The day me and the rest of my cast were due to fly to the Dominican Republic to board our ship, was rather a disastrous one. For me, anyway. I’m not normally one to get nervous about flying, so when I woke up and discovered much to my surprise that I was feeling rather on the nauseous side, I was pretty confused about what on earth was going on. I lay on my bed in Hamburg, staring at the ceiling and asking myself over and over if I’d eaten anything weird, because if not then why was I finding it so impossible to stand up without panicking that I was about to puke?? I spoke to my mum briefly on the phone, who informed me that I was actually very nervous about flying after all, but that I’d ultimately be fine. Well pals, whoever said that your mum always knows best is clearly a massive liar.
I called a taxi to take me to the airport, and made it two thirds of the way there before I realised two things: firstly that I was most definitely about to hurl, and secondly that I couldn’t remember the German word for ‘stop.’ This coupling of realisations triggered in me what was clearly some form of panic attack (the word is ‘halt’, though I could just as easily have spoken English and I’m sure he would’ve understood), in which I began to hyperventilate with one hand over my mouth and the other gesturing frantically at the side of the road. Luckily my excellent hand signals made perfect sense to the taxi driver, who immediately swerved into the roadside so I could fling the door open and projectile vomit onto the kerb. Lovely.
I arrived at the airport twenty minutes later, sick in hair (not that I noticed that at the time), to meet the rest of my colleagues. My manager took one look at me and sent me back to the city in a second taxi, with instructions to go first to a doctor to confirm that I was indeed sick, and then on to a hotel which they had emergency booked me for the week. Off everyone else went to the land of Caribbean sunshine, whilst I had an extra week stranded in the Ibis Budget Hotel in the snow of Sankt Pauli, attempting to recover from food poisoning. What a time to be alive!!
So, one week later and it was time for round two, food poisoning free and ready to get the hell out of Germany and my strange hotel room with a linoleum floor and no drinking water. Praise the actual lord!!! Despite the fact that it was 3am and snowing, I was overjoyed to be finally on my way to the airport, first and foremost on a plane to Paris Charles de Gaulle, and then onwards to Atlanta and then Jamaica to meet the ship.
The first flight was a smooth and very speedy affair, although upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle it became apparent that this was one of the most humungous airports I’d ever set foot in, with a seemingly infinite number of terminals and gates which were signposted in a very confusing way. I was on the same flight as about five other crew members who I’d never met before but were heading for the same ship, so we bumbled around the expansive airport attempting to find our gate together, finally reaching it just as the queue to board the flight was almost all the way onto the aircraft. It was around this moment that we ran into a spot of bother.
There’s no denying that entry to the US is something that is not granted easily; the last time I visited, the border security guy at Minneapolis airport accused my then boyfriend and I of intending to get married there and attempting to stay- something I’m pretty sure is not actually possible anyway. But in this case we hadn’t even reached American soil before we were being questioned. The flight attendant asked in French for the details of our onward travel, so we offered up our documents which informed them that we would be boarding a ship in Jamaica, explaining that we all worked for the same company. She gave them a once-over and asked “so you are not flying back?” Well no, technically we weren’t. We’d be coming back via cruise ship a few months later. It was all getting to be a bit on the awkward side, with the only fluent French-speaker in our gaggle doing all the talking for everyone and the flight attendant with increasingly narrowed eyes getting all together more and more alarmed by the second. The queue of people had completely disappeared onto the plane. We were all starting to panic that we would never make it to work after all, and the attendant called over an American man who appeared to be in charge of security in exasperation.
“So let me get this straight. You don’t have return flights?”
“No, we’re all going to work on a cruise ship, and once on board we’ll be eventually sailing back to Europe.”
The man rolled his eyes in disbelief. “Ok sure, you work on a cruise ship. Sure. So what exactly are your jobs?”
“We all work in different departments…I’m a singer, these guys work as entertainment hosts, she’s a tour guide, and she works with the kids.”
“Ok do you seriously expect…why are you making this so difficult? So your ‘cruise ship’ sent you here without a way to return to wherever it is you come from?”
“Well…no. We’ll be boarding the ship and then after a few months it’ll be sailing back to Europe. So we don’t need flights.”
“So you’ll be working in America for a few months.”
“No. In the Caribbean. On a ship.”
“What in God’s name.”
“We’re boarding in Jamaica.” I pointed to the part of the document that stated we’d be flying to Jamaica.
“Well why didn’t you tell us that in the first place.”
Two flights and a great many hours later, it was the middle of the night and we were at long last in Jamaica. Praise the actual Lord, you guys!! Our group had grown significantly in size when we discovered more crew members waiting to board the same flight in Atlanta, and after a brief ‘welcome to Jamaica!!!’ from the Jamaican border security, we all stood outside the main entrance to the terminal awaiting a shuttle to take us to our hotel, a strange mixture of nationalities all jumbled together and never having met before, suddenly all thrown together in a mysterious tropical island melting pot. English, Ukrainian, German, Indonesian, Indian, Bulgarian, Sri Lankan… The air was humid despite it being completely dark outside already, and we were joined by a pale Russian guy with too much gel in his hair dressed in a black turtleneck sweater, black jeans and once-shiny but now scuffed formal shoes. I’d presumed that he was also crew, though he’d seemed to have made friends on the plane with an American couple and when they said they were going to the same hotel as us he swiftly jumped into their taxi with them. When we all arrived at the hotel forty minutes later, he was downing shots in the lobby and excitedly chattering to anyone who would listen. Strange chap.
I collapsed into my bed at the brightly coloured Deja Hotel without thinking twice about going down to dinner, even though for the first time in my life I was staying somewhere all-inclusive but also completely free of charge. Sleep ALWAYS wins, you guys. ALWAYS.
Approximately five hours later, it was time to wake up…and the thing is, whereas in the cold dark winter months I have to drag myself out of bed no matter how well I’ve slept, in sunnier times waking up is like an actual dream! If that isn’t the best kind of reverse effect, I don’t know what is! Attached to my room was a massive balcony overlooking a palm tree filled courtyard, and the sun was already absolutely glorious at 7.30am, twinkling on the sea over the road like little gems. I was loving life!! I was loving the view!! I was loving the balcony!!!
Suddenly I heard a voice from across the garden- “Good morning!”
I looked up to see a man leaning over his own balcony and waving at me. “Er…morning!”
“Er. Thanks.” I gave him a thumbs up and an awkward grimace before making it clear that I was getting up to go inside.
“Do you have a boyfriend back there!?”
“Er. Nope. Have a good day!”
“I have my girlfriend back here! But you know where I am, yeah?” He gave a slimy wink before I leapt back inside in bafflement and headed down to breakfast.
I’d barely sat down when The Russian arrived on the scene and pulled up a chair which he slammed down and straddled with difficulty beside me and one of my newly-found travel buddies from the flight the day before. He was still dressed in his all black outfit which looked like it really wasn’t the most logical choice for a morning in Jamaica, especially considering he’d spent several hours flying from Atlanta in it the night before, and smelled strongly of alcohol.
“Good morning lovely people. You are ready for amazing day? What will you drinking!?”
We were drinking coffee.
“How I get the coffee!?”
I explained that a waitress had a jug of coffee but that she’d probably come over in a minute to fill his cup up. He turned and scanned the room for our waitress, his eyes eventually honing in on her a couple of tables away.
“Hey! Lady! I want coffee!! Will you give??”
Well not only was this man clearly still drunk, he was also being kind of rude. My breakfast buddy looked nervously at me…there was no way this man would be allowed to work on the ship in this state. He sipped on the coffee that the waitress calmly poured for him with a gracious smile, grinning all the while.
“Why you here?” he asked.
“We’re getting on the ship, too.”
“Ah yes. Ship. In Jamaica, man!” He laughed a mildly hysterical guffaw and bounced up and down on his chair excitedly. I wondered if we should make him eat more food; there really was no way in hell that this man would be let onboard and somehow we seemed to have been dragged into his story by accident. Next thing you know the American man he’d shared a flight with the night before appeared at the table next to us. Our Russian friend leapt up like a rocket in absolute delight at the appearance of his pal, who looked like a basketball player and towered above him in height, and flung his arms around him from behind.
“Hey bro!!! I will kiss you!!”
This was clearly a terrible move on The Russian’s part. The Basketball Player shot up from his seat and turned around with so much force that I was convinced he was about to knock The Russian out.
“Don’t even mention last night, I will kill you man, I’ve had enough.”
All this did to The Russian was make him even more excited and he began to hop up and down like some kind of cartoon rabbit with a massive grin on his face, the Basketball Player shoving a chair away to get right face, chest puffed out.
“Yeah I will fight with my American! Yeah!! Hahaha!! Fight me, man!”
My German travel buddy asked out of the corner of his mouth, “do you know what department he is from? I am scared to board with this guy.”
The scene played out in front of us and turned into a bizarre slapstick routine with The Basketball Player throwing punches which The Russian dodged with the air of a Medieval court jester, laughing maniacally throughout. After the fight was broken up and The Russian was escorted away from the restaurant, it became apparent to everyone that in actual fact he was not part of the crew at all, and hadn’t even brought any luggage with him to the hotel. Potentially, he wasn’t even staying there. What a baffling situation, but one I was strangely grateful for as it meant we didn’t have to explain him to security when we finally made it onto the ship a couple of hours later.
Life is a strange one you guys, and the characters in it make it all the more interesting, that’s for sure!
- The Deja Resort Hotel is in Montego Bay, just opposite Doctors Cave beach and a short shuttle ride from the airport.
- At the time of going to Jamaica, we were told that it was getting increasingly unsafe. However, though this may well be true, to this date I haven’t experienced or heard of any crime aimed at tourists in the country, and as long as you take the same precautions as you would anywhere else in the world, ie sticking to busier areas, not flashing your valuables to the entire population, you’ll be fine.
- If taking connecting flights at Atlanta airport, you may well have to pick up and transfer your own luggage. We did, and we were lucky we had time to, as at the time the queues were massive and several other passengers missed their next flights in the process.
- Even if only entering the USA for a connecting flight like I did, you will still need to apply for a visa. ESTAs can be applied for online, though make sure you go through the US Government’s actual website to avoid paying any unnecessary fees for an agent to do it for you.
- No visa is needed for UK citizens to visit Jamaica for stays of up to 90 days, though the date you must leave by will be stamped in your passport. (So make sure you have your onward travel previously booked)
- Our ship called at Montego Bay every two weeks and I always had an amazing time in Jamaica. For more Jamaica inspired, check out this post I wrote earlier (Blue Peter stylee) about Dunn’s River Falls.