#Shiplife Series: Things to consider before working on a ship.

Let’s face it. Most people are intrigued by the idea of working at sea. For us seafarers, it’s routine to be asked about life onboard, be it from passengers or friends and family.

Speaking from my own perspective, which might differ from the rest – these are some of the points to consider before applying for a cruise ship job: 

1. Being away from home for at least 6 months.

Most contracts range from 6 – 9 months and this means long days without seeing your loved ones and being in familiar territory, eg. Your bed.

2. Sharing a small space with someone.

Most positions on the ship requires you to share a cabin with a roommate. If you enjoy being by yourself, this might be a little challenging.

3. You have other duties apart from your regular job.

This means that not only am I working on retail but I’m also a stairway guide during crew and passenger drills, I have embarkation duties and yes I also work the x-ray machine sometimes.

4. Nobody cleans after you.

Unless you pay the cabin steward to do it for you. But yeah, you do your own laundry, clean your cabin…you get the idea. The company offers complimentary laundry for uniforms but sometimes it’s easier to dump everything into 1 load. 

5. You don’t get days off

Like how can I even forget this super important point? Most people react with horror or sympathy whenever they hear this. Crewmembers do not get days off. We do get shore leave and hours off though. 

Most retail and casino staff tend to have the “easiest life” apparently as it is dictated by law that we’re not allowed to operate when we dock. For this itinerary that I’m in currently, we have an overnight in Russia so yes, there’s a day off for me!

These are the 5 basic points and yes there’s plenty more considering how different people are but still. Signing off now because I want maybe a 30 minute nap. 

Naps are a luxury.

#Shiplife Series: Training on the Ship.

It’s been 12 days since I’ve left Malaysia to join the ship. Time has passed so quickly that I was just living in the moment, one day at a time and everything seemed so vivid yet so blurry that I’m beginning to question the reality of things, haha. I guess that’s how I will sum up shiplife at the moment. You live in the reality and your reality is your life onboard the ship. Everything else outside is somewhat irrelevant.

The company has been really lovely to us and took care of our needs pretty well. We had a pickup from the hotel in Honolulu to the ship and there were people at the immigration point waiting for us to bring us to the ship. We got to the crew office and the managers from our department took us to our rooms and once  everyone arrived we were handed over to our trainer.

It was a complete  whirlwind from that point onwards – getting our uniforms,  going for training, getting lost around the ship, getting our crew IDs, flu shots…it was really nice of the company to  organize the training for us, especially those who are new to ships. We learnt our emergency signals, what to do during a fire or when we feel sick as well as stuff about the company. We also made plenty of friends and it was really nice to find people you have things in common with. Kinda sad that we’re all transhipped to different ships now, some of them are still together but well,  not me.

I’ve read some horror stories about the food in the crew mess and let me tell you, the food in my ship was amazing, at least to my  standards. I often have to fuss about what to eat and this is a nice change from having to settle my own meals  to being fed with yummy, proper food. I’m trying to take less portions as I am in danger of getting fatter and fatter.

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One of the meals I had in the staff mess.

The ship that I was in is relatively small and could hold about 2600 passengers. It wasn’t super hard to navigate once you know your way.

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The Wardroom or officer’s bar. Apparently staff are able to come here as well. I never went, only during our training.

 

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Some of the activities planned for the officer’s bar.There’s also a calendar of activities for the crew  recreation room which I didn’t take a photo of.
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Casual top which I probably will not be wearing in future as my role requires formal wear on a daily basis.

I’ll be going on my new ship tomorrow and I’m pretty nervous about it. What if I get a horrible cabin mate? What if everyone’s nasty? Well no point worrying plus the itinerary is going to be awesome. I’ll be doing Caribbean for 2 weeks and will be sailing off to the Baltics from April onwards! Perhaps I should focus on that thought…

#Shiplife Series: Flying to Honolulu!

This is going to be super backdated because I’ll most likely post this only by the time I get to my hotel in Miami, which is on the 10th of March, 11 days after I first got on the cruise ship.

You guys will just have to deal with it, haha. I will hardly get any internet unless I’m in port. Or if I spend $40 on 660 mb which I might someday.

So just an update here, I hopped on the plane on 27 February 2017 to get to Honolulu to meet my ship. Spent about a day just taking plane rides and waiting in transit – first one was Penang – Hong Kong which took about 3.5 hours, Hong Kong – Tokyo (around 4 hours) & Tokyo – Honolulu which took another 6 hours. Add in the waiting time during transit which took around 5-6 hours…it was crazy! I hate being on long flights especially the feeling of not being able to move around. Plus I can’t really sleep when I’m travelling especially without a bed so yeah, I was dead beat by the time I landed in Honolulu.

So I got detained. Well, sort of.

I walked into immigration at Honolulu and boy was I blown away by the number of Japanese tourists doing the same thing. Seriously, it was around 10 huge lines of just people queuing to get their passport stamped. I was kinda freaked out that I might miss the guy that was waiting to pick me up that when I saw one of the ushers I told her that I’m a seaman and whether I could go to the counter. She opened up the line for me but oh well, the lady at the immigration counter brought me into the holding room. Apparently, all seamen that flew in that day was also detained until we could get clearance.

It wasn’t something too serious as long as your name is on their list and you can answer their questions. Pretty straightforward stuff like which ship you’re joining, when you’re leaving the US – just to make sure you’re not planning on jumping ship, pun intended. I was good to go after spending about 30 minutes in the room.

I had a bit of a problem looking for the guy picking us up and asking the people around didn’t help at all. Finally located him standing outside and awhile later with an Indonesian uncle, we were finally shuttled off to our hotel.

Check in was prompt and immediate but to my utmost horror the lady at the reception said that I will be sharing the room with someone. I’ve read about room-sharing from crew stories so I wasn’t at all surprised, just a bit worried that my roommate will be a nasty one. She came a little after I showered and settled down and turned out to be a girl from China. If you know me well enough, my love for China ends at their “ma lat spicy fish” & dumplings. I don’t really care for their people as they scare me off. I was pretty horrified that I was placed with a Chinese girl for my Mandarin is atrocious but oh well, we all just have to wing it.

It was a tad awkward at first but we were so tired that we just sort of slept the day away. She went out to get some water and got me a bottle which was really sweet of her. We both missed lunch but had Bubba Gump Shrimp for dinner together. Little did I know it will be the first of the many dinners to come, haha. I thought I’ll just be stuck with her for a night but turns out, we’re roomies for the rest of the training. I’ll say more on that in the next blog post, catch you guys later!

 

#Shiplife Series: Applying for a Cruise Ship Job – Part Two

Hey lovelies!

10 more days to go til  #Shiplife! I’m super psyched yet super stressed out with all the packing I have to do! Haven’t done much but everything has to go! Plus I’ll  be working during the weekends to provide a handover to the girl that will be replacing my role. Sooo tired but sooo much to do and so many people to meet before I leave!

I’ll be having a farewell dinner with my colleagues later in the evening, followed by dinner & drinks with my uni mates on Saturday night. Plus another few dinners with friends on Sunday & Tuesday! Ending it all with a bang with our annual dinner on the 23rd – as well as my last working day!

So here’s the second part of my cruise job application experience!

 

I’m  feeling a little bit delirious thanks to the lack of sleep,  still plenty  to do and loads to buy. Cheerio & I’ll update again soon!

#Shiplife Series: 14 Days to Go!

Two more weeks. 14 Days and I’m freaking out because who wouldn’t?

I’m allowed 2 pieces of luggage so long they’re within 62″ linear. So I went and bought another medium sized Delsey luggage (equivalent to a 24″  I think). After putting the two bags together, I felt they might be a bit too big for a teeny sized cabin.

Take away one bag and I’m left with a very full suitcase (could be over the limit of 23 kgs even). How?! I don’t want to bring something too bulky and make my room mate hate me. But the  guidelines did say 2…(huge dilemma here). People online advised to pack light (eg. bring a rolling duffel, not too many clothes etc.) but a rolling duffel most lightly won’t be as durable compared to the standard luggage plus since I have no idea which ship I’ll be transferred to once  I finish my training – it might be somewhere hot or cold so I’ll need like summer wear & sweaters.

I’ve been slowly putting stuff into my “To Bring” pile and it’s definitely getting bigger. Plus so much stuff I’ve yet to buy – work shoes, stockings, belt, medicine etc. Oh lordy!

On top of that I’ll have to pack everything as I’ll be leaving KL at the same time which adds a huge chunk of stress to my already stressful situation lol. Okay, super sleepy and tired after stressing myself over I’m just going to sleep now.

Talk about being excited.

#Shiplife Series: Applying for a Cruise Ship Job – Part One

Hi guys!

Just made a video on my experience in applying for a cruise ship job. This is just the first part  where I shared how it all happened so do watch if you’re interested!

It gets kinda lengthy due to my rambling which is why I split the whole thing into parts, wouldn’t want you guys to bleed from your eyes and ears!

Do drop me a note if you have questions, would love to hear them. Cheers!

#Shiplife Series: Getting a US C1/D Visa in Malaysia – Part 1

Hello guys, happy 2017!

It’s almost February and I’ve been super busy – I thought I was going to die. No kidding.

Thought I’ll do a little summary of the whole US Visa application process and my experience so that those of you who are keen on applying can get some idea. Do take note that it might differ from one person to another and this post is mainly based on my own experience.

So to backtrack a little, I was offered a position on a cruise ship and one of the requirements is to have a valid US C1/D visa. The application is entirely on my own expense and the whole process to be conducted by myself. As the C1/D is a crew transit visa, I will first need to prove that I am indeed a crew member of a ship. I was provided with a letter of employment from my company that affirmed my role and the need for me to have a US visa.

First step was to complete the online visa application by filling up the Form DS-160. It’s basically all your personal details and a few questions regarding your purpose of visit. Do make sure to check out all the different visa types on the website before selecting your choice – the usual tourist visa is B1/B2 but there’s also different ones for work, study, etc. Be really sure on the visa type you’re applying for as I believe you are not allowed to change once it has been confirmed for processing.

You’re also required to upload a photo – be sure to check the requirements! I was pretty worried that mine would be rejected so I went and paid for a studio shot, MYR 16 with a digital copy. Expensive I know but it’s the city and at least I get a peace of mind, haha. Once that’s done, submit the application and pay the visa application fees via bank counter (Ambank), bank transfer or via Jompay. I did mine via electronic transfer and kept the proof of payment for reference. Total damage was USD 160 ~ MYR 672 at the point of my application. Do take note that your application comes with a code that you’re supposed to reference during payment.

Once that’s done and your payment has been received, you can schedule your appointment for the visa interview. My payment was received on 2 November 2016 and the earliest available date was around 1 month later so please allow ample time when planning for your travels!

I’ll be sharing my experience on the interview in the next post!

 

#Shiplife Series – Prologue

This is it. The big one. I’m just bursting trying to hold the news in and it won’t be known to everyone, well for at least a few  weeks. I’m pretty sure the people I know don’t read my blog, especially when I’m not sharing the link on social media.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, I mentioned that I was getting a certificate of good conduct from the Malaysian government and that I will be sharing the purpose of why I was getting it for in the near future when everything is confirmed.

Well, guess what? I’m heading to the seas y’all!

I have just gotten the certificate of good conduct and my U.S. visa approved! Yet to schedule an appointment for my medical checkup but will do it soon! Hopefully all goes well and there is nothing wrong with my health, else I wouldn’t be able to head to the ships.

I’m trying not to get too overexcited simply because I haven’t had 100% confirmation but things are looking pretty good so far to me (with the visa application being the most challenging, I think). Fingers crossed, I shall be able to share better news in a week or two. Til then, happy December!