Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Last 6 Months on Gem: Samana and New York

My final Caribbean port last contract was Samana in the Dominican Republic. An incredibly beautiful place the Samana area is in fact a peninsula and sometimes the sea was glass calm however it was also too shallow to dock so we tender to land, using the ships lifeboats which looks like this:

The problem with Samana is that there isn't a great deal to do, we had very few tours and most of them just showed off the countryside. Here's an image showing their handmade cigars:

So what most people did on this day was go to the beach and NCL chartered part of the island Cayo Levantado for our guests. This island also has a private 5* hotel on it that looks beautiful and is incredibly expensive!

If you look carefully you can see where the ship is anchored between the trees.

And here's a picture of me with one of the sea lions living on the island and one of the optional extras to going there:

After Samana the ship would take two full sea days back up to New York, which at that time meant back up to the freezing cold, with New York having a ridiculous amount of snow this winter just gone, we were able to build snowmen on the pool deck of the ship it came down that heavily! I took the following pictures during the sail away from the ship.

And then walking around New York this is Strawberry Fields in the snow:

And then just before I signed off, Times Square in the sunshine!

When I go back, I am returning to Gem in New York and will be there every 7 days, this time I understand New York will go to the other extreme and be too hot! Am I currently preparing to pack accordingly!

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Last 6 Months on Gem: St Thomas

Onto St Thomas one of the US Virgin Islands and THE place to do water based shore excursions.

This image was taken from a place called Paradise Point which is located just behind the port, accessed by cable car. It just so happens I got to see this wonderful rainbow the time I went up there, however I only had my iPhone to capture this image with.

Then one of my early tours was a kayaking trip to a beautiful area called Cas Cay, once again I only had my iPhone and due to the nature of the tour I left it in a locker and only managed to capture this image of the start.

As soon as I bought my new camera with waterproof housing I asked to go on as many 'wet' excursions as possible and the very first one I took it on was called St John Champagne Catamaran Sail and Snorkel. You go to honeymoon beach on St John, the neighbouring USVI to snorkel in a protected area, followed by champagne!

In St Thomas/St John you can pretty much guarantee snorkelling with turtles and I can't do that enough!

Just like in St Maarten I did a mini boat excursion in St Thomas, this time having too much fun with my friend Dee.

And finally the biggest test for my waterproof camera was an excursion called Sea Trek which involves walking at the bottom of the sea, my first tentative step into diving at 15 feet down I had to learn about equalising for the water pressure however the helmet that you wear enabled me to even keep my glasses on! It really is an incredible, if a little bizarre, experience and I highly recommend it!

Looks like something from out of space right!?

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Last 6 Months on Gem: St Maarten

St Maarten or Sint Martin is the smallest island divided into two countries or something like that. The cruise ships dock in the Dutch capital of Philipsburg, a massive port that on one Wednesday in the last 6 months was home to 9 cruise ships at once.

I took this picture the day I bought my new compact S110, I got back to the ship to find out my Lightroom 3 couldn't read the RAW files so I had to wait another week or so for my Lightroom 5 upgrade and that's where I'm at now, as a travelling photographer, new camera, new software, ready to keep documenting!

Most people visiting St Maarten want to see the French and Dutch sides (even though the whole island looks the same) so these are our most popular tours.

This is what the French Capital, Marigot, looks like. Much smaller than Philipsburg it was a flea market and patisseries to explore.

The french side of the island has better beaches, most famously Orient Bay which is a mile and half long and is what this photo is of although from a 'sightseeing' view point.

And this is the beach at Grand Case, an area more famous for it's French restaurants

Other than sighting seeing tours of St Maarten I got to go in a semi submarine:

Take part in the America's Cup Regatta, a very popular tour because of the real sail races that take place here (I was main sail trimmer if that means anything to anyone).

But by far my favourite tour was the Rhino Rider mini boats that I took Kayleigh on for her last week where you drive this fast little boat on the sea to a beach, snorkel and back again...

Snorkling selfie!

And here's me and Kayleigh looking like we're having too much fun!

Some days I really loved my job!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Last 6 Months on Gem: San Juan

In order to share the last 6 months back working on cruise ships I have decided to do a few posts looking at each port in turn.

Just to catch you all up, I used to work on cruise ships as a photographer and I loved ships, and my photography improved, but actually the job was pretty rubbish! I returned to ships 6 months ago with Norwegian Cruise Lines because they offered me the position of Shore Excursions and now I get paid to help ship guests to choose and buy tours, organise guests and tour operators and, best of all, know the tours and ports!

As with all cruise jobs it has it's highs and lows and my desire to photograph, particularly with my cumbersome D700, dropped off completely. Finally at the end of this contract I bought myself a compact camera with waterproof casing so I have some better photos to share (some early ones are from my iPhone!) and next contract will be even better!

So Norwegian Gem's first stop for the last 6 months was San Juan, Puerto Rico. Did I mention that I am required to go on tours...

Like visiting the El Yunque Rainforest

Or even zip lining through it with my best friend on board Dee

Also visiting the Bacardi rum factory

This next picture was taken on a walking tour of the city, a fountain on the waterfront

And this is the view outside of the parliament house, out to the atlantic ocean

However what you really need to see in San Juan are the fortresses. One surrounds the city:

The next, possibly the most famous is El Morro, located on the furthest point out to sea the views from there are amazing!

However the biggest fort, located just above the old city and facing out to the atlantic is San Cristobal, more of a museum I took my new camera up there and had some fun!

And for a final image this posting, a proper, stitched and edited, panorama taken from the top of the fortress and look out for the Gem and I think Westerdam in the top left...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Catch up... The Incredible Morocco

Dearest blog readers, I don't really know how to explain my lack of writing recently although I know the painfully slow internet onboard my cruise ship has a lot to do with it and the other thing being that I don't need to write so much because I kind of know what direction I'm going with my life right now.

So I've just got back home for 7 weeks vacation from my ship the Norwegian Gem and I have a lot to tell you but the thing is just (and I mean just, I had 5 days to turn myself around!) before I left to return to ship life I went on the most amazing trip with a young travellers tour company called Topdeck to Morocco. Now as this was 6 months ago, I can't really blog fully I just need to share some pictures. Too see all my pictures check out my flickr set.

My Topdeck trip basically involved 10 days, our amazing local guide, a bus and a small group of amazing travellers from all over the world. And Morocco is amazing because in a very small area you can see desert, coast, mountains and cities so here's a quick summary of what I did.

Everything started in Marrakech and the famous Jemaa El Fna Square

We found a great place to eat and watch all the action!

After a couple of nights in the city we headed out to the coast and Casablanca where we got to see inside the Hassan II mosque.

Along the coast further we arrived at the city of Rabat whose kasbah area is a world heritage site

Heading back in land now we visited the Roman ruins of Volubilis

And then we arrived in Fes, an old, sprawling city full of colour and traditions.

And then we headed more inland, over the mountains on our way to the desert.

We arrived at our desert paradise where we rode camels to watch the sunset from the top of a sand dune and then slept in Berber tents outside.

Our last stop before returning to Marrakech took us right into the mountains and we stayed at a hotel right in the middle of Dades Gorge.

Our way back took us through the highest point of the Atlas Mountains as well as to the Kasbah of Ben Haddou another world heritage site.

It's quite something going through all these pictures again, I want to see more places, my bucket list seems never ending!! However the past 6 months weren't without interest so I'll get posting that asap.