Geiranger, Tender Boarding, and Assembly Line Photography

1 Jul

Oh, Geiranger. What a beautiful sight. All those mountains, waterfalls, and cloudy peaks, green meadows, and moss-covered houses. Truly this is one of the most beautiful places on earth. On my fourth visit to Geiranger fjord I am still amazed by this view. Normally I get bored very easily, so my prolonged interest in this hikeable paradise is worthy of mention. Unfortunately, our visit today is cut even shorter than usual, so I will take this opportunity to rant about tenders.

Moss-covered houses in Geiranger fjord, Norway

Even towns that explicitly live off the fine commercial art of cruise tourism often don’t have a harbour that is big enough to support more than one of those huge cruise ships. Geiranger, in particular, has the capacity to receive the gangway of only one cruise monster. Since the ABC RypMeOff is the second ship the port is harbouring today, we have to stay half a mile off shore. Instead of simply walking off the cruise vessel passengers have to board the little tender boats. Those are then lowered to the water, and drive us into the harbour where we celebrate our luck of not having sunk to the bottom of the fjord.

Tender access is a bit more adventurous than the regular gangway, because we get to drive around the port for a while, and thus actually get to see a bit more of the raging waterfalls that make this place so special. However, it also steals another hour from our day. The tender boats are only supposed to leave when they are crammed full with passengers, so including the double security checks you may spend some twenty minutes from your arrival at the terminal to actually heading out into the fjord. Obviously, passengers take priority over crew members, but to make things ludicrously worse there is a three-hour moratorium for crew, meaning that for the first three hours after anchoring we are not allowed to leave the ship, even though the passengers are mostly gone after an hour. It’s another one of those cases where the captain makes sombre plans based upon experience and circumstance, but fails to acknowledge that any situation is subjected to change. I said this before, but it certainly bears repeating: crew does not matter to the management of ABC Cruises. Requests for change are irrelevant, if uttered by paid employees.

Hotels surrounded by scenery. That's Norway.

This is a pretty nice environment to work in.

Fortunately, I am on duty this morning, and my duty requires that I leave the ship early. Lolek’s wife and I dress up in some ridiculous costume, and Rob shoots us with his camera when we pose for pictures with the passengers. Since we are anchored in Norway our costumes were tastefully designed after the fashion of the Norse. While Lolek’s wife wears the traditional garment of the Nordic elk herder, I myself am clothed in a wild leather outfit that reminisces the trading Vikings of days long past.

Nah, just kidding. Both costumes were bought at a British Halloween store for ₤9 each. The lady’s choice is a cheap attempt at a farmers dress from the early 1800s, while my statute outlines are cursed with some failed crusader mail made from cheaply painted plastic. My own moustache is a better costume than this bad excuse of a cleaning cloth. Alas, ABC Cruises does not have a budget for costumes.

Together we stand around the harbour, at the single access point through which all the passengers have to pass on their way to Geiranger. Whenever a tender sheds its humanoid load onto the planks of the port we ready our wits, waiting for the passengers to funnel through the security check. They usually approach us single-file, like the cattle in a slaughter house, giving us ample time to smile and wave, preparing them for the assault that is about to happen. As soon as they reach us, we both sling our arms around one shoulder of the next passenger in line, smile into the camera, and Rob takes the picture. It doesn’t actually matter that half our victims don’t smile, and the other half looks anywhere but towards the camera. Image counts matter, costumer satisfaction does not. That is one of the few key lessons that management really pressed upon in these past few weeks.

Buskers in Geiranger fjord, Norway

We are not the only ones working the peer. These Norwegian buskers were awesome, too.

Be that as it may, we make really good progress with our three-person approach, and very few of the passengers seem to mind. Since the set-up of each picture is identical Rob never needs to change any settings, and we never stop any passenger for more than two seconds. That work is as easy (and monotonous) as it gets for a cruise photographer, so we procure a great number of photos with rather short bursts of action.

Overall, I am quite happy with our performance. We get fresh air, sunshine, plenty of smiles, and a guaranteed pat on the back for our great service to the company. The only downside of the morning is the constant whining from Lolek’s wife. “How long do we have to be out here?” “Can we go back now?” and “I am tired” are her most frequent concerns of the hour, none of which is bound to improve the mood of onlookers or coworkers. It is the bane we live with, the one complainer that every team needs to level the general mood and expectations of everyone else. Not a day goes by without Lolek’s wife leaning against a gray corner, collapsing into a heap of misery, and complaining about the work she signed up for. After nearly two weeks she still does not understand that no whining will ever free her of labour.

Two days ago we had the task of shooting passengers on deck until 10 A.M. Even five minutes to ten she was still coming up to me, asking if we could go now, humming the old mantra of cruise photographers: “nobody wants to take pictures!” I’m not sure why she consistently asked me, considering that I myself am quite new to the job. I don’t know what that says about her intellect, but five minutes is certainly not a stretch of time I would risk a warning for. And my advice to her was always the same: “Gal, just walk the deck for a few more minutes, and enjoy the view. If anyone asks, you can still claim to have done your duty, even though you were actually just having a walk.” How is the boss ever going to trust you, if you can’t fulfill the simplest of tasks without taking offence in your personal situation?

Predatory salesmen aboard the ABC RypMeOff

ABC Cruises breeds gruesomly agressive shop keepers. – Just kidding, these are friends of mine, being funny.

I don’t even know why it bothers me so. I will be gone in a week, and the rest of the department (plus four newbies!) will have their chance to explore the gruesome depths of her melancholy. Who knows – maybe the manager will finally grasp the hardship that Lolek’s wife has to undergo, and free her from this life of trouble and strife. Miracles happen.

By the way, it seems that I “forgot” to punch out after work, again. Seeing that I wasted the first three hours of the day on work, I did not return to the ship just to punch my time card, especially with those bloody tender boats in between. Instead, I stayed ashore, and only boarded the tender about half an hour before my evening shift started. Saved myself over an hour of waiting time, all for the cost of signing a sheet that corrects my time stamp “error”.

Also, here is the final update to my photo gallery of Geiranger Fjord. Have a look!

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