When New Becomes Familiar

It’s a funny thing that happens when paradise becomes your backyard. In the last two years I have spent more time in the paradise islands of the caribbean than I have in the states, let alone  anywhere I have ever called home. Occasionally you’ll join a ship where the itinerary is constantly changing, and you end up in four new countries each week. Other times you will be on a ship which has a repeating itinerary, and find yourself in familiar surroundings week in and week out. In both instances, specifically the latter, eventually you find that the places have become less exciting to you than they used to be, from time to time even skipping the port entirely (just staying on the ship for the day). This is an interesting thought seeing as how everyone else on board is spending their hard earned money to see some of these places. This has me thinking about my first time in a foreign port, or the excitement of a new port after a long stint in the same few repeating ports, as opposed to the feeling of walking off the ship into a port for the 5th, 15th or 50th time.

The first few times you are in a port, you explore. You want to go to all the beaches, try new restaurants, and find out some of the locals’ favorite spots. You want to go sight seeing downtown and see some of the famous and historic sights that country or port has to offer. A time or two you’ll go somewhere that you know you’ll only be going to the one time over the course of a contract, and like a guest you have to plan your day accordingly, and make the most of the one day you have. However, other times you find yourself in a port time and time again, and it becomes less of a priority to get off the ship to explore, or do new things.

At the time of this writing, I am in Cozumel, Mexico. I was in Cozumel four days ago, and will be back here again in another five. Don’t get me wrong Cozumel is one of my favorite ports, and is largely considered a favorite port across the board by all crew members. It has everything that a crew member is looking for in a day off of the ship. It has beautiful beaches and day resorts, great Mexican restaurants, shops and even a bar tailored specifically for crew (shout out to No Name). It even has some American familiarities, and my first stop most times I am in Cozumel, Starbucks, which has my three favorite things: Coffee, Air Conditioning, and WiFi. It took me quite a while to decide which order to put those three items in… still not sure about it…

The other port on my current itinerary is Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. This is a beautiful island, and another great port for options from shopping, beaches, and restaurants. The only issue is that it is a tender port. For those unfamiliar with the term, it simply means that the ship has to anchor a fair ways from the island, and smaller boats, known as tender boats pull up along side the ship and load/unload 150 people at a time and taxi them either to land or back to the ship. Unlike a normal port where the ship pulls up alongside a large pier and you can get on or off the ship as you please. With 3,000 guests this process can sometimes get tedious and time consuming. Occasionally you get lucky and the tender only takes 10-15 minutes to get you to the island, but other times you end up waiting for people to fully board the tender, and it ends up taking an hour. Grand Cayman, as beautiful as it, and as many things as there are to do on the island, just knowing you may have to tender for an hour in any one direction, is enough to make you talk yourself out of it. It’s funny to consider my attitude toward the island these days. I recall three or four years ago a friend of mine, Jenn (We don’t talk enough, if you’re reading this, Hey!) was going on a family vacation to the Cayman Islands, and our group of friends (hey guys) all talked about how jealous we were. Just a few short years later, when I have regular access to one of the most beautiful places in the world, I choose to stay on the ship, and more specifically just in my room for the day almost every single time I am there. I’ll work on getting out there more often…

All crew members really enjoy their time off the ship. It’s some of the only time that a crew member gets that is truly all theirs. No one needs anything from you, and no one can call you into work. It is also the only time that a crew member has when they don’t have to be constantly  “on.” If you are in the guest area, no matter on the clock or not, if a guest needs something, or has a question, you take care of it. Regularly out in port we are recognized, and that is fine, and even a little fun. By the end of each week you end up to be a small, local celebrity, and no one can deny that feels good. I love when I see waiters, servers, and room stewards recognized and appreciated by the guests off the clock, and out in port. They work hard, and deserve the praise. As for me, if you see me out in port you can always come by and say hi. I will likely be somewhere in the air conditioning, enjoying a coffee, and using the WiFi.

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