Traveling to cruise ship

Everything is ready. Bags packed and checked to ensure that they are not over allowed weight limit. Now it is only matter of time. Even though I have been traveling for over seven years by now, I still don’t like goodbyes. It’s that moment when you are fully aware that your precious time with your family is about to be over. A word to wise: don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter, hug your family and enjoy every moment. You have only one chance so make it count.

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Starting from this vacation I have been assigned to new agent in my manning office. For those who don’t know, every seamen who works for corporate cruise lines have an agent on a shoreside. This agent is usually in charge of all administrative work regarding one particular department when it comes to documentation required to join ship.

So at least few days before joining cruise ship this agent should ensure that you have done all paperwork and everything in order to join your following assignment. They provide us with crucial information regarding work visas, medical examinations and certificates, contract agreements, travel and transportation info such as flight details and hotel information, joining and immigration letter in short everything that you may need prior to join cruise ship.

In last week of my vacation I have realized that I’m still missing Hotel information and Joining letter for U.S. customs and border protection to justify purpose of my trip. However, I had received contract agreement and I have had hotel information from travels before but I didn’t like idea to disclose this information with someone unknown. Therefore, I’ve emailed my agency few days prior to the trip in this regards.

Unfortunately until the very last day I haven’t got any response. I have booked my own flights because I wasn’t joining from my home airport in Belgrade. Part of my family is living in Lima, Peru my wife and son included. So normally when I’m off ship on a vacation I would spend time with them. Therefore I had to make my own travel arrangements. I had an overnight connecting flight from Lima to San Francisco via Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Few hours before the first flight I’ve decided to email Princess Cruises 24h Crew travel emergency service. For the first time in over seven years I had incomplete documentation before to travel. Not a big deal but you never know who you are going to meet at the customs check.

First step check was at the international airport “Jorge Chavez” in Lima. I was asked to present my documentation. As I have two U.S. visas B1/B2 for tourist and C1/D for seaman I was asked with which one I’m going to travel. In this case that was C1/D. Therefore I had to present a letter from company that I haven’t had. So other option was my contract agreement page with my personal information. Even though I wasn’t very pleased to disclose that info I had no choice.

Shorty after seeing my contract with cruise line I was approved to travel to U.S. as a seaman.

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First step successfully passed. Luggage wrapped and checked in. I had a plan to tip luggage handlers by putting some money in envelope and using double sided tape to stick it to my bags on check-in with note “for luggage handlers – thank you for looking after my luggage“ but unfortunately I have forgotten the envelopes already prepared at home, so this will remain for next travels. I haven’t done that before but I do understand one thing: We don’t travel every day and this guys (luggage handlers) do work every day. In order to get our bags to our destination they work very hard and they are payed very low. They put their own health in risk for us, travelers, so small tip may not mean much to us but it can mean a whole lot to them. So I don’t blame them, I do understand them.

Flight from Lima to Fort Lauderdale was little over six hours long. Unfortunately I haven’t slept at all in first leg. First stop in U.S. was in Florida. Even though it was not my final destination, I had to collect my luggage and then recheck-in. Also every first stop in U.S. whether it’s your final destination or not, you have to go through security, customs and border protection checks.

Good thing is once you pass this you don’t have to do it again.

My overlay in Florida was nearly twelve hours. Plenty time to spend on one airport in short. As I have bought U.S. sim card before I was lucky and smart enough to keep it active during my vacation. This allowed me to purchase very good data plan that I’m heavily dependent on. I got prepaid plan that gives me unlimited calls, data (22 GB at 4G speed) in USA, Canada and Mexico and unlimited texts worldwide for as little as $ 60. I say little because onboard ship if we wish to use internet we have two options: $20 for 222 MB and other $40 for 666 MB of ultra slow internet. So it cannot compare. Maybe $60 will look a lot to someone but when you look what you get for this price and if you take in consideration that internet is our only connection with outside world, family and friends then you will understand.

Second flight from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco was six hours as well but this time I got some rest. At least a little bit. Good thing when flying domestic in U.S. is onboard free Wi-Fi also known as Fly-Fi. Free Wi-Fi is always welcome in lives of travelers. Compared with cruise ship, Wi-Fi speeds are much better but only available in domestic flights. Hopefully this will change in future.

It passed over 8 p.m. when we have landed in SFO. Someone asked before if anyone wait for me from company. In my experience, only on my very first travel to join the ship an agent was waiting for me on airport. Actually even then no one waited for me but I remember that I was looking for agent on airport in Rome, Italy and local people helped me to call him and then he came to airport to collect me and take me to hotel. Every other trip after I have only followed the instructions given to me by my manning agency. But I have spoken with some colleagues and one of them told me that someone always waited for him on airport. So experiences are not always same. I consider myself literate enough to get myself from airport to designated hotel without any cost. Princess Cruises usually book hotels close to airports for its employees meaning that there is always free shuttle bus service to hotel. All you need is just to read carefully instructions given to you, keep calm and do not rely on others. Be self confident, take action rather then to wait for someone else to take action for you. Take this advice and you will be just fine.

First weeks onboard are usually the most busiest ones. It is considered as adjustment period where you are going to work routine. If you pass this first two weeks without any issues then you have very good chances to make it through the whole contract.

I have made video of this travel for you and you can see it here.

If you liked my post be welcome to subscribe for more, it does help me and motivates me to write more for you. Have you ever traveled before? How was your experience? Let me know in comments below. If you have any particular questions feel free to write them in comments section.

More about first weeks and life onboard my next posts.

See you soon again 🙂

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