Heading Home! Blog #15

Hey everyone! After starting my contract way back on November 13th, 2017, it’s time to head back home for a six-week break in Utah before starting a five-month contract in June. It’s been an exhausting push for the finish line, but I wanted to power through and make sure to end everything on a high note by going out and seeing the new sights and areas. Even after all the ports I’ve been to already on this contract there’s still a lot of world to see! I thought I’d share some of my last adventures as they’ve turned out to be some of my favorites!

I feel I’ve developed a strong “ship sense” now, in that when I go out in new cities I always have a strong idea of where the ship is docked, even if buildings block my view of the water. My fear of getting lost has gone away, and it’s a lot more fun to wander around new places without too much worry. In Dubrovnik, Croatia, which, by the way, caught me off guard as one of the most awe-inspiring places we’ve been to (I had no idea it would be so beautiful- it’s where they shoot Game of Thrones), I ended up wandering into a tranquil, serene nature park that overlooked the ocean. I wouldn’t mind staying a lot longer in Croatia in general, but I hear it can get insanely busy at peak times, it’s not quite summer yet, but the ports have definitely been increasing in tourist as the year goes on and the weather heats up.

For Venice, Italy, I figured the best thing to do was get absolutely as lost as possible, which I did by a) making sure the ship terminal could be located by GPS and b) GOING FOR IT! The city is such a maze itself it can be hard to navigate even if you are heading for a certain area, but I chose to just wander for some good three-four hours. Eventually I found a good pizza place, had plenty of gelato, and then found free Wi-Fi to help me get back to the ship. One thing’s for certain, I need to figure out a way to have more room to bring stuff home, cause I want to buy more, especially Italian clothes! My suitcase was stuffed coming out so bringing anything back would prove to be a challenge, I’m planning to bring an empty suitcase next time to bring more back! We have a couple overnights in Venice on the next contract I’m planning to save some money specifically to go shopping there (I’ll be sure to have my family’s shirt sizes handy as well 😉). Someone recommended a “Wi-Fi on the go” box that I bought for next contract, it’s essentially 12 gigs of data you use as a hot-spot for 12 months, and works in about 80 countries, pretty helpful tech since my phone coverage is limited out here- I mostly wanted it to research good places to eat!

Perhaps one of my favorite days of the contract came in Gibraltar, where I heard at the top of Gibraltar Rock lived some monkeys. One of the first things I told my roommate was for a contract goal, “I just want to see some monkeys,” and that was clear back in November! I did see a couple in Mexico but I heard there lived a large colony here. For whatever reason, the ship apparently always needs to leave Gibraltar earlier than other ports, this time being 12pm, so my roommate and I got up early and made sure to be the first people to leave the ship in order to have enough time to hike up and down the mountain.

After an hour and a half hike (and hiding my stuff from potential pick pocketers), we made it to the top where there were disappointingly no monkeys in sight- lots of food left out but maybe we were too early. But as we made our way to an area away from the trail, to an overlook of the surrounding cliffs and water, they noticed us. One by one they made their way over to us, getting surprisingly close! They must be very comfortable around humans, still, I didn’t want to touch any of them because I heard they can get aggressive. I’ve always loved wildlife so to be able to see the families of monkeys interacting up close made it one of my favorite days of the contract, as well as some of my favorite photos.

The final cruise before I leave toured up to Norway ports, a location I’ve been looking forward to seeing since the start of the contract! Thankfully we’ll be returning in the future on my summer contract, as these were some of the best hiking days I’ve experienced in a while. Just the sheer grandeur of the mountains and the serene water made it a stunning place, especially since we lucked out and happened to go with sunny, clear weather. For food and coffee, I just didn’t even bother that week, I planned to spend no money, and save a bit to enjoy the break instead, I had heard stuff in Norway can get pretty pricey- I saw a plate of fried fish in Bergen that cost 50 Euros! But perhaps even better than the hiking was the sailaway from ports and sailing through the fjords. The scenery was magnificent! And I guess because of snow and glaciers there are hundreds of waterfalls coming out of the cliffsides. Spectacular way to end the contract, as I always enjoy spending time in nature, especially when the views are eye-popping.

Ironically, I’m ending the contract the exact same way I started- musically. Remember that guest entertainer clarinetist that was my first show? He’s back this week. Remember the guest entertainer that freaked me out cause of flute parts? She’s back this week. And the production show that scared the crap out of me three days into the contract? Also back. And they all went great! I was happy, it goes to show that I’ve improved a lot in my time here, especially on my doubles, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Of course, repeating shows always helps with making the reading easier.

As far as my hand pain goes, I’ve been able to handle everything fine and nothing has gotten worse. I’m optimistic cause I talked to the guitarist and he told me he had a very similar injury awhile back, and felt the same pain from the same hand motion (screwdriver, mine was water bottle) and he was worried he’d have to stop playing. But after taking it easy for a while it went away and never came back for him. I am still interested in asking a specialist just to make sure when I get home, as I don’t want to be careless. Maybe it was all just a sign from the universe to actually stop, acknowledge and enjoy what I’ve accomplished, as I can turn machine-like sometimes when I’m going after my goals. It’s been weird, to be honest sometimes a bit frustrating too, for me to not be able to practice and work out, and I’m sure I’ll be able to in the future, but I’ve taken this as a good chance to iron out other important aspects of my life.

So there it is, six months done! As I write this before hopping on my direct 11-hour flight back to Utah, I think back to how nervous I was before the start of the contract and about how much has changed since. My confidence in life has skyrocketed as well as my confidence to play music. It’s crazy to think of how many people I’ve met in such a short time, from various cultures and continents too! A normal conversation at lunch today consisted of friends from Hungary, the Philippines and England, beyond that I now have friends in Canada, New York, Chicago and Boston in North America!

My final word about working on ships to try and give you the idea is that it is its own complete little universe a completely different experience to living on land, and I still closely relate it strongly to high school. You can imagine the drama that can happen when you’re living in such tight quarters with rumors, jealousy and cabin fever going around. The different groups of people even have nicknames around the ship, “the cast, the musos, the shoppees, the housekeepers, the steiners, etc.” Eventually I was known as the "saxophonist from the theater band" to other crew members. To be honest it might feel weird not seeing and interacting with the exact same people every day once I’m home! Monogamy is an interesting topic as well, since the long distance can put such a strain on relationships, as well as working with people in such a close bubble, a lot of people have open relationships, with one on land and one at sea.

It definitely is a life of its own, and as far as my overall time here I feel I got extremely lucky with the situation and am very grateful- if I ever have a bad day, I take a look at where I am in the world and think about how a year ago I was working 40+ hours managing a Subway in Utah, it usually changes my perspective a bit! I should also never forget my roommate situation is similar to striking gold, it is unheard of rarity for #shiplife and am glad that I can request the same “roommate” again 😉. Through its own ups and downs, I personally really enjoy working here, it’s a crazy experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and since I don’t plan on doing it forever, I want to enjoy it while it lasts!

This is my last blog for the contract, I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all my family and friends that have been keeping up with me start to finish and supporting me as I go through this journey. I come home with the world feeling a little smaller, myself feeling a few years older and now armed with countless stories to tell and talk about for a life time. I look forward to reading back on what happened on this contract sometime in the future. I’ll try to continue writing on the next as it has become a fun hobby that I thoroughly enjoy, and a good way to stay creative while keeping those who are interested updated on my life. Thank you again, I hope to see as many friends and family as I can on my break and hope you’ve enjoyed reading!

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