the Joys of “Going Out” – Cruise # 21 & 22

Explorer of the Seas Voyage # 635 & 636
Bayonne – Eastern Caribbean 9 Night Cruise

These 2 cruises had pretty much the same itinerary, the order in which we visited the ports was the only difference. These ports were San Juan (Puerto. Rico), Charlotte Amalie (St Thomas), Samana (Dominican Republic) and Labadee (Haiti).

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I love San Juan! Jymmi and I went for a wander around the city and when we failed to find the others (we were supposed to meet later on, but the Russians changed their plans) decided to go get some supper. What a treat – food NOT from the ship!

Not that the ship food is THAT bad. It’s a darn sight better than the food on Vision, that’s for sure! These people don’t appreciate the choice and diversity that we’re served daily in the Explorer Staff mess! But no… To the question that I get asked my guests every single cruise… We do NOT eat the same food they do! What are they thinking? The chefs are going to slave away to serve us Fillet Mignon and Lobster? Haha. The thought is even funnier when you know that the budget to feed and water (non-alcoholic of course) the crew, staff and officers is $1 per person per day.

Anyway, back to my lovely Mexican meal by the sea. Firstly, the food (even if it took what seemed like forever to be served) was delicious. Secondly, the local beer was mouth watering good. BUT, the best part of the evening was the Mariachi band that serenaded us! Since Jymmi is from Guatemala he could actually request some of his favorites.

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We were supposed to lose 2 of our team during these cruises, but because the girl who was supposed to replace Sasha had a problem with her medical, he was asked to stay for another 2 cruises – yay! We did lose Jymmi though, which was sad. Even though Karene (from Jamaica) seems to be fitting in well with the team, it’s always strange to lose a member of the team.

Cruise # 22 was also my very first Thanksgiving. We were given turkey and pumpkin pie in the mess and the mess staff really went to a lot of trouble to decorate – it looked great and very festive! Because it was thanksgiving, the huge (fake) Christmas tree was put up on the Royal Promenade. I have been given the role of Official Christmas Tree Photographer. Is this a blessing or a curse? Only time will tell…

There were a lot of families this cruise and my Christmas tree studio was rather chaotic at times. However, on the bright side (yes, I’m playing The Glad Game again) because my studio stayed open the whole night, I didn’t have to shoot formal resi! Normally on formal nights, our studios are open from 17:30 – 23:00, with 2 breaks that allow us to rush into the dining room to shoot there. As you can imagine, this running around isn’t pleasant. It can also get a little awkward, trying to take photos of guests in between mouthfuls…

Funny Guest Story: There were loads of Scottish guests this cruise – including one who even looked sexy in his kilt! On the second formal night I overheard an American guest (a middle aged man) pointing out a (not so sexy) Scotsman and telling his companion that he must be the captain, because of his outfit. He was wearing a kilt. The captain is American. This was on day 8 of the cruise. Even if they hadn’t seen the Captain yet, by now they must have by now heard the VERY American sounding voice of the Captain over the ship intercom. Can’t they tell the difference between a Scottish kilt and a Captains uniform?

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Highlight of the cruise: This Labadee I was shooting/smudging gangway. Although hot Hot HOT work, I’ve realized it’s the much better option! Although we start earlier than the “beaches” we get to finish before lunch and while the rest of the team go back to shooting, we get to actually enjoy our afternoon a bit! Jymmi and I joined a Wave Runner (Jet Ski) tour and had an awesome time racing and jumping along the choppy ocean. Thrilling and wonderful!

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the First Caribbean Cruise – Cruise # 20

Explorer of the Seas Voyage # 634
Bayonne – Eastern Caribbean 11 Night Cruise

This cruise we finally visited ports other than Bermuda. Gosh it felt good! However, I’m really learning to appreciate the Vision’s itinerary. We had 1 or 2 sea days tops on our 7 day cruises and only a maximum of 3 during the 11 day cruises, but here we have SO many sea days. The Bermuda cruises had 3 sea days and this cruise we’ve had 5!! Gosh. Sea days are terrible because the Photo Gallery has to stay open all day and so we’re working the whole time.

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There doesn’t seem to be as much to do in the ports. Most people either go shopping or to the beach, which has been fun. In Phillipsburg, St Maarten, there’s a really cool beach bar called Honky Tonk where all the crew members go. So after walking about the shops for a bit, we ended up there for a few beers and wifi. We had some great beers. I know… It sounds weird coming from me, a traditionally non-beer drinker, but I’ve started enjoying it. Maybe it’s because it’s so incredibly hot here! We had a Dominican beer first and then some tequila blended beers and then good old faithful corona. I had a bubbly day!

We also went to Labadee, which is a private island owned by Royal Caribbean, in Haiti. Everyone was psyching me out because we do a lot of shooting there and they made it seem like a hell of a day. But hurray! It wasn’t bad at all! Yes, we work longer hours compared to in the other ports, but after you get past the heat, you can kind of enjoy the work. I was on beach duty, so I spent 3 1/2 hours wandering up and down the different beaches, taking pictures of people. I was surprised by how many people want their picture taken while in the sea and I had to wade into the water up to my waist at times to take the photos. So I spent my day walking around barefoot and wadding in the water. I even found some sea urchins, or pumpkin shells as we call them in South Africa. Besides worrying about getting my equipment wet and having to bug people for pictures, it was a good day.

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Other ports we visited include San Juan (Puerto Rico), St John’s (Antigua) and Basseterre (St Kitts). I have nothing amazing to say about any of these ports… Although, I spent the day in Puerto Rico in a shopping mall, so next time I will try see more of the city, I hear it’s pretty awesome!

Funny guest story #1: this cruise Alex, who is always very polite and friendly with guests, had a lady ask him how she will know which photo is hers, to which he very sweetly and in all seriousness replied: “Madam, you are in the picture.” Really…

Funny guest story #2: While prowling the Labadee beaches for guests to photograph, I met a man searching for treasure with a metal detector… I stopped to watch him (rather excitedly) dig around for the object that was causing his contraption to beep. It took him quite a while to discover his treasure, which turned out to be a bottle cap… What struck me as odd, is that metal detectors aren’t available for hire in Labadee… This means that He must have brought it with him on the cruise!

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Highlight of the cruise: Once again, we’ve spent time together as a team this cruise. I’m really enjoying the social aspect of being in a big team. Whether chilling on back deck, relaxing in a beach bar, camping in the photo corridor to watch a movie or crowded into one of our tiny cabins, we always have fun together.

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