The first time I boarded a cruise ship I was completely lost and overwhelmed. I remember getting lost for weeks. I have the image of the metal staircase in my mind that looked the same no matter where I was. The white paint on the walls and all the colored safety signs everywhere I turned. Muster stations A, B, C, liferaft, lifeboats, FZ, main vertical zone, WTD, FD etc nothing made sense. I was always getting in trouble for being late for training. That was mainly because I was always getting lost. Lucky for me, there was always a crew around the corner ready to guide me so I survived, somehow..
And then you had the rules, oh THE RULES! Don’t wear open toe shoes, don’t chew gum, English only in public areas, no headphones around crew areas, don’t take food around the ship, don’t don’t don’t. There were so many rules and there are still so many these days that we need to follow that I can only imagine the mixed feelings a 20 years old something crew that is used to freedom and rebellion at this age, has to go through.
Today this was the topic with one of the officers onboard. His replacement arrived yesterday and he is a new hire and we were both like “oh no, new hires!”. It is not easy and sadly I have noticed how much I have lost my patience in the last years. We have all been there, yet, in our hectic daily jobs we forget that someone who is new to this life has no clue about many basic things.
The familiarization before starting a job onboard is very important but sometimes it is not enough. Is like driving a car somewhere. If you are not the one who’s driving chances are you pay little attention how to get there and rely on the driver. Most probably you will have a difficult time driving your own car the next time in that same area. But if you are the driver and are responsible of getting to your destination chances are you will remember easily how to get there the next time too.
The same applies when you have to learn your way onboard. For example, when I was changing frequently ships I was always going by myself in a “safety familiarization” trip. If the Safety Officer or your supervisor takes you by the hand to show you where do you have to go in case of an emergency, most probably you will forget how to get there by the end of the day. But if you struggle to find your way around and succeed, you will most certainly make it the second time around also.
I try to remember those moment many times when I have to find the patience and time to sit down and explain general rules to new hires. Sometimes I blame myself for becoming slightly insensitive to other people’s needs because I do not want that. Life at sea makes your skin thicker no matter on which type of ship you are but let’s not let that be in the way of being human and helping others.
If you are getting ready to get on a ship, either it’s your first time ever or maybe you are getting ready to go on a new type of ship don’t worry. You will embarrass yourself several times, get lost even more times, some may laugh of you and then one day you will get to laugh of others too, your colleagues may play tricks on you, laugh and have fun because life is a long learning process my friend.