Well, where do I start? Let’s start with my itinerary for this week. This week, (week commencing Sat 4 August 2012), I am doing the Eastern Caribbean cruise setting sail from Port Canaveral, the homeport of the Disney Fantasy. My itinerary for the week looks something like this.
- Saturday – depart Port Canaveral
- Sunday – At Sea
- Monday – At Sea
- Tuesday – St Maarten
- Wednesday – St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
- Thursday – At Sea
- Friday – Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahama’s)
I actually did this cruise last week. We were meant to be doing the Western Caribbean cruise this week, however due to a tropical storm and the fact that it is the hurricane season, the Captain decided that it would not be safe to sail to the Western Caribbean. Normally the itinerary changes each week, one week is the Eastern Caribbean, the following week it is the Western Caribbean, however due to the adverse weather conditions, it means that I will be repeating the same cruise for three weeks running. It is more than a little ironic that having endured three months solid rain and appalling weather in the UK before I left, I arrive in the Caribbean only to find it’s raining and it’s the hurricane season! There was me with visions of lying bikini clad on some exotic Caribbean beach drinking coconut water (instead of my usual chlorophyll), only to find myself in St Maarteen with my raincoat on sipping tea in one of the beach cafes. It was just like being in Swanage on a rainy grey day in England, except for the designer shops and warmer temperature. To add insult to injury, one of the locals even tried to sell me an umbrella. I wouldn’t mind but I left two perfectly good umbrella’s behind in the UK and I really don’t need or even want a third! Enough about the weather, I am being far too British suffice to say I do hope you are enjoying a dry spell in UK for the Olympics.
So, I have now completed two whole weeks on board the Disney Fantasy and am now into my third week cruising. I have to say that the first week on board was quite a ‘rude awakening’ and not just because of the early starts in the mornings. The day I embarked, Saturday 21 July, I had to be up at 4 am to be on the crew bus for a 5 am departure to get to Port Canaveral (PC). I arrived at PC around 7.30 am and boarded the ship after going through lots of security checks, including sniffer dogs. Once on board, I spent most of the day in training, being shown around the ship and going over safety procedures. I was with a class of new recruits of various different nationalities – Russian, Serbian, Croatian, Indian, Philippino, American, Venezuelan, South African, Honduran, not to mention one other Brit, Geoffrey, a photographer. We were to spend the next week all together being ‘Disneyfied’ and I don’t mean dressing up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse! The Disney training covered everything from cultural awareness, passenger ship safety training, an engineering tour (the Chief Engineer is called Gareth from Wales), life raft training, environmentality, child protection awareness, delivering exceptional guest service, elementary first aid, a medicine check and security awareness. We even had a personal address from the Captain himself. In between all this training, I was also working in the Spa undertaking my first acupuncture appointments and getting to grips with the computerised appointment system, not to mention the spa accounting system and all the end of the day paperwork (yet more paperwork/admin, thought I had left this all behind, no such luck). To say the first week on board was overwhelming would be an understatement. I ‘endured’ rather than ‘enjoyed’ it. I was exceedingly tired and not ashamed to confess that I was more than a little bit tearful during that first uncertain week. The only saving grace was all the leaving cards I received before I left and had saved opening. I opened one card every evening upon arriving in the US and I was still opening cards up until last week. I can’t tell you how much they boosted my morale and I now have them proudly displayed on my ‘mantelpiece’. Thank you to all those of you for your cards and well wishes, it really did mean such a lot in those first few weeks. It didn’t really help my frame of mind in training seeing some of the safety videos of previous disasters at sea. Suddenly the very real fear of a fire on board or the threat of a sinking ship became very apparent and I found myself questioning myself “what am I doing here”. On reflection, I realise that this was the intention as it makes you take your safety responsibilities as a crew member more seriously and safety on board is the number one priority.
However, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer enormity of this ship – 14 decks high, the ship weighs a whopping 130,000 tons and is 340 meters long and 37 meters in breadth. The guest capacity is 4000 and the crew capacity is just under 1500. I spent most of my first week getting completely lost and asking for directions – I need a sat nav just to find my way around from aft to forward and port to starboard (just wanted to impress you with my nautical terminology really!). I am getting my bearings better now even though below the decks the crew area is like a huge underground rabbit warren. I am very fortunate that my cabin is on deck 10 (i.e. above sea level) and is at the front of the ship (forward) just along the corridor from the Captain’s office which is reassuring. My cabin is very comfortable and apparently, I am very privileged to be classed as an ‘Officer’ (with two and a half stripes – to put this into perspective the Captain has 5 stripes) so I have my own cabin as the majority of crew have to share. There are 808 crew cabins amongst 1500 crew. I have a comfortable double bed, television, sofa, desk, fridge, lots of cupboard and wardrobe space and my own bathroom with shower. The cabin itself is also relatively spacious. Also, as the ship was only launched on 31 March 2012, everything is brand new and I am only the second acupuncturist to use this cabin. It can be a little bit noisy at times with things going ‘bump in the night’ which I am getting used to, and the gentle undulation of the ship rocking is actually quite therapeutic when you are drifting off to sleep.
The overriding feeling on the ship is one of friendliness – I couldn’t have asked for a warmer reception and this is really all down to the Disney ‘family’ that I have now become a part of. At times, I have even felt like a bit of a celebrity as people stop me in my tracks, greet me by name (we all wear name tags) and say something along the lines of “welcome onboard, you must be the new acupuncturist.” Something tells me I must stick out like a sore thumb wearing my trendy white lab coat!
I know some of you have been asking me about a mailing address so if you do want the ship’s mailing address, please email me personally and I will let you know the address. That’s all from your ‘Officer’ for now so over and out!