I have visited a Facebook group called I worked on cruise ships (Spanish) and met Verónica. I saw that she worked as a photographer on cruise ships and she has a blog where she tells you her experiences, the life onboard and I contacted her to tell us her story.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Verónica I’m Argentinian and I have been working as a photographer for 7 years. I used to work onboard as a photographer for 4 years, but during the last 3 years I worked on land but the life of a crew member is carried in my heart forever. There is no day without thinking about cruises. Now I work as a photographer in Buenos Aires, but I consider myself a true traveller and I always find an excuse to pack my suitcase, buy a ticket and travel somewhere. I realised after the cruise ship, that besides of being Argentinian, I’m the citizen of the world.
Which companies have you worked for and which department?
I always worked for Pullmantur, since I started until my last contract even though during my last contract, Royal Caribbean bought the company. I worked as a photographer taking photos of passengers, print them and sell them in the photo gallery.
Why did you decide to work on cruise ships?
I always knew that I wanted to travel, especially after working in the design area of an advertising agency and being locked up inside for 7 hours a day. When I started to study photography, I became friends with a Columbian girl who had a friend working on cruises and she said it’s incredible.
This is how I realised that on the cruise ships there are photographers… Until than I didn’t know. As soon as she told me that, the idea began to form in my head more and more until I saw how I could embark. I sent a lot of resumes to different companies and many months later I got an interview with a Chilean company.
After I did my Maritime courses, did my passport and passed many interviews, I got the job onboard. I waited 9 months to embark. It was 9 months of uncertainty, faith, disinclination all together, but it worth waiting.
Tell us how you spend your days in the photography department
Working as a photographer on cruise ships is fun, the life on board depends a lot on the team you are working with, luckily my contracts were incredibles. Of course there were bad and good things but I have always made a lot of friends all around the world and we had a lot of fun.
In the photography department we had to try to create photos that the passengers couldn’t do themselves. So when they came they have their photo by the anchor with the pirate (The photographers were dressed as pirates), photos on the tropical show with the dancers, photos in the restaurant… When we finished with the photo sessions, we had to run to print them to have them ready for the same day and achieve quicker sales.
The photographers have a fixed salary plus commission on the sales. And this is how we divide the work: one of the photographers went to the lab to print, the rest of the team stayed in the gallery to attended the clients or went to do more photos. We could print out more than 1000 photos on a daily basis.
Do you remember your first day onboard?
My first day was incredible!
I embarked in Barcelona. When I arrived to the airport a Spanish crew member was waiting for me holding a sign “PULLMANTUR CREW”, I felt important :D. There was an other photographer with him who came from Mexico and a girl from the Philippines who come to work in the casino.
We were about to embark on the Sovereign, a cruise ship with almost 3000 passengers onboard, one of the biggest of the company. When we arrived to the boat no-one understood anything and from the first day they begin to familiarise you with the boat, meetings, find uniforms, drills and after all this you have to get your crew pass, which is a card that identifies you and allows you to get on and off the boat plus this is like a credit card for you that you can use to buy things on board and they take it from your wages.
Also on my first day I met with my colleagues who we become friends forever. They helped me to learn not just about photography but taught me about the life onboard.
How is the life onboard?
The life onboard is amazing. To enjoy the sea every day, feel it, listen to it, is unforgettable. You can get addicted to many things: the sea, have a bar every night for 10 minutes in your cabin, don’t have to cook or make your bed. The life will be about work and going out to visit places. Sounds easy, but it isn’t, the work could be 11 hours a day according to the ports.
When I come back to Buenos Aires, everyone asked me about the place I liked the most. I had a pleasure visiting places like Spain, France, Italy, Brasil, but apart of the places I visited, I found life onboard incredible. Sounds surrealistic and sometimes very hard to explain or describe, you have to live it to understand it. When I replied to people what impacted me the most, was life onboard itself. They were staring at me like I was a weirdo… hahaha. As I said before, you have to live it to understand it.
Some nationalities have some restrictions and problems with the Visa.
Was it difficult for you as an Argentinian?
Personally I have never had any problems with the Visa or anything else.
Which one is your strangest memory onboard?
The best memory… I have thousands, thousands of anecdotes, the life onboard is incredible, there is nothing else I can say, it was an awesome and happy part of my life.
The strangest memory that comes in to my mind is when on my second contract they told me that there might be a ghost in the photo lab, or a wandering spirit…. jajaja. My boss, a chilean guy left the video camera on for the night to see if we spot something. I told to my friend that my boss left the camera on for the night to spot a ghost. She come up with the idea to make a joke. At 2 o’clock in the morning we went down to the laundry, took a few bedsheets and got dressed up as a ghosts and we started to haunt in the photo lab in front of the camera.
The next day when we checked the film, there was nothing to see, we never knew what happened, because when we went into the lab, the light was on and it was recording. We never saw ourselves dressed up like ghosts, but we had a lot of fun. However after this none of us wanted to go to the lab alone.
Which one is your favourite destination and what place have you been that you have never imagined you will visit?
Venice was beautiful, but every port had its beauty. When the ship entered and left Venice I felt like I was in a dream. I have never thought that I would visit Santorini, Greece. I’ve also visited many places that I have never thought I will visit if I wasn’t working on a cruise ship like Dubrovnik in Croatia or Madeira in Portugal.
Describe the life on board in 5 words
WORK – MADNESS – FUN – CHALLENGE – FRIENDS
What tips could you give to those who want to work on a cruise ship?
The tip I am always giving when they ask me about the life on board is to do it for the experience and to travel the world. Don’t do it for the money because you won’t enjoy it. But it’s totally worth it, at least for a contract, because it challenges you in everything. You won’t take away anything else but your experience and the things that you have done. If you want to try it, go for it because it’s an incredible life.
Was it on board as you expected?
Working on board was more than I expected. Deep down I knew it will be great, it will be a life I am going to love, but it’s one thing to think about it and an other to live it. To answer this question in have to return to the question of the first day when I embarked, I remember that we were in Barcelona and there was a crew party that they do only once in every month with drinks and free food. It was exciting being on a cruise ship partying thousands of miles from home among good people and on that day I learnt how to dance salsa and there I realised that I will love it more than I expected.
I have to confess that while I read Verónica’s interview and tears come into my eyes. She says very well, you can’t explain what life on board is, you have to live it to understand it.
If you want to know more about Verónica, her travels and about her work, I invite you to visit her blog:
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