Hurricane IRMA aftermath

DSC_0246Less than two weeks ago, I walked along deck 12 on my way to work and looked out at the tropical paradise of St Martin. At the end of the pier where we docked there were a host of multi-coloured shacks stocked with souvenirs to be sold to the +3,000 guests that would step off the Adventure of the Seas. Further in the distance you could see the palm trees standing proud along the road as a guide towards the picturesque beach off to the left of the ship. In the amazing blue waters were people having fun on Jet Skis, Paddle boards and engaging in other types of water sports.

DSC_0031_1Today I walked the exact same path along the top deck and the scene was completely different. The shacks vanished, the palm trees look bedraggled and tired from trying to stand up to 200 mph winds and the only people to be seen were getting off a bus and lining up solemnly to get onto our cruise ship that has stopped on a Humanitarian visit.

Last week it was business as usual on my ship the Adventure of the Seas and as we set off from our home port of San Juan, Puerto Rico, I was blissfully unaware that I was in the vicinity of a natural disaster of such an enormous scale. At our next port, Curacao, I received some concerned messages and I saw news stories online which showed a category 5 Hurricane in the area but the blue skies and blazing sun gave no hint as to what was a few days sail to the north of us. We had a slight change to our itinerary and visited Bonaire rather than St Kitts but all seemed well.

We arrived back into our home port: Puerto Rico, San Juan. Where we dock, looked a bit wind beaten but, other than some power failures, that part of the island looked OK visually. The itinerary change for the next cruise had us spending two days in Aruba instead of our planned trip to St Martin but I can honestly say that I am very happy that a decision was made to make a Humanitarian visit to the devastated island on the second day of the cruise.

In the wake of the monster Hurricane IRMA Royal Caribbean has postponed cruise vacations on some ships.  Empress and Enchantment of the Seas are ready to assist in Miami and Majesty will visit St Martin and St Thomas. On our Humanitarian visit we have provided provisions and have picked up 300 guests to be safely delivered to other islands.

I was at work this morning as we approached St Martin. Looking out of the window of our Adventure Ocean Aquanaught room at 10am I could see the island looking much the same as all of the other Caribbean islands. Multiple shades of beautiful blue in the ocean leading up to the shores masked the havoc that had been reeked. As we got closer and closer over the next hour I began to notice buildings that had been semi destroyed and palm trees, which in our minds we associate with good times and relaxation drooping sadly towards the ground.DSC_0243

When we docked next to a military ship I could finally see the scale of the destruction. Where there once stood buildings there is just flat ground. There are huge crates, that you would usually see on the back of lorries that have been blown around and the strong metal casing crushed. Up on the hills, that look down on the port, damage to buildings is evident including one of two sturdy looking water towers that has had the top blown off.

DSC_0035_1Even from deck 12 I could see the haunted look on the faces of some of the people that we are here to evacuate. For five days now they have been stuck on the island with no electricity and little to no contact with the outside world. I can’t even begin to imagine what they are thinking, going through the tedious process of boarding the luxury vessel having feared for their lives just a few days before.

Today has been a truly humbling experience. Guests and crew remained on the ship and we could only see but a fraction of the damage done by IRMA but it was enough to make me value the small things in life. I’m glad that the company that I call my employers are doing so much to aid those in need and I feel for all those effected!

Appreciate the small things. Live with no regrets.

Barcelona with the boys

1555525489830For years, my old uni house mates have talked about going on holiday together so I was very surprised back in April when I managed to find some WiFi and there were 600+ messages of bad ideas, terrible jokes (mainly Josh),  taking the piss out of each other and reminiscing on times passed.  But the boys finally got themselves together and organised a trip to Barcelona.

Out of the six of us that shared a mustard yellow house, down Ceylon Place, in Eastbourne for two years,  five of us were able to go. Unfortunately Andy was busy, but I was lucky enough to go to Budapest with him the following week which you’ll get to read about in a later post.

On Monday morning John and myself drove from Oxford to Barnet where we left my car and Haggis and Josh picked us up for the remainder of the journey to Stanstead Airport. Westwood would fly out the following day as he had a wedding to attend.

DSC_0030Pretty much as soon as we arrived at the airport the fire alarm sounded and everyone had to evacuate the building. The process was unhurried and I wasn’t entirely convinced that staff knew the exact procedure. Having worked on ships where every employee has a specific emergency duty to carry out if an alarm were to sound (and those duties are practiced in crew drills every two weeks) I was very underwhelmed with the response at Stanstead Airport. The lack of urgency and the short wait outside suggested that nothing serious had happened thankfully but their evacuation process could definitely use some work.

Inside the airport, having finally got through the snail slow airport security, one of the boys suggested having a beer. Now there is something about being in an airport and being in holiday mode that makes it almost acceptable to be drinking alkohol at 9 in the morning. The excitement of seeing each other and trying to recreate that uni feeling was setting the tone for how the rest of the week would go so if you’re reading this hoping for some travel advice on the culture of Barcelona, I’ll save you some time. There wasn’t any culture. Unless you count the British binge drinking culture.

The flight went fine, good old Ryanair made sure our seats were scattered all over the plane to try and convince us to splash that extra £10 to reserve specific seats. So we all just slept in preparation for the lack of sleep which was sure to come.

We arrived in Barcelona early afternoon and jumped into the prearranged taxi with the driver who spent the whole 20 minute journey on his phone. I think the idea of a hands free kit is kind of redundant when the driver spends so much time looking at the phone to make the calls.

Thankfully we made it safely to the apartment, booked through Airbnb, but there was no one there to great us. The driver, who spoke no English, called the owner of the apartment and she assured Rixon that her friend would be on hand with the keys in about an hours time. We had lunch, and yes, another drink,  and returned to find the owners ‘friend’ cleaning the apartment! So we dumped the bags and went for a walk complaining about the lack of organisation and thinking about the bad reviews we were going to leave (which in true lad fashion we never got around to).

IMG_20190821_121053The apartment was about a half an hour walk from Las Ramblas and a further 20 minutes to the beach so after the walk, stopping off for further beers and cocktails on route we jumped in a taxi back to the apartment which was finally ready. The five bedroom flat was very spacious and across the road from a supermarket (and 4 or 5 very questionable looking bars) so there was no further complaints after our initial arrival.

The rest of the week followed a very similar pattern: drinking, wondering around aimlessly, talking about things that we should do but never doing and being very hungover! In the day I was especially bad and didn’t really come back into this world until early afternoons.


On our second night, after telling everyone that he never takes his phone out when he’s drinking, Rixon lost his phone having accidentally left it in his pocket when we left the flat.

On our third night I had a really nice meal around my cousin’s apartment before re-joining the boys for a night out that included one hour all you can drink at a bar followed by entry into one of the main nightclubs. As I met up with the boys at the start of the night, eating tapas, and drinking (again) Josh was just leaving as he wasn’t feeling well. My head told me that I should go back with him. But FOMO prevailed and I ended up carrying on.

Our fourth and final night we decided a pub crawl was a good idea. I mean we always do pub crawls by wondering around in search of an ever elusive ‘better place’ but this one was official. Great idea the day before flying home.


We were very lucky that our flight wasn’t until late afternoon otherwise I’m not sure I’d have made it home. It was a very different kind of get away than my other two.  We tried to recapture our youth for five days and it was awesome to hang out with the lads for a week. Even if it did drain the life out of me. I’m not as young as I once was