A Trini living in Croatia
How it began
Back in 1974 when i was just 4 years old i took my first plane ride to Canada. It was a family trip and I remember it like it was yesterday.I remember walking up what seem to be big, steep steps to enter the plane, it was fascinating and a new experience.After that first trip every 2 years we travelled somewhere ,and i always looked foreward to the plane ride. I realised that i loved travelling and by the age of 10 year i was certain I wanted to become a flight attendant.
After many interviews and the girl next to me always getting hired instead of me, I decided on a change of plans. Why not work on a ship instead! My heart was destined to see Europe and some way that wish was going to come true!
One Saturday afternoon i was just about to bite into a Roti while watching reruns of Love Boat when I received a phone call from Miami...a bit puzzled i took hold of the receiver and a guy with a latin accent introduced himself as a recruit officer working with Royal Caribbean Cruiselines.....my interview for a job with ths company was starting NOW over the phone!
the wait is finally over ............ flying off to an adventure
So in 1993 after 1 ½ years of waiting to get on board a cruise ship i was finally hired by Royal Caribbean cruiselines to work on one of their luxury liners named Sovereign of the Seas as a Bell Attendant. I did not care how hard the work would be or how long the hours were, I just needed that window of opportunity.
Sitting in Piarco airport waiting to board my flight to Miami a state i had never been and so excited to see i could spot all the other Trinis heading off to find their sea legs. They stuck out like sore thumbs ;) I connected with them as we got in the Shuttle bus at Miami Int'l airport and headed to the Airliner hotel. The hotel pictured below has since been buldozed!
For some silly reasons i was often put to share a room with guy!
Heading down to the port of Miami to meet with the guy who hired me and get my paper work done i sat with Kenrick who asked me if i bought soap powder to do my laundry....of all this going through you mind at this exciting moment and he was thinking of his laundry. He was placed on Sovereign with me. We did our medical at the Sunshine medical facility a small pink building on the pier and the Nordic Empress was docked......good golly how huge is this ship...i cant imagine Soverign being any bigger BUT it was!
Next day on 20th November i entered the Calling station and called home just before boarding the Sovereign excitement racing through my body to tell all that i experienced so far! Dad answered....I asked where Mum and Sister was and he replied that they were out....Oh ---I replied that Nobody is at home to hear my news....his reply was *So i am nobody then*... feeling bad i started to tell him how huge this floating hotel was and not knowing the cost of the call told him i will call next week as i had to board the ship.
The port of Miami as it looked back in the early 90s
I was based in the Caribbean but that was okay as i know that i was eventually going to get to Europe.The ship was a mans world at the time and there were few women working on board , but there were other Trinis there and i did not feel so alone. After 10 days however motion sickness kicked in............awwwww what a feeling!
After a short time on Sovereign I had to take an emergency leave as sadly my father had passed away. Well i w as not prepared for what took place next!!!
Most embarrassing experience
Because i did not complete my contract an immigration officer came to meet me at the gangway and escorted me all the way to the airport , even waited with me in the airport ,just in case they thought i decided to disappear.
It was most embarrassing as she held unto my passport and then at the gate handed my passport over to the purser and i was the first to enter the plane. Passangers were just staring at me thinking what crime i had committed. One lady even walked up to me and apologised for getting caught. She thought i was hiding in america.
Back out on my sea legs
Well after that adventure i was back out in 6 weeks, after carnival and i spent 10 days in Miami waiting to get on board another ship.I met many others waiting to be placed and we attended a course .Eventually with much insisting, you will read why below..... I got sent to Puerto Rico the embarkation port for Monarch of the Seas. It was a sister ship to Sovereign but the work set up was a bit different, however i fit right in as there were 8 other Trinis in the Bellbox.
It was an exciting time when the Monarch was the largest cruiseliner to dock in Port of Spain harbour on Boxing Day 1994! I was on board and was up from wee hours of the morning watching the sun rise as we entered local waters.
After vacation and medical leave (had surgery in Barbados for cysts in both wrists) I returned and saw the new ports of call for a new ship that was being built. I decided that i wanted to see those new ports so i enlisted ,not really thinking i would get on.
Heading to Scandanavia!
By then i was dating a 1st officer, and I made my first trip to Norway for Easter 1995. It was so exciting as my dreams of seeing Europe was finally here.....after all Scandanavia is part of Europe. I still remember seeing the mountains covered in snow from the plane just before it landed ....ooohhhh it was my first time seeing snow and actually being in it. As we made our way via numerous planes that got smaller the closer we got to Tana I still could not believe that i had made it this far! Even more so to experience ice skating,cross country skiing and riding a snow mobile, was an incredible experience. Being in Lap land!
After a week i had to fly to London and then onwards to France to join Legend, but i missed my flight so what happened next was not panic, but more excitement!!!! My boyfriend decided that he would drive me all the way to St.Nazire! We took the ferry over to Sweden, drove through Germany,Netherlands,overnighted in Belgium and finally made our way to France. Got lost but made it to St.Nazire in time.
Picture below 1995....arriving at the dockyard in St Nazire, France where the Legend was being built...her she is in the background
Legend of the seas
Vacation over and work began, trying to get the Legand ready for passangers did not happen as we expected since the ship was far from ready. We had to set sail for New York with over 500 French workers on board. We passed through a hurricane that was the MOST frightful experience, which left me drowsy on dramimine .The golf course on the aft top deck, the first of its kind blew off into the Atlantic ocean, the anchor got away and made a hole in the bow,the piano went in another direction and most of the dishes were broken. We had boat drill everyday to prepare for Coast guard drill when we docked in New York. It was freezing cold,rainy and dam scary to see the ship ride the massive waves and turbulant waters, but we had to stand outside at our muster stations thoughout this ordeal. How lucky was i that the coast guard asked me questions!!!!
North to ALASKA
Finally after spending a week in New York the ship broke down during the sail across to Miami. All fixed and ready to leave the Port of Miami for more publicity cruises to Mexico,(Ensanada,Cabo San Lucas) San Francsico and Los Angeles we finally arrived at our home port of Vancouver for the summer cruises to Alaksa. Never thought of visiting Alaska but it was a very scenic place with mainly older passangers cruising, some dying on board! They were that old!!!
I used to go biking in Skagway up the mountain to the gold rush camp, quiet evening walks in Haines, shopping in Ketchican,went Whale watching in Juneau, only saw one whale and my camera decided to automatically shut off at the exact time the whale did his only flip!I did not mind however as I got the trip free since the organiser forgot that i was waiting at the office and they almost left me.
VACATION TIME Again
After summer passed we set sail for Hawaii, which i missed!!!! BUMMER! I signed off for vacation, and another Trini named Delcina and I spent a week in Ramada hotel sleeping the days away, playing bingo in a huge gaming facility with a Phillipine waiter and partying in Cooconut Grove.....then became a passanger (PAX)on Sovereign for a 1 week cruise then headed home for some much needed R and R.
Below...formal night on Sovereign...in front of the clock in the Centrum
I spy with my little eyes......someone cute?
Upon return, the ship was doing crusies through the Panama Canal from Puerto Rico to Aculpoco,Mexico. Some more new places to see, but it still was not Europe. During the walk around the ship orientation which every sign on crew member have to do, I sited a pretty handsome guy in my group. He had such mystery and interest to him that caught my attention......little did I know that he would become my husband years later. Thats another story!
After returning to some changes on board the Legend i decided to take a break and enlisted to get on another new build. The sister ship Splendour of the Seas that was going to be based in Europe!!! Only all the crew had already been chosen and i was offered an officers position on board another ship. To my mothers disappointment I turned down that offer and decided to stay at home for a while until someone quit, as the case of all new crew members on new ships.
Spent another Carnival at home and by accident found out from a friend that the Chief Steward was waiting for me to join them in France! I was actually on the list and I had ONE day to buy a ticket to Miami and pack for my new adventure.
After spending a few days in Miami getting visas sorted out I was on a plane again on my way back to Europe. Back to ST Nazire! yippy!
But my luggage got lost in Nantes.....and i was the only female in the camp site! OH yes did i mention that it was winter time? There is no heating in summer camps!
Even more exciting the ship was actually finished, and there was not as much work to do as when I joined the Legend.
BACK IN EUROPE.......dreams do come true!
Heading back to ST NAZIRE as part of the loading team
Living in a camp site in St Nazire,France for a week in the winter is not fun. There is no heating or hot water and lunch always consisted of sandwiches made from french bread with a boiled egg and tomatoes! But I got to meet up with old friends who i worked with on Monarch and was signing on this new ship as well.
Many crew members from Legend also joined this new ship so there were many familiar faces.
We spent 1 week in Hamburg, Germany getting the ship ready for its first cruise.We were docked very near to the red light district so night time was fun for the male crew members. It was certainly a new experience for me watching prostitutes in show windows all dressed in lace and satin, live sex shows, peep shows,( I did not see) sex shops........yep the city was alive! And UDO came all the way from Koln to visit me for the weekend.....what a nice surprise, and another surprise to accidently see him at the Pursers lounge so early in the morning.
I met Udo, a tall handsome German guy in Tobago in Feb 1993.....when he returned home he phoned me every Saturday morning until i left for the ships then he wrote me lots of letters.... He was the first guy to propose marriage, over the phone ;) How sweet.Dad thought that he was going to be the ONE and i would end up living in Germany.
After, the ship docked for 3 days in Amsterdam.......bicycle capital,( I have never seen so many bicycles in one location, they even have their own bicycle pathway in the road) and more red light district! The women were of different ethnic backgrounds and all looked very pretty in their window boxes across the canals. Lots of museums, souvenir shops, sex shops,shops selling drug paraphernalia made for a very interesting city.
I enjoyed working on board this ship the most (so far) as i changed jobs and was a staff attendant looking after staff cabins at night, so i had my days free to wonder around and explore the new ports of call. I was able to take tours with the shore excursion desk as an escort, and that enabled me to see a lot more than walking around would. We did cruises to the British Isles,Mediterranean,Baltic,Scandanavia,Norwegian Fjords and other parts of Europe, each country with something unique to offer.I was in my element! My dream was fufilled....now what?
Well after a failed relationship with another Norski guy the Croatian girls i became friends with introduced me to a Croatian guy on New Years 1997. This was the guy i saw 1 ½ years earlier on my walk around the ship orientation on board Legend, the previous ship i worked on. Who knew we would eventually get around to meeting after all this time had passed. There was a party in his cabin and he wished me Happy New Year but ignored me all night, while he chatted with other people. It was when the 2nd steward came down to put a stop to the party at 4am, he walked me to my cabin and we made a date for the next day!
The first date picture ;)
My new adventure had begun!!!!
I had a 10 month contract the longest and hardest, an ex boyfriend who was dating someone else but who wanted to mentain a friendship with me and gave mixed signals about that, a new boyfriend who had other girls after him, a new chief steward who did not like me much , a crazy Hotel Director who i had a bad run in with, and a side job at the Shore ex desk. Yes, the days were long and slow, but as i always told myself everything is just temporary!
After another wonderful summer trapsing around Europe I decided that it was time for a change, a clean break! I applied for a job in the gift shops with hopes of going to a different ship!
What were the odds that I would be sent back to Splendour of the Seas, going back to Europe? There was a long wait list for shoppies requesting to get to Europe. Long days and overnights in ports meant a lot of free time, as the shops were only allowed to open while out at sea.
Becoming a SHOPPIE
Just getting into the shops were hard enough so there was no way i could get to Europe again, which was okay for me as now a new thought came to mind....maybe, just maybe I could one day get on WORLD CRUISE!
Agent called and offered me a gift shop job on Sovereign doing 3 day cruises to Bahamas, but I decided to wait for another ship hoping that it would be one where i wont know anyone, especially one in which my ex Norski boyfriend would NOT be on.
But destiny had another plan and so it was unexpected i was sent right back to Splendour where Djuro my Croatian guy was!
Would you guess that my ex Norski boyfriend ended up on Sovereign of the Seas, the very ship I turned down! Phew! That was close! But with 14 ships in the fleet , what were the odds????
I told my mother if Djuro called while i was in Miami waiting to board, not to tell him where i was going.I wanted to surprise him.She did not listen ( what a traitor) and told him. So as I signed on,I was surprised as there he was key in hand waiting to escort me to my cabin!
Back to Europe and an excited Djuro to see me return after a few months home, it was like returning home, only this time was i a staff member and not crew so I had a cabin steward and a little more privileges, like taking in the live entertainment and shows on formal nights.
But it all came to an end ofter just 3 months when the Manager who had a dislike for me decided to end my contract. Just another obstacle I thought and so i went home for a vacation---a long 9 month vacation, and Djuro visited me in Trinidad twice in that year. It was not long after i got sent to Majesty of the Seas back in the gift shops it was the only ship to meet Splendour of the Seas the ship Djuro was still on, in Cozumel,Mexico every 3 weeks!!!! Do you see a pattern here???
And so you can guess the rest......we had a date every 3 weeks in Cozumel. My contract was a fun one as well, a different Manager, a much nicer one ,and there were other Trinis working in the gift shops too!
My 2 contracts there were the best of all contracts I did on board RCI ships.
Keeping in touch with Djuro through faxes and letters and later through e mail, he decided that he wanted to get married in 2000. And so my path to Croatia was paved.
Hrvatska here i come!
After my first trip to Croatia in summer 1999 we headed back to work on ships, newly engaged with the hopes of Djuro transferring to Majesty, I set off to planning a wedding.
But all did not go as planned! After 2 weeks waiting Willie the Crew Purser said that we finally have space for Djuro but too late..... he was on the plane bound for Purto Rico to Monarch of the Seas and so we were separated for another contract. There is a saying that absence makes the heart grow founder! I think that is so true.
The Majesty was docked in Puerto Rico every Saturday while the Monarch was in every Sunday, it was fun getting loving letters and gifts from a fiance so close yet so far away.
Millinieum came and the both ships were anchored side by side in Labadee one of RCI's private islands, we could not see each other, but we were able to speak to each other via walkine talkie until the batteries died!
Another chance meeting came when both ships were docked in Antigua, but there was only 1 gangway and that was for passangers so here we were, he on the dock and I, 7 decks up looking down at him. And so it was, until finally we signed off the ship for a vacation and a wedding.
I signed off the Saturday and overnighted in Old San Juan and met my future husband the next day as he got off the Monarch.
Journey to the Altar
Our journey to the altar began with last minute planning of my wedding day, a day I had been planning since i was 10 years old! With the help of my mother who made most of the arrangements while i was stuck out at sea, the day drew closer and closer, not without further adventure.
My future mother in law who still does not speak a word of English decided to travel all the way to Trinidad on her own! After visa horrors she boarded the plane in Heathrow and disappeared!
Well as it turned out she saw all the passangers getting off in Antigua so she thought that she had arrived in Trinidad and got off too. Luckily there were regular flights back and forth and she was put on the next flight to Trinidad.
That out of the way some new problems arose, the decorators cancelled last minute, the cake lady did her own thing without asking me,the full choir did not show up and i could not get the vintage car i wanted, but the day turned out as well as can be expected and I became Mrs. Djuro Tomic ( Juro Tomich). We spent 2 nights in Hilton Hotel then went to Tobago with his Kum from Slovenia, his wife and my new mother in law.
Three weeks later our Honeymoon began...a 1 week trip to the Magic Kingdom!!!! Fun here we come!!!
I was able to get a UN$100.00 towards my this trip due to a fire in the engine on a Bee Wee plane as we took off from heathrow that made us a day delayed.......one of my many travel misfortunes.
So we rented a car and drove the 5 hours or so to International Blvd and found a Hotel and check out the sights and delights like to very anxious kids!!! Decided on Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios then Gatorland, Riplleys believe it or noot, Titanic museum ........and all the other interesting places to see...too many to decide.
BACK TO WORK as a married couple
The fun over and back to work on the ships. This time I transfered to Monarch, the 2nd ship i worked on......it was not easy adjusting to married life on board,,,,,how many newly married couples do you know start their life living on the seas sharing cabins with other people. We were lucky that my roomate was also married and got another cabin to share with her husband. We did 2 contracts there doing Caribbean cruises before saying farewell to ship life.
It was time for Djuo to sign off just before dry dock,but 9/11 happened and no one was allowed to sign off the ship for another week. We signed off together for a short trip home while Monarch went to dry dock and later I rejoined the ship for another 10 weeks before my contract was completed, which was in December 2001. It was a bittersweet goodbye.....with hopes of returning as i got off the pier in Port Everglades in Florida and a shuttle to the Miami International Airport.....this journey ended in the same place it began.
Below the Port of Miami expanded to accommodate the Voyager class ships.
Another journey begins!
I agreed with Djuro that we spend Christmas in Trinidad together with my mother and while waiting for my luggage to appear on the belt, there he was in a distance just exiting Immigration and heading in my direction. What timing our planes had!
After New Years day we took a 1 week trip to Venezuela as Djuro had his connecting flight from there, and I had to get a visa for Croatia. In just a matter of weeks I would be living in a different country,with a new language,different culture,different food, a whole new environment, with the rest of Europe at my doorstep! The continenant I desired visit when i was just a little girl.
I arrived in Venice,Italy in Feb. 2002 with no Djuro in sight. I managed to catch the earlier connecting flight from Gatwick airport and hopped on so I now had a 3 hour wait for him to arrive for me at the airport.I figured sitting in Gatwick was not as exciting as sitting in Marco Polo, after all I was closer to my future home. The weather was not welcoming for it was rainy and foggy, much like the British weather, but it was a quick drive to Croatia and so I arrived to my new homeland. And so began all the paper work required for applying for citizenship and the headaches that accompained it.
And this is how i became a Trini living in Croatia!