There is literally no way I could cram our whole experience into this 5 part series, but I definitely want to take this week's blog to share some of the most memorable moments - the GOOD and the BAD.
1. The Rooms:
You guys......I wasn't joking when I said these rooms were small. I'm honestly mad at myself for not taking an official photo of our room, but I'll dig through my phone and see if I can find something in there to show you how small they were. We had bunk beds. And not the cool/fun bunk beds you get to share with a sibling as a kid....these felt more like prison bunk beds to be honest. I kept the bottom bunk & John took the top. There were a few times we desperately tried to cram in one bunk but y'all.....there's no way. I'd like to blame it on the fact that John is just a big guy and that's why we couldn't make it work, but I'll admit that another huge reason it was out of the question was because of the excessive amount of snacks I kept crammed by my mattress at all times. (Hey, I can blame it on the pregnancy cravings right). We did have a TV in our room, but it was seriously the size of a laptop screen and we got like SEVEN channels. Two of them were movie channels and I swear you guys......"Keeping Up With The Jones" and "Secret Life of Walter Mitty" were ALWAYS ON. Always. It started to become a joke to us because we'd come back from dinner and when we turned on the tv it was always on the same scene of the same two movies. We did however have one channel that played 'Friends' reruns and Family Guy, so that was usually our go-to. I've always hated Family Guy, but I'll be honest, it definitely grew on me when it was the only thing on TV.
2. The OB Appointments:
So obviously the ship has a medical center on board, but there are no OB doctors, and there is no prenatal care on the ship. I did have to report down to medical about once a week to have my vitals checked, but as far as my other prenatal care and visits with an OB, I did all of that in Cozumel, Mexico. Yep, my doctor for the whole first trimester was in Mexico and my baby's first ultrasound photo was taken in Mexico. So crazy! Literally everything baby related & all of my records were in Spanish. I had to see my doctor every 4 weeks, so I went to the Cozumel Hospital a total of 3 times for checkups & ultrasounds. It was pretty crazy, because we'd get off the ship for our regular Cozumel port, and John and I would grab a Taxi to the hospital for my appointments while everyone else was at the beach drinking pina coladas.
3. The Food:
Everyone says cruise ships have the best food. They are liars. The food may be good for a couple days, but when the menu repeats itself every 4-5 days that crap gets old REAL quick. And all you mommas out there...you've been through it...the CRAVINGS. Ugh, I don't mean to sound like a whiny brat (first world probs), but my cravings + my options on the ship DID NOT ADD UP. I remember one day while we were in Galveston for a few hours, John and I spend our entire day riding the bumpiest bus ride - literally if I rode it today I'd probably go into labor lol - allllll the way across Galveston Island to track down a McDonald's so I could get my hands on some French Fries and an M&M McFlurry. I was desperate. And it was delicious. But seriously, we'd play our shows on the ship and I'd start thinking about food before we even made it through our first set. Usually, after we finished our show, I'd make a run for it up to the gift shop on Deck 5 while John tore down the mics/cables and cleaned the stage for us (he was a trooper), and I'd buy myself the most outrageously overpriced $8 tube of Pringles with not one ounce of shame, because what baby wants....baby gets. Also on Deck 5, was a strategically placed candy store that basically begged me to walk inside every time I passed by. I became such a frequent visitor that the sweetest cashier from Korea always gave me free candy "for the baby". It was a pretty ideal situation, not gonna lie.
4. The Nightlife:
This was such a struggle for me. When you are living and working on a ship, it's pretty common to get caught up in the "cliques" on board and become accustomed to bar life. As crew members, we had our own bar down on Deck 0 (the ship basement) where drinks were SUPER cheap, and the scene was ONLY for crew members. That was basically the go-to spot for everyone when they were done working or performing. And trust me when I say things got WILD. You go a little crazy when you are stuck on the same ship with the same people for that long. We only had a 3 month contract, but most crew members had 6-9 month contracts. Some had even been there over a year. But anyway....I struggled with this because I felt like such an outcast when it came to the nightlife scene. I still remember one night (this was like the 2nd or 3rd week on board, when the whole entertainment department threw a party on one of the formal nights. It didn't even start until 11pm, so John and I decided we were gonna go after our show ended at midnight. I was feeling pretty good at that point and didn't feel too tired yet, so we took our guitars up to our room and went back down to Winston's Bar on Deck 5 for the party. When we got there, we were about an hour late so everyone was already a little buzzed. We grabbed a couple stools at the bar, and John proceeded to order himself a Jack and Coke, while I was offered a glass of Merlot and had to turn it down for a ginger ale. Of course I got weird looks from the other bartenders and other crew members because I was little the only one without a drink, and at that point no one else really knew I was pregnant other than our bosses. About an hour or so went by and I hit a wall. Everyone else was going strong, dancing, and having a great time, but all I wanted to do was sleep (The "exhaustion" that they warn you about in the first trimester is no joke. I'm usually such a night owl, but I was always so sleepy during those first 15 weeks). I decided to call it a night, and considering that was our first opportunity to get to know everyone in the entertainment department, it didn't exactly leave the best impression. Eventually they would find out I was pregnant though and they would understand. Nope. I actually feel like things only got weirder when everyone found out.
5. The Dress Code:
As musicians, we didn't really have THAT much of a dress code. Especially since we were the 'country duo'. But we did have some rules we had to follow. One huge one was that we had to have our name tags on at ALL TIMES. Seriously even if we just needed to run down to the medical center or run upstairs for a bottled water, we HAD to wear them. Another was that if we were to go up the upper deck (around the pool and the Lido Buffet) we had to be wearing 'close-toe shoes'. I never followed that one, ever. I always work my flip flops up there. Every crew member on the ship wore uniforms, with the exception of the musicians and dancers, so I guess we couldn't really complain too much about the "dress code". Oh! But we did kind of have a uniform for every safety briefing. If you have ever been on a cruise, you know what I'm talking about. Every time a new group of guests sign on, we have a mandatory safety briefing before we set sail and it typically lasts 30-45 min. This is where all passengers have to report to their assigned life boat, so we can show them what to do in an emergency. These are called muster stations. We had to wear these neon yellow trucker hats that said 'Muster' on them, and carry our orange life vests. My job during this drill was basically to channel my nine Flight Attendant, and demonstrate the proper way to put on a life vest.
6. The Passengers:
The guests....these are the people that MADE. OUR. CRUISE. I can't even tell you how many amazing people we met on this adventure, and 99% of them were from Texas. Nicest people ever. It was so cool getting to meet a new group of people every 4-5 days for each new cruise. For the most part, a lot of the crew members spent most of their downtime with their other "crew member" friends. John and I spend our down time with the guests we met on board. We'd go make friends with different couples or groups on our breaks during our shows, and we always seemed to end up making plans to either have dinner with them or hangout with them at the ports. Honestly, the people we met on board are the ones who kept us going. We were so homesick after being there for awhile, so making friends on each cruise (especially other couples) was such a huge blessing. If any of you are reading this, we love you and can't thank you enough for your friendship & support on board! Since we found out I was pregnant after only 4 days, we were excited to share the news with EVERYONE we met, and it really helped me to be able to talk to other people about my pregnancy since I didn't get to be around my family during that first trimester.
7. The Crew Members:
First off, I wanna start by saying that although we spent most of our time with guests, and we had a difficult time finding our place with the crew cliques, there were still so many incredible people we got to work with on the Carnival Valor. The first person that comes to mind when I think of the crew, is bartender Gracie from the Phillipines. She worked the bar in the lobby (where we always performed) and I'm telling you, this woman was one of the sweetest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She was so good to John and I, and always made sure we were well taken care of. Most nights, we'd finish playing around 11:30pm-midnight, but by the time we talked to fans/friends and tore down, we usually wouldn't head out of there until last call. (Plus, if you know John, you know he can talk someone's ear off and ended up making friends with everyone at the bar after each show. Lol) So usually what would happen is we'd sit at the empty bar while Gracie was closing up, and she would fix me a 'Virgin Mary'. I craved Bloody Mary's for some reason so she'd just replace the alcohol with extra hot sauce and olives, and she always had it ready for me after each show. Loved her. One thing a lot of people don't realize about working on a cruise ship, is that if you are from the U.S., you're the minority as far as crew members go. Our ship had a capacity of just under 3000 people, and about 1000 of them were crew members. Guess how many of those crew members were from the U.S.? 16. SIXTEEN PEOPLE. And that's including me and John. It was pretty cool though to meet people from countries we had never even heard of. Definitely an eye-opening experience for us! The language barriers and cultural differences were an adjustment, but overall it was neat to experience.
Like I said before, it feels impossible to cram our entire experience into a 5 story series, but I still have a lot to share in the next 2 weeks, so keep reading, and be sure to join the email subscription! :)