A long time ago, some close friends once asked me why I have taken so much time wirting down these stories from my own life. I have often thought about that question, and I think it wasn't primarily because I wanted to share them with the world. It was more like recording my own life, where I have been and what I have done. When we get older, we tend to forget (what is important). By re-reading these stories when my mind is still young, I suddenly remember a lot more from the past, people, encounters and achievements. Friends who have taken time to know me intimately, have sometimes described me as a very reflective person, but I think it has always been important for me to record my own life and experiences for my own sake. †
MY ROYAL VIKING STORY:
It was a sunny June day over much of Scandinavia. It did not really matter, it could have been raining but the weather did not really stand out as a factor at all. The year was 1990 and the Royal Viking Sun was docked in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. I left the taxi and walked up to the gangway. “Joining crew?” Welcome, you are expected. I waited on the pier to be cleared to go on board. After waiting a few short minutes, a bearded man appeared in a strapping white uniform with lots of gold on his epaulets and wearing a Captain's hat. He walked steadily down the gangway and came straight over to me.
I straightened my back and stood upright as a soldier on attention. “My name is Captain Harsheim” he proclaimed and continued “I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to my ship, the Royal Viking Sun, your new home”. I would later understand that Captain Harsheim was coincidentally by the gangway when I arrived, but his welcome made me feel special: like he was waiting for me to arrive. It gave a lasting good impression of a man I would come to admire for my entire nautical career.†
I was quickly united with what was to become my immediate supervisor, the boatswain (later to be called Bosun). He gave me a berth in a small cabin, showed me around and introduced me to the Filipino guys of the deck department. I should know, I would be the only Scandinavian rating in deck department but I was welcome to join him for meals in the petty officer mess if I wanted. If I had any problems adjusting, I should let him know right away.†
The first days were terrifying, a mixture of home sickness and fear. There were so many new people a new ship, new routines, a job, commitments, duties, responsibilities, intimidating officers with white uniforms. There was an endless amount of things to fear and getting used to. But eventually, as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, it wasn't all that bad. I enjoyed the work more and more each day, there wasn’t so much responsibility being a deck hand but a lot of hard work. It was no secret, but I did really enjoy maintenance work very much. It gave me lots of fresh air, sunshine and coffee breaks, in addition to a good sweat (oh, I was so skinny that time of my life). Even though the bosun some times had a terrible temper, he was for the most of the time, kind. He took great pride in teaching me deck work, such as splicing a rope or a wire, mixing paints or how to look for rust. He had been a bosun for a couple of lifetimes and was a true bosun the way I would imagine a bosun would be, complete with sailor’s tattoos and numerous stories of the life at sea some times too incredible to believe. His physique was also just how a bosun should look like - his upper arms were bigger than my waist line, enough to cast fear wherever he needed amongst the deck ratings. I particularly remember that when something went wrong during mooring operations, and he lost his temper, everybody ran to hide behind winches or stacks of ropes, out of harms way and striking distance.
Every Saturday evening if the ship was at sea, the bosun invited deck and engine guys and certainly the Scandinavian stewardesses to a storm-soup party on the forward mooring deck. The storm soup would be served and many people came for this evening snack. It was actually good too. The soup was a salty bullion based soup with vegetables, meat and sausages. The bosun would sit at the end of a long table being King of the group. Dare you take the spot away from him. If any of the stewardesses forgot to give him a kiss on the cheek when they arrived to get soup, he would reprimand them.†
During my first month or so on board, I was not allowed to sit near the bosun. But as time progressed, he invited me to sit next to him on his right side. Never on the left side. He took special care in making sure I was looked after; like his fatherly instincts played a role.†
Work was really hard sometimes and even though I enjoyed the most of it, there was one task I never felt comfortable with. You could easily ask me to do any job, but the job of touch-up paining by the name on the bow from a bosun's chair, was about as scary as it could get. You would have to climb down from the forecastle inwards towards the leaning hull to a small plank tied up as a bosun's chair. I was terrified of this task but I got to do it a lot if I did not pay too much attention to the moments when the bosun wanted to tell me a story of something he experienced many years ago during a shore leave in some dubious country somewhere. It was his way of punishing me, he knew very well how much I hated it. I remember he stood on the bridge and laughed at me once as I climbed over the railing.
At Sunday morning’s (while overtime was still allowable) after assigning all deck guys a tasks for the day, he used to keep me by his side to the last. When everyone had gone to start their work, he would go on and tell me stories more incredible than the other. The stories were from a lifetime at sea, from faraway ports, from dubious encounters; quite outstanding in their own way. When he finished his story telling, he sent me off to do my task.†
Time passed by like water flowing in a river. I very much recall how proud I was working as a crew member on the Royal Viking Sun. As a matter of fact, all crew on board were extremely proud of the company and their ship. I clearly felt that this was a reflection of the leader on board, his views and his personal touch on all aspects of the operation. There is no doubt in my mind that without the Captain we had, the ship would never have been what it was at that time. As an ordinary crew rating, I remember how the entire crew admired the captain, how they spoke of him with respect and how they loved his personal and friendly attitude. Captain Ola Stein Harsheim was the heart and soul of both Royal Viking Sun and the crew on board. I remember how the ship would change once Harsheim went on vacation. We, the crew, actually looked forward to his return and each and every one of us knew exactly which day he would return. Some crew members even marked their calendars in their cabins with his return date.†
I remember seeing him occasionally around the ship - he was kind, polite and genuine. He was my Captain and larger than life. It was no secret that I admired him very much. He was not only like a father to me on board, but to all of the crew as well. I was proud to be working under a Captain of such a high caliber. Eventually, after an 18-months contract on board I became an able bodied seaman. It was time for me to go home, 18 months on board was way longer than anyone else had stayed on board, and about the twice of length I signed up for. Nevertheless, I even asked the Chief Officer to extend me another 6 weeks so that I could visit another port I had not yet been to. He said, he could but would not.†
I then asked Captain Harsheim, but he said it was about time for me to go home. I was going to have a 4 month vacation but after a short two weeks ashore I received a letter at home. It was a letter from Captain Harsheim. The letter was headed with his popular phrase “This is your Captain speaking” (this was Captain Harsheim's trade mark reflecting the start of every morning speech on the public address system on board) and enclosed was a group picture of all the deck guys. He wished me a happy vacation and welcome back to my family on board Royal Viking Sun at end of vacation.
When I received this letter, I truly felt special and I missed the ship and my friends on board. About a week later, the phone rang at home and the employment office of Royal Viking Line (NCL) was on the other end. They asked me how I enjoyed my vacation, to which I replied very good but it was like something was missing in my life. The routines and the work on board had become a part of my routines. Well, anyhow, they had a question for me. Could I possibly return back on board within 5 days? Upon my return on board Royal Viking Sun, I would be promoted to become an officer apprentice. The hitch was that I would have to return within 5 days. Certainly. I was ready. Count me in.
It was great coming back to the Royal Viking Sun, almost like coming home to a second family. And what a change, this time I would also be wearing a white uniform. Though only a junior officer, I was still an officer. The ship had never had an officer apprentice before so all details was not prepared prior to me joining, but they were all figured out and laid out as time went on. I always believed that Captain Harsheim went on a personal mission to educate me on how to become a gentleman and a true cruise ship officer. Not only an officer of any cruise ship but to become an officer of a Royal Viking - ship. He took great care in showing me duties, explaining where necessary, and always being there for moral support and back up. I remember he once told me, the uniform would not make you anything else other than a person in white, you would have to act and behave yourself accordingly in all occasions and at all times to earn the respect of your position. Being an officer is a privilege and not everyone can call themselves an officer. It is a protected title and it requires an examination and a license in a specialized field of some kind. I remember these days as extremely educational and I continued to look up to Captain Harsheim for my entire time together with him.
Another person that was a great inspiration to me was a First Officer named Nils Forberg (from same place as Captain Harsheim). He took it upon himself as well to teach me how to navigate a real ship, do celestial navigation and how to stand a bridge watch. He trusted me and supported me at all times, showed me how to do things when I no longer understood how things worked. When my celestial calculations threw me 400 nautical miles off target, he went through my calculations and showed me where I had made an error in calculation. I knew I could always trust him in showing me and teaching me everything.†
Another officer which I did not fit well with was the Chief Officer. While I was still in my first contract as a deck boy, I was assigned to his duty as a lookout. One morning he asked me to go down to the mess room and get him a red apple. The problem was that the mess room had no more red apples, only green. I thought an apple was an apple, so I brought the Chief Officer a green apple. Big mistake and big misjudgment. The Chief Officer literally exploded and smashed the apple in the bulkhead and stated that if I didn’t stop working against him, he would have me reported. I was shocked. I was just trying. Thereafter, as an officer apprentice I had to stand watch with him. He did not trust me much at first but as time went on, he let me do more and more navigation. One thing he did not like though, was when I stayed on the bridge after duty with Nils Forberg to continue on my celestial navigation.
During port days, I was normally assigned as team leader on the ships gangway. I liked this task very much because I got to meet many of the guests. And in the evenings, we would escort them to shows on board or to dinner parties in the dining room. The first time I dined in the dining room with a table full of guest was nerve wrecking to say at least. I was to join Captain Harsheim at his table and had to practice with him prior to the dinner. It was like it was an exam which I had to pass should I want to be an officer and a gentleman. Another story I remember very well from my time as an apprentice officer was a time after which all officers had been briefed by the Staff Captain on gangway procedures. During this briefing, it was clearly stressed that crew members were not allowed to congregate on the gangway for any reason or at any time. The following day was an overnight port visit and I was in charge of the gangway on the first evening. The evening then turned into early night and the Bosun came up to the gangway after his rounds to just have a chat. Most crew had gone ashore so he probably saw some sort of company in the people on gangway duty. Bosun seldom went ashore, I actually don’t think I ever remember him going ashore. The bosun sat down on the conveyor belt of the x-ray machine and started browsing a Royal Viking-brochure that was lying on the gangway. I hoped he would leave the gangway shortly but I soon realized he had come to stay for a while. I remembered the meeting the day before and what the Staff Captain had said: no crew to congregate on the gangway. Even though the Bosun was a petty officer, I made a decision that he could not sit there. I told him briskly to please leave the gangway which after a short while, he did. He did not seem too happy about it at all, more shocked than anything else - not too strange as I just a few months earlier had been a deck boy and a subordinate of him. Now I was an apprentice officer in a white uniform. The following morning Staff Captain approached me and told me that Bosun had complained that he was told to leave the gangway, and Vice Captain had been told to tell that young aspiring officer of yours that you don't tell bosun to leave. The Staff Captain just smiled, I had done the right thing. Officers have to take charge and sometimes do things that may not be the most popular decision. That is the role of an officer - to be a leader and to receive authority you need to earn respect by giving clear orders. A new lesson had been learned and an experience richer I was.
A few months before the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, I was promoted from officer apprentice to Second Officer and then to a First Officer a few weeks before we arrived at Barcelona. Eventually, after many weeks as a hotel ship in Barcelona under a charter of NBC during the 1992 Summer Olympics, I was asked if I wanted a transfer to the parent company (NCL). Royal Viking Sun was in the process of being transferred to Cunard and the future of some positions could not be guaranteed for those who chose to follow the ship. I wasn’t too worried of a transfer, though sad as I would have to leave a ship and crew members which had become like a family to me. I had one request though, could I please be transferred to the S|S Norway? Some time later, Captain Harsheim called me in to his office an early Sunday morning. It was Nils who called me in my cabin and told me to proceed to Captain’s Office immediately. He said it in a way that really made me think I had done something really seriously wrong (that joker.)
Arriving at Captain Harsheim’s office, he had 2 things to convey.... one bad news and one good news. The bad news is that you won’t be returning to Royal Viking Sun after vacation, the good news is that you will be going to the S|S Norway as you requested. I didn’t know if I should be sad or happy; I wanted to go to the Norway so much but I would hate leaving my friends behind on board and not being able to sail with Captain Harsheim again.
But then again, the S|S Norway was a great replacement. She had always been in my heart and now I had gained the experience I did not have before. I was ready for a new challenge on the sea, Captain Harsheim proclaimed. And in the same way Captain Harsheim had welcomed me on board the first time on the pier in Stockholm a few years earlier, he was now bidding me farewell on the gangway “Good luck in your future and bon voyage Jan-Olav. It was a pleasure sailing with you”. “It was a pleasure sailing with you and serving under you too, Captain Harsheim”.
MY SS NORWAY STORY:†
A ship that formed my life. A ship that became the love of my life.
I met the SS Norway for the first time in Miami on July 11th 1987 while she was still the largest cruise ship in the world. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's brand new Sovereign of the Seas had just be launched and claimed to be bigger but there was no way the new ships would be more magnificent. For many people that came to Dodge Island in Miami, the first thing they would have seen was her towering profile, the two striking funnels and the large forward radar mast. She had classic profile - like a blast from the past. There was no doubt to anyone who saw her, that she was large. For the people who got to know her more closely such as her officers and crew that came to work on her, she was large in any sense of the word. Dimensions were both impressive and staggering whatever part of her was discussed. Navigation was vastly different on board and so were the engineering aspects as well.
She was after all one of the last remaining steam ships in full operation. And she was seaworthy. Her immense length, width and weight made her unique. She was built for the harsh elements of winter storms in the North Atlantic. There was no bad weather for the Norway.
My first time on board was as a young teenage passenger who immediately was captivated and forever changed by her. It was no problem understanding that this was an ocean liner packed full of events, drama, history and romance. You could almost feel the winds of the past when walking through her corridors. Even though the smell now was more of a mixture of old history and suntan oils, there was something different on the Norway. She had a very special aroma on board, she smelled differently compared to any other cruise ship I have ever visited.†
When disembarking or embarking in port, you were taken ashore in her ships - not boats. You would sit close to the big blue hull waiting for the tenders to depart, looking skywards. Every trip to and from the ship in port was an opportunity to see her distinct profile and admire her lines. What a ship - no one will ever be built like her.†
I returned to the SS Norway in 1989 in the position as an apprentice deck boy. I was assigned to work in different departments in order to get a feel of what it all was about. I worked in the galley, with the ship's professional fire fighters, with the bosun and the carpenters and with the stewards cleaning rooms. It gave me an insight into the ship like no other had received before me. The days were indeed long and hard, but I couldn't care less as this was my dream. I could do anything as long as I worked on board her. I was treated very well on board and at every free opportunity I could possibly get, I was collecting information on her history. There were people working on board that had been there since her conversion from France and almost all on board had stories to tell. And they were very eager to talk as well. They were true characters in every aspect of the word and their life was revolving around the Norway. They knew every corner of her better than their own pockets and could probably survive on board blind-folded for days without any problems.†
It was amazing and one of the saddest days was when I signed off and transferred to the Royal Viking Sun. Captain Lokoen said to me it's not goodbye, but until we meet again. I so dearly hoped to be back again some day but I needed more experience so I had to try out other ships. The crew member serving the longest time on board the SS Norway was Chief Pilot Troll Tobben. Tobben signed on in the summer of 1984 in Geiranger and his whereabouts are now a little unclear. After having served on the Royal Viking Sun, I eventually returned SS Norway. I was ecstatic.
By this transfer to the SS Norway as First Officer, first step of my childhood dream came through. I had become an officer of the greatest ship in the world. When arriving on board the Norway, I got my own bridge watch, a four hour shift on duty followed by 8 hours off duty. In the beginning I got the 8-12 watch as I was the one with least experience among the bridge navigation officers on board, but rather quickly I was transferred to the 12-4 shift. No matter which duty I stood, I loved it, sailing the Norway at sea at night or day. Controlling her. Watching her navigation. Standing watch on the bridge of the Norway was special. The long bow in front of you with two tender landing crafts securely resting on the bow. There was nothing like it. I still to this day, I have problem when having to describe the feeling I had being in command on her.
Then as days turned into months, I was shifted to the 4-8 watch. This would become the duty during the majority of my years on board as Navigation Officer. It was by far the best watch. I had the sunrises and the sunsets and the bridge to myself most of the time when we were at sea, including most of the departures and arrivals. Arriving and departing a port was one of the best parts about the duty as well. The Captain during my time was a true seaman and as an officer, he was of the opinion that we all had to learn how to navigate even such a big ship closer to shores and towards arrival points. He carefully presided all procedures like a hawk and ensured that we always knew where we were and that we were at the place we were supposed to be.†
I loved the responsibility of navigation on arrival - watching continuously over the speed of the ship. It was not like any other ship where you sailed 2-3 miles off and started reducing the last 10-15 minutes. Not on the Norway. Not with steam propulsion. Depending on the speed prior to arrival, we normally started 21 nautical miles before the arrival point, some 90 minutes before arrival. We would then reduce the propeller revolutions at a rate of 1 rpm for each minute that we sailed. From 125 rpm's to maneuvering speed of 50 rpm's it would therefore roughly take 75 minutes - but naturally depending on current, wind and other traffic. Starting to reduce the speed too late would make it necessary to make a 360 degrees large circle before arriving again - and that certainly meant a long delay. That was therefore not an option.†
One of the greatest things I had an opportunity to do on board was a historical walk through of the ship with the guests. We would start on the top deck with 10 people and end up in the Roman Spa with 200. Everyone wanted to learn more about the ship. And for this I received up 200++ comments at the end of each cruise. The rewarding part about it was that more people became aware of the ship's history. She suddenly became more to them than just an ordinary old ship. Many people had actually no clue of the history behind the ship. Some even considered her just an ordinary old ship, but once completing my historical tour, grew to become true fans of the Norway and the France.†
Eventually, I became a Safety Officer on board. I would have no more bridge duties after that promotion apart from arrivals and departures on the bridge, and the pick up and launching of the tender boats. I enjoyed the control of being able to put them on the water safely and retrieve them back on board. It was a small technique to learn but with practice, I eventually made it.
The hardest part of working on the Norway as a deck officer was the fact that the ship was too big for most ports in Caribbean to dock. When in port, the bridge officers were reassigned to the tender boats as tender captains. In fact I did not mind it too much at all, even though it was extremely hot at times. For me, it was a way to get away from the ship for a short time and each trip was an opportunity to see the grand vessel at anchor. The tender boats were so easy to handle, so maneuverable. They were actually quite fun handling and as many of you know, they were large - 450 passengers each. I especially loved being launched in Saint Johns early Wednesday morning to pick up immigration and customs while the Norway was still doing 5 knots through the water. I could do it, I could even go in the blocks when the Norway was sailing at 4 knots ahead. I remember how the captain wanted me to launch the first tender each time we had to do it while the ship still made headway; the days when we were slightly delayed.†
All in all, I'm extremely thankful to Norwegian Cruise Line for giving me the opportunity to spend many years on the Norway.†
I do have a dream to see her back in service some day again, but right now she has been cut in pieces and sold for scrap and parts. Similarly to so many other people around the world which has experienced her grace, speed, design and size up-close, she should have been preserved for the future. Sadly, it was not possible. Bottom line is that it would be an immense task requiring a lot of money to keep such a ship afloat - even as a static hotel ship. It would be a risky project which nobody may wanted to take upon themselves.
Couldn't she have been included into some kind of port development project somewhere? Maybe not. But think about it, all the history on board.... all the stuff.... sad to see it all gone. The only reconciliation I can think of is the term “Nothing lasts forever”.
MY CRYSTAL FAMILY:
Sailing on Crystal Symphony around the world.
After resigning from Norwegian Cruise Line at the start of 1999 I had spent my time working for Thai Airways and another large local HR company in Thailand. I had enjoyed the new experience but I missed the sea. It was already late summer when I got in touch with International Cruise Management in Oslo. As luck would have it, they were looking for a new navigator to join their family on board their ship Crystal Symphony of Crystal Cruises. They needed someone to join the ship within the next two weeks and after a very pleasant interview at their office in Oslo, I was offered the position of a Safety Officer. I was promised the position of Chief Officer within a reasonable short time, but in practicality, it took a little longer than anticipated before that was offered. I was to join the ship in Venice, Italy, on September 4th 1999. It gave me just enough time to depart Norway again and take a few days back home in Thailand to get everything ready for some time away.
After a short flight from Bangkok to Venice, I eventually arrived down at the dockside of a very bright and white ship. My two first weeks on board was going to be an overlap period where I was to learn all about the ship, the position, the company and the guests. During my overlap with the soon vacation-going Safety Officer, I was assigned to a guest stateroom with a balcony. During off duty hours, oh, this was cruising! What a down turn it was when the Safety Officer went home and gave his keys to me: moving down to deck 4 with only a tiny porthole. Oh well, this is the life of crew. I was after all being paid to be there, not the other way around. The officer accommodations are relatively small on board but equipped well enough with both TV and VDO, a writing desk, locker and drawers and off course, an own bathroom with shower.
I remember feeling like landing in the twilight zone, like landing on a Royal Viking ship even without actually being on one. The crew friendliness, the atmosphere, the itinerary and the style: it was all like a Royal Viking.
The first weeks on board any new ship is always exiting because there is so much to learn about the ship, it’s systems and behavior: especially if you are a Safety Officer and in charge of anything that involves safety on board. I spent a lot of time, hours on hours, after I took over the responsibilities getting to know the ship, walking every corridor up and down, from the double bottom dry tanks to top of the funnel.†
One of the things that I would also come to learn when working with Crystal was the professionalism of most of the fellow crew and officers. It was from the very first moment I stepped on board very evident that International Cruise Management in Oslo had taken extra great care in choosing candidates for their shipboard positions. There were some extremely well qualified people on board, both officers and crew. They were dedicated to the ship and the company, and could provide nothing less than the very best of their personal best. There were indeed such individuals also in Norwegian Cruise Line but at Crystal, they were in majority. But sadly, there were also a few personalities which really didn’t fit on any ship, particularly in management positions. I had my strong encounters with them and it is still unclear to me how much damage they actually did to my own career. I made my opinion clear sometimes, a thing that may not always have been well received.
It was quite interesting to study individuals on board, including especially myself. I felt I performed at my optimum when working with equals who supported team work and professionalism. This was contrary to the times when I had to work with individuals which did not support these ideas, but was a mere reflection of their own ego. Those times, I felt low and it made my work not up to the standard that I knew and did achieve at other times. Each contract was different, with new challenges and new tasks. Don’t get me wrong, working on Crystal was the very best experience of my life and I still to this day, firmly believe that there are no better employers in the world than ICMA in Oslo and Crystal Cruises. Even after having to resign from this wonderful cruise line, their professionalism in correspondence is still what makes me think of them so highly. I have nothing else than admiration and deep respect for all the dedicated personnel both at shore side and ship side of Crystal Cruises. They are undoubtedly the best and have years of experience in being so.
Well, before racing too much off track, back to my life and experience of Crystal Cruises. One of the best things about Crystal, except from the above and the fact that they are a RV look-alike, is the itinerary. You are never stuck in one part of the world, you are continuously on the way to new and exotic destinations. My first contract, as I mentioned, I joined in Venice. After some trips around in the Mediterranean, the journey took me to places such as Israel and Egypt. We cruised through the Suez Canal and entered the Pacific Ocean stopping at ultra-exotic places and atolls in the warm ocean. We cruised through Asia stopping at famous places like Mumbai, Singapore and Bali before going to one of the hottest places I have ever been, Broome in Australia. After almost 4 months on board, my vacation came up. I signed off in Sydney, Australia, some two weeks before the new millennium.
Another fantastic thing with Crystal was the core of their business, the guests. They were for the most part an amazing crowd which I could easily recognize as they cruised again and again with us. With some of the guests, personal bonds were grown and indeed, they were given the royal treatment in the same way you would do to a family member. When I reached my promotion to become a Chief Officer on board, one of my new assignments was to host my very own table in the Crystal Dining Room. This was naturally one of my greatest responsibilities during each cruise: dining with guests at my table, getting to know them and to host them for a pleasant dinner 3-4 nights a week. I had so much fun doing this. Some of my guests even asked to be seated on my table again when they cruised next time. I had some guests that had been at my table up to a handful number of cruises. They just didn’t want to be seated anywhere else. This was very heart warming and I felt very dedicated to those guests. They would remember almost everything about me and I would also remember them very well, where they came from and when they cruised the last time. During my first years at Crystal, I was also awarded the Employee of the Month award by Captain Reidulf Maalen. This was a little bit out of line at the time, as this award had never been given to an officer before. This is an exclusive award for crew members as a thank you for their hard work and dedication. I was therefore very surprised as Captain Maalen called me up and told me that I had been chosen for my dedication to my work. It was a very proud moment and it was quite enjoyable basking in the sun for a while.
As time passed by, as months turned into years and as contracts flew by, I came to love the Crystal Symphony and I knew the ship in it’s every corner. I had been in all parts of the ship, from top of the mast to the hollow inside of the bulbous bow. After achieving the promotion to Chief Officer on board, one of the more strenuous tasks was inspection of ships tanks; fresh water tanks, sewage tanks, ballast tanks and void spaces. Some of these tanks were a delight to be inside, while others were extremely dark, small and very dirty. Common for them all is that they were very hot places. A tank inspection was a always a very good diet exercise. But no matter what anybody said, including myself, it was very interesting to learn those out-of-reach areas of the ship. Not many people had the opportunity to be there, nevertheless the permission. I loved my job on board as a Chief Officer, ever more so than being Safety Officer. I loved being in charge of maintenance much because there was always something new to learn every single day. Paint, wires, stores, crew management, gangway, security, stability, tank inspections, outside deck inspections, environmental meetings, safety committee meetings. Not a day would be the same in this position.†
The exterior maintenance of the ship was my domain, the interior passenger areas of the ship was the domain of the Vice Captain. There are so many stories and things I would like to share about my life on board, but for the best of many, I should probably just stick to some of the more pleasant things. As tragedy struck New York in September 2001, things changed. Suddenly cruise ships came into a very different light. A lot of things were bound to change, for the betterment of safety and security. One of these things was a complete restructuring of the deck officer ranks on board. I don’t want to go too much in detail on this but the position of a Chief Officer took over all the responsibilities of the Safety Officer, Security Officer and Deputy Captain. Some were naturally also given to the Vice Captain but the work load changed dramatically.
Well, this is naturally a little dependent on the person holding the position. For a person that does what the regulations require would probably do well, but if you are the kind of person who would like to continually improve your performance by going the extra mile all the time, you would exhaust yourself rather fast. There is very little to no recognition in doing so though. Then, a few years after 9-11, the Asian tsunami swept all across Asia and certain things changed very much based on the personal losses I endured. It was a very hard time for me and it took a very long time before I felt that life had returned back to as normal as normal can be. The tragedy that struck Asia not only affected me but also millions of others. It taught me one very valuable lesson, a lesson which was reinitiated by the great Vice Captain on board that time: No matter how bad your life is, there is always someone in a worse situation. I stood out another year on board after the tsunami with extended contracts and though, I still loved my job, priorities had nevertheless changed. I had a family back home that needed my support and it was with a very heavy heart I handed in my resignation to Crystal Cruises in Oslo. It was probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life.†
As a conclusion to some of my experiences from Crystal Cruises, I would like to close by thanking both ICMA in Oslo and Crystal Cruises for all their hard work, dedication to crew satisfaction and for all opportunities you all gave me. It has been very rewarding to both learn and be a part of the success the cruise line stands for year after year. Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t hesitate in returning to the world of Crystal. There is no doubt in my mind; Crystal is the Royal Viking of today and not surprisingly, the World’s Best Cruise Line.
>> You may also drop by our very friendly CaptainsVoyage Forum to read more story from and about Crystal Cruises made by myself and other members from around the world.†