The other night marked my last working day aboard my first ship, the Pacific Aria. The past three months have probably been the best three in my life thus far (although all the moments of traveling the world also intermix in there as well). I’ve never been so happy in a job before, meaning that for the first time in my working career, I’m truly happy and it doesn’t even feel like work.
I’m transshipping to a larger ship – same company – but have also been given the miraculous gift of FOUR whole days off in between my contracts. It’s a bit comical because rather than transshipping earlier, they opted to fly me (and comp my accommodation and meals) from Brisbane — Sydney — Nadi (Fiji) — Port Vila (Vanuatu), where I’ll finally be boarding my new ship on July 7. Naturally, I’ve taken full advantage of this and booked a horseback riding excursion today, relaxed in my hotel bathtub, and just indulged in how much I’m being spoiled before going back to the whole 7-day-a-week thing.
There were so many “just kidding” moments going on before I knew I was getting extended for sure, though. Such is the life of Debbi, always last minute. Throughout the past three months, this happened: “You only have a 2-month contract… oops, no, our mistake, our system goofed and you have a 3-month contract. Oh just kidding, you asked to extend, so your flight home is forfeited and you’re transshipping to a new ship… by the way, can you extend to 7 total months instead of just 6? Okay, thank you, bye.”
I’m elated that I wasn’t sent home after just two or three months. After all, I didn’t want to be sent back home again to wait for another contract after I JUST worked my tail off to get the job in the first place. Ship life is practically the only type of life I know right now. I’m used to the bland food (sidenote: I’ve gained 5 kilos and that’s depressing because I go to the gym every day), lack of privacy, being cut off from the world due to crappy expensive WiFi, and basically the whole concept of living in an air-conditioned tin can. Would I rather be partying on a ship OR teaching English barefoot to screaming kids in Thailand?! Like that’s even a question. I’m living out my dream and Thailand seems years ago by now… I couldn’t be happier.
Since March, I’ve done a few things and seen a few places. Just a “few,” you know. We’ve ported from Brisbane and Sydney and even had two unplanned night sailaways and got to see Vivid Sydney because of that – something I was astonished to be able to see in person because it was so beautiful (and freezing).
We’ve sailed to and from the same itineraries week after week: the islands of New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and various places around Oz (Cairns, Hamilton Island, Moreton Island).
I went skydiving again in Cairns. I cuddled adorable animals at Australia Zoo. I swam in some of the clearest water I’ve ever been in (topping Fiji and Thailand). I survived 8m swells during a few Sydney storms and have never been seasick (yet).
We’ve had some epic cabin parties and movie nights (it’s like uni all over again). I’ve been the Gatsby Cigar Girl approximately 16 times by now. I visited a turtle sanctuary and played with starfish. I get sick far too often (even with laryngitis that lasted for a heaping 3 weeks). I kayaked and tipped other friends’ kayaks over (my screaming and fun antics were the catalyst of my laryngitis, though). I drank with my favorite group of passengers and turned redder than my drink (perks of being in entertainment – you can socialize and drink as long as it stays professional). I’ve stayed out dancing with passengers until our crew curfew (1am) and partied harder than ever before.
And oh, the stories. I wish I was keeping a proper record of them all! So many drunken nights on the M1, dance classes, accidentally yelling out my friend’s name crazily in a radio channel that went straight to the bridge (i.e. the captain), busting my awkward dance moves out when I thought no one was watching (and of course, there was a group of passengers who started clapping), all of my dumb blonde moments, how the assistant director and I both forgot to invite the new guy along after we finished tender service for his first ever port (oops), playing the best board game ever (Catan) until 3am with my favorite band, everyone making fun of me for saying, “Sorry! Sorry!” and “OH MY GOD!”, sweet talking musicians and magicians, getting a giant bottle of water squirted into my face on my last night… the list goes on and on.
One of the most memorable stories was my second overnight in Cairns that I was miraculously cleared for. We have this system where a certain amount of crew must stay onboard for safety procedures (IPM- in port manning) even when the ship is docked, and I was scheduled to cover that night (therefore, banned from going out past midnight in Cairns). Cairns is the only overnight port that my old ship had. Translation: it’s the only port that enables crew to actually get off the ship and go crazy until the wee hours of the morning.
Long story short, we had finished up our Back to School Party that evening around 11:30pm and I waited patiently by the gangway to say goodbye to everyone as they prepared to party away once it hit midnight. By sheer luck, my lovely security friends decided to scan my card just to check if I was on IPM duty after all – and I wasn’t.
“GO GET CHANGED, YOU’RE NOT ON IPM!” was all I heard, and I probably never screamed so loud in my life as I literally raced as fast as I could to get changed. That turned out to be one of the best nights on the ship because it was my last big hurrah in a proper club with all my friends. I went crazy, bouncing around like the happiest drunk of all while dancing with everyone and anyone in the club. And yes, I lost my voice again after that night and got sick again as a result, but it was worth every second.
And I got my fourth tattoo with my best friend, spontaneously chosen to be on my back – but at least it was something I’ve wanted for a long time. Worth every penny to commemorate #shiplife and travel and all that jazz. And no, for the millionth time, I’m not keen on coloring in every country I visit, everyone…. just let me leave it minimalistic. It’s my damn tattoo, after all. 😛
I’ve met some of the most incredible people throughout this contract. Even though the ship was the smallest of the fleet and there were quite a few logistical challenges in comparison to other ships, we all got through it (massive props to the Pacific Entertainers, for they’ve been onboard since dry dock, meaning about 10 months away from home). I found a best friend, became a little boy crazy, and felt like my life was How I Met Your Mother status whenever I turned up at the bar after work with the same group of solid friends. Leaving them was the hardest part, since crew become your family.
As far my team – entertainment is probably the best team on cruise ships. I get paid to play games, socialize, party, and dance the night away. I love how we just take the piss out of each other in good fun – you have to find ways to make work exciting, anyway. We drink, we constantly socialize, we roll our eyes over the same types of dumb passengers, and at the end of the day, we still love each other. I hope the same can be said of my new team on my new ship.
My team threw a farewell party to the outgoing cast (Pacific Entertainers) as well as myself, since I parted on the same day as them – and our last night (two nights ago) was just so damn memorable. My best friend made an absolutely beautiful photography scrapbook that doubled as a yearbook and I went around cuddling two teddy bears that were given as gifts while we drank the night away. I made some fantastic friends across all departments, but most notably our team and the photography team – I have an empty hole in my heart as I prepare to board my new ship and jump into a new journey for the next four months. It’s almost like starting out at a brand new university halfway through – I’ll be the new girl all over again.
My goal is to start documenting all my stories on a daily basis in a journal, since I sadly haven’t picked up a pen once in the past three months. I haven’t made the time to blog or even journal, and that’s just sad.
Cheers to a new start on a new ship! xx