Somewhere, beyond the sea: 5 things I learned when travelling via working on a cruise ship

Travel as much as you can. You can earn back your money, you can’t earn back your time.

If someone were to tell me this time last year that I was going to go swimming with pink dolphins in the Amazon River, or that I was going to visit the Norwegian Fjords, then I probably would have laughed in their faces. Sure, travelling the world has always been a dream of mine, but I only believed it would be possible when I finally kicked in my ASOS addiction and saved some money (and that probably wasn’t going to happen any time soon!).

But, thank you to an amazing opportunity, I am fortunate to say that for 4 and a half months, I was able to do just that. From the snowy scapes of the Arctic Circle in Norway, to the sandy beaches of the Carribean . I saw a Wonder of the World in Rio, and also visited the very end of it in Ushuaia. By working on a cruise ship, my lifelong aspiration to travel the world was finally fulfilled (as was my stomach with steak, wine and caipirinhas) *insert Pitbull’s “Mr Worldwide” tagline here*

Yet, my contract was unfortunately cut short due to an under-the-radar virus known as COVID-19, which sadly meant I had to leave the ship early and much like the rest of the world, stay home for the foreseeable future. So whilst I have spent the last few months trading sandy beaches for my sofa, this has given me some time to reflect on my experience, and what perhaps I may do differently in my next contract.

So without further ado, here are 5 things I learned from travelling whilst working on a cruise ship:

1. Plan in advance

This is perhaps one of the biggest tips I will take with me for my next contract. Whilst sometimes the element of surprise and not knowing what you’ll find in a port is exciting, I certainly would recommend looking at your ship’s itinerary and doing some research (or speaking to your fellow colleagues) prior to commencing a contract. Sure, sometimes all you want to do in a port after days at sea is to find a cafe with free wi-fi, but I can guarantee you that most ports will have some sort of hidden gem, whether its a must-do activity or just a well-known food to try- so do your research to guarantee a fulfilled day out in port! (Also, when in Norway, do check the weather in advance, if you want to save yourself an $80 coach trip to see clouds instead of the Northern Lights!)

2. Save money!

Of course, to book anything in the first place, you need to have the funds to do so. Whilst spending all hours into the night in the crew bar may seem like a good idea, sometimes having a night off means you’ll be able to save a bit of money, which you can then put towards that tour you’ve been waiting for. Don’t worry, that wine will still be there when you get back on board, but you only get to visit Rio once!

3. Get up early

Following on from my previous point, taking a night off from the crew bar every once in a while is not only beneficial financially. Sometimes the number of hours spent in port are limited to just several hours, before it’s time to board once again. So definitely try and get up early, if you want to spend as much time as possible in port. I certainly regret leaving the ship at midday most days and trying to cram in as much of a city as possible within the space of 3 hours (let me tell you now, it’s virtually impossible)!

4. REMEMBER TO KEEP APPLYING SUNCREAM!

Honestly, this tip is an oldie but a goldie- it’s also one I didn’t pay much attention to whilst on the beaches of Arica. Returning back on board looking like a drumstick sweet was not the holiday sun-kissed glow I was hoping for. So for my next contract, SPF 50 will be coming in the bucket loads for sure!

5. And finally, just do everything!

Whilst probably a similar point to the first, I cannot stress how much of a regret it can be when you miss out on a particular opportunity when in port. Looking back now, swimming with sea lions in Puerto Madrynn, or visiting penguins in Ushuaia could have been amazing experiences (honestly, hindsight is a wonderful thing) that I unfortunately chose not to do. However, during my contract, I did manage to fulfill some of my life’s ambitions, from visiting Christ the Redeemer, to snorkelling with turtles in Barbados and even doing a full tour of the Amazon River in Manaus. So, for anyone who’s unsure whether that tour you’ve been thinking about is worth the pretty pennies, just go for it! Because, at the end of the day, you can earn back your money, but you can’t earn back your time.

I hope these pointers were useful for anyone who, like me, is sat at home waiting for their next contract to arrive. And for those asking if travelling via working on a cruise ship is worth it, I can honestly say that it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I cannot wait for the day when I board that ship, and explore the world once more!

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