Life at Sea- BLOG #5
Ahoy! I know a lot of people were curious about the living conditions of #shiplife outside of work environment, so I thought I’d dedicate this blog to show what it’s like to live in the crew areas of a cruise ship and give a glimpse of what goes on down below the decks! I’ll also discuss my thoughts and impressions about my crazy start to the long contract.
Of course, everything I say will vary from ship to ship, ranging from quality of food, musicianship, how staff is treated, crew privileges, etc. For example, the ship I work on doesn’t give the musicians a night off, however, it gets made up (in my opinion) by being a boat that goes around the world, instead of having the same itinerary over and over again. The ship itself is like any other cruise I’ve been on, by now I’ve gathered that most cruises have the same basic floor plan, theatre in the front and restaurant in the back, lots of decks, tanning beds and pools on the top. I believe the vessel holds 3000 people in total (900 are crew), standard size cruise ship.
Starting our tour with my cabin (on deck B), and I’ll do my best to get good angles with pictures, consists of a bathroom, bunk beds, two dressers, a desk and a fridge. It may seem small for two people, but once I unloaded everything and got comfortable, I’ve found to have plenty of space in the cabin, granted, I have a pretty awesome roommate that respects my space and is very clean himself. I’m sure many others have not been so lucky with rooming situations! In a way it also forces me to be cleaner and more organized, which is a good thing. Oddly enough, I still have a cabin steward who comes by every other day, makes my bed, cleans and gives us fresh towels. In some ways I’m just another passenger! (No animal towels though ☹)
There’s one main hallway above me that everyone uses on deck A (below deck 1) called the “Burma Road”, that provides access and entrance to pretty much all areas on the ship. The name changes from ship to ship, and is usually named after a busy highway or road due to its heavy usage. You’ll find all crew, staff, officers and even guests (seasick or illness) on this passage way, I see new faces every day! Most of the stairs and halls in the crew area has that same blue paint for some reason, I’m not sure of the reasoning, although I hear it's the same color on every cruise line. It’s definitely not a place to be tall, the hallways, doors and ceilings seem smaller for all crew areas, I assume to give more space to the passengers. There are definitely a few places I would hit my head if I were a few inches taller! The various stops from Burma Road include medical rooms, crew office/gym/bar/shop, security, housekeeping, and the crew kitchen and mess area. We are essentially a floating city and office building!
There are two “messes,” or places to eat, one for crew and one for staff only, musicians are considered staff but I sometimes wander over to the crew mess for things like rice or curry. In either mess are a couple of pretty awesome coffee machines that grinds new beans every cup, which I’m very thankful for, as bad coffee was a big concern for me going into this. Everyone congregates for mealtimes in these areas so it can sometimes feel like I’m back in high school, stories and gossip travels around pretty easily! It’s even “clicky,” in that everyone kind of eats and hangs out with their own co-workers, so it ends up being musicians with musicians, officers with officers, crew with crew, etc.
Something that will make my brother happy, the company is very strict on waste! Bit ironic when you consider what goes on with the customers above at the Lido deck buffet! Not only do they want us to not take more food than we can eat, but we are also trained on and required to recycle and must separate trash, food, plastics, etc., so that the cruise ship can effectively manage waste. Littering over the boat is an is an easy way to get yourself fired.
Thankfully, we can use the passenger gym for free, restricted times only, but it ends up working great for my schedule most of the time. It’s up on the 9th deck at the front of the ship and has plenty of free weights and machines, everything I need, including a nice sauna with a great view out the side of the ship. There’s a huge panoramic view through windows by the treadmills and bikes that lets you see for miles! I’ve already seen some awesome views of Amsterdam and Cherbourg during a workout since we’re so high up, the ship is pretty much a 11-story building itself!
Some deck areas are accessible by crew only, which can provide some nice peace and quiet if you time it right. There’s a specific area on deck 5 referred to as the "metal beach," that passengers can’t access. It even has a pool and tanning beds, a good place to sun bathe or find some fresh air!
Thoughts on the start of the contract:
I love it so far! It’s crazy to think a month ago I was so worried about what I might not like about working on a cruise ship I didn’t even think about how much I might enjoy it! The musicians are absolutely fantastic, and a total blast to perform with. They’ve been extremely supportive and welcoming, and have offered a lot of advice and answered all my questions, my roommate has pretty much been babysitting me while I get used to things. Even the ones who have done ships for 10+ years say they can still remember vividly their overwhelming first week of work! To be honest some of the music is a lot more challenging than I thought it would be, but I'd prefer it be too difficult as opposed to too easy, this way, I'll be pushing myself to do well and improve.
I’m stoked for all the travelling I get to do, it’s exciting to think of all the places I get to go that I’ve never been before, all while getting paid to play saxophone! A lot of these places I may never have had the opportunity to go in my lifetime otherwise. Seems like I’ll usually have to be back on the boat by 4/5pm for the daily rehearsal, but that’s plenty of time to do stuff in port, even if I get up at 9 or 10am. I’ve even heard that I can volunteer to help with the passenger excursions, and tag along for free! It's crazy that I have no time to get acclimated to one culture, one moment everything's in English, the next French, then a stop on a Portuguese Island, then the Caribbean! My surrounding environment changes everyday and I hope to find lots of adventurous things to do.
Obviously, I’m in a bit of a honeymoon stage at the moment, since it's still very early, but I’m incredibly grateful to be on this world-travelling cruise with stellar musicians and an awesome roommate and hope I continue to take nothing for granted. I’ve heard horror stories about other ships where some musicians will intentionally try to make the new members sound bad, or getting stuck with people who aren’t good for six months/don’t care about the music, and endless, endless, amounts of bad roommate tales.
Beyond all the travelling and comradery, I’m seeing this as an opportunity to improve my musicianship and individual health and I’m going to do my best to seize it. Nothing in my life has been more satisfying than setting personal goals and seeing results from my own hard work and time. I’m grateful for the good habits I made prior to the contract, practicing 2 hours a day and working out every other day back in Farmington has made it easy to keep it going in a foreign territory. With all the sea days I have ahead of me, I should easily be able to find a solid routine with time to work out, practice, rehearse and perform! It reminds me a bit of a glorified Ephraim, Utah, being in an enclosed situation with a lot of time to practice because there’s nothing else to do. I feel like the improvements I'll make here are what I thought college would (or should) have been for me, if I wasn’t so distracted by girls, drama or my own emotional immaturity! The fact that I’m paid to be here is the icing on the cake, I can’t express how thrilled I am for this opportunity to improve and hope to continue to rise.
That’ll be all for this blog, I hope it offers a closer look at my current living situation! I’ll be talking about the long Caribbean voyage on the next. Thanks to you who are reading! Please give it a thumbs up, or share with anyone you’d think would find it interesting! If you’d like to ask me anything feel free to do so in the “Contact Me” box that should be in the bottom right of the screen.