Sharon Spam 2.0.

It's back!

When I told people I was going to go work on a ship again, there was one thing that everyone wanted to know: "Why?"
….Actually, that wasn't it. It did feel like it though because, even though being Entertainment Staff on a Cruise Ship has been a dream of mine for seven years, it was still a really scary decision to make.

What people really wanted to know was "Does this mean we'll get Sharon Spam again?" And others, who didn't receive Sharon Spam three and four years ago when I was a Groups Coordinator for a different company were asking if they could please subscribe. Man, way to ruin it, guys! Before, I used to send news of my seafaring adventures in general emails to those who I thought may be vaguely interested in reading it (as all people who send spam tell themselves) - whether they liked it or not, of course. But spam is supposed to be annoying! And when I tell you that I work in the Bahamas and my job requires me to go to parties pretty much every night, I can see how this could still fit that description. But you're not supposed to want to subscribe. Since it’s wrecked anyway it's now taken on the form of this blog. Previously known as "Sharon's Travels" back when I wasn't doing any traveling at all, it's been renamed (thanks for the suggestion, Shaun) and rebranded to include images of everyone's favourite world-traveling flamingo Rodrigo, which, to answer your second or third most common question is, yes, I did bring him with me. I'm not going to lie, I was hoping to get a ship that went to Cozumel, Mexico, so I could try and find Rodrigo senior and see if he remembers me and the incident that fateful day that resulted in Rodrigo junior (See this if you don't know the back-story), but, I certainly can't complain about the Bahamas (and look, I can still be annoying!). The two of us haven't left the ship yet but for someone whose wings are molded into his body, the fact that he has spent a week in the Sky (that's the name of the ship) is quite an achievement.

Rodrigo's self esteem has taken a bit of a knock though. The poor lawn-ornament has hardly raised that many eye-brows since we left the airport. You see, when we got to the hotel in Miami where we spent the night before joining the ship, he was totally upstaged by someone else's travel companion. I was put up in one of those hotel rooms (I love hotels!) where they have twin double beds. My first introduction to the company came in the form of another South African girl by the name of Monica, my roommate for the night. She is a dive instructor and actually doesn't work on the ship but rather the private Island that my ship goes to. (Did I mention my ship goes to a private island? It does. Twice a week. Twice!) Anyway, she had been spending time with friends in Miami and, on some post-Halloween sale, had acquired a giant super scary scarecrow with a jack-o-lantern face and eyes that lit up that she was now going to take with her to her home on the private island. How do you compete with that? Especially when Halloween was already over?

Considering how much of the staff was South African when I worked on ships before, and considering I had already met another, I assumed that this company would be equally full of South Africans and that my Afrikaans was about to improve as it did with all the skinnering that went on. But no, fortunately we're really quite rare. And apparently we're all not that fond of travelling alone…

Cruise ship life (#shiplife) is quite hard to explain to anyone who's never experienced it and signing on is quite an adjustment. You are thrust into a way of life so completely foreign to anything you've ever known, where the strangest things are so normal to everyone around you, and in just a few days it becomes so so normal to you too. I feel like I'm blogging from Narnia! And if any talking animals or half-goat people were to read this they’d be like “Ja, so what?” As much as I have experienced ship life before, this is obviously still very different. So far I am loving this job. I'm quite relieved that after years of applying it hasn't been a letdown.

Each week we do two cruises, a four day one from Monday to Friday and a three day one from Friday to Monday. On those two days we are in our home port of Miami. On Tuesdays and Saturdays we are on the company's private island, on Sundays and Thursdays, Nassau and Wednesdays, Freeport, all of which are in the Bahamas.

My job is amazingly fun but also quite intense. You are chatting to people and being cheery all the time which so far is working for me because I'm super happy to be here.

My duties include:

• Standing on the gangway and greeting people as they embark, disembark, go off on an island or return from one.

• Hosting trivia and other game shows

• Hosting Karaoke (I think of you Molly, if you're reading this, every time)

• Opening and closing the library

• Setting out and putting away equipment for golf, shuffleboard, basketball or ping pong and hosting tournaments of these.

• Facilitating arts and crafts

• Hosting pool games and other competitions

• Mingling (seriously! - sometimes for set times at set places)

• Organising people onto tender boats (We don't dock at the private island so we have to transport people there by boat)

• Teaching dance classes (once I learn them)

• Selling Bingo cards

• Hosting beach games on the private island and pool games on deck

• Being the life and soul of the party at the parties

• And plenty of other things.

Every night we have a show. We have two big production shows on this ship even though the cruises are so short. One is an Idol's spoof where we use guests as judges, and one is a Vegas-themed show. Our other ships have proper Broadway productions like Legally Blonde, so the standard is quite high. - Certainly higher than that show on my last ship about the flying couch that went from night club to night club (and yes, I dated part of that couch. Hi James!) We also have a welcome aboard show and some standup comedy performances. I have to go to these shows, greet people at the door and reprimand anyone taking pictures or videos. I have to say, the entertainment department on this ship is probably one the most intimidatingly good looking groups of people I have ever encountered (minus the techs who we hide in the dark). At least two of the male dancers could pass for Kens! …gay Kens.

Other than that I do a ship-load of dancing! We have a sail away party on the first day of each cruise, followed by a welcome aboard party that night. The next night is the formal night party (I haven't been to that one yet), and we also have the white party where everyone wears white (including the guests) and there's a lot of glow sticks and UV lights. The cruise staff start the night in Angel wings, which I suppose is apt attire for people who live in the Sky. I went to this one last cruise and it was nuts! I've never experienced anything like that, and apparently those guests were tame compared to the usual ones. I had so much fun and I didn't even know all the line dances. Does that make me lame? I still like Gangnam Style (there, I admit it!), and I get paid to do it! How many people can say that? Basically, whoever is not hosting karaoke goes to these parties. It all adds up to a whole lot of my favourite type of exercise and, considering that on this ship the staff don't eat in the staff mess but at the guest buffet, this is a very good thing. The guest buffet also has a chocolate fondue station. I'm going to type that again: Chocolate fondue station!

Currently, our Cruise Staff consists of the Cruise Director Joel from New Jersey, who is about to be replaced by Joel from the Philippines (we have a theme), then there's the Assistant Cruise Director Jasper from LA, Entertainment Admin Brad from Canada, Game Show Host Ferdinand from the Philippines, and then the rest of the cruise staff, Gigi who's American, Karina from Brazil and Mr. T (you try pronounce: ‘Tlacalel’ – apparently it's Inca) from Mexico who totally belongs in a Telanovela.

We have a number of different uniforms, and on top of that I also get to wear my own clothes quite a bit. I change my clothes so often that sometimes I feel like Lady Gaga (minus the meat-dress). I do LOVE that I get to wear evening wear at least three times a week but tragically the glamorousness of the evenings is sadly a huge contrast to my day attire. That's right, for those who read my spam before, the fugly lesbian day uniform consisting of navy man-pants and an ill-fitting "gender neutral" polo shirt is back with a different cruise line company's branding! (No offense, lesbians.)

The first cruise was full of training for me. The safety training makes sense, but training on "Respecting Others"? Really? I also did one on "wellness", which was all about washing your hands so you don't get the runs (the "Nora Virus" is a big deal for people who live on ships and in confined spaces), and not throwing yourself overboard, but mostly washing your hands so you don't get the runs. Oh and incase they didn’t get the message across, tomorrow I get to watch an educational video on the Nora Virus. Yay!

If my first cruise was crazy busy with all the training then my second cruise was the exact opposite. I got a bit of time to relax and catch up with myself (and nurse a cold) on what was an Aventura Dance Charter cruise. Basically a whole lot of Latino peeps took over our ship with salsa and Bachata (no, that's not a bread). They had some pretty wild parties in some pretty strange attire. Though Carnival may have phased out the position, somewhere on this ship is a Groups Coordinator who I haven't met yet but who is probably in a mild coma recovering from it and whom I don't envy at all. For the Cruise Staff, all of our normal duties went out the window and we were assigned some strange tasks. On the first night, they had a performance by some Latin singer guy. (I think he's been nominated for a Grammy or something?) I had to be on hand backstage in case anyone needed anything. No one needed anything. …But I did get to watch Tito El Bambino live in concert from the wings. If you were Peurto Rican you would be so jealous of me right now.

I must be off. I don’t have a computer yet (I’m planning to buy one soon), but when I get one there will be pictures. On behalf of Rodrigo and myself, stay tuned for more stories of our seafaring adventures, the interesting people we encounter, my tan and my attempts to thwart it with SPF 50 (some things never change).
And friends, feel free to spam me back. Miss you already!

3 cruises down, roughly 47 to go…

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