How I Can Afford To Travel!

My most REVEALING post to date! If you've been wondering how the hell I've been able to last traveling this long, well here it is! All secrets are out in the open! This post tells you how I do it, and how YOU can do it too!

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Working On A Cruise Ship

I somehow managed to get myself a job working at a Cruise Ship. This post is an inside look on what it's really like to live and work below deck. You never know... You might be enticed to work for one too, and travel the whole world like me! Read on to find out more...

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Scotland: My Favorite Country In The World

I've been to many places in several different continents, and have seen spectacular beauty... But every time I visit Scotland, every other country pales in comparison. Read this post to find out why at this point, Scotland was and still is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on Earth...

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On Finding My Bliss In Italy

When you go on big trips like this, however cheesy it sounds, you always do end up 'finding yourself'. And there are moments... difinitive moments when you achieve clarity, contentment, and pure happiness. This all happened to me in Italy. Read my most soulful post to date, inspired by the full moon in Italia...

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On Being Featured In A Documentary

I somehow managed to get myself featured in an upcoming documentary about "Voluntourism". This may be the big break I've been waiting for! The trailer is out - and I'm in it! It looks so good, I'm so excited! See for yourself... watch it here!

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An Epiphany At Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy. We hiked 5 villages in one day, and it was breathtaking! But something completely unexpected happened on the hike... An encounter with a complete stranger made me realize possibly one of the most important things I need to do with my life...

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My Ayahuasca Experience

Ayahuasca, is by far, the most INTENSE thing I have ever experienced in my life. I died and was reborn. It is both horrific and beautiful at the same time... I can't explain it in a few words. You HAVE to read my story to believe... I promise it will be worth your while...

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

WOW Air: An Honest Review


There are a LOT of mixed reviews about the airline, WOW Air, since they started their low cost flights from the USA to Iceland and Europe (mostly negative). At first glance, their prices are insanely cheap compared to other carriers... but really, because it's a very 'bare bones' type of airline, you end up having to pay for everything from carry on luggage, to even freakin' water in the flight.

Whenever I fly to Europe from my home base, Los Angeles, my go-to airline has always been Norwegian Air. They're cheap, comfortable, the planes are beautiful, and I've had only good experiences flying with them.

This time, though - for research and blogging purposes, I decided to book my flight with WOW to see what all the fuss is all about. Is it really as bad as people make it out to be, or is it just a 'you get what you pay for' kind of deal?

MY BOOKING


I booked a one way ticket to London from Los Angeles this November. Now - because I was booking my flight a little later than I usually do, the prices of all the airlines were significantly higher than they were a couple months prior. The cheapest rate in USD for a one way flight that I saw was $229. It was about $100 cheaper than Norwegian Air at the time... but Norwegian has a direct flight, WOW has a brief layover in Iceland. (If I had booked earlier, the prices would have been as low as $180)

Eh. I was committed. I was gonna fly with WOW even if I preferred flying direct with Norwegian. I really want to see and experience it for myself.

Once you go through the booking process online, that's when you start seeing all the costs that pile up on top of the base fare.

The flight ticket allows you to bring a very small personal item at 17x13x10 inches. If you are to bring anything bigger than that, you will be required to pay for a carry on item for $39.99 at 22x18x10.

See that backpack that I'm carrying? You can carry something like that for free. That's basically the biggest it can get if you don't want to pay for carry on luggage. 

As you can see from the photos above, my backpack barely made it. If you want to carry something bigger, you'll have to pay extra.

FYI - this cost is for the LA to London flight, and the cost AT BOOKING. Other flights to different locations may differ, and the prices hike up significantly if you pay for your luggage upon check in.

I had one check in luggage - which was my trusty backpack. Check in luggage cost $59.99 at 44lbs/20kg.

Seat assignments cost money too. If you want to choose your seat - you have to pay $10.99 for a standard seat in the back, and $11.99 for a standard seat in the front. It's free if you want them to select your seat at random - but will be a little difficult if you are traveling with someone because you will definitely be separated.

If you add all that up (and if you select a standard seat in the back), that's an additional $110.97 on top of the flight ticket. And remember - there is no food included here.

Since I was traveling with someone, I decided to purchase the WOW PLUS option, which gives you everything I have just outlined above as a package.

My total cost for the one way flight from LA to London was $319.05. 
Would have paid around $20 more if I didn't do the WOW PLUS Package.

THE PREPARATION

We were going to be on a 9 hour straight flight to Iceland, with a 2 hour layover, and then a 3 hour flight to London... at an airline that didn't give you any water, food, or entertainment. Like I said, bare bones. (Well, they DO give you food and drinks... in exchange for money. Lots of money. Me no likey.)

And because I am who I am, and I saw this as a challenge - I went through great lengths to make sure we were well equipped for this trip!

I PACKED FOOD!


We had spinach pie with a side of sour cream, hummus and crackers, a huge bag of trail mix, a ziplock bag of chocolates and sweets, a bag of mixed dried berries, and two full containers of water (we filled it up after security check). We also made sure we ate a lot before we flew, bought some extra sandwiches at the airport as well.

They also do not provide pillows and blankets! And so I brought my own blankie!


This is actually a scarf - I call it my blanket poncho scarf. It's multipurpose. I LOVE it.

They do not provide entertainment on board - no mini TV's on your seat, not even big ones for people to watch collectively...
And so I thought - what could I do to occupy myself for a 9 hour journey?
Easy! I learned how to knit!



About a week before we flew - I took to Youtube tutorials on "how to knit a scarf for beginners", bought some yarn and needles - and voila! I am Martha Stewart in the making! (I'm really not. I'm shit at this... but it's so much fun! I have found a new hobby!)

I also downloaded "How to Get Away With Murder" on my iPad (a show I haven't seen, but came highly recommended), just in case the knitting got too boring.



THE FLIGHT

I thought the plane ride was super smooth. The seats actually felt like they were more spacious than what I've been used to on other airlines! I had a lot of leg room- almost like I was on the exit row!


As you can see... my legs are pretty stretched out (pardon my sandwiches!)

The crew were great! They were super friendly, and I have to say - good looking! (No, sorry I don't have any photos. I was already THAT girl, with a freaking picnic basket of food, knitting needles and a weird poncho. I didn't want to be labeled 'the stalker' either.)


The reviews I've read prior were right. They do not serve anything for free... Not even water, coffee or tea. But they are available if you want to buy them. I took the liberty of taking a photo of their beverage menu here to see for yourself...


How about that Icelandic Water for $3.29? :)


Anyway... the knitting was a success, we got through our episodes pretty well... And before we knew it - we were making our descent to Iceland! (They say it's a 9 hour flight, but it's actually more like 7).

The layover in Iceland was short and sweet, and I thoroughly enjoyed the airport bathroom with individual cubicles that felt bigger than my old cabin on the Cruise Ship! And check out this sink!


Little things make me happy.

SUPER HAPPY FACE!

IN CONCLUSION

The short layover was a nice break from the long uneventful flight... and before we knew it, we were on our way to London.

I have to say that the experience with Wow Air was very pleasant -- Mostly because we were prepared for it. The key is to manage your expectations.

I know I can't say the same for a few people ahead of us at the check in counter... They didn't know that there were size restrictions to the carry on luggage, and were outraged when they were informed they had to pay extra.

I also heard a few complaints on the plane from people who didn't realize they had to pay for water or snacks. I know I probably would have reacted the same hadn't I known or done my research beforehand.

The thing is, most of the time, if it's too good to be true, it probably is. For Wow Airlines, you DO get what you pay for... Or rather - you DON'T get what you don't pay for. In this case, the airline literally just flies you from your location to your destination. That's it. And considering the cost of the competition, it's not that bad.

You really just have to know what you're getting into... If you prepare like I did, by bringing your own food, water, and entertainment (or arts and crafts), and if you abide by their guidelines, you'll be fine.

But if you can't be bothered to do any of that - then this airline is probably not for you.

Would I fly with WOW again? If the price is right - most definitely! :)

Did this review help? Have you flown with, or planning to fly with Wow Airlines? What was your experience? Leave your comments below! I would love to hear from you!


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Earth2Eartha's Travel Hacks: Nifty Tips for the Practical Traveler




While I was still working for the ship, I held a series of talks for the crew, called, "Travel Talks with Eartha". It was a mini event arranged by our Crew Enrichment Director, open to anyone who's ever wanted to learn about how to travel smart, and on a budget, straight from a professional cheapskate like me.



I didn't expect the turnout to be as great as they were, that I actually had to do the events a few times to accommodate everyone that wanted to participate and learn. 

It was also really great to be able to share my story with everyone... Letting them know about alternative ways to travel, and getting out of their comfort zones.

I figured, since people were interested in the little tips and tricks I had to share, as well as the things I did on my travels that helped me stretch my dollar, I may as well write a post about it!

So to those of you on the ship who missed my talk, and to anyone else who's interested in the knowledge I've gained over the years of traveling, I bring you:


Earth2Eartha's Travel Hacks! Nifty Tips For The Practical Traveler!



ON BOOKING YOUR FLIGHTS


Google Flights

...is a revelation. It is my go-to website for looking at the cheapest flights available. It gives you a snapshot of the cheapest days to fly in a month, therefore giving you the best option, money-wise! I don't know about you - but I almost ALWAYS base my travel plans around the cheapest days.




For instance - above is a snapshot of the monthly/daily price comparisons of a one way flight out of LAX going to London (my usual destination). If you look at the month of December - it already highlights the cheapest days to fly out of the month. You may not see it, but December 5 and 6 are the cheapest at $180.

If, for instance, like me, you don't usually have a solid destination yet, but are flexible enough depending on the cost of the ticket to get there, Google also has this "Explore" feature that gives you an idea of price comparison per country/destination, coming from your home airport.

For example - On December 5, if I'm not satisfied with a $180 one way ticket to London, I can just type "Europe" as my destination, and this is what Google will show me:



It has all of the cheapest flights to all of those countries on the day that you pick, to give you an idea of cost.

Which brings me to my next point.

If You Want to Fly To Europe - Fly to London!

Not a lot of people know this, but flights to London from the US are usually very cheap (if you live in a big city). It is, in fact - the cheapest flight you can take to get out of the country to get to Europe (As I have illustrated in my previous example, prices start at $180 for December... And the flight I booked earlier this year only cost me $160 coming out of LAX)

Norwegian Airlines and Wow Air are two of the most affordable airlines at the moment. They are both International budget airlines, the latter of which came out more recently and is cheaper, but always has a stopover in Iceland. I, for one, am a very big fan of Norwegian Airlines because of their direct flights to London, and I've been flying with them for years! But on my upcoming trip this November, out of sheer curiosity (and blogging purposes), I decided to test out Wow Air to experience it for myself. (Watch this space for a review!)


When you get to London, the flights out of there to mostly anywhere in Europe is very cheap!

For instance, last year, I knew I wanted to go to Croatia. Instead of flying straight from LAX to Zadar and spend a little over $1000, I flew to London first, then took a flight out of there instead, thereby saving me about $500! Hurrah!


Set Up Price Alerts


Websites like Hopper and Airfare Watchdog notify you when the prices for the flights you are watching out for, drop! You can give them an estimated time - perhaps the week you'd like to travel, and where... And they will send you alerts when the prices go low!

Hopper in particular lets you know whether or not the prices are expected to rise after a certain date, and will give you solid advice by saying - "This is probably the lowest it will be, and so I'd book this now."


Airline Email Feeds and Frequent Flyer

A lot of airlines send you emails regarding "Flash Sales" or Promo's that Google Flights won't be able to show you (JetBlue, Southwest and United are examples). Signing up for ALL of the frequent flyer programs of any airline that you fly with is a good idea, too! Any trip that you take without accumulating some sort of miles is money wasted. 



Using Websites For Multi-Destination Travel

If you are planning to travel to a lot of destinations for a significant amount of time (6 weeks to a few months, maybe?) and you already know the countries/cities/places you'd like to visit - it may be worth it to use websites like AirTreks or BootsnAll. They make round the world or multi destination travel easier and simpler.

I used AirTreks on the first leg of my Round The World Trip where I traveled to about 7 or 8 cities in the span of 7 weeks. I find that it is best to call them to talk to an agent. They work with you regarding your dates and your destinations, and they give you all of the cheapest/practical options - considering not only price factors, but flight times and layovers as well.

I saved a LOT of money using their service, and they saved me a lot of time and effort figuring all of that stuff out myself.


DELETE Cookies!


A lot of the travel websites use your search history against you, and when booking flights - sometimes raise the prices based on your flight searches. "Cookie Tracking" is for realz. This has happened to me several times, (my laptop showed a significantly higher price on a flight than my friend's mobile device --- I did an experiment!) and so I have often made it a habit to delete cookies (or go on incognito mode!)and delete history on my phone and laptop!


Stopover Programs

There are several airlines that offer free stopovers - so that instead of waiting for a connecting flight, you are able to explore that city for a few days at no extra charge!

For instance, if you booked a flight to go to London via Icelandair or Wow, they will always have a layover in Reykjavik. Since you're already there - they will give you the option to "stopover" to explore Iceland for a few days, free of charge! And you can just hop on the flight over to London a few days later. 





The Airlines that I know of who offer Free Stopovers are:

Icelandair, Wow, Etihad, Hawaiian Air, Thai Air, Copa, Turkish Air, KLM, Air Canada, TAP Portugal and Finnair.


ON BOARD AND LODGING

Rather than staying at a hotel (which I am notoriously known to avoid), I have explored all other options, including the following:


  • Staying with Friends and Family

    • It really pays to know people all over the world! Be nice to everyone and you will be rewarded tenfold! :)

    • This is the option that raises a LOT of eyebrows, but I have had some amazing experiences (and one bad one) and met SO many interesting people through this website. The house or couch that you'll be staying in may be a hit or miss - so you'll have to be prepared for this, but the experience itself (because of the people you meet) is rewarding. Plus - it's absolutely free!
This is the home of one of my Couchsurfing hosts in New Zealand!

    • When I was traveling by myself - I LOVED staying at Hostels. It's a great way to meet people, it's cheap, and it's always so much fun. I always made friends, staying at hostels... and some of my most exciting adventures while traveling happened with people that I've met at a hostel! Could be a roommate, or the staff, or just random people that I've met at the common area! There's a common misconception about hostels being really nasty --- but that's where your researching efforts come in! I myself only book hostels with raving reviews on Tripadvisor or Hostelworld... All you need to do is make a little effort.
One of the best hostels I've stayed in - Home in Lisbon, Portugal

    • Probably my favorite thing ever! It's a cheaper alternative to a hotel, it's has a very homely touch, you can choose to either be in a private home all to yourself, or book a room in a house and interact (as much or as less as you want) with the hosts and or other guests, you get a local/inside scoop on the city you are visiting - from a local's perspective, I mean - it's everything. (Airbnb, if you're reading this... would you hire me?)
This is one of my favorite Airbnb houses - Location: Bruges, Belgium


PACKING HACKS

First of all - do not over pack. Whatever you think you'll need, you'll most likely only use half of those... What I do is I lay out all the clothes and things I want to bring, and then once I think I have everything, I toss half of them back into my closet and stick to whatever I have. I've gotten so good at being an "underpacker", but even then, there are a few articles of clothing that I think I could have done without on previous trips!

  • Use a BACKPACK

    • It's easier than lugging a wheeled luggage around - especially in Europe.
      COBBLESTONES.

  • Use Packing Cubes

    • They keep things nice and organized

  • Use Vacuum Sealed Packs

    • They really REALLY give you a lot more space. And if you don't have a vacuum cleaner, it's okay... you can roll the air out of it manually!

  • Use Compression Sacks

    • Similar to a vacuum pack, only round, and squishes everything into a small ball.

  • Roll. Don't Fold.

    • You save a lot more space this way

  • Dryer Sheets

    • I leave a few sheets in my backpack to keep things laundry fresh!




VOLUNTOURISM (WORK EXCHANGE)

I call this my secret weapon. If you have at least a few weeks of vacation time and want to experience an alternative way of traveling, consider Volunteering via websites like WorkAway, HelpExchange, or WWOOFING.

You can work for a few hours a day in the location of your choosing, in exchange for board & lodging and food. I've written about my experiences on several of my blog posts. You can check them out here.


You don't get paid - but you're not shelling out any cash either. What you get in return is a wealth of experience and a big wad of fun! You get immersed in the culture, you learn first hand about their language, their food (my favorite bit!) and the way they live. Way more than what you would get from a random excursion, or from a guide book. My experiences voluntouring are some of the most memorable and unforgettable I have ever had. 


ON EARNING SOME MONEY FOR/WHILE TRAVELING

The key to making some money on the road (if you need it, or if you are traveling that long) is to USE YOUR SKILLS. Some of the things you can do - that I have seen other people do to earn a little bit of cash on the road are the following:


  • Street Performing

    • Are you a musician? Do you know how to play an instrument? Do you have rhythm? Use it! Throw down a hat and play for some cash on the streets. I have done this once myself, and in a country where no one knows who you are - It's a lot of fun!

  • Sell Handmade Goods

    • I've encountered a lot of people on the road who sell handmade jewelry, hair ornaments, etc! I have recently taken up knitting, and I fully intend to use my new found skills to use one day!

  • Bartend 

    • You'd be surprised, but a lot of hostels, and bars/restaurants hire skilled bartenders and pay them under the table.

  • Teach English

    • I have taught English (without a TOEFL certification) in Brazil, was paid cash, and was able to make a living and survive! I have a training background that helped me out - but honestly, what really got me hired was my American Accent. Brazil is not the only country that hires foreigners to teach English, either! And if you want to do it the legal way, well - I hear China, Japan, Korea and Prague are in need of English Teachers right now. It's a pretty good gig!

  • Seasonal Work

    • Check out websites like Cool Works to learn about seasonal employment. Get hired to work at a resort for 4 months, earn some cash, have fun, get some experience... and at the same time - explore the city/town/country that you're in on your days off! (This is exactly what I'm about to do this winter in Alaska!)

  • Cruise Ship Work

    • Ok - I know I just quit this job. But even if it's not for me anymore, doesn't mean it can't work out for you! Everything is paid for while you're working at the ship. You get to save all the money that you earn... And if you're lucky, you get assigned to a ship that goes to your dream destination, like Australia or The Baltics, or Western Europe! Then you go on vacation for months at a time --- and if you want to keep traveling, you can!

  • Work Online

    • Everyone is a digital nomad nowadays! Try to check out websites like Upwork or FlexJobs for online work! You can get a part time or full time gig, depending on the hours that you can give. There are also a lot of online English Classes that you can do (VIP Kid or 51Talk are a couple examples), and the hours are very flexible! The sky is the limit!


And there you have it! These are some of the things I've learned along the way that I thought maybe could help anyone who's interested in practical travel! I hope this helps get your foot out the door!

What are your own personal travel hacks? Please share by posting in the comments section below. :)




Thursday, October 26, 2017

On The End Of An Era And The Start Of Something New




ALOHA!!!

Yes - That's me coming out of a pit! I have come back from the dead (It's almost Halloween after all), stretched my chubby little fingers, and decided to start writing again!  

I know... I know... I realize that with  more than a year of being on hiatus, I may have lost most, if not all of my readers. I also am not amiss to the fact that I would almost have to start over, to gain everyone's interest again - and I'm fine with that. It's my fault I stopped writing :(

However, I am back - and I'm hoping that with the recent changes in my circumstances, I will be able to continue writing as I have in the past. I have missed my blog... a lot. So much so that in the last year, I've been going through my old posts, feeling like I'm reading about the life of someone else. 
(*tear*... Who is this Eartha person?? I want to be her frieeeennddd... Waaaaah!)

LOST AT SEA


Okay, let's go back, shall we?

When you all lost me, I was working at the Cruise Ship, as most of you may remember.


In this job, and everything that came with it (i.e. rules and regulations, stress, toxicity, lack of sunlight, lack of time, etc) I feel that I may have lost myself a little bit. 


Everyone has this glamorous (and fun) impression of #cruiseshiplife -- and for a lot of younger folks, it actually *is* a pretty cool career. (I've even written about what it's REALLY like to work for a ship here.


I mean, I can't blame people for thinking that, really... Because all I do is post photos of myself riding dolphins and turtles all day.




However, regardless of how fun it was exploiting those awesome animals, my position held a lot of responsibility. And with responsibility, came a lot of stress. There is also something very peculiar about the ship I was working for, that made me feel like there was a Dementor, hovering above me all the time... sucking my soul out, little by little. 



And what did I do to make myself feel better? 
Like a true Harry Potter fan, I ate chocolate. 

(And other junk...like bacon...and...and... I really don't want to talk about it.)


And so for years, I was stressed out, my soul was being sucked out by a (fictional) invisible hooded shadowy thing, and I was gaining a crap ton of weight.


Your common sense really has a tendency to emerge in moments of extreme clarity... (and for me, it was the 3rd time my button popped out of my uniform, combined with a twitching left eye and a migraine that wouldn't go away) After that, it didn't take a lot of time for me to realize that the job wasn't for me anymore. I definitely wasn't happy. 


I realize I'm making it seem like the job is godawful - and it's really not. I had a lot of fun, too... (i.e. LipSync Battle) But I've outgrown the job and the position in so many ways... And I think what it really was, was that I was constantly missing the ME that I have come to be when I was out there, traveling the world. I was carefree, inspired, apeshit happy - and - I can't believe I'm actually going to say this, but - incredibly fit! Yes. I was sssmokin' hot!!!

I didn't think so back then (which is a stupid shame), but compared to my current Michelin Man womanly figure, I was rockin' a pretty great and healthy body back then without even trying! 


Earth2Eartha got lost... (at sea.)


But the job/career/lifestyle of working at the ship served me pretty well, too, because I got to travel a lot during my vacations... And if I'm being completely honest, I think that was the reason why I held on for so long. The fringe benefits of the job outweighed the misery of actually working my job.


Anytime I thought about quitting, I thought to myself - where else could I find a career that allows me 4 months of paid vacation in a year? And so I stuck it out...

But then I started rationalizing the quality of life that I was sacrificing 8 months out of the year. If I was in complete misery for 2/3 of my life - does that even make anything worth it anymore?

And the answer is no


So after a long internal deliberation, I finally decided to exercise my freedom of choice, to take myself OUT of a situation that didn't make me happy anymore. I chose to be responsible for my life and my happiness (like we all ought to). I put my foot down, and in true Earth2Eartha fashion, decided to take yet another leap of faith.





Last May, I turned in my notice, gave them a few months to figure out what to do about my replacement, and on October 14th, 2017 - I said goodbye to the ship (and Hawaii) one last time.


Read: I'm FREEEEEE!!!!


INTO THE WILD


When I decided I was done and I wanted to resign, I didn't have a plan. It truly would have been the first time I decided to leave a job without some kind of fallback. When I quit to travel the world in 2013 - the plan WAS to travel the world. This time, I had nothing. All I knew was that I was done - and knowing I didn't want to do it anymore was enough for me. But because the Universe is kind, and she knew that I was on the path to following my heart once again, an opportunity manifested!

And so come this winter, I will be working at a Ski Resort in ALASKA!





Is that a plot twist or what?

That's right. I'm going from Hawaii to Alaska. I'm trading volcanoes for glaciers... wild chicken for wild bears... and rainbows for --- wait for it --- Aurora Borealis. ;)


Well, it is a SEASONAL employment, so I'm only going to be working there from December to April. In essence, this job just buys me the time that I need to figure stuff out. I'll be working at the front desk in Guest Services, living at their employee housing facility across the street (in an apartment with a living room and a kitchen), with two days off. I know this sounds completely mundane to the normal - but this is freaking AWESOME for a former cruise ship worker! For someone who used to work 7 days a week, stuck in a tiny room in a ship and hardly ever got out, this sounds like a dream already! :)


I admit. I probably could have chosen a more enticing snowy photo. But there it is.

Why all the way North, you ask? Let's see... I've spent the last 3 years in the scorching heat, gallivanting around the Caribbean and Hawaii, donning flip flops and a tank top. If I'm looking for a bit of a change... I think the question should be - Why the heck not Alaska? :)




Earth2Eartha Resurrected

Now that I have a lot of time in my hands - I actually might be able to do this again on a regular basis! Like I said - I've traveled a lot on vacation and I never got to share any of those trips... and I've gone to some really amazing places. I'm getting ready to go on a few trips in the near future, too... So I'll keep you posted ;)

I fully intend to share a lot of the past trips I've taken, as well as keep everyone in the know on the adventures up North in the blistering cold. 


But for now, I leave you with this beautiful quote from Bill Haley and His Comets...

"See you later, alligator...

    After while, crocodile..."





Thursday, June 29, 2017

On What It’s Really Like to Work for a Cruise Ship


I’ve been asked this question a lot lately. And although working for this industry for the past couple years doesn’t necessarily make me an expert, I think I may be credible enough to shed some light on this very mysterious and elusive career.
See – the problem is that quite a few people probably have a very misguided idea of what working on a cruise ship is like. Some think it's glamorous - for good reason. The ships are beautiful… they travel to all these exotic places… there’s constant booze and entertainment… overflowing with delicious food… Which is all true.

For the guests.

Not for the crew.

On the other hand, some of you may have the misconception that crew members are treated like slaves in a floating prison. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration too.

It's a little better than prison.

So please allow me to set things straight – both for the curious cats who are interested, and also for my fellow crew members who are wrongly perceived. It’s time they found out the truth.



Let’s Start With…


THE PROS


1. THE VACATION.
 



Truly, for me, the best part about working for a cruise ship is THE VACATION. If you are living in the United States – you only get about 2 weeks of paid vacation per year. With tenure, some lucky folks get to accumulate more the longer they stay with the company. Still doesn’t beat this though.

My rotation is 4 months on, 2 months off. Which means I get about 4 months of vacation total per year. The majority of the crew members on my  current ship work 5 months on, with a 5 week vacation right after.

But I have to admit, my ship is a little different from the rest.

The crew members on the other ships usually work 6-9 months on, 2 – 3 months off.
Still not bad, right?

2. YOU GET TO SAVE MONEY --- If you’re smart.

When you’re at the ship, everything is paid for. Food, lodging, laundry, EVERYTHING. I can technically go for a full contract without spending a dime.

I do not have an apartment or a mortgage. Sold my car before I did my round theworld backpacking adventure. I don’t have any utility bills or insurances that I need to worry about. Nada.

So for me, this set-up is ideal. That even if the salary is lower than my previous corporate job, my take-away or my “cash on hand” is either even, or a little higher because I am factoring out the bills I used to have to pay.

If you are in the Philippines, or somewhere in South East Asia, or Eastern Europe, or South America, or the Caribbean– the salary is even better because you earn in US Dollars, not in your currency. Great opportunity to save and send money home to your families and loved ones. 

Now – if you are American, and you still have a mortgage, or an apartment, or bills to pay, and nothing changes in your lifestyle, and you decided to work on the ship --- this may not be the job for you if your sole purpose is to try to save some money. I would whip out a calculator and make a huge analysis before I take this job. Some positions make this worth it though… say if you were a higher ranking officer or a manager. Otherwise, I would think and calculate.

3. IT IS DIVERSE 




It is seriously a United Colors of Benetton advertisement, when you are sitting at the crew mess having dinner with a dude from Jamaica, a chick from Peru, a guy from South Africa, and a nice lady from Nepal. These companies take on crew members that hail from all over the world, and it’s really super fun to get to meet all these people and learn about their cultures.


 When I just got started and I was working on one of our International ships, meeting people from all over the world was definitely one of my favorite things about the job --- it made me feel like I hadn’t stopped traveling. 



My current ship is sort of unique in that we are the only US Flag ship in the world, so by law, we are required to have about 75% American workers, and 25% International.

But… it’s still fun… you know… getting to know someone from… uh… Delaware…




Shenanigans at the Crew Bar

4. YOU GET TO TRAVEL

And I mean this in 2 ways.

1st – If you get assigned to a ship that has an amazing itinerary, then it’s a win-win! Some of our ships go to Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and pretty soon – China. You may as well toss out your piggy bank because there’s no way in hell you’ll be able to save money if your itinerary is any of the above. How can you resist NOT seeing those places if your ship takes you there? You have to take advantage of the opportunity – I mean I would. I took this job so I could continue to travel! And being assigned to see those places is a dream.
My first ship took me to the Caribbean - and I hadn't seen any of those places before, so --- score!
This was in Cozumel, Mexico


I think this may have been Costa Maya or Roatan in the Honduras. I can't even remember anymore.


2nd – If you get assigned to a ship that has an itinerary that you don’t really care for, then you can save up the money you earn and travel during your 2 month vacation! Which is exactly what I do!

I am permanently assigned to our Hawaiian ship, and it’s pretty spectacular! But if you’re there year round, you can hardly consider that traveling anymore, especially if you look like a local. So after my 4 month contract, off to wherever-else-I-haven’t-been-to I go!


Beautiful photo I took of the Napali Coast in Hawaii

THE CONS


1. YOU WORK 7 DAYS A WEEK – NO DAYS OFF.


I’m not kidding. This is basically a 24/7 job. No rest for the wicked, type.  On average, a crew member works about 10 hour days, 7 days a week. You’d think it’s all fun and games, but it’s really not. It’s hard work.

In fact, some days, I find myself staring into the ceiling of my small cabin, wishing for at least one day off - out of my 4 months. I was wishing for 1 day out of 4 months!!! And my contract isn’t even that long. The other crew members who are working 8 – 9 months are probably wanting to throw their shoe at me right now.
It’s a lifestyle that you have to get used to. No weekends. No “Happy Friday’s”. Those don’t mean squat.



2. LIVING ARRANGEMENTS – Dorm style.
Like in college, only worse.

It’s not going to be easy for most to have to adjust to living with 3 or 4 other people in a small confined space, especially if one has never lived with other people before.
Because of the position that I am in, I am one of the more fortunate ones who get to enjoy the privilege of having a solo cabin. It’s small – but it never really bothered me as long as I was by myself.
This is my current cabin. And that's Falcor, my dog.

 The majority of the other crew members live with 2 to 3 other people in a very small living space, and that could be a major issue for some people. If you are lucky, you get roomed with people who are fun and you actually get along with. This is the dream. 

Essentially, this is what a (contraband) Cabin Party looks like, in a normal Crew Cabin :) It's nice and snug.

If not… If you get roomed with someone weird, or messy, or OCD, or someone who is downright crazy --- then, good luck.

A friend of mine said she woke up in the middle of the night to her roommate staring at her. Naked.

This story gave me nightmares for weeks.

3. CABIN FEVER

Sometimes you're too busy, and you have a crap schedule, that you don't really have time to get off the ship. And sometimes because you're so busy, that even if you do, you'd rather sleep. Living and working and eating and breathing inside the ship can make one go a little crazy if one doesn't take care of one's self. You don't really have the luxury of driving out to a pub to meet up with your friends after a hard day's work. All you have is the crew bar. And you have to watch your alcohol intake, because cruise ships have a very strict alcohol policy (Your BAC can't go over .04). 

Let's see... What were my favorite things to do on land after work, that I couldn't really do while I'm on the ship:
  • Grocery Shop and then Cook
  • Go and watch a movie
  • Happy Hour Thursdays with my friends
  • Happy Hour any day with my my friends
  • Boxing & Muay Thai 
  • Watch a concert/show
  • Go have a picnic in a park
Yeah. I miss all of that. But at least I don't do the dishes. And I don't do my own laundry.
Silver lining!

4. MISSING YOUR LOVES

It's definitely difficult being away from your loved ones. I have a relationship with my phone, which is reliant on WiFi on the ship that is expensive, even for crew. I've seen my little nephew grow up via photo messages and video chats. I can't even imagine how much harder it is for crew members who have families and kids back home, being gone for months at a time. It's definitely a sacrifice.


Look at that CUTIE!!!

IN CONCLUSION


This job is not for everyone. It's a lifestyle choice, and it either suits you or it doesn't. Having said that - I really do think that the experience of working at the cruise ship is what you make of it. I know a lot of people who have made a lifetime career out of it, that allowed them to pay off debt, buy a house, and send their kids to college... not to mention, travel the whole world!

I also know people who quit after working for a day. Claustrophobia or something. And good for them... better quit earlier than endure something you clearly don't like. 

As for me -- at the moment, it works. I think at the beginning I resisted the idea. I thought I was only going to do one contract... and now I'm on my fourth. Time flies...

I don't know how long I'm going to be able to do this, but I'll stay as long as it works for me and my chosen lifestyle.

My first instinct on my first few days on the ship was to quit. So I went from hating it... To tolerating it... to appreciating it... to -- now, not thinking it's so bad after all. I focus on the perks... The reasons why it's great... I focus on the PROS.

Besides... once you've gotten used to the long hours, the 70 hour work weeks, the cabin fever and the sea sickness... Working at the ship can actually be a lot of fun.

Well, I... at least make my own fun. ;)







Have you worked for a cruise ship? Are you interested in working for my ship? Leave me a comment below and I'll help you get started!