This is the second post where I'm sharing some of the things that stand out when living on ships that you don't necessarily have to deal with when living on land.
One of the things you don’t notice until you’ve actively thought about it. For the duration of a contract which can be up to nine months you don’t get to be in a place anybody has been calling home. You’re either on the ship or off the ship. When you’re off the ship though you spend the time in restaurants, bars, beaches, resorts etc. They can all be amazing places. To a certain extent cabins can even be personalized. But you never get to sit on a couch in a living room of somebody’s home, where pictures of family and memories are hanging on the walls. You never get to eat home cooked food and you never get to cook either.
MD cabin on the Carnival Miracle. Picture taken from the bed. As you can see this is also the office.
I always travel with two things that make me feel home: chocolate and the stuffed bear.
There’s something familiar in places that people call home. Ships, bars, restaurants, hotels are awesome but they’re sterile, they don’t offer the welcoming warmth of a home. This is not necessarily something that you actively miss or even notice when onboard. But when you get home after the contract and you get to be in a living room or a bed room somebody’s been living in, you immediately notice that you’ve been missing this feeling for the past couple of months.
Always at work
Working and living in the same place can be a challenge. You can never get completely away from work. When you’re off you’re still with people that you work with, you still have to wear your nametag and you’re still on the same ship.
There's always somebody calling you.
Some positions on ships get a cellphone to always be available, not just when they’re in their cabin or office. As musical director you get a cellphone which you take with you wherever you go, also on your days off (which isn't a day off, it's just a performance free day). This cell phone is one of the worst parts of the job. It’s the incarnation of the phrase: “you’re always at work”. People can call you 24/7 for whatever reason, and people don’t care and don’t know better. Musicians usually go to bed at around 2am and get up at around noon. So a musician might call you sometime in the afternoon or evening when you're in the gym. A cruise director though or an entertainment director is usually up at 8am already and starts office work at 9am and now he calls you. It’s 9am. I’m a musician and the MD, which means I went to bed at around 4am and now you’re calling me at 9am! I would almost never set an alarm in to wake me up in the mornings as I knew that somebody would call me before 10am anyways.
You get the idea, work is always right there. Even without a phone, you’re still going to run into your boss or employee on your day off.
As MD you're always on the phone, even when family's visiting.
We get a couple of news channels on TV and that’s about all the news you’ll get from the outside world. Obviously there are no newspapers onboard as we’re not in a port everyday. Downloading an app on your phone isn’t a great solution either as internet’s expensive and slow. You’re basically disconnected for the duration of your contract. This disconnection and lack of information always hits me when I go home and my sister shows me music that has been playing on the radio for a couple of months already. But I don’t know any of the tunes because they came out when I was on the ship.
I love ship food. I love the buffet in the mess, I love that there’s almost always something to eat, there’s 24/7 ice cream, milk & cereal, bagels and of course the awesome buffet. Most crew members though complain about the food basically every time they eat in the mess. That’s not because the food is bad but rather it’s because it’s not what they’re used to, it’s not what makes them feel home. Food plays an important role in making people feel at home and welcome. I talked to human resources once when the HR director told me that the Nr. 1 problem the HR department has to deal with is the quality and variety of food offered in the mess and the crew complaining about it.
The crew mess during the monthly food party on the Carnival Miracle.
Also, you can’t cook your own food while onboard. You can request a fridge for your cabin and there’s a microwave in the mess but that’s about it. Some ports have a food market with kitchens that you can rent and cook your own food with. Sometimes there’s a crewmember or two that really like cooking and make a deal with the chef so that they can use the galley for a party or so. But usually you’re stuck with what’s in the mess.
Some positions have guest area privileges and are allowed to eat at from the buffet in guest area.
There’s a 24/7 pizza place upstairs as well. That's usually the place you go to after partying all night. The place is often packed with crew and guests at 3-4am.
A great thing about ship food: It’s free and you can have as much as you want!
More posts like this one coming soon.