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Lunch at Good Hope Estate

History

Good Hope Estate, located about an hours scenic drive from Falmouth port in Jamaica, is steeped in the rich colonial history found through out Jamaica.

“Good Hope began in 1774 as a sugar estate and grew into a village to support the workers after emancipation. In the 18th century, the Good Hope Estate belonged to John Tharpe, then the largest land and slave owner in Jamaica. Aside from Good Hope, Windsor Estate, the extensive Long Pond Estate and a number of other smaller sugar plantations in Trelawny belonged to Tharpe, who had as many as 3,000 slaves to run the plantations. The small village has some of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the island, and the churchyard has many old and interesting tombstones. At dawn, the Cockpit Country comes alive, and the energetic songs of wild birds float gently on the morning mists.

Although John Tharpe had a choice of four sons from which to name an heir, all four displeased him, and upon his death in 1804, he named his grandson sole executor of his massive holdings. His grandson, however, was rather feeble minded, but then, as is the case now, a feeble minded man with an immense fortune was just as desirable as a smart man with an immense fortune! Several of the colony’s most eligible young ladies vied for his attention, and eventually a marriage to a woman of titled lineage was arranged. Unfortunately, it is said that poor young Tharpe was overwhelmed by the situation, and on his wedding night he became hysterical and practically lost his mind. He was never the same, and although he lived to nearly ninety years old, he never had much to do with the operation of the estates. His sad state plunged the family into a hotly contested battle over his grandfather’s “dead-lef”, and over the years the various properties fell into disrepair and decline.”
(Courtesy of Visit Jamaica)

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Lunch Glorious Lunch

Now I know I must say this about a lot of my excursions, but honestly this one was so peaceful and relaxing, I loved it. The best part was… it came with food, all sorts of local Jamaican delicacies. From Jerk Chicken, to curry, to plantain, to ginger cake…. amazing

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Birds and Flowers

If the food and the charm of the local folks weren’t unique enough the birdlife and garden at Good Hope Estate was a nature lovers Paradise.

I am going to make this a short entry and leave you with all these amazing memories:

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Swallow Tail Hummingbird

Swallow Tail Hummingbird


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Beautiful art work

Beautiful art work


Look carefully for the little lizard on the knee of the goat statue

Look carefully for the little lizard on the knee of the goat statue


There it is

There it is


One final orchid

One final orchid

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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No Problem Mon’… Chillaxing on Red Stripe Beach

Where to Go, What to Do?

When we first pulled into Falmouth Port in Jamaica the everyone was soooo excited. It was JAMAICA after all, an island we had heard of since childhood, the birth place of Bob Marley and Reggae, Rasta and so much more…So where do we go on our first time here… Why the BEACH of course!!!!

But how to get there? Falmouth port is not in the easiest location, an hour away from all the usual hangouts to the north like Montego Bay and Ocho Rios…. We were certain there must be a beach somewhere with reach of crew with only a couple hours free. At the information booth they encouraged us to go to Red Stripe Beach (Red Stripe is a local and very good Jamaican beer). There was a shuttle, for only $10 crew price (half the guest price), leaving in a few minutes. So a group of us grabbed tickets and headed that way.

It’s All Irie Mon’

Piled in the van, with all of us drinking beers (yup open containers are allowed in Jamaica), heading about 10min down the road we turned into what appeared to be a fenced off swamp. The gate was locked and barred and I had a flashback to South Africa… but the driver hopped out unlocked everything and off we went. The swamp area filled with mangroves and brackish water (salt and fresh mixed) had the look of a bad bayou movie… thank heavens it was the middle of the day.
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Turning the corner we knew we had arrived…

Got to love Jamaica

Got to love Jamaica

They had a bar, and a place to have to buy some famous jerk chicken right off the grill… Delish!!!
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The beach turned out to be a little piece of heaven. There were only about 5 other people there so it was pretty much a beach to ourselves.
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They also had a DJ,
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so it was party time as you got us up and dancing, much to the amusement of all involved.
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All to soon it was time to go back to the real world, so we waved goodbye to our new friends and hopped on the shuttle… Farewell till next time!
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Horse Ride and Swim…. Jamaican Style

Jamaica Bound

One of my favorite stops was Jamaica, and we were only there every 2 weeks. We had fabulous excursions there and I got to go on a number of them, from Bobsledding to Climbing Waterfalls. Finally, I got to go on the Horseback Ride AND Swim. The basic premise was you go for a ride and then the saddle is removed and you take a “swim” with the horse, in other words ride the horse out into the ocean.

Now, unfortunately, the location of the Chukka Ride and Swim corral is in Montego Bay, about an hours drive away from the Falmouth cruise port. On this particular trip I got the chance to sit in the co-pilot seat next to the driver…. I became rather religious during this trip as, let’s just say, they drive with enthusiasm in Jamaica.

the bay at Chukka

the bay at Chukka

The RIDE Section

When you first arrive you have to put all your bags and such in lockers (that cost $5 each – I just stored my stuff in the bus). Then you are sized for a helmet and sent to be sized for a horse. Once they call you to your horse you are sent to walk in circles while waiting for everyone else. Now if you had a group of 10 that would be about 15min, but we had a group of 50 and we walked in circles for about 30min… Not that pleasant in the scorching Jamaican sun. Finally we are all saddled and we could head out on the trail.
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The trail was beautiful, about an hour through the surrounding coastal trees. Unfortunately it was a very sedate pace and I did find myself nodding off.
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We were not allowed to pass and when my horse got a little too close to the one in front…it tried to kick me. Luckily it’s hoof hit the stirrup, otherwise I might have had a rather large bruise…
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But the ride was still enjoyable, especially for those who were new to riding.

Just Keep Swimming…..

At the end of our hour ride, all of us hot and sweaty and looking forward to the swim, we were separated into groups of 15. The rest of the group relaxed in the shade drinking red stripe beer and snacking on delicious jerk chicken ($10 for a plate). I was in the first group and excitedly stripped to my swimsuit, put on my floaty belt thing and waited for my horse allocation. Not all the horses swam, so you were not guaranteed to get the same horse as the ride part.

When I was called and climbed onto my horse…. oh my lordy! I think they gave me the thinnest horse. Usually I have an issue with my short legs barely able to reach the stirrups and go around the horse’s middle. With only a saddle pad (all you get between you and the horse) it felt like I was attempting to balance on a fence post… that walked!

balancing act

balancing act

The swim section was soooooo much fun!!!! we got to “gallop” in the water and just whoop it up. It was refreshing and cool and just a whole lot of fun. Once you are in the water balancing on the horse is also much easier.
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Jamaica vs Puerto Rico Horse Rides

Of the two I would say horse riding in Puerto Rico was more fun. Through the jungle, along a river, stunning. Staying in one line is not as important and you also get to gallop on occasion if you want to. However, there isn’t an ocean swim… which made the Jamaican ride well worth it.
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Let’s go swimming again, that was awesome!!!!!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Let’s go UP a Waterfall!!!!!

Dunn’s River Falls

The native people of Jamaica, the Taíno, called their homeland “Xaymaca” in Arawakan, meaning the “Land of Wood and Water”
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or the “Land of Springs”.
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When you visit Dunn’s River Falls you will see why.

Located near Ochos Rios about an hours drive from the Falmouth Cruise ship port, the Dunn’s River Falls Park receives thousands of tourists each year who flock here to link hands and climb the falls.
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Geology

At about 180 feet (55 m) high and 600 feet (180 m) long, the waterfalls are terraced like giant natural stairs, there have been a few man influenced improvements for safety sake, but for the most part it is all natural. There are also several lagoons throughout the falls which make great dipping pools.
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The falls empty into the Caribbean Sea at the western end of an attractive white-sand beach.
Throughout the falls there are little mini falls that act as superb massage therapy sessions…
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There are also some rather large spiders…. luckily they stay in the trees…
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Explaining The Concept of a Waterfall

Dunn’s River Waterfalls is not only a stunning natural wonder but also tons of fun and great exercise. Therefore, during my talks on the excursions I would always encourage guests that this was the one to pick, especially if you did the combo with the Dolphin Encounter or Jamaican Bobsled (click to read about these adventures). However, it became apparent, on more than one occasion, that when I explained they would not only be visiting, but also subsequently CLIMBING up the falls seem to confuse people. Guests would come back from the excursion and complain that they did not know they had to bring a swimsuit, they didn’t know they were going to get wet….

So, I was forced to attempt to make it crystal clear, much to the amusement of the guests at my talk. It went something like this:
One of my favorite excursions is the chance to visit and climb the Dunns River Waterfall.. Now I have to make something very clear, when you climb UP a WATERfall you will get WET. By nature of it’s name, a WATERfall has WATER therefore if one climbs inside of it YOU WILL GET WET!!!! I am not talking about a little damp, I am talking soaked through, very very very wet, so please remember your swimsuit. You will be surprised at how many guests do not grasp this fact and make a complaint afterwards. For those who wish not to get wet or climb, there is a walkways along the side to take amusing photos of your friends and family, but for the rest of you, you will get wet!

So I hope all of you will take the opportunity and go have some fun and get wet!
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Posted by on July 4, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Yeah Mon’! Jamaican Bobsled Team!

Working as a Social Hostess on my cruise ship means I get to go along on excursions in most ports. There is no certainty to which excursion you will be sent on and while we are often sent on the…less exciting ones… there are times when we get a chance to experience some heart stopping adrenalin rushing intense moments of terror mixed with sheer joy… Bobsledding in Jamaica was one of these for me.

The Jamaican Bobsled Team
We only get our schedules the night before around 10pm, so it is always a surprise as to if and which excursion we might go on. We are allowed to request/suggest ones we would enjoy but 9 times out of 10 it is something out of left field.

When I saw Jamaican Bobsled Adventure I was dumbstruck (a rare occurrence). I am not a fan of speed, I have never been on a roller coaster (unless you count the pirate ship and even that turns me to jello) and the only thing I could think of was the movie Cool Runnings. 

But, I try to do what I am told and figured may as well give it a go, and what a go it was. It takes about an hour drive north from the Falmouth Cruise Ship terminal to reach Mystic Mountian, Ocho Rios. Along the drive you are never sure what you may see.

Such as the "Future" walmart...

Such as the “Future” walmart…

Once there we had a short wait in line before taking a leisurely cable car ride through the lush jungle up to the top of the bobsled ride.
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view of Montego bay and the cruise ships anchored there

view of Montego bay and the cruise ships anchored there

We Be BOBSLEDDING!!!

Just to give you an idea of how this works, these are 1 person sleds set on rails through the jungle. Usually the driver goes alone, but in cases of kids or those struck with terror, you can hook 2 sleds together. The entire ride is gravity fed, but there are levers to control your speed. However, if you control your speed too much then you will get stuck on the rails, causing the staff to come fetch you and you looking embarrassed once fetched. We waited in line for over an hour as 2 people, from a different cruise line, breaked too much and got stuck. As the manager went to go get yet another victim of fear, he mumbled something along the lines of “If anyone else breaks… I swear….”. I feared that I may become the next victim of his wrath. One of my amazing guests, a 22 yr old French Canadian lad offered to let me hook up to his bobsled and he would do the driving. We decided this was best….
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As we turned the first corner I started to pray…
As I mentioned the ride is completely gravity fed, so there is no steering, you just have to hope the sled stays on the rails. You whip down the hill and round the corners, over and under. As you whipe round the corners it felt as if my sled was going to keep going while my perfectly calm and capable drivers’ would continue on the rails. To truly understand the adrenalin rush here is a little video to give you a taste (’cause, yes, my cohort was not only a capable driver who refused to use any breaks, but apparently he could video it at the same time)…

BOBSLED VIDEO

Needless to say the mandatory photo that is taken shows my cohort screaming with glee, arms in the air. As for me all you see if the hunched over back of someone screaming in terror.

Even though I was terrified and I am fairly certain my life flashed before my eyes on more than one turn…

IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE

…the gentle cable car ride down was most likely my favorite

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Uncategorized

 

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Journey to Jerusalem

A little late in publishing but finally got it done. From my time on MSC Lirica during the summer of 2013, Haifa, Israel was one of our stops.

I have never been particularly religious in the typical sense. From my travels I have encountered faiths from all around the world from Catholic, to Buddhism to Muslim, to almost everything in between. Don’t get me wrong, I went through a period when I was a Sunday school teacher in High School and part of the local youth group. But after numerous adventures and cultures I prefer keeping my faith as something for myself. I love discussing religion and discovering the nuances of all the different beliefs, in fact at youth group I would always end up being that one in the middle of the table questioning. I grew up hearing the tales of the old and new testament, and well we were told they were true, for the most part they always felt like just that.. tales.

Entering Jerusalem

That is why it was no surprise that I chose to float in the Dead Sea, a long time dream of mine, before visiting one of the most sacred cities in the world for many cultures. Luckily working on a cruise ship allows you these sorts of choices and eventually I got round to getting the chance to exploring this ancient place. The early morning started at 5am for us with a 2 hour drive from the ship and I woke from my nap just as the bus entered the outskirts. Even before my driver began explaining things I just had this overwhelming, bordering on emotional, sense of awe wash over me. It seemed so obvious, when before it was kind of sketchy, that the stories I had grown up with were, in fact, based in truth and most likely completely true, in some form or another.

Dome of the Rock

Our first stop was a view of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was truly breathtaking.
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The site’s significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart, which bears great significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is considered “the most contested piece of real estate on earth.” (Wikipedia)

Temple Mount with Dome of the Rock in background and cemetery in foreground.

Temple Mount with Dome of the Rock in background and cemetery in foreground.

Western Wall

Known to many as the Wailing Wall because of the thousands who come to pray and leave messages, the Western Wall is something to see and experience.

The sign before going through security at the entrance to the wall

The sign before going through security at the entrance to the wall

We arrived on the first day of Rosh Hashanah*, the Jewish New Year. This meant that there was no traffic anywhere and thousands of pilgrims at the wall. It also meant that no photos were allowed, which was a bummer as the people who came to pray that day were amazingly beautiful. Not in the typical “magazine cover” sense of the word, but in the cultural aspect, and the looks of absolute love and religious fervor that the wall seemed to instill in people. I had a very itchy finger wanting to take pics.

3 generations heading to pray

3 generations heading to pray

But I opted to obey the rules…and show respect. I wish I could paint you a picture of how amazing this was. I wish I could have sat and just watched the flow of humanity, often seeing it in it’s rawest and truest form.

The wall has a male and female side. On the male side it looked like a full party rave going on. Men were chanting and dancing and singing, the intensity increasing with every word uttered. They were lifting chairs above their heads and you could see the religious fire burning in their eyes.

On the women’s side it was the complete opposite. The women were silent except for some whispered prayers, there was a quiet dignity about them. All ages, all races and most likely many religions. Some were just sitting and reading the bible, sharing their beliefs with younger generations.

I walked down found a scrap of paper and wrote down my prayer, my hopes, my dreams…found a space between the rocks and, resting my head on the ancient stones, placed it well pouring all my positive energy into what I had written.

Via Dolorosa

Heading further into the Old City of Jerusalem, we left the Western Wall behind us and continued towards Via Dolorosa, or the “Way of Sorrows”.
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This is the route Jesus was made to walk while carrying the cross to his crucifixion. The winding cobbled street passes from the Antonio Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, around 600m/2000ft. Today it passes by bakeries, fruit sellers and souvenir shops. I wonder if the people living here today pause to think about the significance of this path or if it lost to them as so many other world marvels are lost to the people ho see them everyday.
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The route has changed over the years, but this one has been established since the 18th century, along the way tehre are nine Stations of the Cross. Places where it is believed Jesus stopped, or fell or met certain figures, such as Mary.
At the fifth station, known as the Chapel of Simon of Cyrene, it is believed Simon carried the cross for a ways. Jesus is said to have lent on the wall and left a bloody hand print, this spot is now much revered and has worn down over centuries of being touched by followers and tourists alike.
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Church of the Holy Sepulchre

As we meandered along this sacred route, I was struck by the people, the scents, the sounds. Life seemed so real, so alive, you never knew what you might find around the next corner.

such a table with a wide array of multi-colored candies

such a table with a wide array of multi-colored candies

Soon, we neared what is considered the most sacred site of pilgrimage for Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It lies on what is believed to be the hallowed site of Golgotha (The Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified and is also said to contain where he was buried and later resurrected. The church now plays host to the headquarters of most Christian sects, ironically enough, due to much…disagreement… between these sects, it is a Muslim family who holds the key to the ancient door. They have been responsible for it for over 1,300yrs.
(Article in the SFGate telling the tale).

Out in the courtyard you see pilgrims from all walks of life, all sects of Christian religions, all nationalities.

Greek Orthodox Ladies taking a break

Greek Orthodox Ladies taking a break


Young African man playing his drum

Young African man playing his drum


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I was in awe of this place, and you could feel the love and hope virtually emanating from the hundreds of people, most of whom had probably planned and dreamed of this day.
Just inside is the Stone of Anointing, a large slab (added in the 18th) century on the spot where Joseph of Aramathea was said to have prepared the body of Jesus for burial. Pilgrims take an item of clothing or jewelry and rub it on the stone as they pray, hoping to bring blessings to the item.
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Our group purchased candles from the Church store and lit them saying a prayer. Some get over enthusiastic and think the bigger the bundle the more likely their prayer will be heard, this is when a priest comes in and has to douse them so that a fire doesn’t break out.
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We spent some time exploring the church and I think photos are the best way for you to get a feel for it:

Light streams in the the arches creating an ethereal beauty

Light streams in the the arches creating an ethereal beauty


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The lamps that hang over the stone are contributed by Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins.

The lamps that hang over the stone are contributed by Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins.

The Immovable Ladder

Another interesting anecdote about the Church is what has been named the Immovable Ladder. This is a cedar ladder (the wood is believed to originally have been from Lebanon) that was placed below a window on the outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during some construction. However, during a disagreement between the Christian sects, an understanding was made that no cleric of the six ecumenical Christian orders may move, rearrange, or alter any property without the consent of all six orders. Since getting consent of ALL the orders is near impossible, the ladder was not allowed to be removed and has therefore become Immovable and a symbol. It was first mentioned in 1757 and is replaced when the present ladder disintegrates over time.
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After a truly fascinating and emotional trip for the entire group our bugle toting guide, blew a few notes (not enough to bring the walls crashing down)
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and we headed out of the Old City with many other pilgrims in search of new inspiration and understanding of the world around us.
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Personal Note – it truly saddens me that a place that has more history in one stone than most places in the world and that should bring the world together due to it’s significance and meaning seems to be constantly at war. The people I met in Israel were inspiring and welcoming and I hope everyone visits and learns to put old prejudice aside.

*Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: ראש השנה‎, literally “head [of] the year”), is the Jewish New Year although the real name for this Feast of the Lord is called Yom Teruah (Hebrew: יום תרועה‎, literally “day [of] shouting/raising a noise”) or the Feast of Trumpets according to the correct biblical calendar of the 1st and 2nd temple period, not Rosh Hashanah. It is the first of the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”) which usually occur in the early autumn of the Northern Hemisphere. Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration, which begins on the first day of Tishrei. The day is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in God’s world. Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn) and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a “sweet new year”.
(From Wikipedia)

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2014 in Cruise, Italy, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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The Dreaded: Accounting Duty

There is always at least one duty that all Social Hosts consider the bane of their existence. For me it is the 6-9amish (if you are lucky) shift at the accounting desk on disembarkation day.

Any duty that starts before 8am is never one we particularly enjoy, especially since we only finish around 11.30pm every night. But Accounting is a very particular kind of torture.

The gist of the duty is to helpfully collect all the signed CREDIT CARD INVOICES from guests who are disembarking. The truth of the matter is that you do this and become a target for numerous frustrations.

First you have to wake up around 5.40am… yup I sleep as long as possible.
Then the staff mess and crew bar only open at 6.30am so you have to face numerous guests without even one sip of coffee….
Now, of course, I completely understand the guests are tired as well, I mean they have relaxed all week and having to be out of bed and out the room by 7am (our cabin stewards have an entire 4hrs to clean almost 2000 cabins) would make me a little edgy too.
But seriously, yelling at someone who is trying to help because there is a mistake on your bill does not help you get anywhere.

A few examples of the sheer joy that is this special type of hell:

Crossing Fury
Now we have all heard of Road rage and phone rage etc… but on the day the Divina was due to set out on the trans-atlantic, I had the joy of discovering Crossing Fury. Guests were just on a whole other level of, dare I say, crazy.
One German guest who had an issue with his bill and not williing to take the time to try and understand the ENGLISH hostess trying to help him, began yelling in German. My reply was a calm “sorry don’t speak German”. To which he countered with scrumpling his bill and throwing it my face. As it bounced off my cheek I calmly said “I still don’t speak German”, then turned to the next person and said “now how may I help you?”.

No Italiano!!!!
Today I had the joy of attempting to send someone who stated he was paying in cash to the correct line. He promptly started yelling in Italian, with a couple of “then we not pay our bill”. I tried to explain I did not speak Italian well. To which he yelled that it was my job to know Italian. I pointed out that I was the English Hostess and spoke English, Afrikaans and Korean (ok a smidge of this) but not Italian. He continued to yell at me as I turned to help the next person. Then he walked up to the counter, yelled at my collegue then signed his credit card invoice, then walked off still yelling at me.

Changing Attitudes
There are so many examples like this that I could go one forever. Needless to say after close to 4hrs of this (as we are usually finished closer to 10am than 9am), you are utterly exhausted both physically and emotionally.
The one good thing is, that when some guests get completely unreasonable and yell, the guests who witness this become exceptionally kind and generous.
So at least there are some guests who make my job worthwhile!

TIP
For all future guests of a cruise ship, please may I give you a tip. If you READ your paperwork, or WATCH the informational video / talk… disembarkation would be so much easier. But it appears that the skill of reading and listening become very difficult once someone walks across the gangway….after all you are on vacaiton

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2014 in Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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