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Goodbye, Farewell MSC Fantasia

Another Chapter Closed

After 7 months working as an English Social Hostess on MSC Fantasia I am finally heading home and on to the next adventure, after some well deserved RnR, especially after another bought of bronchitis and what turned out to be a fractured ankle that I continued to work on for the last 2 months.

Misconceptions…

When people ask what I do and I reply “I work on a cruise ship”, they always assume this means that I sit around the pool with a cocktail, especially when I was working in the Caribbean. However, it is nothing like that, sure my job as a Social Hostess or Language Ambassador as I prefer to be called, is a lot less strenuous compared to the bar staff or the housekeepers or the laundry, but it is still on duty 7 days a week for 7 months or more. It always surprises guests when they ask me, “what are your off days?” and I say, “the day after I get home.”

It’s Been a Great 7 months

Once again I loved working in the Mediterranean, so many different cultures, so much history and the most amazing food! I had the option to work in the French Caribbean, which I would have loved if there was a guarantee to get some scuba diving in… since that was highly unlikely, I opted for history and food instead.
Our ports of Call included:

ITALY
Venice – I have now been there over 15 times and only ever seen the cruise port, I hear it is quite beautiful!

Bari – Not much to see in Bari itself except a cool fort and shopping.

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Fort of Bari


However, just outside there is a beautiful cave system that is definitely worth a visit.
Caves of Castellana

Caves of Castellana

Civitevecchia (Port of Rome) – my favorite part of this port was my pizza place, Baffoni’s!! Cafe Latte, wifi, followed by a pizza and cola.

My favorite Vesuvio pizza, spice salami and zucchini

My favorite Vesuvio pizza, spice salami and zucchini


My second favorite Buffalo mozzarella and small tomatoes

My second favorite Buffalo mozzarella and small tomatoes

Genoa – Turn around port always crazy busy, but just sometimes I got to slip away to a tiny local place down a narrow alley with the best ravioli bolognese ever!

CROATIA
Dubrovnik – One of my all time favorite cities, absolutely beautiful. I hope to return and explore all of the Dalmation coast someday.

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View from the city Walls

GREECE
Piraeus (Port of Athens) – the port is really far from town, but on most visits, at least before I injured my foot, we would walk 20 minutes to a little street cafe for the best gyro in town.

Katakolon – A teeny tiny community that is the gateway to the ancient ruins of Olympia. I loved this tiny 2 street town, with amazing food and fantastically friendly people from my guy at the restaurant where I ordered chicken souvlaki, to the coffee guy with the amazing desserts to the shop guy who insisted on always throwing a bag of chips or a drink into all the crew members shopping bags.

mmm Greek Food!

mmm Greek Food!


Dessert and coffee

Dessert and coffee

Heraklion (Island of Crete) – Home of the myth of the Minotaur and another favorite stop, unfortunately the town was a fair distance from the port. My favorite memory was eating an amazing strawberry spinach salad with a good friend!

Mmmm Spinach Strawberry salad!!!

Mmmm Spinach Strawberry salad!!!


Great Friends!!!

Great Friends!!!

Rhodes – In my top 3! History, friendly folks and great food, also lots and lots of cats!!!

my favorite Tomcat

my favorite Tomcat


Street of Knights

Street of Knights

Corfu – Another stop where the town was a fair distance from port, but beautiful all the same.
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Santorini – Built on the edges of a volcanic caldera in the middle of the med, this is the picture postcard stop of Greece!

Santorini is famous for it's white buildings and blue domes

Santorini is famous for it’s white buildings and blue domes

MALTA
Valletta – Top 3!! Original home of the Knights Hospitaller and Templar and a port I could wander around in endlessly, just be sure to take the 1€ elevator vs walking up crucifix hill.

THE ELEVATOR!!!

THE ELEVATOR!!!


Inside St. John's Church

Inside St. John’s Church


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TURKEY
Marmaris – Part of my top 5! Loved this port from my first contract and only got one stop this time! However, my favorite food place was still there along with my favorite jewelry store.

Mixed plate

Mixed plate

Izmir – The area near the port was mainly shopping, although I did find amazing coconut macaroons at a hole in the wall bakery. An hour away you will find the house of the Virgin Mary in a stunningly peaceful valley and the Ruins of Ephesus, some of the most incredible ruins I have ever seen… did I mention there are lots of cats!

Mary's House

Mary’s House


Leave a prayer for the Virgin Mary

Leave a prayer for the Virgin Mary


Kitty of Ephesus

Kitty of Ephesus


Library of Ephesus

Library of Ephesus

SPAIN
Malaga – Churro and Chocolate is all I have to say…

No Words!!!!

No Words!!!!

Barcelona – Gaudi and the inside of the Sagrada Familia!! Absolutely incredible.

Beauty!

Beauty!

Tenerife – Loro Parque, the worlds largest parrot park with numerous other animals and even an Orca show! (I am not a fan of keeping these creatures in captivity, the only, slightly, saving grace is that the park focuses on research and education and some of the orcas were not wild born).

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet


Orca Show

Orca Show

MOROCCO
Casablanca – The whole reason I opted for this route vs the French Caribbean and, even though I had no idea what to expect, it was unfortunately the biggest disappointment. The port was at least a 20 minute walk from the city through a disgusting agricultural and industrial port, with only… fairly intense taxi drivers as a transport option. Luckily, the city itself, although dirty, had friendly people, great coffee and amazing food. However, other than the mosque and the old market there wasn’t much to see and safety was a concern.

Coffee opposite the old market

Coffee opposite the old market


Carpets and Paintings in the Old Market

Carpets and Paintings in the Old Market


The Mosque from the Cornish Road

The Mosque from the Cornish Road


Tajines cooking

Tajines cooking


Delicious!

Delicious!

If you go to Morocco and the port of Casablanca I recommend the tour to Marrakesh, this is the Morocco we all imagine.

PORTUGAL
Funchal – Top 3!!! Absolutely loved this port, despite the long walk from the port, and would love to visit it again, from the vegetation to the climate to the food everything was great… except maybe that they speak Portuguese (a language that confuses me endlessly as it sounds similar to Spanish and yet I understand nothing).

Eira Do Serrado  reminded me of the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa

Eira Do Serrado reminded me of the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa


Always had coffee and a pastel de nata at my fav coffee shop... love the lady in the background - she is obviously on diet!

Always had coffee and a pastel de nata at my fav coffee shop… love the lady in the background – she is obviously on diet!


Great artwork on the Sea wall as you walk to town

Great artwork on the Sea wall as you walk to town

Not bad for 7 months if you ask me!

Friendships!!

Of course the true reward from these last 7 months were the friends I made from all over the globe!!

Olessia from the Ukraine - my favorite bartender and confident

Olessia from the Ukraine – my favorite bartender


Chiara from Italy, Tour escort and awesome gelato buddy

Chiara from Italy, Tour escort and awesome gelato buddy


Saneliswe and Sandile, my "paisano" bar staff from South Africa

Saneliswe and Sandile, my “paisano” bar staff from South Africa


Angela from Germany, German Hostess and international cuisine tasting buddy

Angela from Germany, German Hostess and international cuisine tasting buddy


Tamsin and Hayley from UK, Dancer and singer, my video and pizza buds!

Tamsin and Hayley from UK, Dancer and singer, my video and pizza buds!


Ivana from Macedonia, Photographer and my crazy happy friend

Ivana from Macedonia, Photographer and my crazy happy friend


Dayan from Spain and Jessica from Italy, GRM and Concierge, we made a great  team

Dayan from Spain and Jessica from Italy, GRM and Concierge, we made a great team


Gleison from Brazil and Martina from Italy, Portuguese Host and Events coordinator, we were the Funchal Ship Visit trio

Gleison from Brazil and Martina from Italy, Portuguese Host and Events coordinator, we were the Funchal Ship Visit trio


Carmen from South Africa, Tour Escort and another amazing Paisano

Carmen from South Africa, Tour Escort and another amazing Paisano


Celine and Loes from the Netherlands, tour escorts and my favorite Dutchies

Celine and Loes from the Netherlands, tour escorts and my favorite Dutchies


And so many more I would be here forever uploading pics. Thanks to all my amazing friends and I hope to see you again soon on new adventures!!!

New Adventures

Now I am off to do something completely different and, logically thinking, completely off the wall. I am moving to Koh Phangan, Thailand to pursue my passion of scuba diving!!! Yup at 37.75 years of age, I am doing something most people would think is completely insane… but I am sure going to have fun doing it!!!

 

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MS WALK 2015 – TICKEY’S TEAM

For around 16 years my family and friends have participated in the walk for MS (Multiple Sclerosis), ever since my mum was diagnosed.

MS is an auto-immune disease that is barely understood and effects everyone differently. The MS Society organizes these fantastic events all over the US and we all do our part to raise funds to help discover a cure.

Due to my travel adventures over the past decade I have not been able to be there to participate in person, luckily this year not only saw me participate but gave us a chance to try out the new GoPro (please be patient with the novice editing).

MS WALK 2015 with TEAM TICKEY

Special thanks to all my friends all over the world who donated and those who came to join us in the walk, your love and support keep us going!!

If anyone wishes to DONATE, please follow this link, choose Tickey’s Team and help us cure this unpredictable disease. (you can also donate at the National MS Society website).

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Travel

 

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How to Survive Ankle Damage when Working on a Ship

A Step by Step Guide

1st step – Getting Injured:
During the last 10minutes of your duty decide to walk around the outer decks for some fresh air, be sure to wear sensible shoes to avoid any excuses as to how damage occurred. Walk slowly and carefully down stairs that are wet from the rain.
Somehow place your left foot wrong, twist it at a delightful angle outwards and then let it slide under you as you “gracefully” sit down on it, clenching the hand rail at all times.

2nd Step – Medical Center part 1
Swear to yourself in numerous languages as the pool boys try and help you down the rest of the stairs, enthusiastically offering to carry you…
Hobble to the elevator and make your way to the medical center where your favorite doctor has the urge to throttle you over getting injured. (You are on first name basis after numerous chest infections).
After a quick inspection and bandaging convince the doctor to give you a chance for a few hours and see how serious it actually is, thereby avoiding copious amounts of paperwork.

3rd Step – Medical Center part 2
After a couple of hours return to the medical center attempting to look fine… and failing miserably.
Have the nurse remove bandage and then all wince at the same time as you see a very large egg just above the bone turning a wonderful shade of purple… OOPS!
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4th Step – Calling Safety
Doctor should sigh at this point and pull out previously mentioned copious amounts of paperwork, while at the same time calling the Safety Officer to evaluate the accident. (All accidents have to be signed off by the Safety Officer). Have the Assistant Safety, the Safety Officer and 2 inspectors all show up and “Safety” look at you horrified saying “it was you?? But you are the leader of assembly station G, and we have drill tomorrow!!!” OOPS again. Smile shyly and apologize.

5th Step – Medical Off
Receive 3 days off as you are unfit to work and have to hobble around on a crutch. All the while have your cruise director lecturing you on how he is an expert on sprained ankles:
“when I was a drummer in a band, I sprained my ankle but had to keep playing, ’cause a band is nothing without the drummer, then I sprained it again 2 weeks later, and yet I kept walking and kept playing.”
Resist the urge to point out that perhaps he constantly re-sprained due to not letting it heal in the first place. Instead, just nod and smile.
Be sure to enjoy plenty of bed rest and watch every movie you and your roommate has available…
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6th Step – Responding to Concern
Be tempted to write a large sign to wear around your neck saying “I slipped down the wet stairs… I am fine!” as you are asked repeatedly what happened and how exactly you managed to do such an injury. Prepare statements such as:
“No I was not drunk, it was 11am”
“No I was not wearing heels, I was wearing sensible work shoes” etc…
“No it was not after Crew Party, I didn’t even get there”
Be thrilled that everyone offers to help you, and realize later that most of them are busy when you actually need help, but be determined to do everything as close to normal as you can.
Discover later that there is a rumor stating it was you who fell down drunk after crew party and thereby ensured that the next crew party was cancelled… Be sure to clarify and have all your friends clarify again… you never even made it to the party!!!

7th Step – Discovering a Physiotherapist amongst the Crew
Feeling very sorry for yourself and actually starting to worry about the damage caused, be relieved when you discover one of the dancers is, in fact, also a physiotherapist and she offers to work on your ankle as much as possible.

7.5th Step – 50 Shades of PURPLE
Be impressed as your foot seems to change color every day, from deep purple to a lovely shade of greeny yellow… Show collegues who suddenly have lots of concern when they see the bruising.
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8th Step – Slow Recovery
Spend the next next 10 days stuck on board, constantly working as much as possible followed by rest, ice and elevation… Grin and bear it as you walk around or stand during duties, constantly letting fellow crew members know that you are actually improving, slowly slowly.

9th Step – Freedom
Finally after 10 days, in your favorite port of Funchal, grit your teeth and head for the door. The weather will be gloriously sunny, you will manage to join a cab ride and not be charged and then find your favorite coffee shop with your favorite pastry!! Worth every limp!
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10th and Final Step – Normality
Eventually a few weeks down the road after the incident your ankle will look less like a cankle, possibly even normal, and with continued exercises you will be back to “normal” just in time to finish your contract and fly off to new adventures, a little wiser and a little more careful when it comes to stairs!!!

 
 

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2014 in review – Thanks to all of YOU!!!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,100 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Travel

 

Christmas at Sea 2014

Christmas 2013

Christmas last year was on the MSC Divina in the Caribbean. Our stop was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and it was a stunning day, hot and humid… a reminder of Christmases back home in South Africa… and honestly I was miserable, missing my family terribly. Lots of friends, yes, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel the same.

Christmas 2014

This year, sailing in the Mediterranean on the MSC Fantasia, I was determined not to let myself get down and with the start of the Christmas cruise I donned my antlers and jingled, much to the amusement of guests and crew alike.
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The guests got so used to me wearing them that they would use them as a point of reference in a crowd or request me at reception as the “short one with antlers”. The more I made others smile the happier I felt. Of course there were the usual grinches, rolling their eyes, making silly mooing noises (idiots don’t they know it’s a reindeer), making snide comments about how that symbolizes cheating on your boyfriend in Italy. But I discovered the majority loved it so much that these comments made me wear them even more, and walk a little taller!
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I wore them in Rhodes, Greece
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In Katakolon, Greece
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And on Christmas day in Messina, Sicily

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve found us in Valletta, Malta, one of my all time favorite ports. I was able to go out for a good four hours and just wonder around to my hearts content, taking photos and exploring. The atmosphere was amazing, decorations everywhere and even the military band through the main street.
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I went down a bunch of smaller streets, exploring by myself and picking up things like Christmas stockings and crackers!!!!
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All my Christmas gifts for friends along with the crackers and stocking

Then stopped for lunch and had a wonderful hot bowl of potato and zucchini soup with lots of parmesan cheese (this addition would later come back to haunt me….)

Back on board we had fun taking photos with friends and then prepared for the Christmas Choir.
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Christmas Choir

Our fabulous Cruise Director, Franco, had a great idea for a Christmas Choir. On Divina we only had a few of us from Entertainment singing around the piano in reception and guests singing along. Franco had grander ideas and he wanted the guests to be the choir. We had 2 practice sessions which went off reasonably well. Our biggest obstacle was the last line of Jingle BellsIn a one horse op-en sleighhhhhhh“, the timing was a bit tricky. Last night, Christmas Eve, we waited in reception hoping all 200 odd guests would show up… Not only did they show up, they COMPLETELY filled reception, the stairs and all 3 floors that overlook the reception area. We have guests from all walks of life, from Italy, Germany, France, England, South Africa, USA, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and just about every country in between.
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Words can not explain the energy as we all sang and smiled and laughed. For those 15minutes it felt as if the world truly was at peace and happy. Amazing what the power of song can do!
(Hopefully I can add a video later, just have to find one)

Christmas in the Staff Mess

We were pleasantly surprised upon entering the staff mess to discover champagne and wine, TWO kinds of cakes AND icecream, and a couple of extra choices for dinner. It really added to the atmosphere and everyone was thrilled to have something special… that is until we realised that a bunch of officers decided to have their extra special dinner of large prawns and bakes fish (most likely supplied by one them) just one table away, as it was “easier” to use the large tables in the Staff mess versus sitting in the officers mess. So, even though we had some good choices, the aromas coming from their food kind of overshadowed everything, thank heavens we had icecream!!!!

Christmas Day

Christmas Day found us in Messina, Sicily. As much as I love Sicily and it’s little towns like Taormina and Erice, Messina is very dull in comparison. On good days, like a normal work day, there is hardly anything open, with most places only starting lunch or any sort of food after 12pm. Since we are only in Messina from 8am to 1pm, there is not much chance to have time for food or anything.
The one thing Messina does have is a spectacular Cathedral and on this day we were privileged enough to enjoy part of the Christmas mass.

Once back on the ship we had a chance to sing in the choir once more, this time for Santa himself, who had taken a break after delivering all the presents the night before to visit with us and hand out some gifts to the children on the ship.
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And Happy New Year

And so Christmas came to an end, and, despite missing my family terribly (ok in truth it was really the roast beef, yorkshire pudding, green beans and gravy that I missed, but they come with it), it turned out to be a rather good Christmas, with lots of friends and happy guests. Who knows where Santa will find me next year, but I hope it’s with more amazing people like this one!!
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Posted by on December 26, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Why Don’t You Get a Corporate Job???

The other night, chatting with some of my favorite guests, who just happened to be South Africans, and after a couple of drinks, the Aunt of one decided to give me some advice…

It started off simply with some questions:
Aunt – So are you going to make this your career?
Me – No, I don’t want to work on ships forever
Aunt – But why not move up in the company get a corporate job in the main office, like Miami?
Me (trying not to laugh) – hahahah I really don’t want a corporate job
Aunt – Well what is your plan then?
Me – I want to think about doing my Scuba Instructor License in Thailand maybe next year
Aunt – But don’t you want to get married and have a family?
Me – Yes of course, hopefully someday
Aunt – Well you may as well get a corporate job and security, because when that happens all this… travel stuff, won’t matter!
Me – I don’t want a corporate job, and who knows maybe I will meet the man of my dreams in Thailand or somewhere else.
Aunt – No you won’t you are 37, you need to think about who will look after you when you are old and you should get a corporate job…

This went on for about 30 minutes and it really started to bother me, might have been the influence of the Turkish Raiki drink I had tried, but it seriously made me upset and frustrated.

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in South Africa I was brought up on good old traditional ways of thinking. In other words: School, job, marriage, house, kids…. along those lines. Luckily my parents also instilled in me the sense of adventure, whether it was doing a 5 day hike in the Umfolozi Game Reserve through the bush, or encouraging me to take a teaching position in South Korea after finding work proved difficult. They have always supported me, although I am pretty certain secretly (for the most part) wished I would settle and get a job. My mom always stresses that as long as I am happy, and can fend for myself then she is happy. I don’t think they ever realised their encouragement would lead me into the life of a gypsy!

But with this upbringing it is always in the back of my mind, what society expects, how life should be etc… I call it the logical side of my Schmidt brain, and it has taken me many years to understand and accept that this side of my brain just prevents me from going beach bum and that I do not necessarily have to follow it to the letter. So when the Aunt brought all these things up it was difficult to fight this side of my brain and I found myself trying to rationalize and convince her that my life choices are just that MINE and that all the curves in the road have led me into fantastic adventures and have shaped me into who I am today.

Luckily for me, a good friend who is very similar to me as far as the gypsy lifestyle goes, was online and gave me his usual sage advice (he is always there when the Schmidt brain tries to rationalise all my crazy adventures). He asked whether or not I agreed with the advice the Aunt had given me, I said NO! Then he reminded me that normal life advice does not necessarily work on people like us, as we are kind of outside of the bubble, we live life instead of survive it. Once thing is for sure, trying to convince her how much Thailand may turn into a great opportunity and what living a simple life there was like a couple of years ago, made me realise just how much I hoped for this next adventure!!!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Cruise, Thailand, Travel

 

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Return to Cruise Ship Life

After working 2 contracts with barely 3 weeks break in between I decided to take 4 months off. After all, 13.5 months (6 months + 7.5 months) at 4 weekends a month, comes out to 108 days divided by 30 days = 3.6 months worth of weekends, give or take (and remembering I am not the best mathematician). So when a family member almost took a step back and looked aghast that I would have such a long vacation, after all most people only get a week or 2… my reply was, “I figured I would take my weekends first, then have a week or two of vacation”.

The Return

My first offer, for my next contract, was on Musica, going to the French Caribbean. My other option was Fantasia, going from the Greek Islands to Western Med and Morocco. My European friends all voted for the Musica, while my US and Canadian friends voted for Fantasia.

The deciding factor was Morocco and Casablanca. I have always wanted to go there, might have something to do with the movie, but it is a country I have always wanted to see. So I accepted Fantasia. I received my ticket 5 days before departure, a relative miracle considering we usually get our tickets the day before. However, I had issues opening them for details and after some days of exasperation called Alaska Airlines… who had no record of a passenger with my name… knew it was going too smoothly.

After calling the office in Italy, I discovered that the travel department had changed my ticket to leave a day early and give me an overnight in Venice. This was fantastic but also meant I had only 1 day to prepare everything instead of 2. Got to love planning!

Making it to Venice, along with my luggage, I was expecting another sketchy hotel like the one I had when I left my first ship. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a clean, new hotel with a very comfortable bed and great showers. Of course all these things absolutely deflated my big plans of spending a few hours exploring Venice, as my shower followed by a short nap, became a long one as I discovered just how much international flights take out of me these days…

MSC FANTASIA

Finally the morning arrived and we got to the ship! It was great, I immediately spotted people I knew from other ships and it was hugs and handshakes all around. This is the thing I honestly love about working on the ships, the sense of friendship and family you get working with people from all over the world in small enclosed place for an extended period of time. That and the travel of course.

The Fantasia is the same size as my last ship, Divina, same same but different, which actually makes things harder to remember. But I got settled into my cabin, then after some issues with the toilet and let’s just say etc…. I moved into a different cabin (there my roommate had a boyfriend so didn’t actually live there), and got down to the business of settling into ship life… Just 8mths to go… but whose counting!

Time Update

As of today Dec 1st, 2014, I have 6 months left, times goes quickly on the ships!!!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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