Carrie's Adventures

Thursday, May 25, 2006

As the sun sets on Mexico

Well actually it wasn't really setting but rather staying up later. I love this longer day thing especially the further north you get. So we said 'Hosta la vista' to Mexico on the 8th of May.

First requirement of this 'repositioning' cruise was to get all the passengers on the ship. Due to the Jones Act (A law from the 1800s implemented by the US government to prevent ships who are not registered in the US from picking up passengers from one US port and subsequently dropping them off in another US port ~ thus acting like a ferry service) we needed to shuttle everyone from San Diego to Ensenada Mexico to get on the ship as we would ultimately be ending the cruise in Seattle WA. This proved to have a few challenges. All check-in staff along with the equipment needed to be transported to Mexico and set up prior to the guests arriving. With the check in process happening in a hotel, it was going to be easy for us, no network to set up, plug in the laptop, pray there was power and you are done. At least this is what I thought.

As I got ready to leave my cabin, I grabbed my wallet thinking, you know, anything can happen and could you imagine being in Mexico with only 100 Pesos (equivalent of $10 US). We (the check-in girls, myself, 2 cleaners from India and Indonesia and the Chief Concierge who is also Canadian...) boarded the bus after getting a Starbucks, and headed to the border. As we approached the bus pulled into the 'bus lane' and we were presented to the authorities. The bus driver after speaking with the border folks for a few minutes hauled my cleaner Gordon off the bus who was the one who loaded all the equipment. Gordon stands outside shrugging to the official and I can only think this is not good. I make my way outside to be questioned about the contents of the 2 blue cases. Well they have 27 laptops and 27 power supplies, and 27 card swipers... you get the picture. Well apparently even the laptops need papers now days to pass into Mexico. While the port agent had been doing this previously and had NEVER needed paperwork, I was now being asked to provide temporary import papers for the hardware. Oh goody ~ give me the pages. Oh, they aren't at this crossing ~ I need to go somewhere else, where they don't allow buses. Hmmm, things were getting more complicated by the moment. As we called to the agent, we were advised by the Mexican border patrol that we were going to be denied entry and the bus was to turn around. Well that is all well and good except for my cleaners Nelson and Gordon ~ who don't have their passports with them ~ only their I-95 and crew cards... Dilemma number 2, these two are now denied re-entry into the US as they require a C1-D visa in order to enter the country by land. Jeepers! Thank god I remembered my wallet!

We managed to find someone to take the load of equipment ~ as we hauled it into a rental mini-van ~ those shocks will never be the same!! They were able to get the equipment down to the hotel and amazingly beat us to the location. Nelson and Gordon after spending an hour in 'never never land' between the US and Mexico, were picked up by the bus as we were granted entry to Mexico. Who would have thought I could possibly be denied entry to Mexico?!?

The remainder of the day went well. Nothing like hanging out in the hotel and just watching the people arrive. Stef and I had 2 days until Panos came in San Francisco to join the ship. These 2 days were spent trying to get everything in order that we had left 'until later'. Stef continued to belly ache about whether or not Panos would actually arrive and stressed about what would happen if he didn't. Then once he did arrive, the concern shifted from not having a replacement to not having a ticket to leave the ship as the crew purser was new and didn't know how to book a ticket. Yes that is right, he was not able to book a ticket for a crew member who signed off and as a result ended up being stranded in the airport. As it is the companies responsibility to repatriate the crew member after their contract is done, the company faced fines for leaving the poor soul there. Rumour has it that the status of his papers was changed to termination making the responsiblity for the flight then the crew members, and he was then subsequently held by Border Protection ~ however I don't know this for sure, but could you imagine... Thank god I have a Gold card and knowledge of how the airline industry works!!

The next 4 days saw me running around like crazy packing, finishing up tasks that seemed to be ongoing and generally trying to get Panos ready to be on the ship alone for a month until his assistant came... Well as it turns out, I find out today, she is not returning so the poor bugger will be there alone ~ again.

I did manage to get out to see Ketchikan and Juneau which was pretty cool as I hadn't been to Alaska before. I can see how 4 months might be a bit much, but I could definitely see a few runs through there as being a pretty cool experience. We also ran into the Summit who blew a pod (part of the engine) and had to revamp their itinerary which was cool for me as I met George who is the Manager on Summit and helped me out a lot when I was on CS. Always good to put a face to the name!

Juneau saw me depart the Mercury and begin my 2 months of vacation ~ which is going to be quite the experience and I hope I am better at keeping the blog up to date on this... =)

Should I stay or should I go?!?

It seems like a fairly simple concept, your contract ends, you leave. You resign, you leave. You sign on, you stay. Well it seems for some, the Mercury is a bit like the Hotel California... once you arrive you are there and leaving can be more than challenging.

Meet Nadine:
Nadine is from New Zealand and is no stranger to ships. She arrived to Mercury and took on the position of the Jr. Payroll purser, while the woman she was replacing was taking a promotion. After 20 days of training, the woman with the promotion decided that she did not really want this job after all. Enter Nadine ~ would she mind taking on the position. As a good sport she steps in, takes the 3 days of training before Vangelis leaves and is then responsible for all the cash flowing through the guest accounts. After the 10 days of the cruise and feeling her way through, she steps into the Hotel Director's office and says, I need more training. Enter Stavros ~ the trainer extraordinaire. He is there for one cruise to help train her. Well this is what we thought. For the Documentation purser who is already a month over his contract has stipulated he is going home. Nadine was asked, would you like Vasillis job? Nadine says sure, and moves to her third job in 5 weeks and now Stavros is staying. The standing joke was that she was going to move in on the IT team and that I should teach her about changing the back up tapes.

Nadine takes 2 weeks of training with Vasillis and at about day 7 decides that this is crazy work. Actually is crazy hours, and wants to tender her resignation. Vasillis terrified that if she does, they will not let him off the ship (see his job is to clear the ship with customs to let us into the ports..) until there is a replacement, and tells her not to resign until he leaves. Well rumours happen and she gets called into the office and the next thing you know she is being asked if she is going to quit. So she decides she may as well own up and yes, she resigns but gives them a month's notice. Vasillis is then hounded by the captain, Hotel Director to stay. He sticks to his guns says no, but at the last minute the night before debark decides he is going to stay. We all give him a hard time. That is until the next day when he changes his mind and decides to leave ~ what?!? Nadine hasn't seen them clear the ship in San Diego. So he is now in hunt of the ticket ~ phew, they never cancelled his other one. Vasillis is off to the airport ~ but what is this? Vasillis is back? What is going on? He missed his flight? The drama was almost too much for Nadine as she just 24hrs earlier had made a deal to take the week off unpaid and could cruise and was now needing to work! The only bright spot was that her replacement was coming that day. Juan was here. Vasillis managed to rebook the ticket for the next day and high tailed it to the hotel out of the clutches of the captain.

Juan ~ well he lasted 24hrs on board. I am not sure if it was the banter that Stef and I had in the office that scared him off or if it was the pressure of the job, but the first excuse that came out of his mouth that night was that he needed to go home cause his wife was having surgery. Hey wait a minute ~ didn't you just leave home? How could his situation have changed in the past 24hrs?!? The challenge... he needed to book a ticket home and he had no money. Long story short, he made it to Acapulco and Nadine was devastated thinking she was never going to leave.

The next set of replacments was a Documentation purser from another ship. She was to be transferred to Mercury for the remainder of the contract. I'm not sure if it was the Mercury she didn't like, maybe Alaska, either way, once she heard about her pending transfer ~ she quit. Another one bit the dust. Moving down the line, we managed to find a Junior purser from Summit who was keen to take on the responsibility. As it turned out, not only was she keen to take on the responsibility but the first day on the job, rearranged Nadine's desk, compiling the papers etc. so that Nadine no longer knew where documents were, including the clearance papers from the previous port. The kicker was when Nadine went into a panic wondering where her keys were only to discover after 45 minutes of intense searching with the assistance of Security, the new purser had placed them in her pocket... I would have lost it. I think Nadine was just focused on keeping this one around so she could finally leave the ship ~ but boy there were a few beers consumed that night!!

I haven't confirmed that Nadine has actually left the ship, but she kept saying to me, Carrie I think they have forgotten that I have actually quit. And to be honest, I think they had. The circus continues as I have recently heard that the Captain was removed from the bridge during a Coast Guard inspection due to alcohol consumption and was replaced by the Staff Captain.

Javier, the Financial Controller who has also worked on ships said that he has never seen more of a circus. I look forward to hearing from him about the ongoing antics of the M/V Mercury. All I can say is that life is definitely not dull... More importantly I think you bond with people when you go through this kind of stuff. I will miss working with them and the stories... It is always brightened my day to see one of the walk into the office with the face that says 'You won't believe this one!'