had on the Bridge in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Sarah Louise Parker-Reyes had accepted the marriage proposal from Edgar Salamanca Reyes Jr. I was asked to "give her away" which was a huge honor of course.

Escorting the Bride to be, to the Bridge.

The happy couple.

The voyage continues....

Thursday, 3 October 2019

The various jobs on a cruise ship, part II.

Seabourn Pride's Deck Department prox 2005. I see 10 different jobs in the picture. Me in the middle.

Deck Department

The next department is the Deck department. This department is where you can find all the Navigators and the sailors (deck hands). The Captain comes up via the ranks in this department since he/she must be a navigator by trade, that's the law. And he/she is per definition the Company's representative onboard, thus not really a part of this department, since the Captain sits on the top of the Administrative pyramid onboard.

        Captain Valter Berg                                   Captain Sven Erik Pedersen

The Deck Department is run by the Staff captain (Second in Command onboard). Sometimes nicknamed "Staffie". And as with the Chief Engineer, Staffie is normally responsible for the budgets within his department, looking at overtime payments, local purchases, maintenance and repair routines, planning and purchasing (via Company system) spare parts and consumables for maintenance. In line with the Company's regulations.

Staffie Dag Os                                                        Staffie Nils Nordbraaten

In this department you will find, as already mentioned the Navigators with the ship's Navigations Officer (Nav Off) in charge of all the happenings on the navigational Bridge with it's quartermasters (special educated helms-men) and junior Navigators. The Nav Off will prepare all the future cruises by drawing up the courses in all the charts, or plotting waypoints on electronic charts. The Nav Off will plan when we will report in and out of various traffic separation schemes, any sectors we must avoid or report to local authorities, etc. The Nav Off will also hold a navigations brief for all the Navigators and Captain where they all will go through each and every leg for the upcoming voyage. This includes every port entry as well as the various berthes (piers) we will use.

Nav Off Ivan Dimitrov                                Nav Off Roald Dyrnes on Mooring Deck.

Myself as Nav Off.

Outside the Bridge operations we will find the ship's Safety Officer (a Navigator by trade), who is normally in charge of maintaining all the ship's Safety equipment, whom is also responsible for all the various Safety related training and drills (we have weekly drills) for the entire crew (Officers and ratings). This includes the training/briefing of all repair contractors, guest lecturers/entertainers, trainors, etc we might sail with. The Safety Officer is also responsible for training the fire teams, and maintaining all the equipment we can find in the Fire Stations (Lockers) onboard. Yes, because ships, and especially cruise ships have several fire stations throughout the ship. 

Safety Officer Stanislav Stanchev

The safety Officer will have a team of Safety AB's (Able Bodied seamen, which is a rank), some of the regular deck hands, as well as some of the junior watchkeeping Officers (junior navigators from the bridge). 
A large Cruise ship these days will carry thousands upon thousands of various types of portable fire extinguishers which are placed in strategic locations all over the ship. The ship has several hundred (automatic or locally/manually closing) Fires screen doors and Watertight doors throughout the compartments inside the ship. All this must be frequently inspected and tested.
In addition all the ship's Lifeboats and davits (special designed crane for lowering), life rafts and life raft davits, lifejackets (including all the spare ones), rescue boats and davits, must be inspected tested and maintained. Again, the Safety Officer organize this.

Safety Officer James Terry planning and explaining.

Then we have the ship's Chief Officer (a Navigator by trade) and the Environmental Officer. The Environmental role is normally combined with the Safety Officer's position on the smaller type of cruise ships. But on the larger ones, it needs more attention since the work scope is much larger. On my present ship this role is combined with the Chief Officer's position. Normally a Chief Officer will be second in command on regular cargo ships/tankers, etc. However, the cruise industry has created this middle management position, where this officer will work closely with the ships Bosun (Boatswain) regarding all the regular maintenance outside technical areas. 
This includes inspecting and maintaining all the tanks regarding Fuel, sewage, freshwater, grey water, lub oil, technical waste water, etc, and all other rooms and spaces in the entire ship. He/she is also in charge of making sure the ship at all times looks "spick and span", so rust removing (picking), coating and painting are being done continuously. You can imagine how much area there is on the larger cruise ships to maintain.

Chief Mate Sean Smith

The Environmental part of the job has increasingly become more and more important the last years, as most of us are aware of. This job includes organizing training for the ship's crew and officers in regards to Environmental rules and regulations, as well as internal garbage handling (waste sorting, etc), and planning for discharging various types of garbage to trucks shoreside. On my present ship, we will normally "deliver" 20-25 pallets with compacted garbage of all sorts. It can be paper garbage, oily rags, electronic waste, food waste, plastic and metal cans, etc. And it has all been sorted onboard by a special team for this.
The Companies are making a priority of this these days, in order to make sure we do our part.

Environmental Officer Daniel Butler

The next group I will mention is the Bosun (Boatswain), all the deckhands as ABs (able bodied seamen), the OSs (ordinary seamen), and all the Carpenters.
This group of crewmembers represent the backbone of the Deck department, with all the general knowledge and special skills they represent. They are the ones who "do the stuff". They are the ones who can be assigned special maintenance or repair tasks, or used as regular utilities if needed for certain projects onboard. They are the ones who rust pick and paint, and wash the decks and bulkheads. They are the crew who operate the life raft, lifeboat, and rescue boat davits, and sometimes drive the Tender Boats (depending on the ship type).
You see these guys everywhere, hanging over the ship's side, inside tanks, up in the masts, out on deck scrubbing the teak, sanding and varnishing teak railings, around the pools and jacuzzis, on the pier rigging water hoses for fresh water bunkering. 

Careful up there.                                                 Preparing on mooring deck.

    Plenty of windows to wash.      Painting ship's side, using Cherry Picker.

All the Deckhands report to the Bosun, whom is their Foreman.
The ship's Carpenters, they are a small special team you can find within the Engine and Deck department. These guys can maintain and repair anything which is not electrical/mechanical. They specializing in carpeting, linoleum, wood work, doors, hinges, handles and they are the ship's locksmiths as well. They can fix a passengers damaged luggage when they arrive. They can repair the broken heel for a lady's shoe. A good carpenter is worth his weight in Gold.
Wherever you find yourself on a ship, it doesn't take long before you see one of these guys passing by, or stop to repair/maintain something.

Bosun Ramon Cabugon.

Bosun Miromarino Enriques.   Mister Pogi himself 

Carpenters at work, in various workshops on the ship.

The next department you find within the Deck department, is the Security Officer and Security guards/staff.
When I started out in the cruise industry in 1995 there was one single person in this sub-department. Unfortunately, the world has changed so much that we need a much bigger department these days. Not only because of terrorist threats, but the cruise ships are getting larger all the time, and they become like floating towns and cities, with all the issues we might find there. So, the Security detail is kind of the ship's Police force, except the fact they can not really arrest someone, so they need to operate in a less aggressive way.
The Security Officer and his staff/guards will be posted on the gangway while we are alongside, as well as having patrols around the ship. They maintain all the metal detectors, explosive detectors, alcohol testing equipment, drug detecting equipment. So instead of arresting people, they are trained to approach potential unruly (agressive for some reason) passengers and crew members in a more diplomatic way. Of course, they can protect themself if needed (self defence training). A good security team will be able to prevent potential issues we might face with passengers or crew members.

Security Officer Gary Colton. Not happy about the paparazzi.

Gangway security guards on duty.

Then finally we have the ship's Hospital. 
Oh yes, a modern cruise ship is carrying a fully equipped Hospital with Doctors and Nurses, as well as a morgue. Don't forget, this is a floating town, with people who has accidents all the time, or get sick, and sometimes (not often) pass away. This floating town can sometimes be located in the middle of the ocean with several days to next port. And for this we need a department to take care of all the souls onboard. The Medical department.
The ship's hospital will normally have a fully equipped operating room, depending of course of the ship's size and number of people onboard. But there will always be a Doctor who can perform all kinds of routine operations, and Nurses who can take care of the patients, and perform standard Emergency room duties and looking after the hospital ward with all the hospital rooms.

Nurse Malou Molina-Soriano and Doctor Socrates Grecia

Nurse Malou, Bosun, and Carpenter working together to adjust something in the Hospital.

And finally...........
I never figured out why we looked to serious here. At anchor outside Kho Kood, Thailand.

Next, the Hotel Department.

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...