CRUISE – Sea Day, Safety, and Gala Night

29 Apr

During my morning shift I am called off for my first of many safety trainings. About thirty crew members are stuffed into the training room, all fresh to the ship, mostly oblivious to the safety regulations of the company. The safety officer identifies that as a problem, and volunteers to rectify it. His weapons are a board with the international alphabet, a folder with information about the ship, and a rather monotonous voice. None of those weapons shows much effect, and soon enough I find myself drifting off into much needed sleep. Maybe I should record his monologue; five minutes of broken English from the sonorous Italian counter clerk should cure most people from sleeplessness.

In a desperate attempt to remain awake I open the information folder that the Sleep Officer has handed out, yet again he stops me in my path. “Don’t reedd thise. This is not the information”, proclaims Mr. Sanders. The Italian baritone pulls out a pile of red paper cards, and drones on: “the information you neede is here, on the redd carte.”

Well, that’s a relief, but why don’t you give us that card then? Why do you even bother handing out these “vessel familiarisation” folders, if their contents don’t matter? And why are you droning us into sleep, and then wake us from slumber? If you are trying to be a nuisance, at least do it quietly!

The man has a heart, though, and after half an hour of spelling out the different alarm codes that we may encounter he hands everyone a “redd carte”, and walks with us through the ship to show us our safety locations. I still have no idea how I got there, or what role I am supposed to play during a drill or emergency. But that is a worry for another day. For now I am happy to return to my walking duty in the gallery.

Vigo, Spain. A view of the port

Life aboard a cruise ship is not all just fun and games. It’s still pretty, though.

We spend all day at sea, so the photo gallery is open from nine o’clock in the morning until midnight. I don’t really mind walking the nearly empty gallery, and gazing tiredly at the many pictures of nameless passengers. But I have to shoot this evening, and I really should be rested for that. That’s just my opinion, though. The manager thinks I will handle the situation well, so he is not concerned with my inability to sleep during the day.

It’s not like this is going to count anyway, because, as mentioned before, the passengers have had quite enough of us pesky photographers. They don’t want any more photos, and they are not shy about announcing that circumstance.

Grand Glittery Stairs aboard ABC RypMeOff

The Grand Stairs are a photographic attraction on cruise ships. Often enough they were my photo studio.

Still, I feel a certain degree of excitement about my evening shift, because for the first time I get to shoot cruise passengers. My studio is the Grand Stairwell; a set of wide stairs that connects the three public decks around the Atrium, and glitters in various elegant colours. My job is to catch people off guard, pose them on the stairs, and shoot their portraits. Ten photos of any couple, five of a singular person.

However, that is not yet the thick of it. It is also gala night, so a tiny fraction of the passengers has dressed up nicely before trotting to dinner. Thus, we follow them into the big restaurants, with the mission to ban their annoyed faces on digital pictures. Without really understanding what I am looking for I walk among the tables, politely ask the guests for a photo, and occasionally shoot someone. First the couple, then lad and lassie as singles. The resulting photos are OK. Apart from exposure, posing, composition, and the fact that every face looks tired (of life in general, and photos in particular). But alright; apparently that’s how things are done on a cruise ship.

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