Merry Christmas! I'm sat on the sofa at my Mum's house as I write this and it is the first time since 2009 that I've been at home in England for Christmas. I really thought that it didn't matter that I didn't feel christmassy in those years, that it was all part of getting older, but actually hand writing cards, wrapping presents, singing carols and watching Christmas TV does feel different and it is sad that I often work away on Christmas Day.
But it just so happens this time my vacation falls over Christmas season, so let's recap my last contract.
When I returned to Gem in May the ship was stopping at Port Canaveral in Florida, Norwegian's private island Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas and the capital of the Bahamas, Nassau.
Still in the position of selling tours I was certainly with the intent to make the most of it! And Port Canaveral was the stop for Orlando and Florida's famous theme parks where I met Mickey at Magic Kingdom, explored Epcot; I also went to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Seaworld and Gatorland! Also at Port Canaveral I visited the Kennedy Space Centre, took an airboat ride through the alligator swamps and kayaked with manatees (an animal I didn't even know existed and is protected in the Florida region).
Working our private island was no time for enjoying tours unfortunately as we were responsible for many of the activities on the island and generally Shore Excursions staff don't enjoy this day!! However my last week on the island I did go parasailing which was amazing!
And then Nassau, I've been many times before as photographer but as Shore Excursions I got to go on a full tour of the island, walk with sharks at the Atlantis resort and try a beginners scuba diving course. I know... I'm really lucky (crazy too?) I love my job sometimes!
For 5 weeks between September and October Gem changes route entirely and comes out of New York and heads north rather than south (the cold was quite a shock!) to see Canada and New England in the fall (autumn) season. A large number of our tours included lobster! I ate more lobster in those 5 weeks than I think I will in the rest of my life combined!!
First stop, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Home of Peggy's Cove, an unusually rocky bay with a famous lighthouse (and lobster restaurant!) and I also got to visit Lunenburg a UNESCO protected fishing village.
Second stop, Saint John, New Brunswick, famous for it's reversing rapids as a result of it being an area of extremely high tides. I got to visit two costal areas affected by the tides, the sea caves at St Martin and more impressively the area called Hopewell Rocks affected by up to 50 foot tides.
Next stop the tiny village of Bar Harbour in Maine surrounded by Acadia National Park, just taking photos from the ship was amazing!
After that we had a big city stop, Boston, where I got to visit Harvard and this view was taken from the skywalk.
Finally we stopped at Newport Rhode Island where I learned about the Vanderbilt's Mansions and visited eco-holiday lighthouse, Rose Island.
As you can see I saw so much in 5 weeks, it was incredible, but I've also never worked so hard in my life! This was the time of my life I discovered I can do a full day's work on 4 hours sleep and it is also when I started drinking coffee! I now enjoy a good Starbucks latte or two if I have to stand outside all day directing people to buses!! Of course it wasn't work forcing me to have 4 hours sleep, don't get me wrong, we worked some crazy days, but I also had an incredible group of friends at this time who I spent as much time as I could with and having forgotten all the pain of the tiredness right now I wish I could be there with them again (waiting for tender boat number 10... I miss you)!
Finally there was 2 more cruises before I signed off, back to the Caribbean and the opportunity to meet with some old friends in St Maarten and St Thomas but also only my 2nd ever stop in St Kitts where I took the scenic rail to see as much as possible.
And finally a stop at Tortola where I remembered being told by a friend that if I stop there I should go to the Virgin Gorda, so I did and there's many more pictures on my Flickr but here is what the amazing Virgin Gorda is all about...
Last contract was full of opportunities to really feel alive, I'm completely addicted for right now however when I return in January I will no longer be selling tours but working as administrator for the entertainment department, a completely different, more challenging, more varied, self motivated role and I'm really looking forward to working everyday with the people responsible for everyone having fun!
Only 10 days after I got home I took myself off to Asia to see more of my favourite country, the Philippines, and a stop in Bangkok so another blog posting to come very soon!