Viva Mexico – Tulum

My third and final stop down the Quintana Roo was in Tulum and was probably my favourite place. Despite feeling ill, seeing a big-ass snake and swimming with a small-ass crocodile I really enjoyed my time there.

The bus from Playa Del Carmen took just under an hour and the bus station was about a 50 minute walk away from ‘Lucky Travellers Hostel’ where I was staying. Usually I wouldn’t have minded walking this distance but feeling ill as I was I decided to flag down a taxi.

The drive was literally straight along the road for about 10 minutes and the only navigation required was a quick lap of the block so we were facing the right direction. This, however, didn’t stop the driver, who knew only a few words in English, from constantly asking ‘where we go? Tell me! Tell me!’ It took me a couple of minutes to realise that the taxi driver was pretty drunk. Maybe after the second or third time of him pointed at a woman walking along the street and saying: ‘Look! Big Bum’.

Luckily the road was fairly quiet and didn’t have much traffic and I arrived to my hostel safely! The place was the first ‘all inclusive’ hostel that I’ve seen and was pretty good with free bike rental, a cinema room (shock some English guys were already in there watching football) and generally loads of space to chill out.

I forced some food down, which was average at best but I didn’t expect much better from a buffet, and took a laboured walk to the beach. Like Playa and Cancun the beach was full of seaweed but the potential could be seen beyond the brown waters and the horrid smell.

Each day the hostel organised an excursion on bikes. The two days that I stayed, we were taken to different Cenotes (pronounced say-no-tays) by a tiny Brazilian guy who originally came to Tulum for a few weeks and ended up staying for 6 months.

A Cenote is pool of water stretching underground and there are lots of them found around the Yucatan area, many linked to each other and the sea by underground tunnels. There are open, semi-open, underground and cave Cenotes. The first day we visited a cave and the second was open.

The connection of underground tunnels allows wildlife to arrive in the Cenotes and in the cave, besides many fish that would bite your toes in a free pedicure, there was a baby turtle. They also had some turtles in an old bath tub where they held them before being released somewhere (less tourist infested) later. In the open cenote I even spotted a baby crocodile in the reeds which only made me question where mummy and daddy were.


The cave Cenote was basically just a few holes in the ground. A couple of small holes were about a meter or two wide and the main hole about five meters. Down the main hole was a rugged ladder so people could climb up and down into the bat infested cave or most people just jumped the 4 meters down anywhere that they weren’t likely to land on someone’s head. I was surprised whilst inside to see a bunch of bubbles appear in the water, they were promptly followed by a man in full scuba gear who had been exploring the underground rivers.

The next day we went to an open Cenote. The guys at the entrance warned us that there was a baby crocodile around, which I spotted almost as soon I jumped in, off the man-made diving platform. It was kind of like a big pond with clear water (which made it kind of creepy) and a beautiful jungle back drop, the water was very refreshing on a hot day.

The other thing that I did during my short stay in Tulum – which is a typical thing to do in Mexico – was to visit the ruins. The ruins of Chichin Itza were impressive but these ones were visually stunning.


I took a walk through the jungle and then ducked through a small arch before being hit with a large plane with buildings spaced out on lush green grass with a backdrop of beautiful blue skies that ended with the cliff to the ocean below. The scenery was so stunning that I didn’t even think how impressive the buildings, built thousands of years ago by the Mayans, actually were.

On the way out of the ruins, again through a jungle (but a wide man made path) I was scanning the trees to my left when I had to double take. The tree which I thought had strange patterns actually had a big snake coiled around the branch. Thankfully it wasn’t moving so I stopped long enough to snap a picture and made my way out of there sharpish.

Tulum was a good way to end my week alone in Mexico before heading back to Cancun to meet my girlfriend Karen and continue my travels on to Cuba.

Viva Mexico – Playa del Carmen

The second stop on my Mexican Adventure took me just over an hour south of Cancun to Playa Del Carmen. Buses run very frequently and I opted for an ADO luxury coach with toilet, comfortable reclining chairs and a movie (in Spanish) for a bank breaking 60pesos (about £2.40). The other option was a ‘collectivo’ minibus that costs 45 pesos.

On arrival into Playa I instantly liked it more than Cancun. There are lots of bars and restaurants all leading down to the beach which unfortunately, just like Cancun, was full of seaweed that made it look unattractive and smelled even worse.


The hostel, ‘La Isla’ that I stayed at was right on the beach. From the balcony you could see along the (smelly, ugly) beach. It was also right above Senor Frogs so it’s a good thing that I can sleep through almost anything, as their music was loud until the early hours of the morning.

On my first night I didn’t even notice that the music was playing, or maybe I got back late enough (and possibly drunk enough) that it had stopped.

As soon as I arrived at the hostel I met a guy from the West of Mexico who was in Playa searching for work. He hadn’t been very successful due to the temptation to go out and party all the time. He took me to a local restaurant, away from the tourist area for cheap Quesadillas and we got some drinks to have down the beach.

We ended up going out with an American in his mid 30s on some kind of midlife crisis. He came out with no money, spent the night trying to hit on girls 15 years younger than him and always wanted to ‘find somewhere better’ than the free bars that we were confined to, as I definitely wasn’t about to pay his entrance fee. Despite this guy it was a good night with a nice vibe.

The following day I met up with some ship friends. Ilke, who I met in Cancun, came to catch a ferry with me to Cozumel and we had a nice meal with our friend Annie who’s ship, Oasis of the Seas, was docked. Annie followed me to my first two ships Mariner and Indy and we remain good friends meeting up when ever we are in the same place at the same time.

After cocktails at ‘no name bar’ where crew members visit whenever they dock in Cozumel, we headed back to Playa. Ilke and me had a couple more drinks and her boyfriend came to see us and drove us to get some street food.

The following day, not feeling good at all, either because of the all day drinking, with cheap cocktails or the street food, I watched Mexico beat South Korea 2-1 before heading for my next stop in Tulum.

Viva Mexico – Cancun

Time is a weird concept when you stop to think on it. The last month and a half has gone so quickly but trying to think back to where it all began it seems so long ago!!

Cancun was the first stop of my trip, the place famed for spring break, beautiful beaches with beautiful bodies on those beaches. I actually only saw the beach at night time and went for the more cultural option of a trip to Chichen Itza instead.

I had one week on my own when I arrived in Mexico and researched things to do on the Quintana Roo. I was unsure if it would be best to stay in Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum so in the end I did a couple of nights in all of them!

When I arrived in Cancun I caught up with a ship friend, Ilke from Belgium who was living in Cancun with her boyfriend. We had a couple of drinks at my hostel and then a cocktail at a bar where one litre cost just 60 pesos (£2.10). Once her boyfriend had finished work he took us for a drive around the area.

Cancun is divided into two areas, downtown and the hotel zone. The hotel zone is where you find all of the night clubs and the beaches. There were advertisements for bikini parties that cost around £50 to get in and all you can drink. Driving along the strip with music pumping everywhere you could see why it has the reputation of being a party town.

Unfortunately the time of year that I went to Cancun the usually beautiful beaches were full of washed up sea weed and it carried the smell to go with it. I found out later in the week that it was the same all along the coast.

In my only full day in Cancun I took a tour to one of the seven modern wonders of the world: Chichen Itza. The tour could have been taken anywhere alone the Quintana Roo and my journey was very long as the tour company picked up guests from Playa del Carmen and Tulum first (and in reverse in the way back). It meant that I got picked up for my tour at 8am and wasn’t back again until gone 11pm. Lucky I didn’t have anything else to do that day!


Chichen Itza was pretty spectacular. On arrival I was sent away with a tour guide who was to do an English tour. He seemed like he had done the tour way too many times and couldn’t be bothered with the detailed descriptions of the Mayan history. After about 40 minutes, glossing over the main points, he gave us an hour and 20 minutes to look around by ourselves which suited me fine.

It took most of an hour to walk around all of the different ruins that surround the big iconic pyramid. With no shade around in the midday sun I was ready for the next part of the tour, a trip to Cenote Ik Kil (pronounced say-no-tay).

Cenotes are a combination of underground rivers that run along the Quintana Roo and there are lots of different ones to visit where you can go and swim. The one that our tour visited was quite spectacular and was one of the venues on the ‘Red Bull Cliff Diving’ circuit.


We arrived at the very top of the cave (where they would usually have the platform for the cliff divers) and looked down the 26 meters to the bottom. There were hundreds of tourists down there swimming, many wearing bright orange swim vests to stop them drowning in the 40 meter deep water.

The stairs down have a few viewing platforms where you can look at the vine covered walls that go all the way down to water level. Once at the bottom there are some diving platforms set up, the highest being about 6 meters high. When I jumped in I did my best to forget that it was once a place used for human sacrifice by the Mayans thousands of years ago.

So I didn’t see a huge amount of Cancun whilst I was there but saw enough to know that I wasn’t a huge fan. It was a bit too spaced out between downtown and the hotel zone and everything in the hotel zone seemed over priced. I’m sure if I was there with the boys to go and party I would have loved it but as it happened I moved on to Playa del Carmen instead.

Viva Mexico – Manchester bound

I can’t believe it’s been less than a week since I was back home in the UK, pouring pints and labouring on a building site. Now I am chilling out in a hostel in Tulum, Mexico having ticked off one of the seven modern wonders of the world. I’m going to share some of my experiences on my travels and many thanks in advance for those who read. I hope you enjoy!

Monday 28th June 2018

I set out for Manchester, to catch my flight to Cancun that was leaving early on Tuesday. Some research on skyscanner had helped me to locate a one-way ticket to Cancun, for just £210 with Thomas Cook.

I would just like to point out for those wondering, it was only a one way ticket because I don’t know my plans going forward and not because I don’t intend to return!

My trip to Manchester was pretty straight forward, I’d booked my ticket with ‘Mega-bus’ (or Mega-shite-bus as my good friend Loz refers to it). Obviously it wasn’t the fabled £1 that they advertise but no-one has ever seen but £14 wasn’t so bad. At the bus stop I met a traveller from New Zealand. I’d barely left my home and here I was next to a fellow traveller.

Now there are a few different types of traveller that you find out there. Some laid back, some keep themselves to themselves, some love life and all the beauties that it has to offer especially the parties. This particular traveller was none of the above. This was the type who feels the need to share his life story within the first 3 minutes of meeting (including, for some reason, the fact he only had 4 pairs of underwear with him). If you’ve met this type of traveller before you will know that he has definitely done everything that you’ve done in your life and if he hasn’t he’s heard of someone that has!

When the bus finally arrived, I strategically positioned myself far away from that dude and settled in for the 4 hour journey via Coventry and Birmingham.

When you stop being in a rush and have nowhere in particular to be, a four hour journey can actually feel relaxing and the time flew by. I arrived in Manchester and found my £11 accommodation: ‘Hatters on Newton Street’ and found somewhere to set up camp for the afternoon and watch football. I spent as much on two drinks as I did for a night’s accommodation, but the pub I found had a good atmosphere!

A lot of people hate the stress of travel but the only stress I felt all day was watching England play! Even surrounded by Manchester United fans, the much loved Lingard was taking abuse for missing so many chances (the place nearly erupted when Rashford came on). I’m willing to give Sterling a free pass for playing so badly as at the moment he seems to be shouldering all of the ill will and harassment from the British press which is usually spread out across the whole squad during a big tournament. He’s taken one for the team there.

After Kane’s stoppage time winner, the pub erupted as though we had won the whole tournament and the Mancs broke out into verse of ‘football’s coming home’. I grabbed some food and went to get some sleep before my early flight.

Hostels can be great or a nightmare depending on your luck. In my room with 8 beds I was sharing with four people. At about 4am I heard a Scottish voice shouting ‘hey, buddy, can you stop snoring’. No I wasn’t the one snoring, but I was the one that got woken up by his shouts. Not once but 3 times over the next 20 minutes.

The guy snoring was going at it. He was in a hibernation type sleep that any bear would have been proud of. ‘Hey, BUDDY, can you stop snoring please.’ at least this dumbass was being polite with his request but as the rattling snores continues I wondered what was the point in asking someone that can’t hear you to stop doing something he has no control over. ‘hey buddy, buddy! HEY BUDDY!’

That was it for me ‘dude shut the fuck up! I can deal with his snoring but you shouting the whole time is too much!’ I heard a little whimpering reply ‘well I’m sorry, but I’ve been laid here for hours’ I wasn’t feeling very sympathetic by this point so replied ‘yea well next time don’t be so tight and get yourself a private room!’

The rest of the night was uneventful before waking up at 6am to get to the station and airport.

We’re all the same, just, different – cultural differences around the world

I’ve been back in Oxford for about four months now and have loved seeing friends and family and being mothered by Mrs C, but those who know me will realise that I’ve been getting itchy feet again. So before I set off on my next trip, to Mexico and Cuba to start with and who knows what after that, I thought I’d get back to my blog after a lengthy break.

One of my favourite things about travelling the world is the opportunity to meet so many amazing people that come with different cultures, customs and beliefs. Without any intentions to offend, I thought I’d share some of the observations that I’ve made over the years.

What better place is there to start than the way we all sound! Being from Oxford I have the unshakable presumption that I am ‘posh’. I actually begin to believe it myself when working on ships with those that come from further north in the UK, be it as far north as Scotland like my colleague Gemma who has to work extremely hard to tone down her accent when addressing confused looking parents from all over the world, or Jack from Biiirminghaaam who feels the need to elongate words all the time.

Being British means that I am useless at learning any other language. If I, or a lot of other Brits, attempt to address somebody in their language they are likely to laugh, before launching into a better English than we speak. So I have untold respect for anybody that can speak a second language. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have hours of fun with pronunciation mistakes. Here are some of my favourites:

I had a South African friend who would talk about ‘deck six’ on the ship. If you weren’t listening closely it would sound suspiciously like a conversation about ‘dick sex’.

I heard a story, rather than witnessed, about a Ukrainian youth staff who was on the microphone during a sport session. She repeatedly shouted ‘focus guys! focus!’. Those within ear shot would turn to look for who kept shouting ‘fuck us guys! Fuck us!’.

I had Chinese colleagues that had difficulty distinguishing the sound difference between ‘shit’ and ‘sheet’. This was especially fun when parents arrived and were asked to fill in the ‘sign in sheet’.

As I said before I have huge respect for those that speak a second language, especially when they can understand me better than a lot of Americans for some reason. In the American’s defence I speak very quietly and they come from a country where everybody seems to shout everything they say.

Australia and the UK have a shared history which probably goes a way to explain some of our similarities. We drink to excess, love sport and have very sarcastic sense of humour. The only difference is that the Aussies can be annoyingly happy and upbeat all the time where us Brits love to moan. I wonder if having the sun all year round compared to wind rain and clouds has anything to do with it?

You’ll have to search long and hard if you want to find a more friendly and sharing people than the Filipino. There is no party like a Philippines party, it will have more food and drink than you can imagine, everyone is welcomed and it’s likely to end in karaoke.

Other extremely friendly races that I’ve encountered would be the Indian’s, full of life and love to dance and the Japanese an extremely humble culture that embraces the spirit of hospitality. It is an amazing country that is unbelievably clean and tranquil. I’ve had multiple experiences of Japanese people helping me with directions despite not speaking a word of English.

My favourite destination still remains Costa Rica with it’s people so friendly and welcoming. It would be wrong of me also not to mention the laid back culture of the Caribbean where people openly great strangers in the street just for the sake of saying hello. A very strange concept if you grew up in the south of England.

Finally a word on one of my favourite cultures. Passionate about everything to the point of argumentative. Some of the best food in the world. They know how to dance like no other race. The Latin American culture is one of a real love for life. They go out on nights out to just dance. They don’t even need a drink to give them the courage to get up and dance in the first place!

So that’s where I’m going now. Sat on a bus toward Manchester before flying from Manchester to Cancun to sample some more of the Latino culture. I’ll try to keep you posted of my progress.

Puerto Ricans, Hurricanes and Dry Dock – The adventure on Adventure of the Seas

I have worked with so many colleagues who are tired of the Caribbean, with the endless beaches, perfect weather and the relaxed vibes I can understand why. No wait. That’s wrong, I can’t understand why and I was really excited to be doing my first Caribbean run, in my two years working for Royal Caribbean (yea try and work that out).


When I finished my third contract on Ovation of the Seas I was supposed to go to the Navigator. I was happy with this as I’d heard good things about the ship, but it would mean spending half a contract around Europe, doing a very similar itinerary to my second contract on the Independence before doing the crossing to the Caribbean. This contract was cancelled due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and I was momentarily disappointed before seeing that on Adventure of the Seas I would be in the Caribbean for my whole five and a half months (which would later turn into over six months) and it is arguably one of the best itineraries in that part of the world.

The Adventure has Puerto Rico as its home port, an amazing country although the guests can be challenging (more on that later). It does two different one week itineraries: the first around Eastern Caribbean including St Martin, St Thomas, St Kitts, St Lucia, Antigua, Barbados and the second around the Dutch Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

The contract was like no other that I’d completed so far with major itinerary changes due to the two huge hurricanes: Irma and Maria and ending with a month in dry dock, where the ship underwent renovation with no guests on board.

I signed onto the Adventure in August and was lucky to sign on with two other youth staff legends, Julia from the Ukraine and Jasmine from USA (don’t hold it against her). Signing on to any Adventure Ocean team is very easy as everybody there knows exactly what it is like to leave your family and friends behind, so new friendships are forged very quickly on ships. But there is a special bond shared between ‘sign on buddies’ that hang around through the long sign on process together and have to endure long pre-departure-safety training and will often sit together at meals during that awkward period where you don’t know anybody and don’t want to just pitch up on some random table and say ‘hi do you mind if I sit here?’ (I know you’ve had the urge once or twice to turn around and say: ‘Yes I do mind, now f off’).

Like any other ship people came and went throughout my contract. On this occasion more people went as I did a longer contract than usual and by the end I was last-man-standing out of our group that would always hang out in the Activity Managers cabin eating Pineapple, listening to music and playing cards.

As mentioned before, our itinerary ended up getting altered quite a lot after the September hurricanes. If you haven’t already, you can read in more detail about the humanitarian cruise that was provided by Royal Caribbean on one of my earlier blog posts. We had no paying guests on board for a cruise, instead families were picked up from Puerto Rico, St Croix and St Thomas and evacuated to Fort Lauderdale.

St Martin and St Thomas were unavailable for tourists all the way until December and January, respectively, due to the damage that was done. Sadly the residents are still facing a very slow rebuilding process. In January I rented a quad bike in St Martin and rode around the whole island. In the area that our ship docked, the rebuilding had been quick. There was still evidence of the recent hurricane but most businesses were back up and running. On the French side of the island, however, the destruction was devastating. Palm trees bent in half, hotels deserted and debris everywhere. Unfortunately, when the damage done by the hurricane has been reported and the story slips out of the news, it also slips out of the minds of the world so any aid that was originally sent dries up so it will be months/ years before the island recovers.

As well as the devastation left by the hurricane I was able to witness the true beauty of the Caribbean. Although each island is similar in the fact that they are all tropical paradises with laid back mentality and a soft spot for rum punch, each island has its own unique feeling. It is very hard to explain even though I know what I mean but The happy friendly vibe in Barbados seems different to the laid back, do what ever makes you feel happy vibes of St Kitts. And the  tranquillity found in the Chrystal clear waters of Bonaire feels different to the bright happy views of Curacao. I don’t even know the vibes that made Aruba one of my favourite islands but if you ever get the chance to visit I’d highly recommend.

The range of activities wasn’t quite the same as other contracts where there is a whole host of things to do. The most adventurous outing I did was a tour in St Lucia where I went to a drive-in-volcano. The crater had collapsed long ago so it allowed a road to be formed and you can drive right up to the smoking crater. The tour also included a trip to the botanical gardens and I acquired a bottle of local rum made to taste amazing by the infusion with real pineapples.

I was able to see my cousin Rosemary in Antigua and my Uncle in St Kitts when he came over from Nevis. I also got the ferry over to Nevis on one occasion and only just made it back on with a few minutes to spare! I saw countless amazing beaches cool wildlife like iguanas, turtles and a host of different birds.

The guests sailing from Puerto Rico could sometimes be hard work. The majority of the guests that you get on any ship generally come from the country that you are sailing from and that was no different on the Adventure. Unfortunately in life we often remember the bad more than we remember the good. I find it difficult to recollect a 10-year-old boy saying to me, after late night on new years eve: ‘Mr Lion, I had a really good time tonight so I’d like to say thank you’. But kids crapping themselves, kids misbehaving or parents being rude comes to mind all to easily.

The majority of the guests that we received on The Adventure were Spanish speaking. Or Span-glish I guess as even some of our Spanish speaking staff would find it difficult to communicate with them. ‘Ekumi – you peaky epany’ is a phrase I will never forget when thinking of Puerto Rico as you think to yourself: your passport literally states that you are American and you can’t speak English? Manners seemed to be in particularly short supply, although you can get people without manners all over the world. I think that the English are probably the only guests that can be rude whilst still using manners so I guess that manners aren’t everything. Rudeness and difficult guests aside I did enjoy witnessing yet another culture and now hablo un poco espanol (I speak a little Spanish).

Another great contract was rounded off in dry dock (until I volunteered to extend 3 weeks because there was no replacement for me). It was officially ‘wet dock’ as the boat wasn’t taken out of the water whilst renovations were made but what ever it was called we had no guests – in The Bahamas – for a month, as extra cabins and an Izumi sushi bar were added to the ship and general repairs made.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses without any guests (not that much sunshine at all actually as it was mainly cloudy with a lot of wind for the month that we were in Free Port Bahamas). We had to work everyday doing ‘fire-watch’ an extremely boring six hour shift sitting around watching the contractors do their work, with a fire extinguisher nearby, making sure that the ship didn’t burn down. You’d sit for hours on end, imagining how fast you could run away if a fire did in fact happen around one of these men who have probably been working with fire since they became an apprentice as a teenager and have been fully trained in what to do if the situation went bad.

Once the boring fire watch was done, your time was your own. Our HR department put on many activities for the crew and you could get off the ship for as long as you want without thinking: what time’s all aboard? By this time most of my friends from the contract had signed off, five close ones signing off right before the start of dry dock. They were replaced by the Mexican mafia and Karen was forced to look after me, taking me on bike rides, going to the beach and eating at a sushi restaurant where they fed reef sharks right off the side of their balcony as you ate. beach bonfire parties and all crew parties made the free time go fast, even if fire watch made the whole month go slow.

So finished another successful contract with Royal Caribbean. These posts always end up going longer than I anticipate, and that’s even leaving out the Christmas holidays where I had to dress up as a stupid elf from the end of November right through December. So as always I appreciate anyone who has got this far and taken the time to read my blog, even though I have been less successful at posting as I had first hoped, I hope you’ve enjoyed what’s come so far.

Ovation of the Seas – is bigger better?

Having spent a busy month dressed as one of Santa’s little helpers, a ghetto elf with pink shades,  I finally find myself with a relaxing bit of time on a beautiful beach in Aruba where I can write about my third contract out of the four I’ve done so far.

I’ve been unbelievably lucky with my contracts so far, each one has taken me to a different continent and Ovation of the Seas gave me the opportunity to see Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia before doing a similar itinerary to my first contract on the Mariner, sailing out of Singapore, around Malaysia and Thailand and finally sailing from China and visiting lots of Japanese ports.

Ovation of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s Quantum class ships, meaning it is the second largest design of ship in the company holding almost 5,000 passengers if it was full. For the first week on the ship I felt like a new hire again trying to find my way around. I now take for granted the awesome things that Royal floats around the oceans, like rock walls, surf simulators, sports courts and theatres but on the Ovation: bumper cars, an indoor skydiving tunnel and an observation tower that raises up to 300 feet above sea level really do need to be seen to be believed.


It was an amazing contract for me, workwise I lucked out, I arrived the day that Australian summer holidays finished and we went from 1,200 kids on board to just 300 and I left on the day that the Chinese school holidays started so again avoided the cruise where the number of children on board went over a thousand. I managed to keep hold of a cabin with no roommate for almost 2 months and the ship was forced into an unexpected dry dock and so we had a week and a half with no guests at all.


The ship sailed out of Sydney, which provides one of the most spectacular ‘sailaways’ that I’ve witnessed on ships, for a bit over a month and then we changed our home port to Singapore, again for just over a month before relocating again and sailing from Tianjin, China. I had overnight stops in Tasmania, Thailand and Japan, I visited Universal Studios Singapore and Disney Land Hong Kong and explored a remote Chinese island while we had to have repairs made to one of the the ships propellers.

The only – I’m going to say – ‘difficult’  part of my contract was dealing with Chinese guests. Something else that needs to be seen to be believed. My team of Chinese staff were all amazing such friendly and attentive people. The guests on the other hand…… Spit, push and pee everywhere.

Bare in mind that on a ship you are constantly within a 1 minute walk of the nearest bathroom, guests (especially the grandparents) would encourage toddlers to pee wherever they are. Inside, outside anywhere they’d just whip the kids pants down to pee. Some kids (admittedly in China as I never saw it on the ship) have trousers with no back so they are walking around bare-ass just in case they need to do their business.

Lining up during Chinese season was a madness. Trying to get off the ship often ended in guests swinging at each other, again, especially the older generation. I witnessed two different occasions where old ladies hit other guests whilst lining up. I avoided the buffet at all costs so didn’t have to witness guests eating with their mouths wide open, hacking up flehm and allowing kids to pee in bottles.

But my overall impression of the Chinese was saved by my team who as I mentioned before were amazing. Lana Banana and myself survived- as the only non Mandarin speaking staff for quite a while (even though our rock n roll night with 25 kids who couldn’t understand a word we said was unbelievable) – thanks to their help.


Working every day for 5 months, as I’m sure you can imagine, takes its toll but I was less tired after my contract on the Ovation than I have been after other contracts. I don’t think I will strike that lucky on a contract again but as Share-bear would say….. Put good vibes out into the universe and you will get them back.

Sailing from sunny Southampton – Independence of the Seas

I’m often asked which ship/ which port is my favourite but each different ship and place have their own individual beauty. Their own unique attributes and things that make them great in their own way. My second ship working for Royal Caribbean was the Independence of the Seas. A party ship. On the Indy you work hard and play harder.


Working on ships as a youth staff you are generally offered a contract that lasts on average 5 months followed by a two month break. The duration of your contract is usually spent on the same ship (but occasionally people might get transferred to another ship halfway through for a variety of reasons). At some point within the last month of your contract you are offered your next assignment  and when I was on the Mariner of the Seas and told I would be joining the Independence next, I couldn’t find a single crew member who had a bad word to say about it. Quite the opposite in fact, everyone said it was an awesome ship and after almost 6 months there I would have to agree!

The itinerary on the Indy sailed from the home port of Southampton and visited Gibraltar, Spain (Canary Isles included), France, Italy, Portugal and Belgium. That was the European season for the ship and covered my whole 5 month contract but I extended a few weeks and did the crossing to the Caribbean which was 8 days at sea across the Atlantic ocean followed by stops in St Martin, St Thomas, St Kitts, Puerto Rico  and Haiti.

My final cruise was a Reggae charter cruise. Sean Paul, Beenie Man and the Marley brothers were just a few of the names on board the ship hired out by Jamrock for a 3 night cruise around Jamaica.

It was a very easy transition jumping from the Mariner to the Indy as the ships have a very similar layout with just one extra fire zone that provided the space for an extra 500 to 1,000 guests and 300 more crew members. The Indy had a baby splash zone (unfortunately manned by youth staff during the day) and a flow rider (fake wave machine) that the Mariner didn’t but ice rink, theatre, dining options, rock wall and sports court were all pretty much the same.

I enjoyed sailing out of England and being just an hour and a half away from my home city of Oxford so the opportunity for family and friends being able to come down and visit on turnaround days was amazing. Having familiar shops like Prim-arni H&M and Zara just a 10 minute walk from where we docked was great and a crew full of crazy Brits like myself who live to party was even better.

All crew parties were few and far between on the Mariner where a lot of the Asian crew members don’t party like in the West. The Indy however would have an all crew party usually one per cruise as well as themed nights at the back deck. My lovely Latinas (at 1am after finally finishing their hair and make up) would insist that I came to every Latin night to attempt to keep up with their salsa dancing.

Apart from the awesome parties the Indy stopped at some amazing ports that I will go into more detail about in later posts. I was able to catch up with my cousin in Barcelona, had over night stops in Palma De Mallorca and saw monkeys dolphins and whales around Gibraltar as just a few highlights.

Adventure Ocean, where I work,  was great and we had such an amazing team. A team that would work like a captain and play like a pirate. An experienced team where you were happy to work with pretty much everyone which most people who work on ships, or in fact any job where you work in a team, can tell you is a rare thing.

After my brothers Sean,  Keith, Tony and Sasha,  who I have the pleasure of working with now on Adventure of the Seas, ditched me I was left for a month being the only male on the team. Not easy! But I was always looked after. Particularly by my friend Annie who followed me from the Mariner to make sure I stayed out of trouble and Gemma and Esta who were great drinking buddies.

The team was held together by Kangaroo Karina and Quetzali who were both legends and worked so well together as manager and assistant. The people you meet on all ships can make or break a contract for a lot of people and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the cool people I met.

The shows on the independence were top quality. I was lucky enough to be on the ship as Grease was introduced to the theatre with a cast of fun and friendly people who worked tirelessly for close to a year away from home including rehearsals. The ice cast preformed two exciting shows that I watched on multiple occasions so the nights where I wasn’t partying, working or trying to recover from partying and working I had plenty of entertainment on hand.

It’s said time flies while you are having fun and that cliché is definitely true of my time on the Indy. Five months went by in the blink of an eye and signing off late December ensured that I was able to spend Christmas at home.


You never forget your first; Mariner of the Seas

Singapore12400551_10156430441335788_1314610664610134034_nTwo years ago today I made the decision to leave the the clouds, wind and rain of the UK and go in search of warmer climates. I traded my double bed for a tiny cabin with a bunk bed, traded the football pitch for sandy beaches and the four wheels of Mazey my Mazda for the floating city I’d call home for the next five months. When I was looking at places to travel I hadn’t much considered Asia so when my first contract was offered: Mariner of the Seas, sailing out of Singapore, I wasn’t sure how to react.

I was sat writing the first draft of this post, at a Caribbean beach bar in St Cruix and reflected on how lucky I was to get that first ship. I flew out of Heathrow airport on November 10th 2015, an easy date for me to remember as it was the day before my 25th birthday. Having gone through the recruitment process for Royal Caribbean, I’d never considered not going to the Caribbean. Now I have met so many colleagues who are ‘bored’ of this beautiful paradise as their contracts always seem to be on the tropical islands where the majority of our fleet is based.

I had to pay for my initial flight as a new hire (flight home and every other one since being paid for by the company) and 16 hours worth of travelling, via Doha,  was spent unaware of the two years ahead.

I would soon learn that there is no comparison to life working on a ship. It is close to university life in the fact that you are in a bubble of your own, life outside is still turning but unless you actively go out of your way to check on it, you don’t notice. But you work a lot harder than at uni (which in my uni experience isn’t saying much). A ‘day off’ means working mornings and evenings but getting the chance to see amazing ports during the day and I would visit some really amazing ports on the Mariner mainly in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand but also touching Base in Vietnam, China, South Korea and Japan.

Singapore12196330_10156237500575788_5198914690020644665_n (2)My birthday on the 11th was spent in a hotel in Singapore with John the drummer from the UK. The guy at the reception desk sent a birthday cake to the room as he had noticed the d.o.b. On my passport as I checked in. It was a very weird experience to share a birthday cake with a complete stranger in a foreign country but it fitted in with my spontaneous outlook on life and I took it in my stride!

The following morning, at silly a.m. I boarded the shuttle bus, along with another 50+ crew members, most of whome had been through this same process countless times before and knew what they were doing. Amongst the group I was found by two other youth staff, June and HuiFang, who had already been in contact with our manager Pierre and were under instructions to be on the look out for a new hire.

There is no mental preparation for the first time you see a cruise ship up close. Until you see it with your own eyes, your head can’t quite comprehend the size of it. How it can possibly float is still beyond me to this day! Considering the Mariner of the seas is now one of the medium sized ships in the fleet, it was still a spectacular sight.


The outside of the ship is a beautiful sight. The inside is a maze. My sense of direction is very good but I spent a week not having a clue where I was going as every corridor and staircase looks almost identical in crew areas! The first directions I learnt as a new hire was to get from my cabin, which I shared with a Brazilian light and sound technician, to the training room.  Anybody who has worked on a ship before will tell you that this is where you spend the majority of your first two weeks.

Singapore12705553_10156599665060529_7464358508984735232_nIf I was to create a list of things that I don’t want to do whilst suffering from: jet lag and being tired from just finishing a previous job less than a week before, not to mention leaving-parties and early birthday parties which naturally included a lot of drinking,  I’d put training sessions (usually two a day lasting 3 hours each) right up at the top. Fire fighting training, drugs and alcohol awareness, save the waves environmental training were just a few of the things I had to sit through in the first 2 weeks and not being able to get off of the ship because of it. The first time I was able to get off was because Pierre called in a favour to chief officer safety, asking that I did my life raft training at a later date so that I could join the rest of my team on a day out to Universal Studios Singapore!

I met some amazing people on that first contract. My manager Pierre, who was delighted that I was joining him on a team full of women, Annie a fellow new hire from London, who followed me to the independence on our second contract (and we often meet up on our time off as our holidays usually match). Erin from Canada and Laura from Scotland  were only there for a few weeks but I learnt a lot from them both in that short time. And my Chinese family, too many to name who were all awesome. Every turnaround day I would try (and succeed more often than not)  to scare Tiny Tony, usually with my partner in crime Ada who I shared many an adventure with.

When working on ships, friends come and go in a short space of time. Contracts are always overlapping and that can be difficult, but, at the same time everybody has a similar attitude to life and friendships are forged very quickly and can be lasting. My brother Mykahl, a dancer from  New York was a constant companion at the crew bar. Annie Mykahl and myself would often be found hanging out until the early hours of the morning at the back deck (the crew bar on deck 5 at the back of the ship which is open and affords some spectacular views of the Asian sea particularly in the evening).

Japan12592627_10156733897450402_620055116570658623_nSingapore was an amazing home port and Langkawi, a small island off Malaysia, remains one of my favourite ports to date. There was always plenty to do in Phuket, Thailand, and my last two weeks on board were sailing around Japan during cherry blossom season.

Other top memories from the Mariner, which seems like a lifetime ago now include having to cut my afro, as the hotel director didn’t think it was suitable for the work (I was half expecting it and in a way kind of glad to have an excuse to finally cut it. But seeing some of the questionable hair cuts around the ship I didn’t fully see his point). I went to the cabin of Fabian from Trinidad and watched in the mirror as he turned me into a skin head.

Ma1461302_10156353118440402_4002764232694356303_nI spent Christmas day dressed as an elf, a very ill elf wearing pink sunglasses to hide the fact that he only had 3 hours sleep. We had a 3 day charter cruise called ‘it’s the ship’ where DJs from all over the world came on board to perform for guests who had all come to party. I did a zipline tour, a bungee jump we had overnight stops in Phuket, Pattaya (near Bangkok) and in Hong Kong and so much more all crammed into just under 5 months.

The first 2 months of that contract I, along with the rest of the team worked my butt off. As a new hire I didn’t know exactly what to expect so I considered it to be normal to work between 10-12 hours every day. It turns out that we were working that hard because we were first two and then one member of staff down during high kid count in Singapore (and finally at the end of the holidays, during low kid count, we typically got a full team). In a way working that hard made me learn my job well and now I can appreciate any schedule I’m given as it doesn’t come close to that first two months on the Mariner.

So many unforgettable experiences were had in that first contract and more have followed on contracts since. I will always have a fond memory of the Mariner of the Seas, not the biggest or the best in the fleet but it will always be my first.


Budapest – culture, relaxation and festival

Budapest – culture, relaxation and festival
For my third and final holiday of my two month break from ships I took a trip to Budapest with my old uni house mate Andy. A few weeks before the trip a few of us met up at his parents house in Marlow for a BBQ. Andy spoke of his disappointment at not being able to join the boys on our trip to Barcelona. He joked that he was free the following week if anybody fancied going away. The more we drank the more appealing that idea sounded to me. A few rums later and we were researching cheap flights and eventually settled on Budapest.


There wasn’t a great deal of thought behind our decision but we ran into a whole lot of luck. The unheard of airline ‘WizzAir’ (with the monotone stewardess and old school safety demonstration) flew us event free from Luton airport, our apartment booked on Airbnb was amazing and it turned out that our trip would coincide with Sziget festival.

We arrived at our apartment, ‘happy homes blue’ via the taxi service booked through the company. We were greeted on arrival and showed around the awesome little apartment.

Everything had a blue colour scheme, not overpowering but enough to see why it got its name. The front door opened to a small kitchen area with a fully stocked espresso machine and a fridge with a few sodas, water and some beers. On the main table was a bottle of wine and the bathroom, just around the corner from the sofa bed was stocked with towels and toiletries. The main room had an old style pinball machine, a guitar, a keyboard as well as a TV with Netflix available. The welcome pack included plenty of recommendations for food, bars and activities in the area and had a bio of the founder of Happy Homes, Sven. We were in his original project which he bought after moving from Belgium and since then acquired a number of other properties each with their own unique colour scheme but same amenities.

Up the stairs were two rooms with very low ceilings, which, we were told is the typical style of Hungarian apartments. A Fred Flinstone sign warned you to watch your head but that was very apparent as you had to duck as soon as you got to the top of the small staircase. The two rooms were basically balconies. At the end of the comfortable double beds you could look down into the rest of the flat.

Our first evening when we arrived we took a walk around to gather our bearings. Our apartment was ideally placed within twenty minutes of the main centre and a minute or two from bars and restaurants. We chose to eat at a place from the welcoming pack left for us at Happy Home Blue. I chose a local dish, a pretty basic chicken and potato which was disguised under a Hungarian name that I forget. The food was well priced and the atmosphere was nice but local cuisine probably was the wrong choice. But you’ve got to try it right.

After the meal we made our way down through some of the ruin bars before heading back to the apartment (after attempting to get into a wrong apartment on an adjacent street).

We considered a city bus tour on our first full day but decided on the free walking tour being the fit young lads that we are. That and being relatively hangover free. I expected to turn up to the meeting point and see a few old grannies and some backpackers, so I was pretty surprised to find over a hundred people waiting for the tour. The tour leaders were very enthusiastic and knew their business and efficiently split us into English and Spanish speakers. The four English-speaking guides introduced themselves and we ended up in a small group with Lara: ‘like Lara Croft’ she said whilst posing with gun fingers in imitation of the fiction character.

The tour took around 3 hours, starting off in Pest before crossing the bridge to Buda. Lara provided us with many facts, most of which I’ve forgotten now but in a brief summary: Hungary has pretty much been on the losing side of most wars, was occupied by Russia under the pretence of them helping the country, after they sided with the Nazis in WW2 and lost land and their economy took a battering. The most remarkable person from their history was the guy who invented the rubix cube (which I think should be kept a secret rather than celebrated). But after such a stunted history they are finally trying to stand on their own feet.

From the local people I met in Budapest I got the sense that they are a proud nation but with not much to be proud of. Everyone was friendly and welcoming but the tour was full of boasts that weren’t particularly impressive. That being said the scenery was stunning and the cities had such a nice vibe going on.

We enjoyed the walking tour and decided to join the pub crawl that night, organised by the same tour group. Marcus was the tour leader and greeted us at the meeting point which was located a convenient five minutes from our apartment. The pub crawl was good fun, we met some cool people from all over the world. The first people we met were two American guys. One of them was a nice guy, or he seemed like a nice guy from what little he got to say as his mate was a talker. When I say talker, he was a ‘anything you can do I can do better’ kind of talker, a one-up-man. Basically he was a dick. Michael from Ireland was awesome, Sergio, who still had jet lag from the flight from his native Brazil was a good laugh, the Danish girls spoke better English than me and there were some Dutch girls, one of which was a nurse who may or may not have had a drinking problem judging from her stories.

The pub crawl was free but there was the opportunity to buy a 10Euro wristband to get free shots, a cocktail and entrance into the last club. Worth it. Sneaky Marcus asked for tips after the second bar (following the strong green cocktail called a Shrek) early enough that you were feeling intoxicated and generous but not too late that you forget to tip.

The following day we were feeling less than fresh so we went for a relaxing day at one of Budapest’s famed thermal baths. There were a lot of different choices from small male only local baths to the giant one that we finally chose, not only because we didn’t want to share with big hairy Hungarian men but because Irish Michael had recommended it the night before. It took us about 40 minutes in the sweltering heat to get to the Szechenyi baths which were a big building with 15 different sized pools at different temperatures surrounding three large outdoor pools. All the pools, with water sourced from natural hot springs under Budapest, helped us relax and the saunas and steam rooms helped sweat out the alcohol from the night before just so we were ready to go again that night as we went out and stumbled across a karaoke bar.

Our last full day in Budapest we had got tickets for the major European festival at Zsiget. We thought it would be easy to make our way to the island in the middle of the Dunabe river but we were mistaken. Four tourist information desks, that you can find all over the city centre, managed to give us four different sets of information but we finally made it to Zsiget (after being quoted extortionate tourist price by a taxi driver) via the underground system that has definitely seen better days.

On entering the festival Andy and myself were given the customary security pat down but Andy walked past the second set of security while a big gorilla in uniform spoke to me in Hungarian and gestured that I needed to return to the table and empty my pockets for him. After emptying my pockets he miraculously found some English words and asked ‘Are you sure that’s everything?’ I was very baffled by this experience which I’m sure had nothing to do with the fact that the headlining act Wiz Khalifa was one of the only other black men on the island.

We relaxed for a few hours, soaking up the atmosphere around the beach area which you had to walk through BO infested tents to get to. The smell walking through the camping area was horrific and that was only on day two of the five day festival. Day slowly turned to night and we got slightly more intoxicated and enjoyed the amazing, friendly atmosphere at the festival that had a real variety of music. It went from lovey ballads by Tom Odell to crowds creating mosh pits to heavy metal from Biffy Clyro ending with the rap music of Wiz Khalifa. Thousands of people singing along to ’till I see you again’ was pretty spectacular and was only topped by thousands of White guys rapping along to ‘Black and Yellow’.

Budapest rounded of my mini European tour nicely which included 3 amazing holidays, each one totally different from the last. After all that travelling it was time to get ready for the day job. Travelling around the world with Royal Caribbean.