Tag Archives: life

21st Century Dating Problems: #1 – the male introvert

19 May The port of Reykjavik at night

Approaching the 40-year landmark, and still being single. For some people this may not constitute a situation worth acknowledging. People fall in and out of love all the time, so what’s one more piece of dead weight?

As you can tell I am still trying to justify the existence of this blog to myself. But there are a couple of topics that I want to talk about, such as ‘women’ or ‘dating’, in the 21st century. I know, for some of you that’s already setting off alarm chimes: singling out women as a blog topic – isn’t that sexist?! Yeah, kinda. By definition any unweighted discussion of one sex can be considered sexist, meaning as soon as you mention ladies having vaginas you can rank yourself among the world’s leading sexists, together with #TheDonald, and that creep who always preys on co-workers bending over at the water fountain. The borders of what constitutes sexism have become so transparent that no-one can ever be safe again from being called gender-inappropriate, just for stating that women bear children. So, in all honesty: if you read any verbal attacks on any gender into my writing, please read again, because I definitely don’t mean to offend.

OK, now that we have lost 98% of all readers to a) a trolling frenzy about sexism, or b) boredom, we might as well start on our actual conversation topic – me. Yes, I really am that selfish. There is no other person I know better than myself, so it just seems like a very obvious location to start with.

 

“Hi, my name is Goemon, and I am single.”

I really hope you just said “Hi Goemon”. Otherwise I will feel very silly and underappreciated in this virtual self-help group.

For some people being single is normal. Afterall, we are born with that condition. (Excepting twins, but they have other troubles.) Some people have wild sex adventures with random strangers every weekend. Others date one person a year, just to prove they are still capable of faking affection. Others live in a happy relationship with their (in)significant other(s). [Four groups in one sentence – feel the power of parentheses!] Those people have their own problems and will not be mentioned again. Remember: this is about me.

I am approaching the 40-year landmark. (No, I’m not telling how far.) At that age the average first-world citizen has already broken up with more people than they met in first grade, and are either happily married, or are trying to pay off that divorce lawyer. I haven’t had any of that, and I feel somewhat left out of what I consider an integral aspect of the human experience.

I never had any kind of romantic relationship, and not for the lack of trying. I tried most of the regular approaches that people use to appropriate a partner. So far, dating websites have only proved themselves a massive waste of time. And my attempts to date lady friends have only made obvious that women don’t want to be any more than friends with me. I’m actually happy with that. A good friend counts more than a failed lover. Ship-wrecked romance is not a topic you want to associate with any specific person. It makes conversations at dinner gatherings very awkward.

A sceneic view of Molde Fjord, Norway

On a good day this photo of Molde Fjord is a good approximation of myself: small islands, distant from main humanity.

The typical approach

I have not tried chatting up women in bars and clubs, even though society preaches those rooms as the number-one pick-up parlour. As an introvert I just can’t handle that type of situation. Many people still mistake this as “being shy”, and solve the equation by being “more outgoing”. Those people don’t know what they are talking about. I’m not just shy. I am introverted.

I don’t have problems asking a female songwriter for an autograph. I don’t have difficulties chatting to fellow pub visitors about the latest developments in the Spiderverse. And I love giving academic talks to dozens of people I never met before. I thrive on intellectual intercourse, and have no adversities about any kind of conversation with anyone.

Unless it involves me. That is literally the only topic I can’t handle in conversation. [You see why this blog is about me now, don’t you?]

 

I am an introvert.

I can talk to you about my political position, or the ontogenetic development of male genitalia. But if you try to talk about my personal feelings and thoughts, you will hit a brick wall. Don’t try to peak over it. Few people have ever caught a glimpse of the other side, and I am determined to keep it that way. And if you try to pry a hole in it, security will escort you off the premise, and add your name to a black-list of people who are banned from personal conversation.

Introverts don’t talk about their feelings. Not to you, or anyone else. If you think that’s a ‘problem’ that needs to be ‘solved’, I can’t help you. You can either accept me as I am, or go and play with other kids. There is no third option.

As long as I can remember I had difficulties talking to people, and I always interpreted this as shyness, while others thought I tried to be disrespectful and exclusive. None of that is true. I am a perfectly adorable humanoid, just like anyone else. (Except for Donald J.; he’s a lump of poo.) What prevents me from socialising with others is not shyness, but my inscrutable inability to present my own inner self to a public audience. It took me some thirty years to develop a work-around. It’s based on the understanding that social conversation is not about me, but about the general idea of being together, and sharing words. You don’t need to reveal yourself to be sociable. Just talk about the weather, if that befits you. That is already sociable. Be aware of your surroundings, though. Weather talk is really fun in Alberta; not so much in England’s capital.

A bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

My work as cruise photographer involved loads of social interaction. I can do that, just as long as it does not involve me personally.

Where was I going with this? Oh, yes, the direct conversation.

No, introverts don’t usually do that, and I personally definitively don’t. I can’t talk to women if I have a personal or romantic interest in them. It’s like talking about my feelings, just in this case I am actually blocking my own attempt to communicate.

Telling a woman that she’s beautiful basically reveals that I like her. And personal feelings are something I don’t disclose to strangers. Not for fear of being rejected, but simply for the fact that I can’t talk about my feelings to a person I barely know. Thus, me telling a lady that she’s cute is equivalent to you telling the supermarket teller about the recessed growth of your anal cancer. It’s deeply personal, and therefore not done.

 

That’s really all I wanted to say. Just a brief introduction of me and my situation. I am introverted, and therefore don’t talk about my feelings, including who I do or don’t have any romantic interest in. Should your significant other try to knock any of these findings over your head, merely remember that this entire blog is about me. You don’t need to associate yourself with my problems. Unless you really want to. In that case – welcome to my world of wordy disappointment.

 

Also, here is a cool website about introverts, just in case you feel yourself alone with certain problems: https://introvertdear.com/what-is-an-introvert-definition/

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Stop advertising your sex, unless you want to

2 Sep

A friend of mine recently posted the story of a woman who thinks that ladies should not be forced to wear bras. I agree. Very specific items of clothing should only be stipulated in very specific environments. Like contour-covering tops in a school, or their absence in a topless bar. But although I merely expressed that I found the whole discussion ridiculous, the argument quickly escalated into a discussion regarding the public display of sexuality. Naturally, most commentators chose to misunderstand my thoughts.

Clothes set people apart, and women are way more aware of that than men. Just look around the local mall. Almost all of the younger men wear jeans and t-shirt, and as they age they replace the latter with a chequered shirt. This is what men wear. Most of the time we don’t put much time into choosing our wardrobe, because we simply don’t know any better. We wear jeans and t-shirt, because this attire is nearly always appropriate.

Alyssa - Goemon5 autumn guitar 08

For a man this attire is already very inventive. The occasions on which I wear a tie are very rare indeed.

Women, however, have to make a statement with their choice of clothing. They cannot bear wearing the same outfit as any of the other two thousand ladies at the mall, so they go through great lengths to select very specific items of clothing.  They don’t usually think of it in this way, but they do want to look different. There really is nothing to discuss here. Clothes set people apart, and women are aware of it.

Lack male white pants sexy

Men don’t wear pants like these for reasons of comfort.

Some clothing is functional, like the brightly coloured attire of a fire fighter. Some clothing is unifying, like the uniforms of store clerks. Some clothing is sexually suggestive, like the shiny pants that outline every crevice of the bum.

During mating season the ass of baboons swells up and reddens. This is to inform the other sex that it is time to choose a partner for collaborative efforts of saving the species. During mating season most male song birds are brightly coloured, and perform crazy dances or songs. The lady birds choose their sexual partners based on this display. Male deer wear elaborate displays of antlers, for the same reason.

This is what the biologist calls a sexual display. The display sets the individual apart from all other animals, and signals that this might be the right mate. “You like my grand display of antlers? Then come over here for some sweet loving, chiqua-deer!”

Primates do not have antlers, or feathers, so they rely on other visual clues to advertise their sexuality. In baboons it’s the ass. In humans it’s breasts. Big breasts promise a great survival rate for the offspring, so they are favoured over smaller milk-producers. Again, this is a simple biological deduction. You don’t need to be aware of it; it happens anyway. Just the same, women prefer muscular men as partners, because they promise a great degree of protection. These are simple sexual cues that most people react to.

Many women use make-up to accentuate their lips, or cheeks, or eye lashes. These women are “advertising” their lips, cheeks, or eye lashes. They intentionally set these things apart from everything else, and thus advertise them. This is not really subject to debate; there is nothing detestable about wearing make-up. If you want to show a big mouth, or small eyes, or clumsy legs, you can totally do that. This is your choice, and you shall have it. Just be aware that biologists call this “advertising”. It has nothing to do with market goods or sell-outs. You are merely putting a specific part of yourself on display. And there is NOTHING wrong with that.

You cannot detest the word itself, because it has the right of seniority. “Advertisement” is derived from the Latin advertere, meaning “to draw one’s attention towards something”. Contesting the meaning of the word puts you in one line with ignorant push-bullies like Donald Trump or Kellyanne Conway. Words have meanings. You can’t change those meanings just by ignoring them.

F_bunner_0326_outline

When the heirs of Fukushima chose the name of their new mascot they obviously did not care about words and their meanings. Please don’t make that mistake.

When you are wearing a muscle shirt, or a crop top, or ass-hugging pants, you are calling attention to those particular aspects of your body. You are “advertising” them. Many people do this on purpose. A magician, for example, advertises his hands, to distract you from the cards hidden on the table. A cop advertises his arsenal of weapons and utilities, in order to discourage violence. A stripper advertises his massive penis, to create sexual tension among the onlookers, and challenge them for a bigger tip.

None of this is new; none of it is in an ordinary way problematic. Women nowadays call attention to their breasts and booties through tight-fitting clothes, or “scandalously” short pieces of cloth that leave very little to imagination. Most women know fully well that specific items of clothing make them sexually more attractive, and they chose these items for that effect. You don’t wear low-crop pants because your vagina needs the extra air; you wear them because you “look good in them”. In other words, you are calling attention to your reproductive organs and your buttocks; you are advertising your sexuality. Men do the same when they stuff a sock down their pants, or wear shirts that are one size to small for them.

Low crop Rise Lack pants

If you don’t want people to talk about your bum, maybe don’t wear these pants.

Mind the difference between advertising sexual attractiveness, and advertising sex. You can “look good” without promoting coitus. You can look “slutty” without creating personal attraction. These are two very distinctive concepts. It is acceptable to look sexy in public, it is not acceptable to “look for sex”. The latter would either be called sexual predation, or prostitution, depending on which end of the condom you’re on. Neither of which is acceptable outside of the Red Lights District.

Now, I agree that people have a right to dress sexy in public. But this must be open for commentary. If you are carrying your melons to the market, the customers are allowed to debate their shape and size. Likewise, if you have really big breasts, and you conceal them only behind a string bikini, you are making your breasts a discussable subject. Everything that is different, particular, or extraordinary is open for public commentary. This is called “freedom of speech”.

The fruit vendor won’t forbid you to talk about his discoloured melons just because he finds that conversation uncomfortable. If he wouldn’t want people to talk about his melons, he would have covered them up. Similarly, the only way to prevent people from talking about your booty is by hiding it.

If you don’t want people to talk about your body, then don’t advertise it. If you want to discourage comments about your lips, don’t colour them brightly red. You have no reason to feel offended, repressed, or objectified, if you cover your breasts with a latex top that lifts your breasts, and shows your nipples. The owner of a fancy restaurant has any right to refuse you entry in such attire. You chose that garment because it makes you look sexy, so don’t complain when people say you look sexy. You cannot dress in a way that draws looks, and then forbid people to look.

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If you dress like this, and claim you don’t want to be looked at, you are being extremely dishonest.

This is not taking away from any debate on sexual predation. Rape is bad; there are no valid excuses. I am only saying that women who utilise particular garments to advertise their sexual traits have no claim to innocence in a verbal argument. In an open society it is always allowed to talk about noteworthy things, be it the size of a sports car, the voice of a busker, or the shape of buttocks. If you put it on display, it is fair game for conversation. If you don’t want it talked about, don’t put it on display.

Cruise Photography Aftermath

6 Jul Globe Monument at the North Cape, Norway

It is Thursday, and I have to re-adapt to a world where this (and the time of day) are meaningful information. The first novelty after returning home was the simple fact that the day consists of three meals, and none of them is rushed. And when I require additional sustenance, I can simply grab a snack item or a glass of water from the kitchen. And when I need to sit down, I sit down, and continue working. Things that are so normal for most folks, and are usual even for employees in any sweat shop or burger parlour, these things are virtually impossible during work hours with ABC Cruises.

A sceneic view of Molde Fjord, Norway

Cruise advertisement is usually full of blue skies and greeen lanscapes. The actual job, however, is not.

I am happy to leave ABC Cruises behind, not just my position as cruise photographer, but the entire ordeal of working for a company that puts financial profit above everything else, be it physical health, public perception, or simple integrity. I worked for one of the biggest cruise companies worldwide, and probably the fastest growing one. Their impact on sea tourism is beyond measure, yet they seem to lack the basic ethical responsibilities necessary to take a leading role for the market. The officers are almost exclusively Italian, indicating that it is nearly impossible to acquire a high-ranking position without kissing ass. You can think of that what you like, but I doubt that being a great kisser qualifies anyone to lead the fate of a multi-Billion Dollar company, and particularly that of its hundreds of thousands of employees.

Now, why am I even writing this blog? (Why do you keep reading is the more interesting question, but that’s none I can answer.) My motivations are three-fold: 1) I use writing as a way of stress-relief; 2) I want to warn people who are toying with the thought of becoming a cruise photographer about the actual perils involved in the job; 3) there is a slim chance that someone at ABC Cruises will read this, and improve working conditions for their crew, as well as care for their paying guests.

To date I wrote more than sixty blog posts about my experience as cruise photographer, over eighty pages of text contemplating my existence, and that of my chosen path. It was an interesting ride, but I am glad that it’s over. In order to provide a comprehensive overview over the reasons for my decision to stop working for ABC Cruises I hereby provide you with my complete list of pros and cons for signing off.

Spitsbergen is not actually THAT cold in spring. But tensions aborad the ABC RypMeOff chill most photographers to the bone.

The working climate aboard the ABC RypMeOff was often frosty

Reasons to sign off

  1. The pay is inadequate to my work load and stress, and much lower than promised (I am paid about one quarter of the original figure).
  2. The food is of mediocre quality. Too often the healthy vegetarian choices are limited to options such as rice and fruit, which lack the nutrients and minerals that I need to sustain a healthy body.
  3. Spare time is often scattered throughout the day, due to training sessions, buffet times, drills, laundry visits, and other small jobs that require my attention, and are badly synchronised with one another.
  4. Job time, however, is filled with boredom, as I stand in my photo studio for hours, waiting for hotel guests who don’t even want their photo taken.
  5. Similarly, I am sleep-deprived, because I go to bed after midnight snack time (2 A.M.), but get up around 7 A.M. to enjoy port time, or get ready for work.
  6. Overall, I lack exercise, physically and mentally. I spend six-hour blocks standing in a portrait studio, only interrupted by two short food breaks. My knees hurt really badly as soon as I try to actually bend them. After six weeks my legs joined that club of complainers, because I don’t get to stretch and exercise them often enough.
  7. Internet access is so bad that I rarely get to successfully send an e-mail, particularly when I try to send attachments. It’s also expensive. Which I understand, because otherwise crew would likely abuse the narrow bandwidth provided by the satellite dish; but there are other ways to limit bandwidth that would not make the web experience ridiculously slow and unreliable.
  8. The crew predominantly converses in Italian, Portuguese, or any Balkan language. Barely anyone speaks the Queen’s English, making it difficult to communicate, or at least have a halfway pleasant conversation.
MSC Preciosa 72

Behind all the glamour with ABC Cruises there are rather dirty work practices.

Reasons to remain with ABC Cruises

  1. More trips to Iceland are coming. (With many repetitive Norway cruises in between.)
  2. I could go spot some whales with Stefanie. (But only if I am actually allowed to leave the ship, and spend more than two consecutive hours outside, which there is absolutely no guarantee for.)
  3. Maya Buffet is really tasty, and offers a great choice of unhealthy food items. (But hugely interrupts the flow of the day, because to me it is only available on port days, and only for a narrow time window.)
  4. I learned some interesting things about portrait photography, and would undoubtedly learn more. (But rarely get the opportunity to practice those skills.)
  5. See the world (and watch it through a cubby hole, because we are not allowed to show ourselves aboard the ship when we are not working.)

 

As you can see the list of reasons for staying with ABC Cruises is not only much shorter than the leave-list, it also features hidden obstacles in every positive argument. I am a realistic person, so you would naturally expect a certain degree of negativity, but ABC Cruises really seems to be bent on making you labour and suffer for every positive experience. I just have too many good alternatives to consider any cruise job that is not labelled “musician”. In Germany I could flip burgers full-time, and not only make more money than I did with this multi-Billion-dollar tourism trap, but also have more time for myself, AND spend that time any way I please. The concept of individuality seems so foreign to my former bosses that one wonders if any of them ever was descended from a human being, or whether cruise managers are cultivated in a special lab in Geneva. Given these ludicrous working conditions I made the executive decision to leave ABC Cruises behind.

Invergordon via MSC 2-31

Cruise Photography is dead to me. But maybe it still sounds like a challenging work place to you.

According to our more seasoned colleagues the working conditions aboard this vessel are particularly dreadful, and previous contracts featured better management as well as more spare time. Thus, there is hope that things might improve, if one was to skip ships. Mateja actually has similar doubts about her occupation as I, but she first wants to try a transfer to a different ship before quitting the job completely. I had that option as well, but leaving the ABC RypMeOff was relatively easy for me, compared to other vessels of the same company. Their other ships cruise around the Pacific, or the Atlantic, or make five-day cruises around Japan. That would be interesting to see, but ABC Cruises demands that every employee who terminates their own contract should pay for their own trip home. In Germany that cost is a €50 train ticket. In Japan that would be a €1,000 flight. That means, pulling out early was way cheaper than trying to fumble my way through the peculiarities of a different ship, with a different team and manager.

I have little doubts that this was my last encounter with ABC Cruises, because I put little faith into my application as cruise musician. For the moment, I am just glad to be back home, where I am able to eat and live a healthy life. And photos I take only for pleasure. My own pleasure.

Farewell Cruise Photography

5 Jul low tide at the port of Invergordon, Scotland

I awake from dreamless slumber, knowing about the pleasures that this day holds for me: sweet release from heavily monetised tourism. I try to sneak out of the cabin in order to let the lab technician sleep. However, sneak options are limited, considering that I have to pack up my residual belongings that are scattered throughout this cell, while I also have a pile of laundry that needs to be returned to the Pakistani towel mafia.

First things first – let’s storm the staff mess! Being a clever lad, I bring my camera bag, and fill myself two plastic bags with bred rolls and fruit, and also fill up my water bottle with the apple juice substitute that the buffet personnel provides. Breakfast is as short as ever, for as always the buffet is lacking green vegetables or tasteful marmades. Bread and tea it is, for the last time in a long time.

Vegan breakfast for cruise crew

Farewell weirdly restircted choice of food items!

While I brush my teeth I simultaneously pack up my last things, and cram them into side pockets of coat and bag. I’d love to stuff them into my suitcase, but the latter was sealed shut by security last night, and reopening it would mean another long security check. And so my last little pile of personal belongings has to go into a shopping bag, and I am once more glad to leave the ship in Hamburg, from where I can take the train home, and don’t have to answer intriguing security questions at an airport.

ABC RypMeOff - crew cabin

Farewell tiny cubby!

Victory celebrations are cut short by my mandatory visit to the main office. Even though I am third in line it takes nearly an hour until I finally get to exchange my signed paperwork against my passport and sign-off note. It’s not that complicated a process, but it actually takes some fifty minutes until someone finally feels responsible for the growing line-up of crew members that block the hallway nearly halfway down the length of the corridor. Most of these people have a flight to catch, and it would be in the best interest of ABC personnel to move things along fairly quickly, but apparently nobody planned for this grand departure. In order to maintain order and happiness we decide to stage a hallway party, loudly celebrating our victory over fraudulent job advertisement by yodeling Irish drinking songs and stomping the appropriate rhythm into the metal floor. Since few of my crew members appears to have any positive relationship with rhythmic movement, we quickly have a scene at hand that looks like a friendly gathering, and sounds like a war zone. The terminal result is astonishing, and after nearly an hour of pointless waiting we all get processed fairly quickly.

My last conversation to any regular crew occurs on the gangway, where I meet one of the tourist managers, a mid-aged woman from Germany, whose accent is so thick that I expect her to wear a dirndl made from sausage and pretzels underneath her creased uniform. One of the Brazilian girls actually knuckles into our conversation, and says that she finds it funny to hear us talk in English, when in fact we are both German. The rebuke of my new manager friend includes words like “respect”, and “disgrace”, which are also words that I always thought of employing when talking about those Portuguese and Spanish conversations onboard, but always refrained from, because most of ABC personnel would just refuse comprehension.

I don’t care anymore. All the officers converse mostly in Italian. Most of the managers talk Rumanian. And the crew rarely speaks anything but Macedonian or Purtuguese, which pretty much excludes me from most conversations aboard. A bloody disgrace, if you recall that we are an international tourist hotel, and supposedly converse in English with the majority of our guests. As usual it is up to the Germans to teach the rest of the crew respect. And it’s up to the crew to refuse that lesson.

A good book and nurishing food . great travel combination

A good book and nurishing food . great travel combination

While I sit on a cold bench on the lowest level of Hamburg Central Station, a stiff breeze fluffing my hair, I feel the warmth of freedom and homeland slowly filling my lungs, and spreading out to my hands that grab another muffin from my stuffed photo bag. The two pears and a bag full of chocolate buns are the last physical reminder of this photo adventure. Most of the remaining baggage is emotional, so at this point it would be worthwhile to address everyone’s concerns about me deciding to leave a lucrative job. But I’m not going to; that’s a subject for tomorrow.

Today I celebrate my freedom. With a long train ride home. A good book in one hand, and the other in my bag, searching for more food that I retained from the ABC Staff Mess. Over the past two months I have tried myself on an almost regular job. But no matter how much certain individuals have tried to make my life aboard more comfortable, this adventure was cut short by the daily trudge, the corruption, and the general work attitude of ABC Cruises that values profit over people. This is not a healthy work environment; it’s not a job that I could embrace full time, and certainly not something that makes me happy. Considering what tiny value the company attributed to me, I made the executive decision to leave this job behind.

Mountains of Alesund, Norway

These views are something I will miss. But I am just not willing to pay the ABC Cruise Price for it.

I am German, Academic, Artist, skilled with my hands and my mind. I have other options to acquire money than by grinding my way through a tourist-powered mill, and I pity the people who don’t have my options. My search for employment continues, and if I ever return to the business of cruises, it will be as musician. Tomorrow I will wrap up this whole two-month ordeal with a blog post concerning my deeper considerations of staying or leaving, so that others might benefit from my process of thought. Or just laugh about it. Whatever you prefer.

But today: we celebrate. I’ll make a big Hullabaloo upon returning to my homestead. (My parents have no idea I am on my way home five months early.) I will play with the family dog, eat green vegetables, look out the window, take a nap when I feel sleepy, sit down where other people can see me, and not be bothered by any cruise officer insisting that I should not behave like a human being.

So long people, see you tomorrow for the final summary!

Bergen, and the hardship of pasta

2 Jul Aerial view of part of the port in Bergen, Norway

I just have to give a shout-out to Marcio, our Human Resource Manager, who takes every complaint serious, and tries to resolve it in a professional manner. (The fact that such behaviour is noteworthy provides should actually be enough of a reminder of how terribly distressing life is aboard the ABC RypMeOff.) A month ago I wrote Marcio a short essay in tightly-lettered words on the back of a complaint form (the front was too short), discussing six points in which the chef of the staff mess fails to deliver nutrition and quality, and naming a few possible fixes. After two weeks we had a meeting with the head chef, and ever since then it’s been pasta time.

You know me as a constant complainer, so you’re not even surprised about the length of my letter. However, Marcio was not prepared for my onslaught of words, so he went through great lengths of political yarn to find a solution. My main concern was the general lack of vegan meal options at the buffet, as well as in the crew mess. Half the meal options contain meat, most of the rest is fried in butter, just to add that extra level of salt and cholesterol. On top of that there are rarely ever fresh and ripe fruit available. The head chef tried to comment on my perceived misery, but did not quite persuade with his arguments.

Aerial view of part of the port in Bergen, Norway

Bergen is a nice place. If you like fish, you will love it here.

Firstly, both the ingredients and the recipes for the various kitchens aboard are prescribed by cruise management in Geneva. The head chef just passes on the orders, but apparently is not allowed to change any of the routines. That means we are stuck with the salty, fatty menu that ABC Cruises provides; it won’t change in the foreseeable future. I guess the people that prepare our meals have about as much experience as chefs as I have as a photographer, meaning that upon applying for the job they had enough confidence to microwave a lasagne, but not enough to eat it.

Upon hearing about my perils of finding a decent meal aboard this vessel the head chef granted me the gift of making special requests to the staff in the crew mess, who would then grab me a meal right from one of the kitchens that supply the restaurants. I only utilised that possibility once, because the restaurant times don’t align with my schedule, making it all but impossible to acquire a meal from there within the half hour dinner break I am given. A bloody pointless solution, isn’t it?!

Instead, ever since that meeting with Marcio I have been eating pasta and tomato sauce, for nearly every lunch and dinner aboard. That particular menu item is readily available, because the kitchen can cook it up in about five minutes, so it is a very reliable alternative to the beefy sausages and buttered potato cream that the mess usually provides. Since this food source is nutritious as well as delicious, literally half the photo team has joined me on my quest. There it is, the culinary delight of the cruise photographer: pasta, with tomato sauce.

A bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

The restaurants of the ABC RypMeOff all look very fancy, but the food in the staff mess is far less glorious.

But why did I even have to write a complaint for this? Why can’t ABC Cruises just offer decent food three times a day? This all feeds into the main problem with employment aboard the ABC RypMeOff. [Here we go again. Stuff your ears everyone; Goemon found a reason to rant.] My overall criticism with ABC Cruises is not that life aboard is so difficult. I certainly had demanding job positions before I started working for this company. Rather, this job is needlessly difficult. It would not take much to improve on the food situation, yet nobody seems to care enough to even complain about it. The manager could offer words of advice and reassurance, instead of calling the entire team an “embarrassment for cruise photography”. Security could improve comfort by enforcing the smoking ban, instead of smoking in their own cabins. ABC Cruises could order the chefs to heat the dishes at the buffet to anything above room temperature, instead of asking its crew to meet every complaint with a smile. Just imagine how many passengers are not even complaining anymore, because they know from experience that the company does not give a penguin’s poop about customer concerns!

Anyway, pasta is cool, ABC Cruises sucks, and Bergen is a cool Nordish town. Here, have a look yourself in the updated photo gallery!

Geiranger, Tender Boarding, and Assembly Line Photography

1 Jul Moss-covered houses in Geiranger fjord, Norway

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!

The Good, the Bad, and the Cruise – my evaluation of sea tourism

30 Jun A sceneic view of Molde Fjord, Norway

What is the ultimate promise of a cruise; what’s to be gained? Some people pay thousands of euros for a single cruise ticket, even before eventual flight costs. You can book a one-week holiday, all-inclusive, for four people in a cabin near the Mediterranean Sea, for about €1800. So, there must be something incredible about the cruise to make it worth the three-fold costs. Today I will examine what cruises offer, and what they actually deliver.

Don’t worry, I won’t go onto another rant about how awful ABC Cruises treats its crew. You have read enough blogs about that. Today we are anchored in Molde Fjord, and the imaginative scenery makes it rather difficult to wrestle up enough negative energy for a decent rant. Upon leaving the ship you are immediately surrounded by lush greenery and cute Norwegian houses in various building styles. The town itself offers various small parks, and the odd museum or traditional housing installation along the road.

A sceneic view of Molde Fjord, Norway

This view of Molde Fjord is certainly worth a journey. But why travel by cruise ship, instead of taking the plane?

The only point that bears loud advertisement is the traditional village core, where people are bustling about to set up a folk music festival. Apart from that, the whole town is relatively quiet. No market vendors crying their wares; no coppers chasing their man; no tour guides yelling at passers-by to book a trip around the freeway. Whoever wants to book a tour has to do so in advance, and a long line of buses at the cruise terminal ensures that every one of the four thousand guests aboard the ABC RypMeOff is able to visit the sight of their choosing.

Since we are only anchored for half a day in every port there is rarely the chance to book a bus trip upon arrival. You either do so in advance, or you have a nice walk instead. Thus, the whole holiday feels much more relaxed than a tourist trip to Italy or Morocco. The streets are not filled with gullible tourists, so there is little money in hawking out souvenirs. You just buy your gifts in a regular gift shop. Like people used to do back in the olden days.

The regular tourist hassle returns once you are back aboard your swimming hotel. Lollipop holders walk around with flyers for guided tours in future ports. The staff of bars and restaurants asks you to buy beverages that are excluded from your all-inclusive list. Photographers nag you about sitting down for a dozen pictures in their studio. And shop clerks try to up-sell you on their duty-free goods. ABC Cruises knows that you have money in your pocket, and they do their very best to relieve you from that burden, although you already spent five thousand euros to be rid of the regular tourist hassle.

Port café in Molde Fjord

Molde is a pictouresque town that is not yet burdened with hoards of hawkers crying their touristic gimmicks.

If you want to spend your holidays removed from the ordinary pick pockets and pendant hawkers, there are not many alternatives to a cruise. Our guests can genuinely have their quiet time aboard, even though it is frequently interrupted by the luxury department digging for additional money. It rarely makes for an obnoxiously intrusive experience, although for the kind of money people spend to be here I would have expected more professional distance from the shop keepers. Still, it’s infinitely more comfortable than being yelled at in a bazaar in Turkey.

Let’s get back to the pretty sights, though. There is a new port every other day, and Norway’s coast offers many breathtakingly beautiful places to visit. It’s basically an upscale version of the old bus tour. You get hauled around the country side, you sleep in a comfy bed with a questionable view (cabins with windows are very expensive), and you get to watch the cattle prance on the meadows while your hotel changes location. Some people love a new sight every day, and a cruise certainly fulfills that need. Sleep or dine when you travel, and enjoy maximum visiting hours as soon as you have reached a new destination.

This is the part I will miss about my job as cruise photographer. Every day you get a new chance to hike up a mountain, paddle through a fjord, or visit a traditional fish market. You get the whole variety of Norwegian coastal sights in one travel package, and you don’t even have to clean up your hotel room. There are faster ways of traveling, but there probably isn’t anything more comfortable or efficient than boarding a cruise ship, and enjoying the view from the poop deck as you make your way through the endless sea.

Fjord Town Geiranger

A cruise journey takes time, but it rewards with great views and formidable travel comfort. You don’t get this with a bus.

This is also the point where ABC Cruises often fails, though. Instead of announcing the most famous peaks or waterfalls for the viewers on deck, the cruise manager often just plays gentle music from tape whenever we approach or leave a port. At rare occasions we are sided by a group of dolphins, or trailed by a family of whales. But is up to your fellow passengers to spot the unusual sight; our cruise manager just doesn’t care enough to announce those tourist attractions.

I often get the feeling that this could be so much better an experience, if the managers just cared a little more about the guests than about their money. To draw this discussion to a close – cruises are valued for the opportunity to travel a vast stretch of countryside without rush or hassle. You only need to unpack you bags once, and you can still visit a good number of vastly different places. There is always food in abundance, so with the right package deal you won’t even have to worry about provisions for your field trips. (Just don’t let them spot you when you pack up your lunch.)

The Cruise View of Molde Fjord, Norway

A crusie ship provides a wonderful viewing platform. Often enough it gets crowded with tourists, though.

However, if you do book a cruise, I encourage you to seek out the cheapest options. You don’t need a cabin with windows, because you will probably spend most of your waking time sitting in a bar, standing on deck, or swimming in the pool. You don’t need to feel bad about not buying anything aboard, even if the cameras cost 10% less than in your local electronics market. You don’t need more food or drink than what you get from any all-inclusive package. Water, beer, and soda will do. Don’t give in to the capitalist luxury goods.

You can book a ten-day cruise for about €1000. That’s a bit more pricy than a tourist trip to Spain or Greece, but you also get to see a lot more of the country, and you are overall much more relaxed. Just don’t buy any of the extras. There are a lot of luxuries up for purchase, and none of them are needed for a great holiday adventure. In my two months aboard I have not seen a single port where I felt the need to book an excursion on my first visit. (Except for Reykjavik. That town was immensely boring.) So, take it easy, and try not to see EVERYTHING on your first go. If you have the money, give cruise a try.

The port of Reykjavik at night

Saying Good Bye will be quite easy for me. However, as a regular tourist you can have a lot of fun on a cruise.

PS.: The final composition of the photo album for Molde Fjord is done. Have a look, and see why people travel to Norway in the millions.