Tag Archives: safety training

CRUISE – More Sea Day Safety

8 May Vigo, Spain. A view of the port

Assistant manager Robyn keeps telling the “new guys” to rest often and rest well during these days, and he tells me to observe and ask the other members of the scattered team about the workings of this department. After all, we still have some spare time before the great summer season starts, with its four thousand passengers on their two-week cruises to Norway. He also asks me to pay attention during the safety briefings, because there is a written examination coming up.

A submarine in the port of Zeebrugge, Netherlands

Sadly I don’t work aboard a submarine. Knowing that suínking is natural would make my ship feel safer.

So far only about half of the safety briefings that were scheduled for me actually happened, and today’s meeting is no exception. I welcome the time off from my dull duties in the photo gallery, especially on the first sea day of the cruise, when all passengers are out for a stroll. But the hard chairs in the teaching room are not quite comfortable enough for a relaxing nap, and I am too tired to enjoy my read. (I always carry a novel with me now.) When it becomes clear that today’s safety briefing is not happening most of the other crew members just return to their jobs. I am certain the photo department will function without me for half an hour, though.

It slightly irritates me that our safety trainings culminate in an exam. I don’t know what happens if I fail it, but I would rather not repeat these empty meetings. On days like this, where the briefings add spare time to my schedule, I don’t really mind. However, sometimes they cut into my port exploration, and that needs to be avoided. Luckily I am left alone to rummage the scattered contents of the training room, and I actually find a copy of the official test paper among the many paper stacks decorating the shelves. It would be easier to have the answer key as well, but knowing the questions of that safety exam already helps a lot.

The exam contains few questions that are directly connected to safety and survival at sea. I did not expect anything else, not after the complete lack of dedication that ABC Cruises has granted this topic so far. The exam is even riddled with the typographical and grammatical errors that I have come to associate with my Italian masters. I don’t know what good it will do me to know the number of life rafts aboard this vessel, or how many people can go onto one overcapacity raft. But those are certainly among the numbers that I am going to study.

Tonight I am more relaxed as I beg the restaurant guests to pose for photos. No doubt our supervisor will scrutinise my photos as “shit” again, and will refuse to tell me what he finds wrong in them. But at least I can quit worrying about the safety procedures aboard. If our cruise ship ever gets into peril, I will stand on my safety position, and annoy passengers with useless ship trivia until they evacuate my realm. That might actually be a good way to get them off my back in the photo gallery as well.

CRUISE – Le Havre

1 May Le Havre crêpe shop

While the ABC RypMeOff is fastened in the only French port town along this route the weather is cold, and rainy, and windy, and overall unpleasant. I guess this is the kind of weather one should expect from rude France, especially on a holiday. (I will never understand how people justify not to work on Labour Day.) More remarkably, there are barely any people in the streets. Except for a few cruise tourists Le Havre seems void of human life. It feels like the zombie apocalypse is already here. The only thing missing are cars burning in the streets, and an angry mob demanding the head of some politician (and/or footballer). That is one great French tradition that we have been spared today.

Thanks to the cold rain I feel rather glad to return to work early. Lucky that, because today our manager hosts a training session for the whole photo department. For ninety minutes we stand in front of the canvas, posing the assistant manager, and photographing him. He shows us how to bend the knees without tripping passengers, how to pose people without little body contact, and how to frame the photo to adhere to company standards.

As theoretically interesting as all that might seem, it is of little help with the three elderly couples that stumble into my studio tonight. No matter how I arrange them, as soon as I put my hands to the camera they slump back into their starting position. Like a pile of potato mash the old peeps can easily be bent into funny shapes, but always fall back into a standard lump once you try to picture the result.

Le Havre crêpe shop

Le Havre crêpe shop on a rainy day.

Safety training #3 is very relaxing, because no instructor shows up. Thus, I have half an hour extra to read, and reflect on my own misery.

Today’s schedule is not only full of the usual spelling mistakes that I have come to expect from our Rumanian manager, it also bears a special motto in the bottom line: “Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools and accepted by idiots…” I think it is safe to say that someone dug out some irritating half-truths about our manager, and he heard them only after they were filtered through his long-reaching network of manager friends.

The photo manager reminds me more and more of my old Chinese landlord – permanently stressed out, and full of paranoia. He even has the same hair cut, and the same annoyingly loud voice. And an extraordinarily great percentage of four-letter words in his conversational repertoire.

port sight of Le Havre, France

Part of the yacht port of Le Havre. Probably looks prettier on a sunny day.

CRUISE – Southampton

30 Apr Exterminate!

My work day starts with more safety training. Since I still don’t understand any of the procedures that a ship emergency carries with it, I have many questions for the Italian Mr. Sanders. Alas, this training is scheduled during our precious port time, meaning that any training time cuts into my port adventure. So, should I actually ask the scrawny Italian how to identify vertical and horizontal fire zones, and watch his body succumb to a four-minute charade with Italian subtitles and English sound effects? So far the educational value of those attempts at communication has never risen above the entertainment value of his exaggerated gestures.


Dr. Who and his eviltons had a guest appearance in Southampton. Exterminate!

Alternatively I might just leave the ship, and enjoy light British rain and Victorian architecture in Southampton. Thus I opt for the easy way out; bottle up my safety questions, and see some city scape instead. In case of an emergency I can just stalk any of the other crew members, and hope that they fake understanding more easily than me.

Grand Glittery Stairs aboard ABC RypMeOff

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

During my evening shift our assistant manager shows me how to “catch” people on the stairs, and how to properly pose and shoot them. He has an aura of authority, I grant him that. When he shouts “Stop” at a random lady who descends the stairs, she halts in her tracks, and produces a face that vaguely resembles a smile; probably in the vain hope that he might let her continue walking. Once the first photo is made she attempts to flee. However, she did not prepare for the gruesome gaze of the Assistant Photo Manager, who, by the power of his eyes, freezes her once more.

The vague smile on her face has made way for lines of panic, and after the second photo she considers whether it might be safe to continue her journey. But no, the figure of authority that holds my camera is out for blood, although he now has to resort to hand gestures to keep the unlucky passenger on the stairs. Her third pose is one of discomfort and insecurity, not far from actual terror. After triggering the flash the Assistant Manager points at various portions of the digital photo that he made, and highlights its grandeur. Our female victim uses his drop of attention to flee the scene as fast as her short legs allow. Tonight she was lucky to escape with her life, and in the future she will know better than to walk the Grand Stairs alone at night.


You can view my photo gallery of Southampton here.