This week, I thought that we would do something a bit different for the Travel Book article. It’s all well and good me writing week after week about my own travel experiences but sometimes you want to hear the word of someone else! Today’s interview is with Dan, he hasn’t just been on many cruises he also used to work on cruise ships as well. So to give you a real and truthful glimpse into the world of cruising and to decide whether it is for you – sit back, grab a cup of tea and read the interview below that i did with a cruise expert!
Hello Dan tell us a little bit about what you did on the seas and the cruise companies you worked for?
I started back in 2007 doing a cadetship, where time is spent both ashore and at sea to learn the theory and more practical aspect of the job. The time ashore is spent at a nautical college or university and includes all sorts of essential courses required for life at sea such as Firefighting, Sea Survival, and First Aid. My cadetship was spent on Container ships on various routes from the Mediterranean, to the Far East, and United States. Once qualifying as Office of the Watch I then joined a cruise company, Holland America, and spent 3 years on and off sailing around Alaska, South America, Caribbean, and for one trip, part of the World Cruise.
“…book yourself a cabin with a window or balcony to give yourself the best chance of seeing if you enjoy it…” – Dan
How did your interest in cruise ships come around?
This all stemmed from a trip on the cross channel hovercraft from Dover to Calais back in the year 2000. I thought they were brilliant the way they rose up and quite literally flew across the channel. This developed into researching all things ferry related and then developed after being taken on a short cruise holiday in 2004.
Did you always want to work on them?
No, not in the slightest! I used to quite like the idea of being the person releasing the mooring lines ashore and watching the ship sail out into a thundering gale. During my final year doing A levels I still had no idea what to do for a career, or be able to find a university course that appealed sufficiently. Somewhere along the line I stumbled across the cadetship and thought “that’ll do”.
Do you remember your first job on a cruise ship – what did it feel like to do your first shift /time at sea?
I have vivid memories of standing at the cruise terminal in Vancouver waiting to join my first ship. With no idea what to expect, having spent my working life so far working on a Container ship, I was rather apprehensive. I remember being required to be on the bridge shortly after departure and feeling very out of my depth listening to people saying phrases and talking about equipment and procedures that meant nothing to me given how different cruise ship life turned out to be.
For those who haven’t been on a cruise before – why is it a good way to see the world?
I’d say uniquely it provides a constant environment in which to see different countries and cities. It’s your nice comfy hotel that moves round with you – no longer do you have to worry about finding strange looking local cuisine on your plate (by all means, you can find it ashore if you so wish!), or finding a restaurant that speaks your language.
What makes a cruise holiday so unique compared to the average flight etc?
I think the way that the hotel moves with you, everything is provided for you on ship if you so want it; from food, to drinks, and entertainment. You don’t even have to go ashore; you can stay onboard and spend your time hopping from bar, to spa, to buffet if you so wish.
What have been your top three places you have visited by cruise ship and why?
Alaska is one for sure. I spent three summer seasons up there and, particularly in mid-summer when it doesn’t quite get dark, you get beautiful sunrises and sunsets in mountainous, snow topped terrain.
New Zealand was another favourite; for the fact that it felt so homely despite being on the other side of the world.
One final destination that sticks out in my mind for whatever reason is Lahaina, Hawaii. It was a tender port so you go ashore in the ship’s tenders (or rather “pimped up” lifeboats). I seem to remember only having a limited time to get ashore there, but had a lovely walk along the seafront whilst browsing local shops.
Cruises also offer excursions – have you been on any of these? What have been your favourite?
I only managed one excursion in my career, after all port days were a good day to get things done onboard maintenance wise so going ashore for prolonged periods never really worked. It was a fishing trip on an ex Deadliest Catch vessel in Ketchikan, Alaska. Myself and two cadets spent the afternoon onboard learning about crab fishing in the area and seeing live demonstrations by the crew.
For those who haven’t cruised before – what rooms do you recommend they book for their first trip and why?
I’d recommend at least splashing out a bit and going for a window or balcony cabin. Trying your first ever cruise with an inside cabin (no daylight!) is not a good idea and may not give you the best impression given that you can’t enjoy waking up and looking out the window to see where you are.
What about the route – which one do you think is the most effective to get the full cruise experience?
Something simple is probably best, no more than a week, maybe a few days. I wouldn’t think it would be the best idea booking a world cruise for your first time, or flying to the other side of the world as you might find you hate it!
A lot of people still believe that cruising is for the older person – do you think this is still the case?
I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t mainly the older generation. But it really depends on what company and what time of year. Go in the summer holidays on most cruise companies and you can guarantee it will be full of families. Go on a Carnival or Royal Caribbean Cruises ship, and it will be full of families.
For anyone who wants to give cruising a go what advice would you give them?
Find a shortish cruise, ideally 7 nights or slightly less, and book yourself a cabin with a window or balcony to give yourself the best chance of seeing if you enjoy it. Also find and talk to seasoned cruises and experienced travel agents who will be able to guide you to find a company and ship suited to your desires.
If people are worried about getting sea sickness what advice would you give them to handle it?
Being on a large ship compared to a small 20m boat is a completely different kettle of fish, so even if you turned green round the gills on a school trip thirty years ago, you’ll probably find that you’re fine on even the smallest cruise ship around.
If you’re worried about getting seasick certainly take some sea sickness pills with you; leave it until you’re onboard and it will cost you as all medical assistance and drugs onboard ship need to be paid for.
Another strategy would be to pick a cruise unlikely to see bad weather – the Caribbean for example or Mediterranean will be calmer than venturing anywhere out into the Atlantic, particularly in mid-winter! :-s
What sort of jobs did you do on the ships and what one did you enjoy the most?
I spent half my time watchkeeping on the bridge, and half of it roaming the decks inspecting safety and lifesaving equipment. During arrivals and departures I would sometimes be in charge of one of the mooring decks, therefore responsible for the safety of those on the deck whilst we moored or un-moored the vessel. Being somewhat practical in nature this was a task I really relished during my times onboard!
“…I’d say uniquely it provides a constant environment in which to see different countries and cities. It’s your nice comfy hotel that moves round with you…” – Dan
What advice would you give people about getting the most out of “on board life”?
Always check the paperwork that gets delivered to your cabin daily, it’s not all trying to sell your jewellery and art (yes, you can buy yourself a painting onboard too!). It will list all the activities going on throughout the ship over the next 24 hours; from origami, to quizzes, Pilates, or swimming competitions.
Finally in three words why should people go on cruise holidays?
Safety, Food, Entertainment.