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  • Writer's pictureJessica Hayes

What was it like to work on a cruise ship? Part Two

Part Two: Being a Tourist, Travel

One of the biggest advantages to joining and working on a ship is the traveling. Once you have signed your contract, packed your bags, and dusted off your passport, the cruise ship company pays for your flight, food, hotels, and taxies. They pay your whole way to get to and from the ship. Once you are on board you are set. Then for the next 6-10 months you get to wake up in a new place every day and go on a different adventure. In total I spent 12 months at sea. A year of my life exploring and getting to experience the world.

I have traveled from Mexico to Alaska, back to Mexico, though the Panama Canal, up to Miami, down though the coast of Costa Rica, and back though the Panama Canal about 11 times and been on countless adventures in those places. Like going to the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica and going Dog Sledding in Juno, Alaska. So many amazing things to do with what feels like not a lot of time to do them.

When you work in certain departments you get more free time than others. Once we were done photographing the gangway we were allowed to have some time off in port. It was usually around 5 hours to do what ever we wanted. Which sounds like a lot of time but when you have to be back in time to get showered and changed back into uniform for your next shift it really eats into your free time. You learn to master the quick one minute shower and 30 second outfit change real fast so you can maximize your free time as much as possible.

Most of my cruise ship time was spent in Alaska. We would start in Seattle or Vancouver and cruise up the coast to our Northern most destination, Skagway. We went though Glacier Bay and saw countless seals on the ice and whales migrating south. There was one cruise where we saw hundreds of whales that swam along side the ship for hours. It was so magical. And of all the time I spent in Alaska I never once saw a wild bear. The captain would point them out on the shore as we passed them but I’m not sure that little black dot a half a mile away was actually a living creature.

Out of all the towns we visited I loved Skagway, Alaska the most. It is a super small town which basically consisted of one main street. There was plenty of hiking to do there though. One of the best hikes was up to Lower Reid Falls where Richard took me for our first hike together and thought I was going to die. It was an intense mostly strait uphill hike, but the view at the end was worth it.

Funny enough, the best, or I guess I should say my favorite, pizza I have ever had came from Ketchikan at a place called Fat Stans. They had a Reindeer sausage pizza that I would kill for. That and you could wash it down with local beers including a spruce tip seasonal and a darker beer called Monks Mistress which was 13% abv. That combo made the perfect lunch. And that’s saying a lot because I have been to Italy.

Speaking of food, I consider myself a food and thats probably what I spent the most money on outside the ship. I love trying local restaurants, food, and beer. Everywhere I went I would always try to get something different than the usual tourist food. In Mexico that meant getting octopus quesadillas and in Alaska getting either wild boar or reindeer sausage from a food truck on the edge of town. I never turned down a chance to try something new and exciting. If you ever find yourself in Juneau, Alaska, make sure to check out Tracey’s King Crab Shack. You won’t be sorry.

I also loved taking tours and exploring the towns. Most of the time I would just take off walking and see where it led me. One time a friend and I got on a bus where no one spoke English and we just rode it until we saw something where we wanted we wanted to explore. And it was so worth it. We got off at a square with an old church and took photos and got ice cream. It was a great day. So many of my adventures were had by just seeing where my feet would take me. Other times it was a planned tour. Like in Alaska when a friend and I went to a dog sled camp and got to ride on a cart pulled by dogs. Another time was when Richard payed about $200 to take me to a sloth sanctuary where I cried I was so happy. I got to see the baby sloths eating and it was one of the most magical moments of my life.

If I had a choice in living in any of the places I visited I think I would have a hard time choosing. So many of the places I want to were so wonderful. They all had their own unique charms. Vancouver, Canada was beautiful with the nicest people and not the usual hustle and bustle of a busy city. Skagway, Alaska was small and quiet and nestled away from the world. Surrounded by nature and all of its beauty. It’s little grocery store and tiny hardware store had all you ever needed, and if it didn’t have it, then you didn’t need it. Puarto Vallarta, Mexico was a beach surrounded by a mountain range. Amazing nice people and all the comforts of home were all within walking distance. And for $50 you can pay a guy on the beach to hook you to his boat and take you para sailing. As much as I loved all of these places I always seem to be drawn back to my North Georgia mountain home.

There was no shortage of adventures to be had while on the ship. And getting to meet so many people from all around the world has been a true blessing. So many friends and bonds that I will always treasure.

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