Tag Archives: sea safety

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 – Sea, Security, and Sale Day

2 May ABC RypMeOff

Just like yesterday my daily safety training does not actually happen. Maybe I missed some announcement, but there are three other crew members with me in the room, so I am certainly not the only one. As before I just wait out my thirty minutes, catching up on some of the much needed sleep. Every day I get to bed around 2 A.M., and I have to be back up by 8:30, or not get any breakfast. I don’t think I can do this long-term, especially since I have great trouble sleeping during the day. Oddly enough I can doze and nap very effectively whenever I sit in this training room. Maybe that’s a result of my first sleepy encounters with the incompetent Italian safety officer. I will try to come here more often; if only to quietly read a book, or nap off in my spare time. Man, I wish the chairs were more comfortable.

ABC RypMeOff - crew cabin

My shared cabin aboard the ABC RypMeOff

Back in my cabin I am granted approximately ten minutes of rest before a security lad knocks on the door, and loudly announces a room inspection. The immediate outlook actually excites me. Maybe this unannounced visit will spur my cabin mate Pancho to a tidier life, and reinforce the idea of not smoking in our bathroom. He might even receive a warning, for his pile of empty cigarette packs in the bathroom, next to the toilet bowl that likely still contains a rim of ash, a horrendous smell, and the butt of his last cigarette. Sadly, Pancho is called off his duty and back to the cabin before the inspector is allowed to make his round. Thus, he manages to flush the toilet before anyone sees anything.

So the security pal searches and scrutinizes, and once a minute morns the impossibility to perform a proper inspection with all the garbage lying around. It is quite entertaining to see him scramble through the disorganised dump that is our shared cabin, and exclaim his dismay about its troublesome appearance. He surely finds plenty of issues with the state of affairs, but they are all Pancho’s problems, so I can’t be bothered to comment. Without trouble he locates the empty cigarette boxes and beer bottles in the bathroom, and explains, once more, that neither alcohol nor nicotine are allowed to be consumed in the cabin.

That is pretty much it, though. The visit does not result in a warning (a collection of three of those leads to your termination of contract), or any other official announcement of his dismay. Apparently the blatant violation of policies regarding drug use and tidiness do not suffice as evidence of ignorance.

My shared non-smoking toilet aboard the cruise ship

The toilet in our shared smoking parlour (bathroom) usually smelled the way it looked.

Security Sam finds two items of concern, though. Pancho owns a set of very small plastic bags, and my own luggage contains a small stack of nitrile gloves. For the schooled mind of the cruise-trained inspector those items can only be utilised in one business – yes, we have ourselves a secret drug lab! Luckily we have been clever enough to hide it from investigating eyes, so even a thorough search of our private cubicle does not yield any traces of methamphetamines or other illegal substances. I’m not certain how we managed to hide our diabolic business for all these days, or how we acquire a steady stream of costumers among our weekly rotating line of passengers. But at least I finally can make use of that diabolic laugh that I have been practicing for these past years.

Oh, and it is the very last day of the cruise. Everybody in the department is in the shop, selling photos and illegal substances. Everyone but the two freshlings. Both of us stand alone and forgotten in our studios, void of any hint of photo-willing passengers. That ain’t surprising, considering that tomorrow the vast majority of passengers will leave the ship before we can even pin the new portraits to the wall! But the photographers shall roam where the manager demands it. And thus, we roam, and suffer our boredom in silence.

CRUISE – Sea Day, Safety, and Gala Night

29 Apr Grand Glittery Stairs aboard ABC RypMeOff

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

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

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

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

Vigo, Spain. A view of the port

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

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

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

Grand Glittery Stairs aboard ABC RypMeOff

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

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

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