What do I REALLY do during my time off?

So, when I’m not writing in the blog, and when I’m “living the life on board” – what exactly am I doing? What do I do during my time off?

I chose the photo for this entry with a bit of humor because it’s the silliest example of what I did on a break. Recently I was working very late into the afternoon and only had a short break. So I invited a couple of front office teammates up to my room (I was back up in a guest stateroom…they move me every cruise segment based on where they have a free room. I’m currently back in a crew room for this cruise). We decided to get a bottle of champagne and just had a “classy” break. And yes that is Mumm Champagne. To think, before I came on board I don’t think I’d ever had real champagne!

Afternoon break time I usually chill by myself – relaxing after the work of the morning, and charging for the work of the afternoon. Sometimes I have short naps, or watch LOST, or go to the gym, or lie in the sun. Of course, that is only on sea days – which, again, are usually the most intense work days…so the relaxation time on my own is really very much needed. I’m usually supposed to have between 12:30 and 4:30 as afternoon break, but it’s usually less than that because of work. I often work until 1:30 or 2…and then I come back at about 5pm to continue working until 8:30 or so.

Evenings are lots of fun. There’s very much to do on board: from catching one of the production shows or movies, or simply going to the officer’s or crew bar to chat with friends.

We have a special crew office that is responsible for our welfare on board – and they put on excellent events for us. A recent example was the Olympics. The entertainment department organized the World Cruise Games for guests – an all-out (as is always the case with Crystal) week-long series of competitions ranging from scrabble and solitaire to triathlon. They even had former olympians as guest officials. In tandem, though, we had the Crew Olympics. Lots of good fun and competition. I competed in the crew swimming competition (four laps of the pool as quick as you could). I’m very proud to have placed 3rd, just 2 seconds below the 2nd place finish. We also had a team tug-a-war in front of the guests. Being a part of the front office team, we’re a group not entirely known for our sheer strength when compared to the likes of the engine department. One of our team members had the brilliant idea of turning our inevitable loss into a spectacle for the guests. Thus, the theme “Losing with Style” was born. I encourage you to view the photos.

The highlight of this experience working on Crystal Serenity is, of course, seeing the world – so my energy is really mostly devoted to the travel adventures. But the time on board is also very fun indeed.

I am just very much aware of the need to pace myself and relax so that the traveling and hard work don’t bring me down.

Hard work you ask? How could I possibly be working hard just doing menus and signs? I admit that on paper it sounds like a pretty ridiculous job to be entitled world travel just for knowing how to spell and use a computer.

But, when you really get into it, the work is pretty long and hard. Here’s a little more on that:

I’ve recently started doing the editing of Reflections, the daily guest newsletter outlining where we are in the world and what’s happening on board the ship. The reason for this switch is that Crystal wanted to train me on all aspects of the Editor’s job…so now my training involves learning how to lay out, edit and publish the newsletter. Leslie, my boss, is now doing the menus and signage.

Now, it’s not entirely writing a newsletter. The port descriptions, for example, are pre-written by a professional travel writer (who just so happens to be named Karen Planett. Honestly). We also basically keep doing the same newsletter every day – just cutting and pasting parts here and there based on what’s new or where we are in the world.

But, believe it or not, it’s actually quite a bit of work. Yesterday’s issue, for example, was 12 pages. It’s all attention to detail work. Fine-tooth combing all the schedules to make sure they’re correct (our guests get very angry if they go to a room only to learn the lecture isn’t there because I listed it incorrectly). Is this the best communications job I could imagine? I’m sure you can tell, my answer would be no…it doesn’t involve the strategic and creative communications that I crave. BUT, I’m gaining tremendous experience in editing and attention to detail…something that admittedly isn’t my forte. Plus, the fact that this work enables me to travel seems like a very good trade off to me!

But speaking of attention to detail, this whole training process of learning how to produce Reflections has been tough indeed.

To give you an idea of my schedule as of late – yesterday we had our fist port day in Vietnam…and I didn’t go ashore at all. I know – I feel quite guilty about being around the world and not going out to see it. But, honestly, I just didn’t have the energy…I really needed chillout time during my break.

See, it was my second time doing Reflections all on my own (albeit with many questions asked to Leslie)…and unfortunately I had to stop the presses because I had so many mistakes! It was a very complex 12-page sea day issue full of many lectures and events throughout the day. And I screwed a lot of them up.

I’m quite confident that within a couple of days I’ll get the hang of it. It’s just that right now I’m basically working 8:30-2:30pm and 4:30 until 9:30 or sometimes even 10:30. So, when I have my short break, it’s just to clear my head before taking on another issue of Reflections.

So, that is why I didn’t go ashore yesterday. I was just too stressed out about the “stop the presses” shenanigans that I needed to go to my room and recharge. Plus, it was a 45 minute one-way trip to town, so I wouldn’t have had time anyway.

At least I am getting better at Reflections each time – and my breaks are returning. I’m also feeling less stressed and more rested (so I’ll be ready to explore Saigon tomorrow with all my energy intact).

I’m also glad that not every day is a sea day. Those are the days that Reflections is longest because there are more activities. When we’re in port, much less happens on the ship, and the newsletter is much shorter.

As Leslie said to me “just keep plowing through it.”

And you thought this dream adventure was nothing but sunshine every day.

– Andrew

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