Starting to open my eyes

Hello again!

I truly apologize for making you all incredibly jealous of me in my last blog entry 😉 The funny thing is…some emails that I’ve read this week have been along the lines of, “Wow, unbelievable, I wish I could…” I don’t entirely know what to think of such reactions to what I’m doing – mainly because I don’t feel unique or different or like I’ve done anything special to get myself here. I honestly believe that anyone who really wanted to do something like this could. But, I’m definitely appreciative and feel totally blessed for everything along the path of life that has brought me here. A very good mentor of mine shared with me the wisdom that “sooner or later, your destiny finds you.” I’m really thankful to everyone in my life who helped move me to what I consider to be my destiny – for the time-being at least. Ya, in all honesty when I step back for a moment looking out at the ocean and reflect on the big picture of it all…I suppose I do realize that this whole experience is pretty out of this world and am so thankful to be  living it.

In this blog entry I will wrap it up by sharing a few additional insights of how it’s been settling in this past week – and I’ll answer a few questions that have been posed. But first, a little description of the latest travel stops.

First off – The Panama Canal. I think the photos really speak for themselves. It’s every bit fascinating. It took us all day to move through it. Interestingly, going from Atlantic to Pacific the ship actually goes EAST. That’s because of the local geography of the little divide between the continents that actually has the Atlantic opening lying to the East of the Pacific opening. It’s truly stunning to witness the scale of the engineering feat. Transiting through the canal was also one day when it was absolutely advantageous to be a staff member versus a guest. The forward-most bow of the ship is a crew-only break area (again, though, as an Officer I can pretty much go where I wish). But for viewing the canal, the bow was the best view of all…yet guests couldn’t go there! I can’t really write much more than the pictures can describe for me.

The next visits were to Caldera, Costa Rica and Puerto Chiapas, Mexico. I didn’t get to venture into the rainforest of Costa, Rica…but I did have a very interesting experience in the town  that we stopped at.

See, this was my first real experience wandering around a town in such a state of poverty. Now I lived for a few years in a crummy part of Toronto – but Latin American towns are obviously to a different level. I honestly found it quite overwhelming, slightly disturbing, and quite the experience in Caldera. I was stunned by the crumbling state of all the buildings and roads, and the garbage literally everywhere. I was surprised by the density of the homes – how everything was built together and people had no yards at all. Despite the fact that the population density was pretty low and the town itself quite small. Certainly I gained a strong appreciation for the relative level of wealth I am blessed to have coming from Canada – which my grandparents worked so hard to give my family when they arrived in Canada.

Having experienced that eye-opening experience, I was able to reflect some about it while on the ship. I found myself much more comfortable during our next stop, in Puerto Chiapas, Mexico. This was a slightly larger town. Again, it was overwhelming when I stepped off the shuttle bus that took me into town. But I quickly gained my bearings and felt very comfortable exploring and getting some nice photos.

At this port, I gained a very strong understanding of the role that tourism plays in these impoverished economies – particularly in Mexican ports. Puerto Chiapas is a brand-new port that Mexico has built to funnel rich tourist dollars into the surrounding area. The port terminal was beautiful – and everyone very excited to have Crystal come for the first time. So excited, in fact, that they staged a special cultural performance for us to watch just before we left port – capped off with a fireworks display. Ya, it’s a big deal when the wealth of Crystal’s cliental comes to town.

Other random musings on the past week

  1. I passed my mandatory English Proficiency test. Could you imagine if I’d failed? In all seriousness, though, the standard of proficiency set for my job as Editor was 90% – probably the highest level on board. I scored 96, thank goodness. The “what is this person with this accent saying” part was the hardest! Some accents are really tough to comprehend, which is an exciting learning part of this experience.
  2. Look out girls – I’m now trained to fight fires (basic fire safety training…but I did get to fire off extinguishers and fire hoses).
  3. I’ve been to three of the five production shows and have met the performers. WOW. Let’s just say that the standard of these shows definitely matches the overall standard of the whole Crystal brand. They’re each slightly more than an hour long – full-out musical productions. Stunning. And the cast…like our lead female vocalist is a former top-ten Miss USA finalist who stared in a multi-million dollar stage musical. Ya, they’re pretty good.
  4. I’ve been asked if I get to eat the good food, and experience the guest areas, or if it’s just mostly keeping to the crew areas. Well, certainly, it’s great socializing with my fellow crew in the crew bar and officer’s mess. But I’m also getting a huge taste of the “high life” so far. For example, a few officers and I went the specialty Italian restaurant. We were served and eating just like guests (though in uniform). We even had really expensive champagne. I also sometimes have evening drinks in the very classy Avenue Saloon with some of my officer friends. I’m definitely living it up – and it’s huge fun. I also get to use the guest gym, pool, paddle tennis court, walking/jogging deck and uppermost deck in my plain clothes.
  5. I’ve also been asked whether I get to really have a decent amount of time off to see the destinations or if it’s just short jaunts between work. For one, my set hours are wonderful: 8:30-12ish, 4:30-8ish. That’s a really nice gap to nap, swim, tan and visit ports.

    I also have duties as an officer to be an excursion escort. Crystal’s standards are such that for every official excursion, an officer actually accompanies the tour to make sure everything goes smoothly. I get to escort! I wrote before that I was nervous interacting with guests, but now I’m definitely feeling more confident (bringing out my hosting/tour experience from past jobs, I suppose!)

    Tomorrow morning I will be doing my first escort – on an excursion to Acapulco. Basically I get to do all that the guests do, just help out and make sure everything runs okay. I get to even wear regular clothes when I do that. I’ll post about how the experience goes in my next entry. Crossing my fingers.

    Now, when I go on excursions, my boss and I work out my schedule so that I have the time away from the desk to do that. She’s wonderfully flexible that way. It might mean working a few extra hours on a day at sea, or shifting our duties a little. But it’s nice that she very much recognizes that I’m also here to see the world (such as she made sure I was outside for the best times going through the Panama Canal).
  6. As you can see by the photos – the social aspect on board is also greater than I could have imagined. I even entertained the guests with a friend by singing some karaoke!! I’m feeling much more comfortable, and am being myself around my fellow staff and the guests. And they’re all such amazing, enthusiastic and enjoyable people that it’s truly the time of my life.

My gosh I write too much! Please don’t hesitate to post a comment or send an email with feedback on my blog – including if there’s ways I could improve the way I’m sharing my story.

Also, please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to learn about the experience, or any question you’d like me to answer. I check emails every few days or so – so I’d love to hear from you.

Bye for now. With warmest regards (and I do mean warm…it’s like 27 Celsius), I remain,

– Andrew

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