Sunday, September 18, 2011

Skagway Alaska on a Crew Salary

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

On this blog I have a disorganized group of experiences from my 11 year career on cruise ships.  FInd out how to save money while in port or find out how crazy it is to be a crew member.  Sometimes a news story catches my eye and I throw it on here, too.  You can like this blog on Facebook or "follow me" on Google.  Stay in touch and when I start thinking of something REALLY great or funny - you'll hear about it first!

As a young, healthy person traveling to Alaska I would marvel at the people sitting on a train all day in Skagway. What a waste! Alaska is beautiful and rugged. If you are somewhat athletic here is the perfect day.

Have a nice breakfast on the ship (FREE) and go to the starbucks or local coffee shop for a real coffee. Stop by the park rangers office and tell them what you plan to do. Inquire about the trails and ask if you are prepared (of course I wouldn't do this but I DID do this the very first time.)

Take the hike up to lower dewey lake and walk halfway around.  If you are adventurous, go swimming near the dam (bring a towel if you are adventurous.)

By the time you get back down the hill it is lunch time.  There is a great Thai restaurant where all the crew members go. After lunch you can roam around and look at trinkets and then stop by the Red Onion for a few beers and a possible tour of an authentic Alaskan brothel.

You'll see more natural beauty, walk off some ship food, eat a great lunch and see soem of the town.  THere really isn't much else to do in Skagway and if you live like a crew member one day, you free up funds for something special like a sea plane or helicopter ride on another day!  Have fun in Alaska and let me know if you have any questions.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Look out for those gypsies in Europe!

Hello and welcome back to "TrumpetTravels" - my true accounts of my eleven year career working about the Princess, Carnival, Holland America, Cunard, Costa, P&O, Ocean Village and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines (and more cruises, I think!)

With so many amazing countries right off the gangway, Mediterranean cruises temp Americans who long to see the old world. Europeans have thousands of years' experience with art, architecture, philosophy, and scamming.

The Gypsies have populated touristic areas in popular cruise ports like Naples, Sardinia, Malaga, and basically any port of call on you Med. cruise.  You can usually spot them quite easily because they look like the stereotype of a Gypsie fortune teller - dark complexion, many layers of baggy clothing, 10 kids running around that look the same,  gold hoop jewelry, and a distinctive "hippy" look to the clothing.

There are a few scams ALL crew members know about.  When in doubt - ask your crew member friends about the safety in port.  They walk the streets every week and know where to walk and where not to.

In Malaga, Spain, look out for Gypsies giving you "un Regalo, un Regalo" (a gift.)  They give you a "free" branch that looks like Rosemary and press it in your hand.  If you don't give them money they curse you and you're supposed to pay them to remove the curse.

In Sardina the Gypsies have fake babies held by a fake arm. They cozy up to you.  They brush against you and with their real arm reach around and take your wallet.

In Italy (Naples, Florence, Rome) look out for kids with little toys (selling).  They run up to you with the tray of toys and run into.  All the toys fly up in the air and as the kids bump into you they reach around and grab your wallet.

In Naples immediately off the ship the same group of guys have been swindling tourists for centuries (not Gypsies).  They have expensive items - iPods, laptops, cameras, all for 60% off retail.  You test it, it works. When you fork over the cash, they give you the box, you get it back to the ship and inside is a bag of sand or a bottle of Evian.  Wouldn't you know EVERY DAY someone falls for that!?!? The police are never around.

With only 200 years of history the US and Americans are not as savvy as Europeans when it comes to scam artists.  Be logical. Be careful. Have fun and don't make any donations to the locals!

I hope I am able to make more posts soon but baby #2 is on the way soon for us.  I don't have as much time to dedicate to this blog as I would like. If you enjoyed this, read my older posts and share to your facebook wall!  Please feel free to link to my blog on forums or twitter/social media.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Oh, The Crew Bar

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

One of the top questions I always got on the cruise was about the crew quarters and the crew bar. People are always curious about how the bar works, if they can get in, etc...

Every ship that I've been on has been different but every ship has one thing in common: a crew bar. Sometimes there is an officers bar, too, but the crew need a place to have a drink and socialize and not have to put on a show for the passengers.

The crew bar is a great place because the ship is full of young, enthusiastic people with a mind open enough to want to be trapped on a ship with a bunch of foreigners!

WHe I first started on Royal Caribbean, the drinks were $.85 for a Budweiser! We used to buy rounds (4) with a five and leave the guy a buck and change!

Officer, staff, and crew are all equals in the crew bar, even though the officers may not think so! This is the place where you can chat about work, but most chat up girls, talk about music, what they are doing tomorrow and what they did that day. Most crew are pretty adventurous so there are usually some crazy stories.

The stories abound of the crew members who passed out in a passenger hallway, who defecated on a crew elevator, who ran naked down the I95 (main thoroughfare), and who in general did some crazy stuff with some crazy people. I remember at one party talking to the saxophone player and a 19 Steiner (salon worker) came up and started rubbing his crotch. With much enthusiasm! He played it cool and did not flinch, continuing his story until the girl got bored and left. I was thinking, "What an amazing place!!!"

After the crew bar, the kitchen staff are dutifully cooking croissants, breads, and if you're in good there's a few Indian cooking a curry somewhere. As a 20 year old drunked fool it is your moral obligation to raid these facilities and take your food to the staff mess where you chow everything down, assuring you will be sleeping in to 10am the next day.

Oh those were the days! THe best part is you never spend more than 10 dollars a night! They even have the same wines passengers drink from $7-25/bottle. Passengers will pay $22-80 for the same bottles!

Some ships have what they call on Princess CAMBUSA. This allows you to purchase items directly from the ship's storage. Cases of water for $8, bottles of Jack for $18 (1L!). This allows you to fully stock an entire bar in your cabin for pennies!

We used to have a pre-game party in the cabin, go "out" to a passengers area for a drink, then hit the crew bar for a decent session before retiring to an after party somewhere.

Life on the ship is crazy - many do not know how to pace themselves. That's why occaisionally you see people walking around like zombies - although they will never admit it to you!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Secret Beach in Hualtulco, Mexico

Hello and welcome to trumpettravels. This is the true account of how I toured the world for eleven years playing music and then later in a sales job. I worked as a crew member for almost all the cruise lines and have a great knowledge of the best ports, best restaurants, best things to do (for me, I guess) and how to wisely spend you money on a cruise ship.

For years cruise ships have been going to a sleepy little town on the Western Beach of Mexico called Hualtulco. I've been going there for years and I know the best beach to go to - if you are as adventurous as a crew member. Skip the tour in Hualtulco and shopping in Hualtulco - go to a free beach in Hualtulco!

View Larger Map

If you want to experience authentic Mexico, this is it. For years I had been going to Hualtulco and keeping a great secret to myself. I never told a single crew member or passenger of this secret beach because I never wanted to see anyone else there - and I never did see any other people there!

This beach is for the adventurous and the physically fit. If you are one of those cruisers with the oxygen tank on the back of your Hoveround please take a guided tour provided to you on the ship. There is significant climbing, briars, hills and brush.

The beach is Eastish facing which means in the pm the sun will be behind a hill so the am trips are best. The cruise pier is located right by the "A" on the Google Map provided here. You can see the penninsula of land to the east of the ships.

As you travel into Hualtulco, Mexico, on a ship you will be approaching the dock. As you are headed towards the (on the ship which is in the water, moving towards land) look to your right - there is a big hill with houses that runs parallel to the pier. You will need to get there.

Leaving the ship, you walk down the pier, though the terminal, to the road that runs perpendicular to the pier. Take a RIGHT on this road.

You will walk some distance and zooming in on the google map here you can see where you take the right and walk up the hill, sort of doubling back. Walking ALL the way to the end of the road you will come to some pretty grand estates - people from Mexico city have some beautiful homes there. At the last home at the end of the street there is a fence enclosing the property and you can walk along the fence, down the hill (on the side of the ship). At one point you reach the narrowest section of the penninsula and it will be clear when to take the left to go down to the water. There is a beautiful private beach there and I've never seen another soul there! Very relaxing!

Let me know if you have any questions and I'll try to help any way I can if you're trying to find that beach.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Alone and Homeless in the Med: Part 8

Hello and welcome back to "TrumpetTravels" - my true accounts of my eleven year career working about the Princess, Carnival, Holland America, Cunard, Costa, P&O, Ocean Village and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines (and more cruises, I think!)

I want to continue my "Alone and Homeless in the Med" story. This is part 7 - click here to start from the beginning: Crew Member Abandoned in Europe. It is worth it to start from the beginning and over the next week I hope to put some links in this story so you can read chronilogically while skipping some of the unrelated blog posts in between stories.

My last blog post saw me at Jim Morrison's grave and staying at the Aloha hostel in Paris - a known English speaking youth hostel.

The clock was ticking and I was scheduled to join Royal Caribbean's "Legend of the Seas" for the summer. The join date was only in a few days, but I didn't want to go back to Barcelona.  The internet was in its infancy and there was no easy online hotel system set up yet. I looked at a map and saw a somewhat sizable dot called "Tarragona." I booked my train ticket there.

Arriving in Tarragona at around lunch time I went to the "city" center and searched for a hotel. I found one on top of a bar that said "abierto" but no one was there.  I went to the downstairs bar (a different business) and asked about the hotel and the owner of the hotel was there.

She made a big deal that it was lunch time and she wasn't working and I couldn't check in.  I begged her to help me out which she reluctantly did.  The room was adequate - quite small but cozy.  It seemed like it was decorated by someone's grandmother 20 years prior.

Later that night I came back from wandering around and when I turned on the light I saw some cockroaches scatter.  At that point I was happy to have a bed and just didn't care!

After checking in I roamed around the city and saw the Roman amphitheater, a few nice churches, the usual.  I found a beautiful local restaurant on the sea and was starving.  I asked for a recommendation or a special and ended up with a huge local seafood feast. I stayed a while in the empty restaurant.  Nobody eats dinner at 6pm in Spain!

The next day was the day I was joining the ship.  After 10 days I had survived Europe!  I left early in the morning but I couldn't join the ship until the afternoon.  I started walking north.  The train tracks to Barcelona ran parallel to the sea so at any town I could grab the train anywhere along the way.

I just walked along the sidewalk that was near the water glad that I was going to civilization that day. It was difficult to be in these countries not speaking the language and I was still suffering the effects of sleeping in the bushes a little bit.

Around lunch (10:30am since I was up so early) I was tired of walking for a few hours and went and bought a loaf of bread and some meats and cheeses (don't ask me which ones - I just pointed!)  I made a big sandwich and wrapped it up. I kept walking North towards Barcelona wanting to eat on the beach.  I was walking up a small hill and to my right noticed a little path that went down about a 120 foot cliff to a beach.

As I partly slid down the path I realized the beach was completely empty and gorgeous!  I went to find the perfect spot to sleep a little bit and eat my sandwich.  As I walked a little bit on the beach I noticed four people - completely nude!  I didn't really care and wanted to give them their privacy so I turned around and found a nice spot.  Shortly after I arrived I guess I ruined their spot and they clothed and left.  For the next few hours I went swimming and ate and slept and enjoyed myself on my private beach.

Finally I realized the clock was ticking and I got dressed, gathered everything up.  I went back up the cliff and walked about 15 minutes to a train station bound for Barcelona.  I got out and took the subway to the Lladro shop where I had all my luggage and trumpet and everything was in perfect condition.

Boarding the ship with a few hundred dollars less than when I left the Splendour of the Seas I was worn down, tired, probably didn't smell great, too!  Those two nights without a hotel were hopefully the worst I'll experience in my life but the trip gave me some amazing photographs and memories that will last me a lifetime.

As I clock in my desk job every day I look around and realize no one I know has really done anything that crazy and I'm grateful for my 10 days I spent Homeless in the Mediterranean.

Thank you, readers for staying tuned to my series of stories entitled "Homeless in the Med."  If you missed my other posts you can click on the link at the beginning of this post.  Don't forget to "like" me on facebook to share this story with your friends and to follow my future posts.  Also, this blog is reader supported so feel free to click on one of the sponsors on my blog.  Your support is appreciated!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oh, the memories!

Searching through my hard drive I found this photo of my friend's ship leaving Grand Cayman as we were still anchored. I hope you enjoy the photo.

As an update to my followers I've been tinkering with facebook trying to get a facebook page going for my blog, mostly to teach myself how to do it. I am somewhat successful in doing it - except I've added two "like" buttons at the end of each post and don't know how to delete them! Oh well, doesn't do any harm.

I will be posting a little more to my blog now that all internet poker has been banned in the US. 'DOH

Monday, March 21, 2011

St Thomas Update from a Reader

Welcome back to trumpettravels - a no-nonsense blog from an ex-crewmember.  I loved my ten years at sea but now I have a 9-5 day job.  After all the travel it feels good to be home for dinner almost every day!

I reported previously you could take a taxi to the top of Paradise Point in St Thomas.  I regret to inform my loyal readers that a reader writes:

"We were in St. Thomas in Feb. I asked the taxi driver to drop us off at the top of PP. I was told they weren't allowed to drop us off there. We were told we had to take the tram ride up. We also had been there (by taxi) a few times so just decided not to go. So PP lost out on all the food and Bushwackers we would have bought. Their loss! Thanks so much for this blog. I'm totally enjoying it."

Thank you, kind reader, for your comments and for supporting the blog.  The more interesting comments are great because these places have been my "home" for the past ten years and I really miss them.  I'd love to hear more readers comments from their trips to the Islands.

As always, thank you for telling your friends about my blog and for "Sharing" me on facebook.  The SHARE button should be there on the right of your screen.  You can click that orange button SUBSCRIBE to get automatic updates to the blog as well.

Safe travels out there!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Homeless in the Med 7

Hi, Blog Fans,

I want to continue my "Alone and Homeless in the Med" story.  This is part 7 - click here to start from the beginning: Crew Member Abandoned in Europe

In my last six posts I was dropped off the ship in Barcelona without a hotel room and there were no vacancies in the city because of F1 racing. You might ask, "Isn't the cruise line required to put you up or send you home?"  Well, the answer is, "Yes."  They gave me a choice to either fly me home, or put me on my own for 10 days and spend the summer in Europe on a ship.  I figured I could easily find a place to stay. 

I was wrong!  Anyway, I guess "abandoned" is the wrong word since it was entirely voluntary!

Anyway, the morning after being woken up by a transvestite hooker sleeping on a public bench outside I figured it would be best for my safety to find a hotel room somewhere.  I went and bought a map of Europe.  The size of the city-dots were in relation to the size of the city.  I looked at the largest dot far away from Barcelona and decided: I would take a train to Paris.  There was no way I would stay in this crazy city on a bench or in the bushes again.  I had about a week until the ship I was working on came in.  I went to the station and bought my ticket, a "sleeper," and got excited.  This train had a bed!  The train left in the afternoon, we stopped near Marseilles for a break and then for the first night in three days I had a bed with sheets!

I put all my belongings in the bed against the wall under the covers with me and slept the night away.  It is a good thing I did because people in my train car had items stolen from them during the night - but not me.

We pulled into Paris which was beautiful as always.  I met an American on the train and hung out with her all day.  We went to Luxembourg Gardens and there was a huge map of the world you could walk on.  Funny, at the time I hadn't traveled much and this was just the beginning of my ship adventure.  I probably wouldn't have believed you that day if you told me I would be around the world a few times in the next few years!

I spoke to the American and some other folks and decided to spend the next few nights at the Aloha hostel. It was a youth hostel that attracted English speakers and after being on my own in Catalonia it sure felt goo to have some beers and normal conversation with some Aussies, Brits, Americans and Canadians.

The story does get pretty boring for awhile.  Paris is civilized and I took advantage of the restaurants, wine and museums.  I couldn't find any jazz music worth mentioning but the city was beautiful.  Towards the end of the trip I was looking forward to getting back to work and making some money.  I had a few days left to go and didn't want to risk going to that heck-hole Barcelona.  I pulled out my map and saw there was a medium-to-small dot south of Barcelona: Tarragona.  Why not?  It was about 1-2 hours from Barcelona and had hotels.  Towards the end of my ten day adventure I boarded another overnight train to Tarragona, Spain to wait out two nights before going to work on a ship out of Barcelona.

Stay tuned to see how the trip finished out and definately check out how I ended up in this mess with parts 1-6!  Bye for now...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Homeless in Barcelona: Part 6

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year adventure on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.  I started this blog in 2010 to share my experiences of working on a cruise for those who want to work on a cruise or for those cruise-a-holics that are curious what goes on behind the smiles and professional attitude you see "front of house" on a  ship.  I've got a great reception so far with hits from all around the world.  Thanks for your interest!

Previously I was writing about how I got stranded in Barcelona, how I nearly got mugged by five Moroccans, how I slept in the bushes and it was only my first day!  If you want to start from the beginning, click here: Crew Member Stranded in Europe.

When I last left off I had just narrowly avoided being mugged by 5 sketchy guys from Morocco.  At the last moment some British tourists ended up walking down the deserted street I was on.  I was homeless in the Med with a wad of cash in my pocket but all hotels were completely booked.

Turning onto the heavily populated street of the Ramblas I rethought my attempts to find a hotel.  I had checked everywhere around in the city, tourist kiosks, phone books, cab drivers, anything possible.  No hotels were free.  I went all the way down to the Christopher Columbus statue (point nearest the water) and realized there was one part I had never been.  There is bridge that goes over the water to a place called Maremagnum.  I thought is was an area where I might find some peace and quiet and a hotel bed to sleep in.  I was wrong.

Maremagnum is a whole complex of bars and nightclubs that starts getting busy around 11pm.  As I go tthere and had no place to sleep I hopped from place to place having drinks, chatting up Barcelona's finest and doing a little dancing.  I surprisingly had a blast considering I was by myself.  I could do whatever I wanted and say whatever came to mind and I didn't know a soul there and more than likely wouldn't return.  I guess that's why some people feel so liberated on vacations - no one from the office is there to raise their eyebrows.

Well, the party was coming to a close so I hailed a cab.  I had a few drinks and couldn't walk back to the city. PLUS, I knew there were more than 5 Moroccans there and I had a wad of cash on me from the last contract.

I asked the cab about the closest small city or hotels in the area and he kind of laughed since it was one in the morning. There were no hotels free and other towns were too far.  Well, with nowhere else to go I headed back to the jazz club where I had been treated so well and found a lovely spot to sleep in the bushes.  I hit the small bar next to the jazz club and they were open late for some reason.  I had played there the night before and everyone was happy to see me.  I knew I had to sleep since I had a rough night sleeping in someone's bushes the night before.

I figured the bushed were safe and it was a wealthy area - I just needed to find that apartment building and I would be good for the night, or at least a few hours.  After about 30 minutes it was getting too late.  I didn't think I would ever find the apartment building.  It was finny the night before I just stumbled on it and now I realized how perfect the little ledge was, off the main street.  I had no clue how to find it, even though I knew I was in the right neighborhood.

I gave up.  Exhausted and annoyed, I headed back down towards the city where I hit a very nice wealthy area and found a bench to sit on.  I started to think of what I could do and I closed my eyes.  My head bobbed down and up and I realized this is where I would sleep.  I had my backpack and camera and I didn't know if I would wake up if someone started to rummage through my things.

I took my cash and shoved it down my pants figuring if someone got down there I would know it.  Also, I took my Nikon camera and basically used it as a pillow, keeping it as close as possible. And there, on a metal bench in Barcelona, I fell asleep.  This was my second night in a row sleeping outside.

Alcohol, fatigue, and the semi-conscious state of being woken up created a thick fog that was difficult to navigate through.  I heard something and I knew I should focus, but it didn't mean anything to me. "Que dormis." I heard in a deep man's voice.  "Que dormis aquis?"  I opened up my eyes and saw what I thought was a very beautiful woman.  For some reason it still didn't click to me and I was really trying to figure out what the question was.

As I was looking at this pretty gal again he/she asked the same question, "Que Dormis? Why do you sleep here?" This last one was in English. It was at this point when I realized I was looking at some type of cross dresser or tranny or who knows what.  It was still dark out and had no idea what time it was.

My brilliant observation was confirmed when he/she added, "Why don't you come to my apartment to #$%^."  I don't know if it was the proposition or the lack of sleep or what, but I sat up and just shouted, "NOoooooo," probably a little too loudly and too freaked out.  I guess I was somewhat justified, though.

As he/she strutted her stuff away I jumped up and started walking towrds the town.  I didn't know where to go, but I thought my little refuge of a bench next to a major city was now ruined and not safe.

I headed down the hill to Barcelona and just headed towards the Sagrada Familia (church).  I remember seeing dawn break on the walk down and wondering what the heck I was doing and how long I could keep this up.  I found a solid concrete bench and noticed people starting to open up shops.  The bench was cool when I sat down and felt nice since I was a little warm.  It didn't heat up because the concrete was so thick.  I lay down and fell asleep and didn't wake up until the sun was out and many people were walking about the sidewalks and pathways around the Sagrada Familia.  At this point I was on very little sleep and I realized I wouldn't be able to spend 8 more days like this.  I diefinately could not be woken up by a tranny hooker ever again in my life so I dedicated the entire day to that mission.

I hope you enjoyed the my posts about my stay in Europe in between cruise ship contracts.  I still have more days in the adventure left so "Follow Me" (on the right) and you can click the "SHARE" button on facebook to show your friends, too. As always, this blog is viewer supported. There are far less ads here than on most websites and if one catches your eye feel free to visit my sponsers.  Stayed tuned for Part 7!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Alone and Homeless in the Med: Part 5

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year adventure on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

In my last posts I described how I ended up stranded in Barcelona (of my own will.) If you want to start from the beginning, click here: Crew Member Blog.

I left the restaurant and Barcelona was beginning to come to life at night. With the sun going down I started to have visions of laundered pressed bed sheets and a fluffy bathrobe.  I had spent the last night sleeping in the bushes and my back was sore.  I was probably due for a shower, too, but I figured, "Hey, it's Europe - I'll fit right in!"

Roaming down the back streets of the old town in Barcelona I passed the gothic cathedral, many quanit restaurants and shops, and many hotels.  With 2-3 hotels per block I figured I would have much better luck tonight than last night.  Door after door I went into the hotels (with "no vacancy" on the door) and pleaded for any tyoe of room.  I would've slept in the boiler room if that is all they had, but I was turned away at every hotel.  As I walked deeper and deeper into the old town the cacophony of the Ramblas faded into a thin herd of tourists and eventually only one or two couples walking on the cobbled streets.  I saw a hotel down a dark street and no "No Vacancy" sign on it.

Thinking in was in luck I headed down the street, walked inside and was told there were no rooms.  I asked if the concierge could help me and told him all of my problems.  He made a few phone calls and apologetically explained to me all about the F1 racing and how the hotels were completely full.  At that point a mild panic was setting in and I started to contemplate the Four Seasons or luxury hotels and blowing all my money on one nice night's sleep.

With the clerk unable to help me, I grabbed my backpack and my Nikon N60 (35mm) and left the hotel. I distinctly remember leaving that hotel because it was quiet.  REALLY quiet. and as I turned left, away form the Ramblas and into the more quiet section of the old town, I passed 5 Moroccans who were talking with each other leaning against a car.  I could tell they pretended not to look up or notice me which I thought was unusual.  For me, when anyone passes me at night I look up to see what kind of a person they are.  For them, I could tell they were specifically ignoring my passing.  With the Moroccans at my back I starting walking deeper into dark neighborhoods looking for a hotel.  I noticed the five guys talking behind me stopped.  I isn't hard to imagine what I heard next: the click clack of ten shoes on cobblestones.  I knew I was being followed.

What happened next happened in all of five seconds, but to me it felt like five minutes of slow motion.  It is funny when you are in danger, real danger, how the world seems to slow down and almost stop.  I took note of what I had on my person.  My camera, my last pay check (in cash of course), and some clothes in a tooth brush.  Racking my brain to come up with a weapon I was unable to.

Scanning the sidewalks and buildings I looked for a restaurant, shop, or a rock or weapon on the ground that I could defend myself with.  The gang had chosen a good spot - nothing was available.  I imagined even a lead pipe, a powerful weapon, against 5 thieves with knives and realized without a gun I was in trouble.

Faking a fly was bothing me I swatted at my head once and then again, turning my head slightly the second time.  Yup, they were following me.  They say flee a knife and charge a gun.  I was approaching a small perpendicular street and was on the edge of running for my life.  Acting like I was going straight and to the the right I was going to open the throttle and run as fast as I could to the left.

Funny how all of these details happened in about five seconds and still to this day they are crystal clear.  The street on the left was approaching and just as I was about to make a break for it a group of six British men round the corner, arm in arm laughing and clinking beer bottles.  I immediately turn and do a 180, falling in step with my new blokes.  I just start walking with them and just as I am about to pass the five Moroccans I look up to see all five of them walking straight ahead, but turning their heads and staring directly at me.  They looked like lions who just had their meal taken from them.  Not one was smiling.

I walked for a bit with the Brits back to the Ramblas and still was out of luck. It was still relatively early and I didn't have a place to sleep. Alone in Barcelona at night with every single hotel room completely booked - again!  The most dangerous part of the night had just passed, but you won't believe where I end up sleeping and who gives me a wake up call! If you'd like to know, "follow me" on Google or subsribe to my RSS Feed.  If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to push the "like" button or post a link so your friends can follow me, too.  As always, the blog is user supported by my readers clicking on sponsers posted in the blog.  It is free to do and helps support this blog. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Homeless in the Med Part 4

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

When I last left off, I had just dropped my trumpet in the Lladro shop. I had a really great day in Barcelona. I felt light as a feather without my heavy horn. I spent the next few hours going to tourism kiosks, phoning hotels, and even went to a big internet cafe. If was full of computers and you had to pay at a kiosk to get a ticket and then use the credits up. They don't exist now because everyone has WiFi.

As I looked and looked for hotels things became a little desperate.  I had spent the night before in the bushes in a very nice neighborhood, but I was a little cold and dirty.  I bath and a steak would do me well.

I had no luck at all because the F1 car racing was in town and this was a big deal I guess.  Not to let such trivial matters damper my day, I went to see the Olympic Stadium, the Miro Museum, travelled the subway for a bit and even toured the Gaudi architecture.  Standing in Parc d'Gaul I looked down on the city and the thousands of hotel rooms wondering why there wasn't one for me.  As the afternoon wore on I started to get very tired so I stopped in somewhere and had a nice dinner.  It was some assortment of Spanish tapas I remember with Spanish red wine.

This was my second night without a hotel room in a huge city and when I stepped out of the restaurant it was getting dark.  I noticed some seedy characters standing around on the street corners - night was coming along with everything that accompanies it in this Metropolitan city.  This was just the beginning of that crazy night - stay tuned and I'll tell you what happened in my next blog post.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Homeless in the Med Part 3

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

It is hard to imagine the transition from unconsiousness or sleep to full awareness on that morning I woke up in the bushes in Barcelona. I'll do my best to describe it.  If you are just tuning in and you don't know how I ended up in the bushes, click here: Royal Caribbean Cruise Crew Member Blog

The one thing I knew was that I was outside. It wasn't cold, but sleeping outside definately has a different feeling than sleeping in a warm hotel bed somewhere. You are kept on alert, even while asleep.

My next realization was that I was quite cold. Sleeping outside for 5 hours anywhere would make someone cold.

As I tried to look around my next realization was that I did not use a pillow that night and for that reason my neck was as stiff as a board.  Also, it was quite painful.

As I breathed in I realized I was quite parched and the drinking and staying up until the wee hours with drinks on the house did not do me justice.  As I became quite aware that I was sleeping in the bushes behind someone's apartment building in Barcelona and that someone would probably call the cops if they found me, I gathered my things, hopped off the little ledge and put on my backpack, picked up my trumpet case and camera and had my final realization: carrying a trumpet and flugelhorn and all my stuff for a full day was KILLING my back.  I was tired, hungover, and in a lot of pain.  I had nine days left until I was boarding a ship to work and Barcelona was completely booked and "NO VACANCY" was the phrase of the day.

I remember the sun wasn't even out yet, it must've been 5-6am.  As I set out down the hill back into town, I stopped at a diner and sat.  I heard patrons greet the waitress, "Bon Dia" in Catalan so when she came I did the same and order, "Un cafe por favor."  I overheard other patrons ordering churros and other local breakfast foods and without knowing really what it was just repeated what I heard and have a great breakfast.

One thing was for certain - I had to get rid of this trumpet that was killing my back.  I went to the Ramblas and sat on a bench for an hour.  At this hour it was only locals and it was interesting to see a whole culture that I didn't know about previously.  Walking through a huge market just off the Ramblas there was a colorful assortment of everything from candies to goat's brains.  The goat's brains did look quite fresh, but I passed on those.

At 8am the Lladro store was open and I went in to plead my case.  The owner didn't want to store my stuff as it was and I told him the whole story of how I slept in the bushes and I had to get rid of the weight.  Relunctantly, he let me store my trumpet there.  To be honest I didn't want to leave it, but it was digging into my shoulder and my back hurt so much.

I set out of the Lladro shop with the goal of having a great day, seeing the city and finding a hotel room.

If you have the chance - check back with trumpettravels soon.  I thought I would have a few hours to write a nice chunk of this adventure, but my son just woke up.  "Follow me" on the right if you'd like updates, or you can subscribe by clicking the RSS Link (that orange chicklet thingy with BLOG FEED by it.)

Bye For Now!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Alone and Homeless in the Med. - Part 2

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

Welcome back to trumpettravels.  Don't forget that's ONE WORD if you're google searching for me or telling a friend about how you've been enjoying this blog.  I've had some really nice comments from readers who have probably found me through the cruise critic website.  One reader asked if I could blog shorter, but more frequently.  I wish I could, but there's a reason why I do it the way I do.  I work full time now and I have a son and wife, who is expecting our second.  Things are hectic here and the only time I have to blog is on a Saturday or Sunday, if I can sort out all my housework and make sure we are ready for next week.  So time is an issue, and I don't have enough time during the week.

Another reason is that after ten years it actually takes some effort to close the door, shut off the darned TV and internet poker (for free only!) and concentrate on my memories.  You know my family doesn't know most of what has happened to me in the last 11 years or so?  I have shoe boxes full of beautiful photographs that I've literally never looked at. For me it was always about experiencing the adventure, not the trophies to brag about.  I'm keeping the same mindset with my new adventure, my wife and son.  Once I'm settled in (blogging), I enjoy conjuring up these travels and thinking about them. I'm a terrible typer and I hate doing the physical writing.

My last post left off where I had my trumpet and some clothes and I was dropped in Barcelona between contracts.  If you want to read it click here: Cruise Ship Crew Member Blog.  It was ten or eleven AM and I set out into Catalonia to find a place to stay.  Internet was not really that big then (2001) and Expedia and American sites didn't work in Europe.  I went to a tourist kiosk to inquire about hotels or hostels and was informed of something very unusual: Formula 1 racing was in town so alot of the hotels were full.  I was thinking about NASCAR and how a couple os cars shouldn't be a big deal, but apparently F1 racing in Europe is a HUGE deal! Wouldn't you know that every single hotel in the entire city was booked?

Well, it was early and I was only 24 so it didn't worry me much.  I mean, the OLYMPICS were held in Barcelona and that was a pretty big event, right?  And there were trains, there were so many options.  I spent the day strolling up and down the Ramblas, researched the night's entertainment and found a jazz club that would be showing a concert by Lew Tabacin at a place called La Cova de Drac. I went for lunch at a wine cellar that had free tastings in the old town and bought a city map.  I would be spending ten days in Barcelona and I wanted to make the best of it. Churches, museums, sites, sounds, tastes and nightlife were all things I wanted to experience.

Coming out of lunch I started to walk as the city shut down for "siesta." I should've rested, too, but as I'm not accustomed to sleeping for a few hours in the afternoon, I walked around while everybody in town ate, drank, and rested.  I went to Sagrada Familia and learned about that amazing church.  It was started 150 years ago and still isn't finished.  Generations of local families hand down their trades to family and there are a few there who have direct lineage to the workers who broke ground at the site.  That is pretty amazing to think 30-40 years AFTER they broke ground on this church a young artist from Malaga named Ruiz came into town and failed to get work.  He made posters for the Carnival and his favortie - bullfights.  Unable to make a living, he went to visit his friend in Paris where he started to sell his first works.  He had a big show in Paris to announce his new identity - Picasso.

The church is magnificent.  Decades after the idea was conceived the city handed over the stalling project to one of the city's jewels: Gaudi.  Gaudi took this idea for a traditional church and brought a whole new light to the concept.  Every square inch of the cathedral is rife with symbolism and stories.  I only know because I mixed in with guided tours and listened to the guide.  I didn't want to pay for the tour but boy was it worth it!
Stolling around the city, I looked at my map and scoped out my venue for the show. It was a few miles away in Muntaner. I continued to search for a hotel but kept hearing the same thing over and over, "the entire city is sold out." I couldn't get any information on how far a hotel would be.  I mean, if Boston or New York is "sold out" ther eis always a Motel 6 in Jersey or Waltham, right?  Really, nobody was any help.  I had so much energy, I didn't care.  Stopping at a few bars along the way to sample some local beers I headed up to Muntaner.  It was quite a hike, but I managed. 

Arriving at 5pm or so the place was closed.  I asked around, and the place would open at 9 or whenever the show was.  Luckily, right next door, there was a bar and cafe.  I sat outside and had some beers.  Around 6 or so it started to get crowded and some kids started to bring in music equipment.  Everyone knew each other and felt like a family, it was a really small cafe.  The kids started to play and I moved inside to listen.  They really were not very good, just basic chords and "jam band" stuff. A fter some liquid courage I asked if I could sit in.  They couldn't really understand, but I just whipped out the trumpet and they were thrilled.  I sat in and the room that had been ignoring me for suddenly lit up.  After 30 minutes, they took a break and all of a sudden I was not allowed to pay for beers anymore. I noticed a well-dressed man standing in the door for a while watching, but the band started up again and got me up there and I was happy playing.  At 8:30pm I knew the show was going to start soon so I headed next door to the Cove du Drac.  I paid my overpriced entrance and with it came a free drink.  Having my fill of beers, I order a gin and tonic.

There's something you should know about ordering drinks in Barcelona.  The waiter came with a glass of ice, a bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic water.  He took the gin and started pouring, looking at me. It was 1/4 full, then 1/2, then more and more. The waiter then slowed and said, "Enough?"  And I said, "Yeah, of course."  He told me that I was supposed to tell him to stop!  This is crazy coming from the US - home of the watered down drink.

The band come out and started to play and to my surprise the waiter came back with a tray full of money.  I was confused.  He said, "The owner is an American trumpet player and said your money is no good here."  Can you believe it?  Nothing like that has really ever happened to me before or since. I stayed and heard the show - AMAZING. At the end of the show the staff started to take all the tables and chairs and throw them in these cages toward the side that I hadn't noticed.

The crowd cleared out and at midnight a bunch of kids showed up and the place turned into a disco!  How bizarre!  I danced a little bit, but I was so drunk and tired that the whole scene kind of freaked me out.  My table from the jazz thing was a booth in the corner and some Spanish girls came and when they found out I was America I was a big star.  It was a little too much effort and without any place to take anyone home to was rather pointless.

I gathered my backpack and trumpet and headed out, after thanking the owner for such a great night.  I started walking aroung this suburb of Barcelona, largely residential, and suddenly it struck me how tired I was.  I had been up at 5-6am that day to sign off the cruise ship, lugged my bags to the Lladro shop and had my first beer at noon.  Carry the trumpet around the entire city was tiring. After roaming around not really knowing what to do I came to a conlusion.

I was in Spain. I was in a safe area. I was dead tired. It was night. I could not stay awake any longer. All hotels were completely full. I had to pee.

I didn't want to pee on the street - this was actually a nice, classy neighborhood. Instead I went down a driveway of a small apartment building, rounded the corner and quickly began to relieve myself.  Suddenly it sounded as if I was peeing on a snoring man.  I could hear extremely loud snoring coming from a 4' X 4' vent which was only 2 feet from me! I was in midstream so I couldn't stop but I swear he must've been only inches from me. 

Looking around, I noticed a ledge that was about four feet tall with some bushed or landscaping in it.  The whole ledge was only 4-5 feet wide.  It was here that I threw my trumpet, backpack and camera and I climbed up.  Taking out a sweatshirt from my bag and using some tee shirts as a pillow it was near the snoring man I practically peed on behind the bushes where I slept that first night in Barcelona.

That was day one of a ten day adventure!  Don't worry, I lived to blog about it.  Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this you can "like me" on facebook and share it with your friends.  Add me to your Google Reader
or click on the orange "feed" button to get the next edition.

Lastly, I was removed from the cruise critic website for shameless self promotion.  If anyone is in a forum and they are covering something that I talk about here, feel free to mention my blog and do a link.  The traffic really helps with my motivation to keep going.

Well, that was the FIRST night I was homeless in Barcelona and trust me it only gets better.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Alone and Homeless in the Mediterranean

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.  I started this blog in 2010 to share my experiences of working on a cruise for those who want to work on a cruise or for those cruise-a-holics that are curious what goes on behind the smiles and professional attitude you see "front of house" on a  ship.

Today's article will not save you money on a cruise and does not really talk about working on a cruise, but it is a true story of something that could only happen to a crew member on a cruise ship.  If, at the end, you enjoy this story please note that this blog is sponsored by the ads at the right.  Tell your friends or link to me on facebook and please visit one of my sponsors.

If you are a new reader you can "follow me" by clicking the follow me link on the right hand side of this blog (scroll down if you don't see it.)

It was in the year 2000 that I was working on my first major cruise line armed with my sense of adventure and a Bb trumpet. I had been working on the Premier line previously which was fun, but too small.  After signing off the Oceanbreeze in Ft Lauderdale I went home for Christmas and contacted the man in charge at Royal Caribbean.  Luckily, some drunk trumpet player had fallen in the shower and they desperately needed a trumpet player to fill the spot. I wasn't very good at the time, but that's beside the point.

I signed on Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas for three months as it finished the Caribbean season and then transitioned ot the Med.  Unfortunately, my contract was up right when the ship hit its first European port of call, Barcelona.  I was upset - I wanted to see Europe, experience the cities, the art, the music, the food.  I was just out of college and the world seemed full of opportunities and possibilities. I had no obligations or responsibilities so traveling Italy, France and Spain finally as an adult making money was a dream come true.  Would I go all that way just to see the airport and go home?

Weeks before I was scheduled to leave my boss got an email form "head office" asking if I could call in.  I waited until we were in Ft Lauderdale and bought a phone card and called in from a payphone like all crewmembers.  You see, cell phones weren't popular yet so all crewmembers used payphones.  Payphones were actually placed there by a phone company hoping a stranger would walk by and deposit money into them to call people! They took coins.

Anyway I called the office and the staffing manager asked if I would like to sign on the Legend of the Seas ten days after I signed off Splendour.  The Legend was in the Med for the summer so this was a dream come true for me.  I could see Florence, Rome, Barcelona and the most amazing cities on the Med and get paid for it!  I told the manger of course I'd love to do it - where am I staying?  Well, that was the catch.

He wasn't going to put me up in a hotel for ten days.  And he wasn't going to fly me back to the US and then back to Europe in only ten days.  So, basically, if I wanted to spend the next three months in Europe I would have to spend ten days on my own.  Signing off in Barcelona didn't seem like it would be a problem to get a hotel room.  Barcelona was a huge city - they even hosted an Olympics there!  I checked on the internet for some hotels but internet search wasn't what it is now - I couldn't really find anything in Barcelona availble.  There were no good European travel sites that I knew of.

I took the job and was lucky enough to get talking with the Shopping advisor on the ship.  She was rolling out the shopping program for the first time in the Med.  She heard I'd be stuck with my luggage and was kind enough to negotiate with a Lladro merchant to hold my luggage.  The owner was VERY confused why he should do this but when he heard I was stuck, took in the luggage.  The store was bright and modern - right down the end of the Ramblas by the Christopher Columbus statue, and the owner brought me to the back.  Opening a closet there was a hole in the floor with stairs which he directed me to bring my luggage.  In the basement of this unassuming store was the most beautiful porcelains I've ever seen.  He was restoring them.  all of the piece sin the basement were heirlooms of local families that he was restoring.  I put my luggage down and out of the way and something caught my eye.  He was currently working on a statue of the virgin Mary and she was wearing a veil.  The veil, though porcelain, looked like woven cloth.  Pieces of the veil had chipped in time and the owner was painstakingly restoring the "fibers" of this veil.  It's funny how my memory isn't the best but the intricacy of this artform, not available to the many tourists squandering their money upstairs in the showroom, has stuck with me all these years.

With only a "double gig bag," a back pack, and my camera (a Nikon N60, or F60) I started up the stairs. I bid fairwell to the Shopping Advisor and opened the front door.  From being in the basement my eyes had adjusted to the dark.  It was only 10am and I had hours and hours to find a hotel room.  I had just been paid on the ship and had a few grand in my pocket.  The light blinded me for a few seconds and then slowly the cobbled walkway, street entertainers, and thousands of tourists came into sharp focus.  I was alone and one of the most exciting places in the world and was totally free for ten days. If you want to know what happened over the next ten days... you'll have to "follow me" and check when I update next!

If you enjoyed this, email it to a friend!  If you think others will enjoy it, feel free to post links to me on forums or quote me, but please give me credit.  'Till next time, thanks for reading and you'll hear the rest soon.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Why Diamonds International is the Same Price as your Mall at home.

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

Thank you for staying in touch with trumpet travels over the last months.  I've enjoyed blogging about my career on cruise ships and so many people have shared their thoughts on my stories and money saving tips.  My previous posts are not chronilogical and not meant to go in any order. I've learned so much about the business of cruising over the past 11 years that as I think of something I like to go in depth in share everything I know.

This topic is a big one.  In fact there is really no other place in the world to learn the information that I am about to give you here.  If you learn something, please pass the information along to your fellow cruisers or friends or family who cruise. Also, I've seen people copy/pasting my info into forums.  I don't mind, but if you do, can you do a link-back to my blog or give me credit? I don't know if I'll be able to cover everything in one post, but let's see.

St Thomas, St Maarten, Aruba, people go to the Caribbean for sun and fun, but also Duty Free shopping. Maybe even to buy a Neil Lane diamond!!  HA! At least you are told that from the moment you walk on the gangway.  At least "40% off US retail prices" on famous brands and loose diamonds! WOW!  There is an amazing marketing mechanism in place between the ships, off the ships, and with a third company on every vessel you are on.  They all benefit together if you spend more moeny. It really is genius.  You spend on the ship.  You spend off the ship.  Most people just want to go to the beach, not shop.  So how does everyone work to get you, the vacationer, to spend more money than you wanted to on vacation? The mechanism works like this:

As you arrive on the ship you are told on the television in your cabin, in public lectures and pretty soon by your fellow guests all about the shopping.  There is a talk where they hand out prizes and maps where you can learn "how to make the most of your day."  The only purpose of this talk is to make sure you don't go off and have fun all day without visiting stores that have paid a promotional fee to get "into the program."  The authenticity of the merchandise or quality of the shop has absolutely nothing to do with the "recommendation" by the cruise line.  In fact, the cruise line doesn't even really know which shops are "recommended" and which aren't.  It is all run through a marketing company that runs the Port Lecture Program.

The "program" is companies Onboard Media (OBM) a division of Louis Vitton, and PPI, who run Porthole magazine and other travel media outlets.  There is one representative (or a couple) on the ship who give the shopping talks, mingle with passengers, and guide them to spend as much money in the stores ashore.  As you make your purchase they ask you which ship you are on and all the numbers are registered in that account.  The OBM and PPI companies pay a fee to have their agents on the ship and the ship makes a cut of the roughly 10% of every sales that goes to the media company.  The 10% is split between the ship, the media company, and the sales representative on the vessel.  For those of yo who are thinking about 10% of that Tee Shirt you bought in Cozumel as on 50c, consider that the average cruise ship today leaves $250,000 in spending PER PORT on a cruise.  Take 10% of THAT and split it up!

You see, the ships love the extra revenue.  They can't track all the spending you do and collect from merchants and they don't understand the business.  The stores have to pay a flat fee plu 10% of sales to get in the program, but if they don't - no one will walk in the door.  So, there needs to be a middle man.  An expert who lives on the ship and on a sea day can whip the passengers into a frenzy so when that gang plank goes down, all the ladies drag their hubbies and credit cards to the Diamond's Internation, the "#1 recommended store of ______ Cruises."

Why IS "DI" as it's known the #1 recommended store?  Quite simply, because the marketing company wants it to be.  DI, run by the Gad family out of NY through a company called ALMOD, owns a Diamond store in just about every single port of call in the world of cruising.  Notice in their business listing they don't tell you which stores they run. Their whole existence relies on cruise ships and cruise ship passengers.  Passengers rely on the cruise line to look for them and the cruise line relies on DI for extra revenue. Ya dig?

I can tell you right now that the these stores take inferior stones and match them with false certificates from companies like "EGL International." This is quite close to legitimate companies like "EGL," but unrelated.  Customers, unsuspecting of the trickery, pay top price for these stones "guaranteed to appraise for higher" in the US.  The whole company works on the premise that it is easy to dupe passengers when they are far from home, relaxed, and have a vacation budget to blow.  They also advertise the stones as a "good investment" and promise they will be "valued ten times as much" when the "mine runs dry" that is mining "rare" stones like tanzanite.  These promises are made on the ships and I think a great liability to the cruise lines.  I heard salespeople tell passengers to buy tanzanite to help pay for their children's education 15 years down the road!  One other thing - how could I be saving so much money when a full 10% of my purchase price is going to the marketing company?

Why do I know all this? How did I learn all this?  Well, TrumpetDad got duped himself.  I had a free one hour education on the diamond business when I took my stone to be appraised by Thom Underwood in San Diego. I bought an engagement ring for my now wife and when I opened it, it was cracked. DI wouldn't take it back without an appraisal.  I brought it to Thom and he looked at it, took some measurements, and took out a calculator and asked me, "is that what you paid?"  He was within $50 dollars on a stone that the salesman promised me was "worth" 3 thousand MORE than what I paid.  Thom said it is the EXACT price what a ZALES or retail store would sell it for at a mall. I was shocked because I was a crew member and went with the Port and Shopping guide who knew me well.  If I had any idea I would get ripped off on bad merchandise obviously I wouldn't have bought that stone.  The 40% off they promise you is a fraud and a lie.

Thom told me about the fraudulent certs and I didn't believe him.  Everything seemed so legit and I knew about this company for years and years.  Even the salespeople on the hsip literally do not know it's all a lie.  They are making so much money they are paid not to care.  Thom told me to go to and read about how certs like EGL USA or EGL INTERNATIONAL are NOT affiliated with EGL at all.  They are proven to over-exaggerate the quality in a blind test - they are fraudulent.  He told me the store has a known reputation in the business that they market large inferior stones with fake documents to unsuspecting buyers.  I was really shocked and felt stupid.  Thom recommended to go to some "middlemen" websites like Blue Nile or to browse for prices and to stick to GIA certified unless I was an expert. After all this, I sent my stone back to ALMOD who replaced it with a smaller, inferior stone than the one I paid for.  Wouldn't you know that on the ship I had a job mixing with some of the wealthiest people who constantly would ask me where to go jewelry shopping!?!?  You can imagine what I told them.  And even DI KNEW what I did for a living, too! They made me fax them a contract and employment papers to make sure I wasn't lying!  Still they gave me that crappy stone as a replacement.  My wife knows everything that happened and is disappointed in the stone and the way they treated us. What a sham.

I couldn't understand why the prices were so high if DI was such a big diamond buyer and the ports were duty free.  Well, it turns out that the rent in the stores in front of the cruise ships is SO high the only stores that can survive are jewelry stores with HUGE markups and one or two tee shirt stores that do amazing volume.  Even if they are "site holders" at DeBeers (meaning they buy alot) the overhead on the whole operation is such that if you took a stone to Thom Underwood he could look at it under a microscope, look up the wholesale cost, look up the full retail price and literally nail the price within 1%.  The price he will quote you would be exactly the retail price you would pay in the mall around the corner from your house.  So how is that a discount?

Of course, the defense is, the documents provided state the stone is of a certain quality.  It is well known in the industry, or common knowledge, that the companies they use to authenticate their merchandise are fraudulent.

If you enjoyed this blog post and found it insightful, this whole blog is filled with usefull information, as well as some ramblings.  I hope I can save someone from suffering the same embarassment that I did.  I felt humiliated and my engagement ring is quite sentimental.

Please forward this to someone who is about to take a cruise so they can do their research before taking a cruise.  Everything stated is is true and all happened to me, but maybe it was an isolated incident and after doing research your friends and family will decide to shop at DI.  Good luck to them! For me, for the rest of my life I would only buy something from a "middleman" as recommended by Thom or a family owned jewelry store that I trust.

Anonymous Nurse Guest Blogs on Trumpettravels!

Dear Readers,
I received a great comment from a former nurse on cruise ships who wanted to share some of her travels as well.  The nostalgia for the sea must have been pretty heavy after reading my blog - she was inspired to share these thoughts. 

BTW - for those looking for the slot machine theory on cruise ships, click here.  It is a former blog entry, you can find them all on the right (click on the HOW IT ALL STARTED).

Please read the below comments from an anonymous nurse:

Aeropostale logoTrumpetDad Many many years ago (29) I worked for HAL as ship's nurse. The medical area was a joke compared to what I see on modern ships now. Except for one doctor, they were good, given what they had to work with. Most of the nurses had ER, critical care or good general experience prior to being hired on. Equipment was limited but we did our best. The company generally bent over backwards to satisfy passengers. Ship's crew, staff and officers were well taken care of. Port agents were helpful in expediting any care needed ashore.

On board we were able to do simple blood and urine tests and some x-rays, although the latter was a bit of joke since we had no x-ray techs and we more or less taught each other. I often wonder how much harm we did to our patients and urselves with improper exposure. The nurses were on call 24/7 so office hours were a suggestion. Any time of day or night a passenger wanted to be seen, no matter how minor the issue was, we were to see them ASAP. I once got in trouble for leaving thermometers at the consierge (where they already had Tylenol, Tums, and Dramamine). I figured if a passenger wanted to know if they had a fever they could check themdelves and then self medicate with the Tylenol and then be seen during regular office hours in the morning. Why wake me at whatever time for that? Oh, there was hell to pay for proactive move. On the avererage, most night I was on call, my sleep was disturbed. And that would be every other night. There was a 10 week period I was the only nurse (smaller ships) and I was called every single night. And that meant getting dressed. The Hotel Manager wanted us to make face contact, not a phone consultation. All that said, it was a good experience. Lots of free travel, good times and fond memories.

To these thoughts I would like to add that the medical facilities was incredibly accomodating on both Carnival and Princess when I needed to visit them as a crew member.  I hope the nurse wasn't inspired to write these comments because she thought my comments in my blog post were negative.  I've had only great experiences.

I hope everyone appreciate the time the nurse took in sharing her expeience.  Let this be a call to any other crew members:  What's YOUR story of working on a ship?  I'll let you "guest blog" on here within reason.  Obviously if I get too many it may get cumbersome.

Happy travels everyone.  We're heading into a slow cruise season but spring break and summer is coming soon.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rough Seas!

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

The Pacific Sun sees some rough seas. Check out in particular 00:35 on as some passengers faceplant into the ship. I've had many a journey go unexpectantly rough!  Smooth sailing to everyone from TrumpetDad.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Medical Care for the Crew

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.  Here I have blended sentiment, true stories, money saving tips and more to compose what I feel is something that should be educational, fun, entertaining, beneficial, and I'm hoping enjoyable.

This post is dedicated to a reader who asked me specifically about medical care on cruise ships.  I know both sides of the issue.  You see, for many years I was a ship's employee and for many years I was an independant contractor.  Both have their benefits.  As a contractor I enjoyed increased status and I could behave (almost) like a passenger.  I did not have benefits and for my wife son and myself I paid literally $1000/month in medical insurance which was tax deductible. As an employee, I had medical insurance through the company.

Firstly, my impression is that if you get hurt on a job the company can medically sign you off the vessel and pay you 80% of your salary.  That is good for a dancer hurt in the show who makes salary, but I don't know how it works for a waiter or bar steward who makes $50 a month.

Our first story is when I started ships a long time ago.  One of my friends on the ship suffered an illness when he was younger that caused him to lose his leg.  He used a prothetic on the ship and passed all of his medical exams.  At one point in his career he started suffering a swelling of his leg and his current prothetic started to malfunction.  This was on RCCL.  He went to a Dr. who recommended a state of the art limb.  Since he was a musician like me at the time he couldn't afford it, but he was signed off on crew medical.  The Dr. said, "lets's send the company the bill and if it doesn't work we'll consider our options."  I believe this was after 9/11 whe there were tremendous cutbacks at RCCL.  I was the first to complain about the corporate bastards not giving us raises (for 2 years) and trimming everything down.  Wouldn't you know shortly after submitting the expense Royal Caribbean paid for my friend's $14,000 leg?  Even better, getting this equipment allowed him to be as athletic as he could train and a few years later he ran a New York City marathon.

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My second anecdote is from my days as an Art Auctioneer on the ships.  I think this is the first time I revealed what I did for the last half of my career!  A colleague of mine started coughing on the ship.  As you know the ventilation on ships is terrible and with the recycled air and fresh people every week airborne illnesses are rampant.  He suffered from a cough and went to the Doctor.  The ship is responsible for him while he is on the ship but they give him some antibiotics and encourage him to go home and get some rest.  He signs off the ship (freeing the cruise line of responsibility) and then the cough gets worse.  My friend loses his vioce, suffers from hospital bills and it get worse and worse.  Currently after 18 months my friend cannot speak for more than 1 hour at a time and is completely permanently injured.  I know this illness is a direct cause from being on the ship, but the line did not pay a dime of his medical because he voluntarily signed off the ship early on the Doctor's advice.  Of course, he was not allowed back on a ship because he failed his medical.

Well, in general, most crew members are taken care of.  Just remember, not everyone who works on a ship is directly employed by the cruise line.  I remember once before Cozumel on Royal Caribbean a cabin steward, bless her, from Jamaica went literally crazy.  She stripped naked and ran up and down the "I95" (main crew corridor, deck 4) screaming "in tongues." A friend of mine was going to the Dr. that next day so I tagged along and visited this poor girl who was softly mumbling for her mother.  Of course, the company paid her medical but the crew sometimes is under so much pressure and work hours occaisionally they can snap.

Which reminds me of ANOTHER story. When I was on the QM2 the strangest thig happened. A crew member, upset he was being paid less than his colleagues snapped and went crazy.  Strangely, he took a hammer and killed the cousin of one of his colleagues, who I think was unrelated to the department.

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And I am saddened and shocked to learn while googling a link to what happened when I was there that ANOTHER crew (attmepted?) murder happened in 2008.  I am really surprised.  Things like this hardly ever happen but I guess we can all recall in our innocent little towns crazy things happening.

Well, that is it for tonight on trumpettravels.  This blog post is creditted ot an anonymous poster who was wondering about medical facilities on a ship.  I have more stories ot tell, but I guess you will have to wait.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

You have Wasted 60 Bucks in St Thomas - a crew member saves you money.

[scroll down to see money saving tip and skip the witty banter]

Hello, Readers, and thank you for tuning in to trumptettravels - the true accounts of my 11 year career on cruise ships as a crew member aboard Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Premier Cruises and the Holland America Line.

I think some day, when I get my act together, I'd like to have seperate blog entries for each amazing port I've been to in my 11 years as a crew member.  If I do, one of the longest entries would be St Thomas.  Home of great shopping and amazing beaches.  Duty-free everything and the bushwhacker (drink). And, of course, that SKYRIDE to paradise that thouasands of cruise ship passengers go up and down every week.  At $21 a pop.

Before I tell you my secret way to save 60 bucks I want to welcome you to trumpet travels.  I am an ex-crew member who has been sharing a few of the inside secrets of the cruise industry.  If you read my older posts you'll see how I got the job and what it is like for the crew, staff, and officers on a ship.  Happy reading and thank you for supporting my hobby.  After two entries I almost quit but I've received alot of question from readers and comments about how they've learned a few things and that kept me going.
Fodor's U.S. & British Virgin Islands, 22nd Edition (Full-Color Gold Guides)
Fodor's Island Guidebook

Once upon a time I wanted to go to the SKYRIDE up to paradise point.  The view is the BEST in St Thomas.  Since I was a crew member, I just showed my ID and for $5 (instead of the passenger $21) I got my ticket.  I seem to remember that the price was higher, but I just checked their site and it is only $21.  Well, when I was on Costa as an Art Auctioneer I took my cruise card to go up for a bushwacker and they would not give me the discount because I had a passenger cruise card. I explained to them all about my job, but still they would not budge.  I was very angry because my wife was with me and we'd been up there so many times I didn't want to pay $42 dollars.

Well, I bumped into a taxi driver, who was obliged I guess to offer us "some smoke" as all islanders are obliged to.  Well, I declined the offer and as I do struck up a conversation. I told him about my mountainous woes (I wanted to go up the mountain) and he said, "Well I'll take you."  I thought, "HOW?"  He said up the road!  How much? "5-10 bucks."

I was thinking that it was funny all the tens of thousands of dollars everyone pays every week to go up that tram - if they only knew about that road!!!

SO - the trick is - take a TAXI to paradise point instead of the tram!  With 4 people it will cost you max $20 roundtrip, instead of the $84!  That saves you $64!!!
That's it - very simple.  If you think you're going to St Thomas and you might use this trick - congrats you are smarter than 99% of cruise ship passengers!  go get yourself some Bushwhackers (AWESOME) at the top - for FREE (with your $64).  If you enjoyed this tip you can give me a free "thank you" by clicking on an ad on this web page.

OK - one more tip.  At the top of St Thomas/Paradise Point there is a shop that sells rare shipwreck gold coins. They claim 100% authenticity and I am not saying they are not authentic.  What I would like to say is that gold is an element.  It does not decay and does not age.  What this means is that if you created a gold coin in the image of a Roman gold coin there would be absolutely NO test to prove wheter is was 2000 years old or 2000 seconds old.  I'm not sayin nothin bout nothin, just putting that out there.  So many people lose their heads to romance on vacation and an ancient gold coin certainly does have a degree of romance to it.

Happy Travels Everyone and a Prosperous New Year to All!