Sailing around Greek islands

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It has been a really crazy two months, which I can’t believe has already come to an end. Today I will be concluding my tour of the London airports and flying out to Puerto Rico to join Adventure of the Seas. I’ve been constantly on the go since signing off the Ovation, at the end of June and I feel like I’m going to need a holiday to get over my holiday (yea that’s right, I’m still not calling it a vacation even if I do work for an American company).

The first week at the end of a contract, as always, consisted of catching up with friends, sleeping and coming back to reality. After that, a bit of work for my good friend Alex Eadle’s electric company helped fund trips to Greece with mum, flying from Heathrow, Barcelona, with 4 out of my 5 old university housemates, flying from Stanstead and finally Budapest with the fifth university housemate flying from Luton.

Each of my trips were completely different from the next and this post is going to go through the most unique of the three holidays which was a week on a 40-foot yacht sailing around some of the Greek islands near Athens.

DSC_0015_1My mum Christine, or Mrs C to those of my friends that are lucky enough to know her, has a highly stressful job working as a therapist so I was more than happy to join her in a relaxed trip on a boat sailed by an ex colleague. Her ex colleague, John, has recently begun a business with his partner Katie, providing sailing holidays where you can learn the basics of sailing or simply kick back and relax.

Flying with mum meant going a bit up market from my usual easyJet holidays and catching a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Athens. By coincidence we caught the same flight as John who had been to his daughters graduation the day before.

In Athens we shared a half an hour taxi from the airport to Flisvos marina where we met Moli, the centre piece of Santipurna Sailing and our home for the next week.

We each had our own cosy little cabin that had a double bed and not much else. That evening we ate at a nice taverna overlooking the harbour, with a view of Panathinaikos football and basketball stadiums, which sit side by side on the opposite side of the marina.  We were then rocked to sleep for the first time. Sleeping on a boat is so easy I’d spend a large chunk of the next week doing it.

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Early the next day, safety briefing completed, we made the way out of Flisvos using the engine before being able to unfurl the head sail and make the most of a light wind to float soundlessly across the small channel toward the island of Egina. Relaxing is not a sufficient way to describe that five hour sail in the 35 degree heat. Sleeping, reading and a bit more sleeping was how I passed the time before arriving in a beautiful little bay surrounded by hills and a small taverna.DSC_0045_2

We spent three nights in two amazing little bays, out at anchor held steady by a rope around rocks on shore (which I swam out to attach myself whilst avoiding sea urchins). The other two nights we spent in marinas wedged in amongst other yachts like a car park.

DSC_0059_2Each morning, Katie would produce amazing breakfasts and delicious lunches in the afternoon with just two small hobs to work with. I’ve been to restaurants with huge kitchens that don’t come close to the quality of food that she produced in the confines of the tiny galley. In the evening, more often than not, we would eat at reasonably priced tavernas where the fresh Greek salads put all salads everywhere else in the world to shame.

IMG_20170724_083003_063I spent the week in the crystal clear waters, relaxing and learning how to paddle board. Whoever it was that told me that those things are easier than they look is a liar because the first three attempts to stand up left me with salt water up my nose. I paddled around for a while on my knees and it did actually become much easier after that.

We headed back for the mainland on Thursday and battled through waves that were definitely higher than the forecasted 3 meters. A very rocky journey got us back to where we began for our final night.

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We weren’t flying until late on the Friday so we had the opportunity for a cultural experience as John and Katie welcomed their next guests to the boat. The tram took us half an hour to get into Athens centre where we looked around the first stadium to host the modern Olympics, a temple of Zues and finally the world famous Acropolis. The whole experience left me marvelling at the ingenuity of those that came before us, especially when you see the cranes and scaffolding up for renovation work and you imagine how they must have built the amazing structures without such help.

We caught our flight later that evening, mum with a healthy tan and looking immeasurably less stressed out than a week before when she had just finished the school year.

I sit here on the plane (that looks more like a bus) at Gatwick airport, the fourth different airport I’ve seen this month and reflect on how amazing my last two months have been. Thanks to my

friends that I’ve caught up with, however briefly, in the last two months, see you next in February

What do you even do on ships?

So there is no short answer to this question. No, wait, that’s a lie, I always give the short answer when people ask. So I’m going to attempt to give the full answer in this posting!
If you’ve asked me what I’m doing at the moment and I tell you ‘I work on cruise ships’, there is no polite way of putting this but that’s the shortened version of the short version and I probably can’t be bothered to talk to you. Sorry if that’s you.
DSC_0141If I say something along the lines of ‘I’m a youth staff for Royal Caribbean, so basically I keep kids entertained whilst travelling the world.’ you are in the majority category. That is an extremely basic summary of my job but in truth, child care is my primary role but any youth staff will tell you that we are also fire fighters, first aiders, health and safety officers, welcoming committee, crowd control, entertainers, dancers and even lifeguards on certain ships. Some of the veterans of the company (Yea Pierre, SherLynn, Patty, Lana, Adele I’m talking about you) speak of the good old days before cross utilisation when a youth staff just dealt with kids but that’s ancient history and before my time!
There isn’t really an average day for us but here’s the simplistic guide to what we do: Adventure Ocean (AO) is the name given to the kids programme on board all Royal Caribbean ships. The programme caters to 3-11 year olds and is the same across the fleet, it is a free drop off service where children are signed in and out by parents from 9 in the morning till 10 at night (parents can also pay to leave their kids after 10 if they want to go get on the session until 2am). The age groups are split into Aquanauts 3-5 year olds, Explorers 6-8 and Voyagers 9-11. Generally you will have two members of staff in each room with up to 30 Aquanauts or up to 50 Explorers and Voyagers. I’ll give some details about the activities in a later post.
Teens is also free but the teens come and go as they please, opening times vary on different ships but the discos usually run until 1 or 2a.m. During high kid count the age groups will be split into 12-14 year olds and 15 to 17 year olds.FB_IMG_1513191176291
Royal babies and tots is a paid service for 6 months to 3 years old. I can’t tell you that much about it because I have successfully avoided having to work in there throughout my 3 contracts. Most babies, particularly in Asia, are terrified of me so that has helped my case but a preference for working in teens on my part has kept me there. All youth staff can be scheduled to work in any age group but generally there are a few nursery specialists, a few teen specialists and everybody works in Adventure Ocean.
There are three different styles of days whilst working on ships: Turnaround days, Sea days and Port days (and occasionally hybrid days like Port Klang which is such a crap port that it’s a port day that runs like a sea day).
All ships have a home port where they return at the end of each cruise for example Miami, Southampton, Sydney or Singapore. The lengths of the cruises vary depending on the clientele for example the Asian market prefers shorter cruises so 3/4 night itineraries are the norm where as out of the UK two-week cruises around the Mediterranean are normal. On a turnaround day the ship returns to the home port, the old guests are off usually before midday and the new guests are on by mid afternoon. So to answer a common question yes there are pretty much always guests on-board 365 days a year.


On a turnaround day a Youth Staff will be scheduled for a number of different roles:
Debark usually means waking up at silly a.m. to help the old set of guests off the ship (not good when you’ve had a goodbye party for a leaving colleague the night before)
Open house and registration is greeting parents, explaining the programme and helping them fill out consent forms which must be filled out before a child can be signed in to AO.
Gangway is meet and great with all of the new guests and answering any questions they have (about the whole ship so knowledge of all different departments is required).
YEP is handing out youth evacuation plan wristbands to ALL children between 3-11 that get on the ship (always fun in China when guests completely ignore you or think you’re trying to sell them something).
Once all guests are on-board Youth staff go around to the different muster stations (the place guests would go in case of an emergency) during the pre-departure safety drill and put wristbands on any children who were not caught during YEP or, in most cases, who ripped their bands off.
In the evening the first session of the cruise usually runs for two hours in AO and Teens will usually be open for the whole night.
IMG_20191124_165507Sea days are usually very straight forward but can be extremely long and busy because the kids get bored, especially on the smaller ships, and AO gets swamped. There are three sessions, morning afternoon and evening with family activities e.g. discos, trivia etc, run in-between.
Port days are what most of us are there for. Another answer to a common question: we do get chance to get off the ship and explore but in 5 months + of working we don’t get a day off. If we are lucky enough to be off during port hours, chances are that we will work in the morning, helping to sort out tour groups, or crowd control during the debark process or helping guests in wheelchairs off the ship and then working again in the evening.
AO is open at the same times as on a sea day but between sessions staff take the kids to get meals whenever the ship is still in port. So if the ship is in port until 4.00pm then staff will take kids to lunch. If the ship is docked until 7.00pm staff will take the kids to both lunch and dinner. If you are working on a port day we call it a ‘Port Zone’ which is working straight through 8.45 in the morning to 5/ 5.30 in the afternoon. These can be one of the worst things in the world if you are tired for any reason (probably you just couldn’t sleep properly). The morning session from 9-12 is usually fine as you’re running on the adrenaline of getting up, the two hours between sessions when you take the children for lunch is the killer. After lunch you feel the food coma on the horizon. So you’re struggling. And you know there is still the three hours of the afternoon session left. Killer.
So that is what every youth staff will do across every one of the 25 ship in the fleet.

DSC_0350Other jobs that youth staff are required to do vary from ship to ship. Welcoming guests to shows; helping sport staff with activities such as bumper cars or roller skates; or supervising pool areas/ water slides are just some of the shifts that we might be scheduled for, usually as an hour shift before being replaced by another youth staff.

Being a youth staff and working on a cruise ship really is like no other job in the world. It’s an amazing job you can love it, hate it and love it again all in one day. It can be very difficult to work every day for over 5 months and be away from friends and family for that whole time. To live, work and play all in the same place can be testing but the amazing people you meet and the stunning places you visit make all of it worth while and then some. On our largest ship, Harmony of the Seas, there are 2400 staff on board there will usually be staff from between 50 and 100 different countries working at the same time so there is the chance to meet people from all over the world and I do feel truly blessed to be able to say I have met good friends from many different countries. Other than the travelling that is my favourite part of the job!

Day 1 of Costa Rica

I am going to post every day of my 6 week trip to Costa Rica back in 2013 just click on the drop down menu and hit the link. So not to overload those who would take the time to see what I got up to I will post a day or two every week. Very weird reading back and seeing what was going on in my mind at 23 years old. Feels so long ago now!

Why not?

I often tell my friends: don’t ask yourself why? ask why not?

For a long time I’ve seen blogs as a self-indulgent tool for people who believe their opinions to be more important than they actually are. A recent change in perspective has made me decide to give this a go.

Whilst on holiday in Budapest with my old Uni house mate Andy we began reminiscing about our six-week trip to Costa Rica back in 2013, I pulled up the notes that I made about our trip, but never got around to fully editing. Andy was the first person to have read any of it in the five years since writing it (or at least beginning to write it). I plan to start getting some of that trip up on this site, better late than never right? As well as some more recent highlights from some of the places that I visit whilst working for Royal Caribbean International.

I’m blessed enough to lead an incredible life and have seen some amazing places both with work and during my holidays. In the last two years I have seen Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Gibraltar, Portugal, Belgium through work, I have been on holiday to Barbados, Spain, Greece, Hungary and even cycled around the whole of Belgium and I’m probably forgetting places as well. My mum will be the first to tell you that I often under sell the experiences I’ve had so maybe I can get some of the enthusiasm that I forget to use, whilst talking, into this blog.

Perhaps you’re a friend who cares what I’m up to, maybe you’re an acquaintance who just feels like being nosy, or it could be that you’re a complete stranger (or maybe it’s just you mum). Who ever you are reading this blog I hope you find what I get up to in my life interesting. If not, I’m sure when I read this back in the future when my memory is shot to pieces, because let’s face it, at 27 I already struggle to remember what I had for breakfast this morning, I will enjoy reliving the things I’ve seen and done.