Monday, 14 July 2014

Ship Life Continues...Work & Leisure

Phew, another whirlwind cruise of crazy shennaningas, hard work and fun! Time is flying here- im halfway through this contract already.. and though the pace is fast, and I can officially survive on only a few hours sleep when required to ensure work/life balance!! Not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing but I am doing everything I can… and having a blast between the serious nature of our work.

Another Ketchikan and visit to the Arctic Bar and Burger Queen delivery. Now I know I will talk about food and drinking a lot BUT all our ship food, though it passes for food. Its not fresh….its frozen, powdered and other unknown preservation methods!! So fresh food is a novelty and appreciated when we are  on land. Though I know this is first world in comparison to all those ppl in the world who have barely enough to eat. We are the lucky ones. The Arctic Bar is very Alaskan and its emblem is bears “doing it like they do on the discovery channel”! The Barmaid is a rough diamond…though is heavy handed on the pouring..not complaining when grey goose costs $5.00! She is rough n tumble with a harsh accent and great to chat to. She knows us well and its great to drop in to a place where there is someone familiar. There are so many strangers here… so familiarity is sometimes comforting.  Burger Queen is no franchise- its more a shack with a grill, but STILL hands down the BEST burgers I’ve ever eaten!! So we do burger runs…we order for our medical team mates who are on duty and run back deliver it and then run back to the bar…yes…I said run!! But it helps with morale and hungry tummies!! And it does help when there is an onshore ambulance on the pier picking someone up…because security see im medical…assume in there to help….let me queue jump and head to medical centre, they are under control. So I drop the burgers and leave back to the bar via  a different gangway!! He he!

So I also have a secondary duty now. Officers Wardroom (bar) Secretary. My role is to do admin, posters, thank-yous, event organization and I am BRILLIANT at delegation!! I must say my organizational skills, networking and poster making skills are developing FAST! So its our job to organize the schedule for every crusie what events will run, who will run them and the the logistical stuff too! So our first cruise with the new team and the feedback is we ROCK! It is easier when the president is an Aussie, vice pres is south African and me…so we know parties! Our first successful event was a martini and margarita night. We had two free drinks per paying member and it was busy and a hit. Seeing all the officers\staff out socializing, networking and relaxing was a hit. Although, there was one thing that had me in stitches of laughter because it was such  a ridiculous sight. So some of our officers are mature aged…it was odd seeing them with martinis and pina coladas! But funnier was the Italian officer contingent had gathered around one table and I look over and instead of the usual beer/wine/liquor they drink, its set with their martinis and pina coladas!!

The highlight of this cruise for me was our day out in Victoria Canada- we had  a long day there and kindly the senior nurse allowed me extra time off so I could stay off the ship all day. We all share extra time off the ship so we stay sane and it’s a team effort and shared equally which is really nice. So we got off the ship and with one of the cruise staff who knew a great local tapas bar headed there. Again OMG fresh amazing food. Live music and a glass of local wine. Then we knew in advance there was an international Jazz festival so took ourselves to the park. It was a balmy 25 degrees, and there was a nice green lawn inviting us to lay down, relax and enjoy the tunes. It was brilliant. The thing about these things is that it makes you again feel grounded and normal/human for the day and helps you recharge. Being on a ship is unique and working everyday can be taxing. But if you make the most of every moment you can to relax, see the world and do things you enjoy it makes it all worth it, and I’m so lucky I can do this! We stayed at the jazz festival for 5 hours, headed to a doughnut shop for “TEAM DONUTS” to take back to the ship, and then had dinner at an irish pub! I even drank an amazing cider called Sommersby….hope I can source that when I get home- pls keep an eye out for when I come home.

Onboard we medics also carry pagers all times, everywhere and if it goes off we answer and if called to work, we attend. Being always on call is tough to get used to for some. But we cannot let that stop us from going to events and doing social things- we just have to appreciate it can be interrupted and that’s how it is, we are here to work first. To put it in perspective in May there was only 1 day I worked less than 8 hours. Yes the whole of may! That’s how busy we can be. But we still find time to enjoy the glaciers, scenery and cruise life. Sometimes all it takes to remind you how amazing this job is seeing native wildlife, a glacier calve, a beautiful sunset over snow capped mountains or learning about other peoples culture, history and stories, what a job!

One of the best things about this job still, is the people you meet and help along the way- its more rewarding here…seven people in the team manage all the crew and passengers, that’s around 3000 ppl a cruise. Granted we don’t see them all but there aint no ratios here!! People who get sick on a ship have a lot to worry about, especially if we disembark them to a land hospital. Imagine you are cruising Alaska break a leg for example and are sent ashore, to be admitted to a local hospital. There is a lot to do- pack, accommodation, insurance issues, costs, getting home and more. I would say if you travel without travel insurance ANYWHERE you need a reality check! We have a well oiled team on shore who help with all those issues and support the patient and their family but it is daunting being sent off a ship and wondering how on earth you might get home or how much it costs! But as a team we assist and support these travellers and ensuring that these stressors are managed so the person can recover is a great feeling. As is getting someone sick safely to shore for hospital treatment and care.

I will very shortly blog cruise four as we are finishing that tomorrow the 6th july!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Beauty...Through the "Round Window"

Its 4.30am and we are nearing Juneau in Alaska and i just glimpsed out of the "Round Window" or porthole and the scene was breathtaking...even as the tiredness sets in i must appreciate these moments...let me try describe it.
The ocean is still without a wave...just a ripple on the surface. The surface looks like glass, shining with a silver sheen. If i was outside id expect no wind...just a crisp, icy morning air. As the sun is starting to rise, its tip has barely surfaced and the reflection of the sun, has turned the oceans surface a light pink. The sky is also pink and it looks like the world is aglow with a pink light. Even the clouds have taken on this pink glow. Ive tried a few photos but they just aren't doing this scene justice..
This is what ship life is about in essence....appreciating the magic, that no matter what... still exists... if only one stops to look round to see/feel and experience it.

Unlucky Cruise Number 13!

Gday all.....Phew thank god cruise ending in number 13 is over! It all started in San Francisco as an innocent alaskan adventure and very quickly turned into a very busy cruise. So it started out with two sick patients needing to be medically disembarked (thats the term we use when we send someone off the ship for medical reasons.) an ambulance picks them up and takes them to a hospital shoreside. Then we head off for the next port and get another patient who stays in the medical centre which means 12 hour round the clock shifts for the three nurses. Then we start to have an increase in gastro cases....then hit RED level within three days....SH#T! Red level means all the fun stops. Officers can no longer go up into passenger areas. All social activities are restricted and we get very busy buried in paperwork!!
As if thats not enough....then on our last port in alaska we disembark a lady within an hour of her getting to the medical centre...shes sick.....a lot of paperwork and rushing around is done. Then the senior nurse, doctor and other nurse see two ambulances at the gangway as they are heading back from a day out and bolt in the door to see why!! All the hard work is done and we stand them down as the lady heads to hospital after only an hour in our care, thats fast and efficient work and we are pretty chuffed with ourselves, going "disembark in an hour- we rock" (high five). Then we breath a sigh of relief, as we sail away from port. BUT ding-dong the medical centre doorbell goes off and it is a man who is clearly sick arrives and needs to be off the ship. The medic and i swing into action and then i look out the porthole (window) and relies we are sailing- crap-but this man needs to be off - "QUICK CALL THE DOC" i say to my colleague- she phones the doc and he comes in and straight away to call the captain and yep...STOP THE BOAT! Only in an emergency does this happen. So senior nurse happens to swing by and lends a hand. The man is off the boat into a lifeboat to shore to meet the ambulance within 35 mins and then is safe in hospital. He recovered well. Then we head off to victoria in canada with two days at sea. We had a couple of patients and our outbreak continued. We then at dinner on the last night are chatting about the cruse saying you can't make this stuff up. Myself and the medic had worked together every shift it got busy! We are a scary combo. Jokingly we say the night before our crew doctor leaves...all we need now is a medical response...
0600 hours: booming into my cabin comes the PA voiceover: "Attention ships company...Medical Response Team proceed to Deck...Zone....Starboard side" Before he finishes this I'm outta bed, into my scrubs, slip ons and out the door into the elevator and on the scene. Its the worst way to be woken up ill say. Amusingly on the way we are running...and down a passenger corridor...we sound like a heard of elephants as there is four of us going flat chat to get sure we woke every passingr in that corridor! Whoops! We do our best. Then by the time the emergency was was time for clinic. The poor crew doc i think wanted to strangle me n medic for cursing us!! But she was on holidays..even if it was a long journey home for her!
So in total we disembarked 5 passengers, had the outbreak and then as if it wasn't crazy enough. We said we couldn't top all this. So me n senior nurse proceed to shopping in san francisco for the day and have a wine and toast to the fact that cruise no. 13 is over and with it we think the crap run we have total this 11 days i had four hours off the ship, thats ship life!
We get back on after san fran feeling like we might get a break- WRONG! A phone call to the medical centre that evening and we are running to a scene and from there.... call a medical response so the rest of the medical team turn up with all the resus equipment...the patient recovered. So that was two in a day.....i dared NOT go to bed until midnight that night as superstition had me worried....given the cruise so far i would not have been surprised if there was a third medical response that day!! There is again though an inpatient on our first day outta san fran so again we are doing 12 hr shifts...although as I'm always so lucky tonight is a 13 hour shift...there is a time change and its an hour back with our clock!!
There was also a 29 hour stint in the middle which was crazy! But had to be done. I started with 12 hour night.....then had to cover a colleague for morning clinic until 10.00am. I had the X-ray course at 1pm and we were tendering (using lifeboats to get to shore from where the boat is anchored) which takes longer to get anywhere. We get over to land and head for the other ship where our course was being held...a 3km walk no less. Did i also mention we had to be in our officers looking like idiots we walk the 3kms. We get to the entry where boarder protection are and tell them who we are...ACCESS DENIED...due to our ships red level we do not get permission to board the other we turn and walk 3km back to our ship..not impressed. So then i think im going to bed- nope. Im meant to do afternoon clinic and its now 3pm....So i have to man up and do it.....I eventually got to bed that night bout boy was it a struggle. That sleep was amazing!!
The good bits have been speaking to Narelle...then charlton when he got home from europe!! That was great. And still the scenery from the glimpses out the portholes and my window have revealed beautiful snow capped mountains.
Tonight  I have been doing jobs and checking stock...which means expiry dates etc but it makes the night go faster. we are off red level and so at least i can go up and get decent coffee from the cafe upstairs. Today there was another emergency and we took the stairs to get there...three floors up...made it there alive lol but the risk with stairs is when you arrive on scene you can't be too short of breath to perform your emergency duties so i wouldn't take the stairs more than that if i could help it!! lol!
The sea has been rough too and we will be late to our first port for this happy though as i have so far avoided being sea sick!!
Tomorrow will be interesting myself and the medic are going as representatives of the medical department to an event to meet the CEO of the COMPANY!! Yes they are sending me so on with the uniform, make up airs and graces!! lol!
Well i best be off to do some more pottering to stay awake as its now 3.30am and the sitting down is not helping the staying awake!! Cheers!

Thursday, 22 May 2014


Yes, you read correctly. Me, on stage...what?! You ask. Well a funny thing happened in the wardroom ( officers only bar). I was there with the medical team after work chatting and lady marmalade comes on and I say "I love this song to cha cha to". Doc says well why don't you go join in the ballroom lessons they run for the passengers. Now traditionally officers are not allowed in passenger areas without the uniform of the day on. So I was like..nah....Our uniform is not practical for dancing in. The shirts are so short they would come untucked at every turn and the skirts are ugly! Doc then says...if you went in a neat casual outfit with your name badge then I'd be happy. So next day at lunch I head to the cruise staff and ask who does the lessons. S said he'd be happy for me to join in. So that arvo at 2pm I forgo my siesta and head to the dance class. I stay in-cognition, go to the back n join in. Cha cha was the dance for the day! So I'm happily refreshing my memory and mr s is a great dancer and has competed and taught for a long time, so im loving the free tuition and he teaches technique not just steps so I was impressed. I was loving being back on the dance floor. THEN mr s says ok time to partner up and he signals to me to join him on stage.....omg wtf? Yup so up I go. And spend then next 20mins up there demonstrating with him. It was fun and I did love dancing again and it did re-ignite that passion I have for dance. If only I was as fit as I used to be! So today I again forfeited my nap and headed to rhumba, and again up on stage I went. Then an elderly lady of a nationality that is very adept at ballroom dancing sides up to me and says " you are the only one on the floor with rhythm and style and it's a pleasure watching you dance"- Speechless!!! A massive compliment and I never thought I looked that good esp with my current level of fitness as compared to when I danced regularly! So I must still have some skill there lol! The passengers are fun and all are smiling by the end of the class. Yes there are some funny styles and some interesting timing but they are having fun and enjoying their cruise so I'm happy to help out. Omg even if it is on stage in front of the passengers! My biggest fear is of course falling off the stage...explain THAT to my collegues! 
I am truly enjoying being back on the dance floor in a proper setting. Tomorrow is slow foxtrot....but I'm up all night so we will see. But for now I'm glad I have braved the passengers and hit the dance floor...might even ask mr s for some private lessons! We will see....happy dancing, 

Alaska Round One.

So our first cruise of the Alaskan season is almost over and it's had its moments! But overall lovely weather and some amazing wildlife and scenery. First I have seen whales- killer in fact, majestic. Then otters, cute but apparently naughty little critters. We have also seen many a seal and sea lion! Today though (21st may) we were lucky enough to have a tour of the bridge- where the captain and deck officers navigate and control the ship. They hands down have the best view on the ship! And the bridge windows have windscreen wipers just like a cars which was funny to see. Better yet though than seeing the bridge and all the navigational technology...was that we spied a mother killer whale and her calf and watched as we sailed by.....incredible! These are the moments you can't plan and they are just amazing when they surprise you out of the blue. Leaves me smiling and realising how lucky i am to have such a cool and unique job. It's also happened a few times with brilliant sunsets and the recent full moon. To see a full moon shining and the light pouring for the bottom of the moon onto the oceans surface and shining out away from the moon was pure beauty. 
PORTS: My port visits were early in the cruise. I got off in Ketchikan and hit the supermarket and then of course to burger queen for the best burger in the world and a drink with the dancers. Then there was Juneau where we took a cable car ride up the mountain. We went for a small hike as there was plenty of thick snow and had a snow fight! Kylie. 1 Staff Captain 0..(very important guy, third in charge of ship) dares me to hit him....big snow ball...POW right on the top of his head! Gold! Could not have been funnier! It was also the first time ever our senior nurse had seen snow and to say she was happy was an understatement! We then headed down the mountain for lunch at Tracy's crab shack! Amazing huge crab legs and scallops. I have never seen such huge crabs except for deadliest catch maybe?! 
Last call was again Glacier Bay. I spent most of this time in the medical centre as clinic was open and I wanted my team to go up and see this amazing place because none of them have been to Alaska before. so I wanted them all to have the same amazing experience i did. Glacier bay did not fail to disappoint and the glacier, being earlier in the season was larger than last year. It was an overcast day with a crisp icy wind. But the bright blue shone from the glacier. Not to mentions the creaks and moans of the glacier...she almost sings. 
Since then I have been in port manning, so on the ship as nurse in case of emergency. Not to say I haven't been having fun of course. The musicians treated us to a jazz night in the officers wardroom with an amazingly talent saxophone player! Was a great relaxing evening. Since then We have been busy the last few days, doing long hours, drills and disembarks...where sick passengers get sent to a land hospital for further medical care, and I am tonight in the medical centre caring for a PT, drinking a soy latte and updating this blog finally! I plan to hit some tours etc next trip round but I'm not in a hurry this year as I'll be here for four months so plenty of time to fit things in which is awesome! Ok keep reading coz your going to love my next entry! 

Thursday, 8 May 2014


Well thought I'd start with the travel it takes to get to your ship to join. In total I travelled 26 hours to get to the hotel I'm staying at overnight. Then at 0600 in the morning the crew bus picks me n the other Crew up to go to the ship. 
in regards to air travel- less in carry on baggage is best. I use only my headphones, adaptor for the earphones plug and mints and ear plugs- the putty ones are a life saver. In my bag I also have brush,face wipes n mouthwash which I use once I get off plane to freshen up. Otherwise the airline provides water, food and snacks and it's enough. Plus they all have movies etc on long haul flights now. Oh and It's important to stay hydrated! Today I watched the book thief, hunger games catching fire and in her shoes. I slept about four hours the first flight and two the second flight. 
One thing I was torn with boarding the 14 hour flight to LA was aisle or window seat. So window vs aisle?
Window: you get a view going out and coming in. You can use the window as a head rest. You have to jump over or ask your fellow passengers to move if you want to get up/go to toilet or climb over if you are that agile! 
Aisle: Easier access to overhead locker, easier to get up n down as often as you want. Con is you have to move if your fellow passengers want to get out but it's easier from the aisle. I am now an isle seat fan- or the emergency exit seats as they have leg room!! 
Then there was the queues at customs- they are part of air travel and yes taking your shoes off, laptops out of bag and any liquids can be a pain. But just do it. There is no getting out of it and complaining doesn't help anything so stay positive. In the line into LAX today there was a lady whinging about the wait and I said "on the upside by the time we get through this- our bags will define fly be offloaded", she smiled as did other who heard and it eased the tension- simple. I also find being courteous to others helps a lot. 
Vancouver airport is really cool- almost like a museum. I didn't have time for pics but it's awesome!
Just had my complimentary dinner from princess- wow! Portion size people!! I got an oval plate half chips/half burger....I ate 5 chips and half the burger but not the bun, the bun was a weird taste and gleaming with oil land the burger was soaked in it not cooked in it! Then desert was deep fried blueberry muffins- they serve eight about the size of golf balls- I ate 2. I think they thought I didn't enjoy my meal as it did look like a piss poor effort on my behalf but I was full! But I did tip them we'll. Yes, in the us and Canada it is customary to tip- they do pay more attention to service though- I got asked regularly if I need/wanted anything more and I wasn't trying to distract them from their weekend catch up or phone like we get in oz sometimes at restaurants.  
Somehow I scored a king size bed tonight- cool. Pity it's cold and raining here as there is a nice pool outside! 
Free wifi is aiding this process today. once onboard it will be satellite internet for $40.00usd for 360 minutes. It's slow and unreliable but better than nothing when it comes to keeping in touch.
I've now got my feet elevated as I have kankles from such long flights! 
Well I'll leave it there as tomorrow is a big day. 4.30am start. hit the ship- meet my new medical team and get orientated to where stuff is and unpacked then it's clinic time at 4.30pm! And as cruise ships go I'm sure there will be a drink. I do already know some staff on this ship. The dance captain, lighting director and dance team are all off my last ship so familiar faces helps a lot.
Hope you enjoy- any feedback is welcome, cheers Kye ox