Royal Caribbean Gem, Part 1

Welcome back to the continuation of my story with BCIT.

After I got back from the Jackman with 139 days of sea time, the 2nd term of school began. This was more rigorous than the first one and was geared towards developing actual officer knowledge of how to navigate and run the internal process of your ship. The sea phase was an invaluable learning experience and has helped me quite exponentially in relating all the textbook material to the real world.

During the course of the year, again, we had various interviews with employers to determine where we would spend out next sea phase. As a cadet, you are required to complete 12 straight months of sea time before you can challenge your officer’s exam. You are given 2 sea phase slots totaling 16 months, and during those 16 you need to accumulate 12. Seeing that I’ve already had 4.5 months, I knew that the remaining 7.5 months I would like to get done in one single stint. A big majority of students in my class, to no fault of their own, were not able to get the full amount of sea time in the first 2 years (because the employers had not been able to find them ships). In this case, the missing time is collected during the 3rd sea phase.

Vision of the Seas docked in Barcelona
First look at the Vision of the Seas from the crew bus, arriving to the docks in Barcelona. Early morning of April 24th, 2015.

I thought I will give cruise ships a shot this sea phase, so got on with Royal Caribbean International. April 24, 2015, flew out to Barcelona to join the Vision of the Seas. It’s a 78 000 tonne ship with a carrying capacity of 3200 people, registered in Bahamas and one of the smallest ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet.

To be honest, I was kind of disappointed to get reassigned to the Vision. Initially I was getting sent to the Oasis of the Seas, 2nd largest cruise ship in the world (loses by a length of 6 feet to the Allure of the Seas). That would have been the ultimate dream, or so I thought. But very soon I realized, there are only so many ports in the world that can accommodate such a behemoth. The Oasis ended up doing a 4 port run in the Caribbean Sea for 6 months. I also really wanted to go to Europe. My initial join date on the Oasis was a couple months later, which would not give me enough time to complete my cadet sea time. So I went on the Vision, and my classmate went on the Oasis (he had more sea time than me to begin with). We both ended up loving our ships.

On the Vision, however, we’ve been to every single country from Portugal to Turkey, clockwise. With the exception of Slovakia, we literally circumnavigated the whole Mediterranean Sea. Vision was doing 2 different 14-day cruises out of Barcelona – one with Venice as the turning point and one with Santorini. The rest of the ports remained the same: Nice, Cannes, Monaco, Livorno (port city for Pisa and Florence), Civitavecchia (port city for Rome), Ravenna, Messina, Dubrovnik, Kotor, etc.

I was with the deck crew for the initial month on board – polishing the decks, washing windows, and other general maintenance. An obvious problem which I never even thought of, when any part of the ship’s structure comes in contact with salt water – it rusts. So the purpose of my entire existence for that month was to maintain the eternal cycle of washing and cleaning the ship to achieve that pristine, white, sanitary, cruise ship look.

After about a month, I got “promoted” to the bridge. The way cruise ships generally operate is by coming into port early in the morning, say 6 am, hanging out at the berth for the entirety of the day while the guests go for their excursions and tours, and then departing for the next port at around 5 pm. My job as a cadet was to be on the bridge for all the arrivals and and all departures to/from port. I started off by shadowing the 2nd officers, then gradually assuming more and more responsibility until, by the end of my contract, was filling in as a 2nd officer myself (we happened to be short staffed).

This will conclude part 1 of my post. I thank the reader for getting this far. Stay tuned for part 2.

Vision of the Seas anchored in Kotor, Montenegro,
Vision anchored at Kotor, Montenegro. View from a 15th century castle cut into a mountain.
My friend Sean and I.
My friend Sean from the art department and I after a dance show.
Florence's Duomo Cathedral
Florence’s famous Duomo cathedral. What amazed me is the sheer size of that thing.

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