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Good Bye ABC Cruises, Part 3: Costumer Appreciation

26 Jun Sun Deck of the ABC RypMeOff

Oh, look it’s another boring sea day! Once again I am shooting portraits all evening, at my most favourite site, the starboard Plaza. The location is great because no-one ever visits. This place is so far off the beaten track that even the photo managers only drop by once or twice per night. They then check the quality of the ten photos I have taken already, and wish me luck to shoot ten more. Overall, I have so much spare time that I can easily invest in other activities.

Time to continue that list of pros and cons for leaving the ABC RypMeOff. Even though I have long made my decision, it provides me with subjects to ponder, which is pretty important when you’re tired, and bored, and you have to remain at your station even though your job is one of the most futile aboard. It also provides you, the valued reader, with a better perspective of life on board, which could be important, should you consider becoming cruise crew.

Sun Deck of the ABC RypMeOff

The Sun Deck of the ABC RypMeOff looks glorious. And indeed work aboard has a touch of glamour to it.

There actually are some pretty compelling reasons to take and keep a job as cruise photographer, especially for people like me, who had no professional experience with the camera before taking this job. Even in the six weeks that I held this position, and even with the very limited amount of practical training that the management gave us, I still learned a lot about photography. Not just the Rule of Thirds (look it up, it’s well worth it!), but framing, and cropping, and posing – I am so much more competent about shooting great pictures than I was before ABC Cruises offered me money. Imagine what I could achieve, if I stayed for five more months, gaining valuable experience every other day …

Alas, so much time passes between shootings and evaluation, and I have so few willing models that it takes weeks to see any improvement in the quality of my photos. Yes, I get paid to learn, but it is rather inefficient, which I find very problematic to accept. My inner German scientist hates that lack of efficiency. I could shoot ten times as many photos, if I stood at Berlin Alexanderplatz, and offered free pictures to all tourists. Now, I just need to convince ABC Cruises that Berlin would be a worthy target for their journey around the North Sea. Maybe reduce the size of the ship, minimize the space taken up by bars and restaurants, put some wheels under it, and call it bus. I could sleep at home, and be much more relaxed on my way to work. Come on, ABC, make it happen!

View from deck of the ABC RypMeOff

This is what the sun deck looks like wehn I yell “Photo please?” The view is still great.

Another thing I never used before are strobes. Maybe as a deterrent against drunks and thieves in Calgary City at night, but I never used strobes as a professional photography tool. Flash lights are quite useful for achieving even lighting in any type of situation. However, they are pretty useless when you want to shoot on the fly, and privately I barely do anything else. Maybe that will prevent me from ever getting a job as an “actual” photographer, so there is another career gone.

Shooting tourists is genuinely fun, and I am quite happy whenever one of the passengers comes up to me during the last days of the cruise, thanking me for my energy and support, and showing me the cool photos that I took of them, even though they never intended to buy any pictures in the first place. There is no greater ego buff than the joyful enthusiasm of a satisfied costumer. It makes me believe in myself, and encourages me to continue shooting. Even when more than half the passengers are tired of the continuous barrage of cruise photographers, some of our gusts are still new to this type of vacation, and appreciate our services.

As I mentioned before, life is more fun when you surround yourself with happy folks. Cruise life, even though it is a business first, sometimes allows you to do so. In those moments you can rejuvenate, rejoice, and learn. If you really want to learn about portrait photography, and are willing to slop through a lot of dough to reach your target, maybe cruise photography is worth a thought.

Clouds of Myst in Flaam, Norway

Views like this one make worth aboard as crew interesting. However, if this is all that lures you in, you may not be happy long term.

Alesund and Alcohol

25 Jun Houses and roads interweave in Alesund

I still don’t understand why the other photographers mess up their day by staying up late, drinking and smoking. I mean, this is Alesund. No rain, no heat, just a warm day in late spring with gorgeous landscapes full of rocks, sea, and greenery. We are given a four-hour window to explore the port, which suffices for an exhaustingly scenic hike, AND a snack in one of Norway’s oldest waffle houses. Yet, most of my coworkers prefer to stay up until 3 A.M., and sleep until noon, thus forfeiting any chance to relish the visual joys that Alesund provides.

Oddly enough most of the other photographers start their work day with a decent load of espresso, followed by various refills throughout the evening. Otherwise they certainly would use the next down time to curl up in a corner, or dangle from the next hose pipe like a seafaring sloth. I’m not trying to judge or criticise, but if it was only the money that was keeping me on the job, I would probably have quit way earlier.

Mountains of Alesund, Norway

Alesund. Can you think of a better place to vacate your mind of worries?

No wonder things get lost or damaged all the time, when people only stay awake through the overuse of caffeine. A few days ago we discovered that one whole session of photos from the last embarkation shooting was missing. Tonight I found that set of photos on an SD card that someone had dropped behind the PC. Had I not accidentally dropped my own card, we may never have recovered those missing pictures. I did not actually care at first, but when Assistant Manager Bobo entered the office and stood behind me, continuously bugging me to leave the office and start shooting, I suddenly felt determined to prolong my stay. No idea what he’s so stressed out about. I bring home some twenty-odd photos per night – two minutes in the photo studio won’t make any difference to me or my image count. Shouldn’t I rather make sure that my equipment is complete and well-maintained?!

Anyway, I sat down at the video terminal, and started moving boxes and computer parts about. I could easily do without my second memory card, especially since our department loses at least one card every week. But since Bobo insisted on me running about like a crazed rooster, I felt compelled to do the opposite. And thus I discovered the secret stash of lost memories – a pile of SD-cards and batteries that over the years dropped off the makeshift memory paddock on the video computer, and plunged into the abysmal darkness that my hyped coworkers never dared to check. Something like the Bermuda triangle for disposable electronics.

Houses and roads interweave in Alesund

Norway is a beatiful place, in various ways. You have to have a cruise job to ignore that.

There you have another reason for why I don’t fit in here: I don’t give in to the haze and the stress. I don’t “live” the cruise job. Nearly everyone else on our team is constantly filled up to the nose with caffeine and alcohol. (You read “nose”, and a c-word following, and you totally thought of an illegal drug. Shame on you!) One drug is to remember the work schedule, the other to forget it. The two substances don’t mix well together, so in order to keep the body in an upright position my coworkers have to down loads of that stuff, sometimes both in one sitting.

Of course, alcoholic drinks during duty are being frowned upon, and being drunk on the job usually gets people fired. However, since most of the staff and crew are constantly on the edge of being tipsy, nobody really notices, and certainly nobody cares. Security personnel smoke in their cabin, and bar tenders taste-test their own merchandise, so why should photographers stay sober? Yeah, I know, rules! But they don’t matter much, if you remember my previous blog on the subject. Rules aboard the ABC RypMeOff are more like guide lines for public appearance. As long as nobody is watching, rules are of no consequence to its valiant subject.

To summarise the conundrum, the photo staff is being chased about by cranky managers like banjo bunnies on a music festival. Staff drowns their worries in alcohol, resulting in short tourist days, and long coffee nights. The only value they gain is the butter girth from the crew mess, and that is not a feature that increases endorphin-levels long term. I wonder if I can stay with ABC Cruises long enough to see any of my coworkers graduate to full-time alcoholics. They have about ten more days before I leave the ship, so I may have to manually speed up the process. Maybe if I poke sour pot Henry a bit more …

Alesund, one of Norway's card fjord towns

Alesund, one of Norway’s post card fjord towns

PS.: There are some final updates to the photo gallery of Alesund. Look at all those pretty pictures!

I miss Ramadan

24 Jun

Ramadan is over. Too bad, I was just getting used to the loads of food that my Muslim friends shared around the table each night. Well, I am a well-trained academic; I know where to get more food. Still, this is another one of those rare occasions where I can report some gratitude among the otherwise miserable cruise experience.

Ramadan started on the 26th of May, and ended today. Finally the fasting time is over, and all the Muslims aboard can return to eating and drinking throughout the day. That’s actually a great enough thing to celebrate, because cruise jobs are demanding enough without having to wait ten hours for your next glass of water. As is tradition, the month of hunger and strife ends with a big buffet, so for one last day we get to bask in the glory of cruise food.

Breakfast buffet for cruise crew

This is the usual presentation for crew meals, so naturally any better selection is praised as grandeur.

For one month all Muslims had to fast; today they get to feast. Since I am a nice guy, I am invited to the celebrations. People usually only invite me for food if they a) don’t know about my extensive stomach, or b) have way more food than they can devour themselves. I’m not sure which of these options fit tonight, but I am happy to once more share the table with friends. We laugh and eat, talk and listen. For about an hour the hardships of this cruise endeavour are downed by the cherishing joy of friendship lived. It is quite ironic that greater suffering brought us together, but I guess what really matters is the happiness that we are united in.

This is one of the aspects I will miss about my job as cruise photographer – the bond that I share with so many of these people. One might call it friendship, but apart from dining together and having the odd conversation in port we don’t actually spend any time with one another. We don’t share common interests, or explore ports together. We just share a work place. And a common hatred for our supervisors. But when times of need arise those simple bonds form important connections between people. I guess this is the same force that makes poor people fall in love with each other more easily than rich people – it is easier to value what you have, if you have little else.

I am looking forward to leave this cruise life behind, but at least the connection to my fellow henchmen is something I will miss.

deck of the ABC RypMeOff

Every public place aboard the ABC RypMeOff looks grand. Unfortunately, the crew area looks quite the opposite.

Tricks for your life aboard

23 Jun A submarine in the port of Zeebrugge, Netherlands

It’s Embarkation Day! I am usually not quite that joyful about embarkation, but this is my last embarkation shooting, so there is reason to celebrate. As a matter of fact, this blog will be somewhat helpful to other people who are about to become part of the crew of a cruise ship. So, maybe there is something in it for you.

As happens so often I wake from dream-less slumber around 8:30 A.M., which is just early enough to rush for the staff mess, and acquire some bread roles and fruits for my journey ahead. I have to start shooting the embarking passengers at 13:00, and at that point already need to wear uniform, so really I should be back aboard by noon. Returning to my cabin takes at least forty minutes, because I would have to stand in line to get aboard, and stand again, to get back into the terminal. Considering that it takes some thirty minutes to get into town from the cruise terminal, this would leave me with barely two hours of port time. However, Lolek & Bolek showed me how to make the most of my port visit to Hamburg.

Hamburg retains that "Merchant of Venice" charme

For me as a German Hamburg is not actually that incredible a sight. I still want a few hours to explore, if I’m here.

Instead of rushing back to my cabin after I return from Hamburg, I actually drop my uniform in a big paper bag, and leave it with Bolek, who will be shooting the first shift. When I return from the city around 12:45 my uniform is already at the terminal, so I just slip into the bathroom, dress up, and Ta-Da! Saved myself nearly an hour of running and waiting, just by employing my coworkers as uniform mules. Unfortunately the electronic schedule will show later that I did not sign in for work, because the only places where I can swipe my time card are aboard. But that’s a minor issue; hardly a day goes by without one of the photographers forgetting to punch his/her card in or out before or after work. I know people from the Entertainment Team that NEVER punch their cards, because the whole process is so utterly futile.

Everyone aboard gets paid a fixed salary (plus potential bonus). Everybody has their own schedule. If they don’t show up for their shift, that’s immediate trouble, because a lot of other people depend on your punctuality. As long as your do your job the actual electronic clock and its synchronicity with your life depends merely on the discretion of your supervisor. I know that Ingrid from Entertainment sometimes forgets to punch her time card in or out, which results in her serving longer hours than she is signed up for, at least on paper. So every other day she has to sign a paper that sets the record straight, synchronising her work schedule with the electronic time served.

Cruise Photography during embarkation

This is the last time I gonna show this stupid photo from the embarkation shooting. Promise!

Ingrid’s work partner never punches his time card. NEVER. So, according to the records he never works. That’s fine, though. Nobody cares. It’s just when your work hours exceed the limit set in your contract that you run into trouble.

Where was I? Oh yeah, time matters. Particularly when it is limited; like when you are working a cruise job, and have a few hours to explore a port. So, use what resources you have at hand to make the most of your scheduled spare time.

Cruise Bonus Payments

22 Jun Cruise ships in Geiranger, Norway

It’s the very last day of this Norway cruise, and we are still some €17,000 short of our €61,000 goal. Thus, our declared goal for the last sea day was to sell photos like crazy, make every guest personalised offers, talk them into purchasing overprized aluminium prints (starting at €150!), and reeling in those missing 23% of the cruise target. We fell some €2000 short, which is a real downer, but nevertheless a great opportunity to introduce you to the bonus system of ABC Cruises.

A bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

Look at all those wallets! As a part of cruise business it’s your job to go after their money like a dog after the saussage.

Every department aboard that sells anything, be it perfume, watches, photos, wine, or tooth brushes, has a target number for every cruise. If, at the end of the cruise, the department meets the sales target, they receive a bonus payment. Depending on the margin by which we surpass the original goal our department receives 2% to 10% of the original target value, which is distributed evenly among all team members. With a target like the present this would mean a bonus of €76 to €380 per person for this two-week cruise. Naturally, you strife to reach that goal.

It actually does not matter how you reach the target value; you just have to show that your total revenue stream for the entire cruise exceeds the number provided. So, if management would allow it, we could sell photos for half the prize, offer digital sale-out packages, and meet the requirements for the bonus payment while making our costumers very happy. However, such business ideas are frowned upon, and since the bonus would hardly make a difference for the manager anyway, he has no convincing reason to entice a conflict with his superiors over the pricing of our products.

Cruise ships in Geiranger, Norway

Geiranger/Hellesylt is a marvelous place. But if you look really closely, you may still spot a variety of commerce.

Anyway, we did not make the target, and neither did any of the other departments. In fact, nobody on this ship has received a bonus payment since we entered the North Sea, because the target values we would have to reach are laughably high. I have already seen the target for the next cruise, and it is €4000 higher than the last one, even though we will have the exact same number of sea and port days, along the exact same coast. I wouldn’t put it past ABC management if they saw how close we got to the target for the current cruise, and immediately re-evaluated their expectations for the upcoming weeks. Would be a shame to lose all that money on mere underlings, wouldn’t it?

Considering that my payment is merely one quarter of what I was previously promised, I cannot conceive any reason for me to keep this job long-term. ABC Cruises seems to be cheating me wherever that possibility opens itself. Yes, I knew that cruises are a tough business. I just didn’t consider that individual people played such a small part in it. Neither the employees nor the paying guests appear to be of prolonged interest to the managers of this company. So, why would I bother?

Cruise Teams: where individuals don’t matter

21 Jun Fjord Town Geiranger

Oh, what joy; we are anchored in Geiranger once again. I know, I complain a lot, and rightfully so. But the sight of this natural wonderland always fills me with joy, even if I have to wait for the 10 A.M. emergency drill to finish before I can grab my gear, and vanish into the thick green woods that creep up the sides of these beautiful mountains.

Photographers are actually among the few crew members who have a decent shot at taking time off during most port visits, to explore the town and surrounding area. We share that privilege with the dancers, musicians, and a few of the officers. So, yeah, cruise photographers are actually fairly high up in the food chain. We even frequently get the opportunity to join the excursions, be it to take pictures of the paying guests, guide tourist groups to their point of extraction, or just become paying tourists ourselves.

Aerial view of the Fjord Town Geiranger, Norway

Old woods on older mountains, with a side of waterfalls and pastures of sheep. That’s Geiranger in a nutshell.

Well, not all that glitters is actually gold, and not every opportunity is a reason for celebration. Oh, come on, you know my blogs, and you knew I was going to turn this rainbow into heavy snow fall. Don’t act so surprised!

Truth is, Mateja and I both inquired, independently, about receiving a more definitive schedule, so that we could offer our help to the excursion department, and become semi-professional lollipop holders. Every excursion has to be joined by one member from the ABC Crew, who will then hold a big round sign on a wooden stick, depicting the number of one tourist group. The lollipop holder is responsible for gathering his group behind him, and making sure everyone who leaves the cruise ship for one of the excursions also finds his or her way back when the day is done. The job is not very demanding, and comes with a free trip to one of the tourist sites of the day, making this position one of the most interesting aboard.

Alas, Manager Ash does not wish for us photographers to join that team, even on days like today, where we are not needed before the ship leaves the harbour. He just flat-out denied our requests, reasoning that demands on the photo department were so variable that he could not possibly arrange for a full schedule more than half a day in advance, which is markedly less than what the lollipop department needs.

Mateja had even organised a private trip, involving her own spare time and money, and merely asking for a leave of five hours, which is pretty much what we get at any given port anyway. She wanted to go canoeing with Fleet Manager Kosmos, who had initiated the brief vacation, and probably got a special deal from the tourist department for that usually booked-out adventure. (I shall not discuss the deeper implications of that arrangement, because most assuredly there are none. Or so I’ve been told.) Manager Ash briskly refused her the favour, even though it would have cost him nothing, and the arrangement even involved Kosmos, who is higher up in the food chain than barely anyone aboard.

Geiranger Waterfalls

Visit the waterfalls of Geiranger, they said. Well, it’s not like you can actually escape them. The bloody things are everywhere!

Apparently there won’t be any excursions for the photographers other than what we are ordered to do. So, as 3rd rank photographers we will never leave this ship except for a trip on foot. I know, joining the excursions is more prestigious than almost any other crew member will ever be allowed to do. But no other department aboard the ABC RypMeOff has to create AND sell their own product. No-one else is subjected to the same stress and management abuse as us photographers, so being subjected to the same restrictions as those plate polishers and cushion cuddlers is a vicious slap in our tired faces. Particularly since photographers on other ABC cruise ships regularly hold those lollipops, and never have to quibble about it.

Until yesterday I pondered whether or not I should approach Ash, and offer him to shoot the first shift of embarkation on the day of my leave, even though it would have meant returning home even later than already planned. It seemed appropriate, considering that the remainders of this team will suffer greatly from the loss of work force, particularly during the demanding embarkation shooting. But learning about his refusal to let Mateja have a glimpse of fun on her labour trip, I immediately reversed my decision.

Whereas in any regular job your boss will make it clear that you are part of the team, and contributing to the company’s success in your own special way; ABC Cruises seems to be stuck on the message that you as an individual are worthless, and can be replaced at a day’s notice. At least that’s what our manager tells us every other day during our nightly debriefing. It saddens me to see that Ash is tumbling down the same dark path that our previous manager used to destroy the team. But at least it solidifies my decision to leave this company as soon as possible.

 

PS.: I updated the photo gallery for Geiranger. Have a look!

Good Bye ABC Cruises, Part 2

20 Jun

Oh, look it’s another boring sea day! And it’s the second sea day in a row, so the guests are extra-unwilling to enter our makeshift photo studios. No amount of begging helps the fact that the passengers are tired of us, so tonight even the best of our photographers shoot barely any pictures after 9 p.m. Manager Ash took that opportunity to have a merch talk with me, and it seems he wished he had not.

Ash actually ordered me into his office to have an initial talk with me; to set the grounds for my evaluation, and discuss my commitment to this job. Standard protocol. He asked me the price of one of the photo frames, and seemed only slightly perplexed when I told him that I didn’t know the price of every item on our shelves, and instead of studying numbers I would much rather focus on delivering excellent services to our guests. After all, the price tag is on the merchandise. Duh! Costumers might purchase a wooden frame for their 6×8 inches portrait, but are unlikely to build any relationship to a product that is called “Golden Gate”, and costs €7.95. Names and prices are meaningless, if the object does not relate to the costumer’s needs.

Photo Gallery aboard the ABC RypMeOff

You are probably sick of this photo by now. Maybe now you understand the way I feel!

Anyway, we had a very brief discussion about the idiosyncrasy of his evaluation scheme, and after he finished his introductions I asked for a few private minutes with him. He agreed, and sent undermanager Bobo out the door. After expelling a few meaningless speech bubbles that complimented his style of leadership (lol) I returned to the core of my address, and told him straight-out that I was not going to finish this contract.

I will not become a full-scale cruise photographer. The conditions under which I have to labour at ABC Cruises simply don’t warrant my continuous support. Ever since the departure of Manager Mihai and my messy cabin mate Pancho I have had time to think, and have been compounding a list of reasons to stay or leave this company. Glossing over that list I concluded that cruise photography is definitely not my job.

Ash was surprisingly accepting of my decision, although he did not hesitate to ask for any way of swaying my decision in favour of a prolonged stay with this crazy labour-exploiting company. I tried to look sad and thoughtful, even though internally I am already counting the days until my departure. I could have just told him that “Additional Bollux Coming” is a weird, yet fitting abbreviation of the working motto of ABC Cruises. However, I would like to retain my option for returning to this company as a cruise musician, and I could hardly do that by telling my manager that his company is the worst I have ever worked for, and that no amount of money on this side of the Swiss border could make up for the distress this employment has caused me already.

Sportplatz in Alesund, Norwegen

There are certain things that I will definitely miss about this job. But overall it is just draining me of life and joy.

For the moment only Mateja and Ash know about my decision to leave this sinking ship, and I would like to keep at least the latter in the dark about the details. Especially since I have not made any preparations towards my return to Germany. For now I will make the necessary walk to the human resource manager, and receive the form that requests my early sign-off and evaluation. I have a few more days to ponder on my situation, and find the worst possible timing to leave these bloodsuckers behind. The knowledge that no major obstacles will hinder my official resignation has already taken a huge weight of my shoulders.

When I returned to duty after my prolonged talk with Manager Ash, sour pot Henry asked me what had happened that delayed my return for such a long time. He seemed genuinely interested (and disturbed), so I told him that our discussion concerned far-reaching decisions in the structure of management of this department, but that I was not allowed to say any more about it. That should sow some troubling thoughts.

Coworkers that rock your day

19 Jun Honningsvag, Norway, seaside view

It is difficult to please sour pot Henry, my most perilous coworker, especially for me as a beginning cruise photographer. But sometimes he just sets the bar for acceptance too high to even maintain eye contact. Not only is his South African tongue difficult to understand; he also has the attitude of a Russian diva one minute before the premiere of a solo operetta. And that is not the only reason why professional work with this senior photographer is nearly impossible.

Tonight we shot dinner photos at the restaurants L’Arabesque and La Palmerei (Yacht Club). I am rarely selected for that task, because these two restaurants contain the guests with the deepest pockets. However, tonight Jennifer and I were chosen to shoot alongside Henry in those most prestigious dinner environments, because Manager Ash felt that we needed a change.

La Palmerei is traditionally filled with people that don’t want their pictures taken, so that restaurant is quickly done. However, I found the one table full of willing people, and I shot their portraits, taking a bit of extra care, because the big money spenders expect that. When I turned around James was gone. Since I had never been in that restaurant before I didn’t know where he could have gone, so I continued asking people for photos. Obviously, that was wrong.

Life aboard the ABC RypMeOff is grand

Literally every restaurant aboard looks grand, but some even more so than others.

The couple at the next table assured me (in French) that someone had already asked them. Thus, I retreated, looked for James, and found him at the entrance to the restaurant. Where he told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to watch out for the other photographers, and keep eye contact, so as to be aware of their status of operation. How I was supposed to accomplish that, considering that I had my back to the other tables, and my eyes on the guests, he did not reveal to me. I brushed that aside; maybe it’s a feat of South African photo witches.

Two hours later we shot portraits in the same restaurant. While James was happily chatting with the couple at the very first table, I continued my walk along the row of dinner tables, and asked, and was refused by, most of the other guests. When he finally finished his babbling session James approached one of the couples that had already refused me, and got rebuked. Just like I did two hours earlier. That’s not actually problematic, because the guests understand that most photographers have front-sided eyes. However, said incident was not a brush-over for Henry, who then stalked up to me, telling me, in no uncertain terms, that I needed to keep eye contact with the other photographers, so as to make them aware of my status of operation

Same situation, swapped roles. And still everything is my fault. Such is the magical view of sour pot Henry. Whatever goes must be causally related to the lack of willingness and/or ability of the 3rd rank photographers.

Cruise Photography with portable lights

Sometimes we have four photo booths that are merely five metres apart, which does not neccessarily make things easier.

He repeated the same offensive hypocrisy a few minutes later in the atrium, where we both shot portraits, me on the stairs, and he in the studio right behind me. As usual during the busy hours I was bothered by people walking up and down the stairs while I was trying to shoot the people standing on the stairs. Thus, I often had to wait a few extra seconds to get a clean shot. Somehow, Henry’s calls of “faster, Goemon, faster!” did not improve the situation. Posing people in that noisy and crowded place is difficult enough. Frequent calls from the back, pointing out the obvious problem of the situation, are not actually helping.

At the same time Henry took some seven minutes to finish one photo session with one particular couple. That is quite a long time, considering that we are supposed to keep people in our studios for no longer than three minutes, and he infrequently found it necessary to interrupt my own shootings with calls to “shoot faster, faster”.

Honningsvag, Norway, seaside view

Honningsvag is not always draped in mist. But often I wish my mind was.

I’m beginning to see why Manager Mihai found it necessary to lock Henry away in his private studio in the Yacht Club. I just hope that our new manager Ash will draw similar conclusions, because I don’t see any way of rehabilitating this psychotic poo-brain, and transforming him into a cooperative member of a service-based society.

If your office has a “special” coworker, who is residing in a room far from anyone else, maybe take it as a warning. Some evils are only dangerous when stirred.

Repetition kills

18 Jun piano in the cruise ship atrium

Every cruise along Norway’s coast has to feature a visit to Honningsvag, and every one of those visits features a stay over night in their harbour. Fortunately, I have fallen into disgrace with the manager, and therefore am not sent out to the excursion to the North Cape. Instead, while all the senior photographers are out in the field, complaining about terrible weather and photo-unwilling passengers, I stand in the empty gallery, to look at portraits, and reminisce about the terrible music choices of our cruise manager.

I’m not even talking about Folk Boy, and his exhausting repertoire of ten songs total, which he repeats for three sets in a row. No, my concern rather focuses on the twenty-odd pop songs that some lunatic plucked from the Portuguese charts, and is now blasting through the speakers all cruise day long.

piano in the cruise ship atrium

The live music aboard is mostly quite good, but the garbage that drips from the speaker system is purely annoying.

Being a songwriter myself, and an educated one at that, I have my squibs with badly written songs, and repetitive music. So, we are not off to a positive start anyway. But hearing the same stupid songs every day, for nearly two months – that has to get on the nerves of everyone who does not enjoy that particular selection of music. Listening to Norwegian college radio would be better than this horrible, mind-numbing phonic terrorism.

Example: Peniston’s “Finally”, with its slurred-out rhymes is barely even a song, and certainly not improved by its monotonous disco beat, rivalling any humping back yard squirrel in its annoyance and persistency. I don’t care how well you represent a subculture of R&B punkers – if you end your monotonous “song” with a thirty-second repetition of “Yea-eah”, without even the slightest change in volume, intonation, or timing, I have to question the intellect of a) the person who selected your music for the sixty-minute-repeat loop, and b) anyone who refuses to complain about said loop.

Isafjordur, Iceland

The only way to keep my mind together is by remembering the great outdoors.

At times like these I actually look forward to my twenty minutes in the exercise room. Normally the Spanish music channel that we receive via satellite is not something I would listen to willingly, but it certainly beats the quality of the music selection aboard. “eRTe eLLe, chinque due chinque” is a slogan that will ring in my head for years to come, and that won’t easily relate to happy memories. But at least the representatives of foreign commercial radio understand that no person alive can listen to one hour of bad pop music on repeat without stumbling brain-dead into the nearest speaker.

There you have it. Even Spanish pop radio hosts make better DJs than our audio-visually impaired cruise manager. I think I will add “music entertainment” to the list of arguments that speak (quite strongly) against an ongoing employment with ABC Cruises.

 

PS.: I updated the photo gallery of Honningsvag with new images from the city, and its surrounding mountains. Have a look.

Good Bye ABC Cruises, Part 1

17 Jun The port of Reykjavik at night

After over six weeks aboard the ABC RypMeOff I have gathered sufficient experience to form a coherent picture of this weird life as a cruise photographer. So, as I serve yet another seven-hour shift in a makeshift photo studio I decide to use some of my downtime constructively, and create a list with pros and cons for this job. This is not be whining about the difficulties surrounding my situation, but rather a critical analysis of my position as photographer for ABC Cruises. The fact that I have time to write this list while performing my duties already tells you something about how well this job occupies my time.

Alesund, one of Norway's card fjord towns

Cruise jobs certainly have their benefits. But overall my job is very unsatisfying.

Let’s start with something positive. – I love to serve. I really do. One of the best parts of my job is being helpful to passengers and crew. Be it in finding their way around the ship, assisting with the set-up of their own camera, or simply making them smile in a moment of distress – I cherish every positive moment that I create with the people around me. As a social animal there is hardly anything better than surrounding yourself with happy people; and this job often allows me to do so.

There is already talk behind the counter that I would be suitable to become a photo host, due to my ability to relate to people, and brighten their day. The Photo Host stands behind the counter of the Photo Gallery all day and night, and interacts with the costumers, particularly the unsatisfied ones. It’s his or her job to turn frowny faces upside-down, and then charge a random fee by selling some odd photo product. I can do that. I have done that. And I could easily do such for seven days a week, except that one has to be with the company for at least the second contract to receive Photo Host training. There is no way that I will last that long, not under the current conditions.

Instead of being helpful, or at the very least useful, I am plagued by hours of boredom. Every night we are ordered to build at least one photo studio in the Plaza, often enough two studios. Ever since I joined this ship there has not been a single night in which the Plaza studios returned more than sixty photos, which is less than one quarter of what is produced by any of the other studios. Out here in the Plaza most of the passengers belong to one of two kinds of people: people visiting the casino for a smoke, and those running from the theatre to the dinner restaurant. Neither one of these groups wants to have their picture taken, making this location the least profitable in the entire ship, including our random walks across the deck (“mobile studios”).

 As a result, I am bored out of my mittens. I mean, it’s nice to be paid for nothing, but I actually have to look attentive for seven hours straight, in case one of the managers spies on me from around the corner. I don’t know if you ever had to look attentively at the cheap replica of a Greek pillar for more than half an hour, but let me tell you that this task is neither easy nor emotionally satisfying.

Cruise Photography during embarkation

Cruise Photography can be fun. But when you have nothing to do, and still need to look productive, life starts to drain from you.

Really, most of my job consists of standing around, doing barely more than breathing, and even that is difficult with the smoker’s casino just around the corner. Since I don’t get any physical exercise during my work hours my knees have started to bother me greatly. That is also a result from a previous injury, one that cleft my left knee cap in twain, but the current pains mostly result from a severe lack of exercise, and from standing around on two legs for hours without pause. Hiking up the ragged serpentines of a Norwegian fjord is healthier than this job.

I will extend this list another day, for now I am happy to receive word from the manager that we are packing up for the night. Just another half-hour of returning equipment, one hour of meeting, then dinner, shower, and bed time. I feel drained. This is definitely not the job of my future.