Cruise Ship Youth Worker

A team of Cruise Ship Youth Workers in their uniform and wearing a Christmas hats

A cruise ship youth worker is one of the many hardworking staff one will find on board. I can also say it’s one of the happiest jobs on the ship. Well, this is only true if you have the passion and the patience to work with kids.

As a cruise ship youth worker, I was given an excellent childcare training that further developed my love for children and even honed my teaching skills. I was also rewarded with the fondest memories and valuable lessons that shaped my beliefs and contributed a lot to who I am today.   This has been my job at sea for almost 8 years. I wouldn’t stay this long if I don’t love what I do.

Who Are the Cruise Ship Youth Workers?

On cruise ships, the Youth Team is in charge of the entertainment program for cruising children, teens, and also their families. Youth workers are part of this team. Each of the member has different roles to play.

Youth Team Members

The youth team is headed by the Youth Program Manager who oversees the entire youth program. Most of the time, this program is divided into two. There are separate programs for the young children and for the teenagers. On big cruise ships, they have special rooms and structured activities for infants and toddlers, too.

The Youth Program Manager is helped by the Youth Program Administrator who has other names like Teen Activities Coordinator or simply Teen Coordinator. Whatever the name is, this person is in charge of the teen program on board.

If the ship offers a program for the infants and toddlers, there is usually a Nursery Coordinator who creates and implements the program and manages the people working in the nursery.

A Youth Staff or Youth Counselor works with the young children and reports directly to the Youth Program Manager.

A Teen Staff or Teen Counselor works with the teens and reports directly to the Youth Program Administrator or Teen Activities Coordinator who is still under the supervision of the Youth Program Manager.

A Nursery Attendant works in the nursery with the infants and toddlers usually up to the age of two and reports directly to the Nursery Coordinator who is still under the supervision of the Youth Program Manager.

Team Structure, Nature, and Role

Youth workers are rotated in the children and teen centers on other ships. Sometimes, the youth policy is very strict. The youth worker is evaluated to check where his or her personality and skills fit and in which age group he or she will be more effective. Since the needs and interests of young children and teens are different, the youth worker always has to use different strategies and offer varied activities.     

Nursery attendants usually just works with the babies and toddlers. You cannot work with the babies or anyone in this age group unless you have the special training for it. These youngest members of the youth family are the most sensitive and they require very special care.

A cruise ship youth worker’s job can be permanent in nature, meaning the worker can do a full contract that can last up to 6 months. There are also seasonal cruise ship youth workers who are hired temporarily while the busy cruises are on. Usually, this happens when the children are on school holidays or when there are special celebrations like Christmas, New Year, etc. These are the times when a huge volume of kids and teens invades the ship. You can’t imagine how crazy and busy these times are.

As part of the youth team, it is our duty to create and organize activities that would keep the children, teens, and even babies busy and entertained while they are away from their parents. These activities can be in and out of the youth centers and sometimes outside the ships, too. We also have parties, game shows, and competitions that children can do with their families. Whatever kind of activity we offer, it is also our responsibility to make sure that our children and teens are not just having fun but most importantly everyone is safe.   

My Experience As a Cruise Ship Youth Worker

Youth work on cruise ships is most often associated to childcare and babysitting. Not everybody understands that we do more than watch the kids and teens. We wear many different hats to keep them safe and happy while in our care.

Challenges Encountered

My first contract was in Pacific Dawn, a ship owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by P&O Cruises Australia. This was where I was first introduced to the long list of things we have to do. 

Think of hosting shows in the theater, playing sports and video games, creating themed parties. You can also add teaching arts and crafts, holding competitions, wearing out of this world costumes, and doing circus. There’s always dancing, singing, and acting involved. We take them to movies, scavenger hunts, dinner, pool and discos. There’s a lot to do but as I’ve said before you wouldn’t mind the workload if working with children is your passion.

Mind you though, no matter how much you love them, there are times when you will get really exhausted. Their high level of energy can naturally sap your strength. At times even your voice, too. Your patience will get tested as not all the kids are the same and some won’t listen and behave well. Mentally, this can be very stressful.

It gets more physically demanding when you have the little kids because they can’t take care of themselves yet. You will have to do a lot for them. On the other hand, when you work with the teens, there are disciplinary issues that you would have deal with. As we all know, it’s a special stage they’re in. It’s the time when they are curious to try new things even when these things go against the rules of the ship and their parents.

Rewards Earned

I remember many Christmases I spent on the ship. It is quite sad as you would have guessed. I was always away from families and really good friends. Somehow it was nice this season was our busiest. The jam-packed schedule and so many tasks to finish kept me occupied and made me feel less homesick. We were always doing so many things.

My most favorite among them was wrapping the gifts. It was crazy because we wrapped hundreds. The wrapping usually lasted weeks before our Christmas event. We spent late nights doing nothing but wrapped little tokens of love that brightened up so many children’s faces. On Christmas day, Santa walks around the ship. We would gather all the children so he can personally hand them those special presents.  

I think of the parents, too. No one was perfect. In general, most of the ones I met had been great. I will never forget the kind of love and devotion they gave their families. I can still recall the lovely scene at the theater that happened almost every week. We would bring the children and also the teens together for a big show where people can see their talents. I always said yes whenever I was asked to host it. It didn’t matter how uneasy and nervous I felt.That show would always be one of my favorites.

I can still imagine them singing and dancing, their eyes full of wonder and excitement. And that loud noise that doesn’t seem to end. The clapping and cheering that almost sounded like thunder. The love and joy of proud parents. And it dawned on me, that’s how self-esteem is built. Because behind every young child who believes in himself is a loving parent who believed in the child first.     

How to Become A Cruise Ship Youth Worker?

Do you love kids, too? Do you think this job is for you? The following paragraphs will tell you what you need to do.

Requirements and Qualifications

Since you will work with kids, it is important that you have prior experience working with children. That’s why teachers are the best candidates for this job. A few of my fellow youth workers were also nurses, child psychologists and guidance counselors. If you have experience working in youth camps, that’s also a plus factor since the set up and work environment is similar to that. When I first applied, they asked for my college diploma and teaching license. The minimum required teaching experience then was two years. Prepare yourself and all the important documents and then you can start applying.

High energy is a must. You will play lots of active games with the kids. Creativity will never go out of style. Imagination is the key when entertaining young cruisers whether you are teaching arts and crafts or running an event. Strong microphone skills is a plus factor. There are so many family parties and shows to host. You should be a good team member as you will work with people from different countries. Dedicated and talented people who are working together determines the youth program’s success.

Finally, you should love kids big time. This is what the job is all about. Your love for them will make you want to go the extra mile to give them the best holiday experience in the company of new friends.

Personal and Online Applications

imilar to all other jobs on cruise ships, you need to find local maritime agencies where you can hand in your important employment documents. Make sure the agencies are legal and partner with international cruise lines.

Know that the youth team on board is relatively small. Unlike the food, beverage, and accommodation departments, the demand for youth workers is almost always low. In addition, not all cruise ships are family ships. Family ships are the ones that take in kids. Usually, the need for youth workers only goes up when the busy cruises are on especially during school break.

You can also send online applications if the maritime agency has a website. Some cruise line companies are now accepting direct applications through their websites. First, they will review your documents. Then they will call you when you passed the initial screening process.

Interviews are conducted online if the interviewer from the cruise line company is outside the Philippines. The biggest cruise line companies in the world have main offices in the United States. These companies are looking for the most qualified and highly passionate youth workers. Make sure you will highlight your skills, experience and your love for kids.

Wrapping It Up

And that’s all I know. Hopefully this article will be useful to you so that one day you can go to ships as a youth worker, too. I’ll be happy for you. This job has brought me so much joy.

There was a tiny room I used to go to many years ago. It was old, with walls and floors creatively built from wood. It was a simple room. Whenever I would walk its floor, I would hear the sound of my shoes. Then little feet would rush in and the gentle sound would turn into a wild and crazy noise. My students’ arms would race to give me hugs that were always nice and warm. That was my world for many years. That was the only world I knew and I was happy. Then “this” happened.

From land I was taken to sea. I came to work on ships where I met kids whose eyes, hair, skin, speech and way of life are different. It was uncomfortable at first. And then I thought it was okay. I realized it didn’t matter. Because my love for children will always be the same.

So what do you think? Is this job for you? If your answer is yes, then you can come to the ship. Maybe you’ll world will also change. Just promise me one thing. Promise me you’ll do your best so when those kids meet you, they will find the most amazing friend.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

This Day is For You

Psalm 103:2

This day is for You. My lips sing songs. My heart is full. Thank You.

Today a special dream of mine came true. I was finally able to share my book, my tiny piece of gift to the world. An inconsequential gift compared to what You did and what You gave.

As words are read and pages are turned, I hope they see Your face. With that kind look that displaces worry and fear. I hope they feel Your hands and hear Your voice that speak of lavish love that never ends. I pray they will be blessed. Abundantly. Exceedingly. In many ways we can’t imagine, a thousand ways we don’t deserve.

I know You share in my joy. Your delight overflows and you adore me even more. Thank You.

This day is for You. And all my tomorrows, too.   

I’ll follow my dreams.

Jen

Pacific Dawn: My First Cruise Ship Home

Pacific Dawn is a cruise ship home for many Filipino seafarers.

Pacific Dawn was my very first cruise ship home. I joined the ship in December 2011. It was Christmas season. Back then I was clueless and naïve. I really didn’t know what to expect. I remember the super cold wind that welcomed me when we arrived in Sydney. From there, we rode another plane that brought me to Brisbane where me and the Dawn first met.

FAST FACTS:

Capacity  1546 guests and almost 700 crew members
Decks11
Maximum Speed22.5 knots
Length245 meters/ 811 feet
Weight70 285 gross tonnage

BRIEF HISTORY

Pacifc Dawn is a cruise ship owned by Carnival Corporation and operated by P&O Cruises Australia. P&O Cruises is one of the oldest cruise lines in the world. They were the ones who introduced cruising to Australia and up to now continues to be a mainstay in the Australian cruising industry.

Pacific Dawn was built in 1991 by Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone , Italy. It was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. From 1991 up to 2007, it sailed for Princess Cruises and was known as the Regal Princess. It has traveled across the Caribbean, Australia, Mediterranean and Baltic Sea. In 2007, the ship underwent an extensive refurbishment and was renamed Pacific Dawn by Olympic gold medalist Cathy Freeman. It was also during this year when Carnival Corporation acquired the Dawn from Princess Cruises.

WHAT IT SHOWED ME

They say that, “Home is not where you are from, but rather where you belong“. After working on ships, I would say I found it to be true.

When I was younger, I used to be burdened by the idea of having double lives that come with being a  seafarer. A life back home and to where the ship goes. Now that I’m older, my perspective has changed. I now look at it as a privilege. An amazing favor that not everybody gets to experience. An opportunity that can bring outpouring blessings, depending on how you will receive it and what you will do with it.

My first room on the ship was a passenger cabin. I shared it with Mary, another Filipina who was also a first timer. That tiny room was our safe haven for a few weeks. Until some crew cabins were vacated and we got transferred. The new cabin was way smaller. Nonetheless it was okay. Its walls had witnessed crying moments brought by being away from family and joys that came with finding new friends.

And then there was the Kids club, my area of work. My happy place, too. It was in this room where my love for the youth grew. I met wonderful kids and teens from Australia, New Zealand, England, India, China, Fiji and many more. There were times when I didn’t understand how they spoke. There were moments when I didn’t get their ways because their upbringing was so different from how I was raised. Despite those differences, most of them became my friends. Not just them but even their parents.

I remember the crew mess where I sat and ate. There were always chicken and fish. At some point I didn’t like to go anymore. I craved for food my Mama cooked when I was home. But I will never forget how things changed on certain nights of each week. Amazingly, when it got dark this tiny place transformed into a church. This is where I met fellow believers who became brothers and sisters. In this little place, we gathered to sing and give praises to the Lord. To get to know His words.

At the top of the ship was the Lido deck where you can find the pools for the guest passengers. This was where I saw creatures scantily clad. They worshiped the sun hoping get toasted or to simply just relax. This was where most people, guest and crew, went to on the first day of the cruise. We partied as we sail away from the home port. I remember dancing here in front of many people for the first time. It was Island night and I wanted to cry. I didn’t know I had to do things like that.

This pool deck was also where I took the teens for their pool party. There were dancing and good music, team games and races. I remember the water splashing as they compete against each other. And when they misbehaved, we had the microphone to make announcement. Just to make sure they will listen and no one will get hurt.

When you look up towards the front you will see the big screen where they broadcast full-length concerts, live sports and movies. There was a mini stage facing it where the children and I stayed to play Just Dance or Mario Kart on the Wii.

At the very back was the Pantry where the guests eat for free. We were lucky to be allowed to eat there when it’s not busy. They served different kinds of food from various countries. There were curry, tacos, freshly baked breads, sandwiches, salads, soups, chicken, steak, and fish. I get hungry when I think about all the mouth-watering desserts. There were pizza, shrimps and chicken wings from the Grill. When we’re starving at night or someone’s having a birthday, we patiently waited for our orders.

And there was the Marquee Theater where I first encountered TC and Skipper. They were the cute turtle and friendly shark which our junior cruisers from the Kids Club love. We held our show in this big theater. We danced, sang songs, took pictures and threw balloons at each other.

There was a place called the Atrium. Passengers preferred it for lively mornings and afternoons. Here, there were always activities happening like trivia and game shows. I remember hosting paper plane challenge with kids and their families. Everyone was on their toes even from their seats. Those who happened to just walk by couldn’t hold their breath. The evening of the last day of the cruise was my favorite. All the musicians on board played really good music and showcased their talents.

WHERE IT TOOK ME

Jaime Lynn Beatty said, “Jobs fill your pocket. Adventures fill your soul.” Imagine the thrill and joy brought by getting both. When I was on the Dawn, I got to see beautiful places in Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific Islands.

In Brisbane, I remember going to the Lone Pine Zoo where I fed kangaroos and cuddled a cute koala for the first time. On turnaround days, I religiously took quick visits to the Queensland library for Internet and free wi-fi. Airlie Beach was another port that can be warm or chilly but always gives bliss. I walked its shoreline many times with friends. I saw shops that sold lots of interesting things.

New Zealand was certainly a great treat. I will never forget Fiordlands that gifted my eyes with the most beautiful scene. I remember waking up so early just to go to the top deck. There, I would meet other crew members enchanted by a picture that almost looked perfect. Akaroa was lovely with all its colorful flowers. Wellington was charming with its winter chill. I can still imagine the many chocolates in Dunedin.

We also went to New Caledonia. Here, there’s a small place called Noumea. Many times I planned to take the bus that goes around this French territory. However, the ride was long and my time was short. So I always ended up walking to an old church where I prayed many prayers, most of which were answered. Almost every cruise, we went to Lifou island. I swam its water and lied down on its sand many many times. The picturesque Isle of Pines lingers in my mind. I can still see that giant piece of rock on the water with a tiny cave inside.

Vanuatu was forever nice and hot. We explored Vila’s incredible beaches and kayaked under the sun. We went to Cascade Waterfalls and had so much fun. And there was the uninhabited Mystery island which offered pure white sand, palm trees, coral reefs, and many other reasons to unwind. But my most favorite was Champagne Bay, the ultimate beach getaway. Its deep blue water was always soothingly warm. The were also cheap lobsters that the locals sell around. 

WHAT IT TAUGHT ME

I read a quote before that went, “We met for a reason. Either you’re a blessing or a lesson.” I guess it’s the same with ships and people.

I never really planned to work on cruise ships. Allow me to believe I was serendipity led me to it. When I first joined the Pacific Dawn, I didn’t have the slightest idea that I was up for a roller coaster ride.  

spent three contracts on this ship. Each of those contracts was different. Each had a part in shaping who I am today. These are the lessons that I learned from Pacific Dawn, my first cruise ship home.

D – from Dependence to Dauntlessness

I remember asking myself, “Can I do it?” It’s not comfortable and convenient to be away from family and friends. Now, I’m grateful to have taken the challenge. You’ll grow up when you’re away from your support system. You make your own decisions concerning work, money, health, personal well-being, relationships and faith. I learned to look after myself and do things on my own. There were many days when it felt a little scary. I realized being scared is okay. You do what you need to do anyway. There were countless times when I ate, watched shows, and went ashore alone. Yet I was never lonely. It’s not because I preferred to do things solo but because others were not always around. No matter how close you are to someone on the ship, there are times when they just won’t be available. But you still go because you’re in charge of your own joy. Your happiness does not depend other people.    

A – from Agony to Awakening

When I started working on the ship the work itself didn’t bother me. It was environment. Dancing aside, work has always been fun because being with kids is something I like to do and something I’m good at. It’s the “ship culture” that took a while for me to adjust to. The culture of permissiveness that allows people to do whatever regardless of whether it’s right or not. I saw ugly things – from infidelity, stealing, power tripping, crab mentality, indifference and prejudice. I didn’t feel I belong and I didn’t want to belong either. But through the years I learned to look at the mess from a mind seeking to understand instead of casting judgment. Also, I realized I don’t have to look elsewhere. I can always be the difference I seek.

W – from Whining to Winning

For me, Australians had a funny way of speaking. Not just them but also the English, the Scottish and the Kiwis. They all sounded weird. Imagine the struggle I went through on my first week on the ship. I was hearing all these words that didn’t make sense. They all spoke in English but the sound was so different. I felt so dumb. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. And not everyone was kind when asked to repeat what they said. I remember talking to my mom and my sister over the phone just to cry and complain. Good thing despite the distance they were there to give encouragement. And I’m glad I listened. I persevered until I finally was able to break into their language. And sooner into their culture which made it easier for me to give them better service. Learning and winning, as all other things, require time and willingness to do it.    

N – from No to Next

“This is not for me. I will only do one contract and that’s it.” I told this to myself and to a preacher friend who laughed at me when we met again on many other ships. Sometimes things happen along the way and the very thing that we said no to can actually bring us immense joy in the end. Only if we’re happy to wait. Thankfully I didn’t quit. I would have missed seeing the person I am today. My stay on the Dawn taught me I can do this job and be good at it. That I can walk to the next ship and the many other journeys ahead.  After all, I am never alone. For I believe in God who walks with me wherever I go.

 

Pacific Dawn is still in service. However, it looks very different now compared to when I was there. Ships also have their own journey. I’m glad it’s not just the Dawn that changed. I, too.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

Hiatus

Filipino seafarers on break

A Seafarer’s Definition

HIATUS. A pause or a gap in a sequence, series, or process. Sometimes it can be a short or long break. A stop of undetermined length.

To anyone who’s worked at sea, it can simply mean one thing. A contract has ended. It’s time to go home where another life awaits.

Home. That’s my current state. And I am having the best time with my family. I’ve been here for almost 7 weeks. And every day I feel excited. I’m away from ship and sea. Yet I’m surrounded by people who love me.

It’s been more than three months since I last picked up my pen. It’s been more than three months since I touched my laptop and pounded on its letters. What a lengthy break. It seemed like a pre-hiatus stage weeks before a seafarer’s real hiatus begins. But why? Here’s what exactly happened.

The Reason Behind

European Dream

Last March I had high hopes I can finally go to Europe. Soon the ship I was on will cross the Atlantic Ocean for a 14-day cruise. Then I received an unexpected news. I was getting transferred to a new ship that was getting refurbished in Singapore. So I packed my things with a heavy heart because I won’t be able to go to Barcelona or see Rome.

But I always thought that there are blessings in our struggles so I helped myself by thinking about the other beautiful places I will get the chance to explore. Aside from Singapore (which I also planned to see when I go home) I can visit Tokyo, Seattle, Alaska and its many lovely ports.  I flew and traveled for more than a day making short stops in New York and Frankfurt (So yeah for a few hours I smelled Europe). And on the 15th of March, I finally joined Norwegian Joy.

SG’s Curse and Gift

The days went fast as we were all busy helping for the Westernization Project of the gigantic ship. It used to be based in China, but it had a complete make over to get it ready for the US market. Yet no matter how tired I felt, I will always remember the bliss I was in every time our day job was done and we went out to experience Singapore’s unique beauty and amazing culture. I went to see lovely gardens, magnificent parks, man-made beaches, and gigantic shopping malls. I was also able to visit a dear friend I haven’t seen for so long. Most of all I was inspired by the discipline, cleanliness, and helpfulness of its people. The overall structure of this tiny country is truly first world. A thousand times I wished we can do the same thing back home. 

Things were going well and I felt that I was collecting so many wonderful memories. They were quickly piling up and I knew I should write about them. If they give me so much joy, they’re meant to be shared so other people will know and they, too will feel grateful. To my dismay, my laptop broke. A few days after, my SD card got corrupted, too.

My first question was not “Why” but “How”? How can I blog? How can I go from point A to point B? How can I translate what I felt and share what I learned when I can’t write? Buying a new laptop was not an option because I’ve already set my mind to buy only when I get home. I didn’t want to have it checked and repaired on the ship because I was trying to save money to add to my “laptop budget”. So I hesitantly took the bittersweet choice of putting the blog on hold and see how things will go from there. This was with a firm belief that everything will be okay no matter how uneasy the situation made me felt.

Lessons Learned

Looking back, I think it somehow did. Thanks to my old but highly dependable phone. I took lots of pictures and posted them on my social accounts. All these together with the most priceless reflections about the memories I’ve collected for the past months. And I guess I can say that even in small scales lives were touched, dreams were awakened, and hopes were stirred.

Also on a personal note, I’ve learned many things from this unexpected hiatus that was initially faced with doubt. These are the most precious points I’ve pondered on while on a looooong PAUSE.

P – Pray Without Ceasing. This is the sweetest point of all and certainly the most powerful. This has brought me closer to our Creator. I’ve learned to call on Him not just in times of joy and in times of trouble but also in the long gap between the two, where there’s confusion and when I don’t understand what’s going on. I’ve learned to trust Him more. To believe that everything happens for a reason. And it is never a bad reason. Praying has allowed me to be more grateful. I’ve learned to focus on what I have rather than what I don’t.

A – Accept Without Regret. This long pause has taught me to accept things as they are and to fight the urge to change my circumstance. How will you react when things are going fine then with a blink of an eye they just stop? It doesn’t make sense right. It’s natural to feel loss and to feel really bad. After so many days of thinking, I allowed myself to give up. But it’s giving up for a good cause. Surrendering temporarily but you know you’ll rise back up. It’s raising the white flag wholeheartedly without an ounce of regret. It’s quitting with peace that clears your thoughts and allows you to be more realistic but remain positive. It’s telling oneself it’s okay to lose. That’s part of the game. Now how do I get better? What can I do next?

U – Unwind Without Guilt. This is where my heart is happiest. This pause has given me so much joy. And it’s all because I’ve learned to be more “present”, to enjoy the gift of the moment and think less of what I will write. This pause has made me feel more connected to the beauty around me. I’ve seen things I dreamed to see – cherry blossoms, snow, glacier, old and new friends. I missed the Northern lights but that’s totally okay. I cannot complain. Unexpectedly I’ve seen many other beautiful things. Who knows? Maybe next contract, maybe next year.

S – Stand Without Shame. Yes we have to keep standing but there’s no need to feel ashamed. Stand no matter how disappointed you feel. Your feet may be tied. Sometimes even your hands. You may feel limited, but your minds cannot be stopped. Keep thinking and doing things to better yourself. Do not surrender. Do take the pause as an excuse to idle. Sweat out still. Do something. It doesn’t have to be big. Always remember that even the smallest thing we do for self-improvement will accumulate. Once the hiatus is over they will help us take a leap.

E – Expect Without Fear. This point is the most optimistic. Despite the short stop which can delay your plans and dreams do not grow weary of expecting nothing but the best. Do not fear about the uncertainty of the future. Believe with all your heart and might that things will be okay. That your wings are coming out and you will still get there. That our dreams can still happen. They’re just a few more tries away. After all the big guy up there holds us in the palm of His hands. Ask Him to help you overcome your unbelief and replace it with faith. That kind that can comfort and heal, tear down walls, open wide seas and move mountains.

Personal Reflections

Right now, the hiatus is over. I’m glad to be writing again. Thank You for the gift of pause. It has cleared my mind and made my heart more hopeful. These past few weeks at home has been a roller coaster of things and events I never planned, expected or wanted. I’m happy to have learned so many things from them.

It’s the first day of August and I’m only 9 days away from my birthday. I’m excited for all the things I will be writing and sharing. Each day is like a walk on cloud nine even though my head hurts with all the research and studies I’m currently doing. Yet I’m not griping. My vision is getting clearer. My values are getting stronger. And that vehicle that will take me towards my dream is getting more solid than ever.

Are you currently on an unwanted stop? Do not give up. Close your eyes, feel your heart and look up. He always got your back.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

Of Doors and Dreams

Of doors and dreams

My Epic Joy

Chapter 3 started two days ago. It’s now my second night here in Singapore. After flying for more than 20 hours, I’m finally on the Norwegian Joy. The ship is undergoing Westernization Project before it sails back to the US.

I’m thankful to have traveled with a new friend as we flew from Orlando, Florida after saying goodbye to Norwegian Epic. We made short stops in New York and Frankfurt. We arrived yesterday morning and was brought straight to Sembawang Shipyard where our new ship was waiting.

Tonight, all the gangways have been removed. The ship is now officially on dry dock. Crew members can no longer get off until the next day. Hopefully tomorrow I can go out after my training. Me and my Chinese friend (who is getting transshipped in three days) are both wishful thinking we can see some interesting parts of the country before she leaves.

Yesterday when I rode the shuttle and traversed the roads of this foreign country, I was reminded of an old dream. My body was weak and exhausted, yet my heart was full. I can’t help but be thankful. I’m glad that dream didn’t come true. I’m glad You said, “NO!!! That dream was not meant for you.”

Fly Me to Singapore

Some years ago, I was heart-broken. We found out Papa passed away and I was in a very deep pain. For so long, I waited to see him again. I remember lonely bus rides from Bulacan very early in the morning just to be in time for work in a school in QC where I used to teach. I would see greens through the clear windows that would normally relax me and help me pass the time. But because of the hurt, I would see them, felt nothing and just cried. Quiet tears rolled down my face as I tried to figure out why.

The many nights in my room when I go back home was the saddest of all. I would lie down on my bed and would cry non-stop until dawn. I cried myself to sleep, questioning God and asking for a reason. The next day and the many days after, I did the very same things again. I thought the lonely routine can numb the pain. I was wrong.

And then a crazy thought came into my mind. I was desperate. “ESCAPE!” the voice inside me said. Run away from the pain. Forget about everything. But where? I kept thinking. Then an answer came. Go to Singapore because it’s near. Because I have friends there. Because they’re in need of teachers.

I started planning and saving money. To better prepare myself, I studied the requirements and asked other people for help. I also compiled my documents. When the school year was about to end and I was determined to leave, I told my boss about it so they can look for my replacement. I wanted to be fair because she’s a good friend. And every people in that school where I used to work has shown me nothing but kindness.

Stumbling Blocks and Frustrations

I passed my application online to Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower. Once granted, I’ll be allowed to stay in their country for a year while looking for a job. I wanted to do it the right way. I didn’t want to go there as a tourist and apply for employment during my stay. Anyway, I had strong belief that my application will be accepted. I didn’t see any reason for them to turn me down. My credentials were good. I had teaching experience and the love and passion to work with kids.

My assumptions were wrong again. For some weird reason, they started to see minor errors in the documents that I submitted. At first, they saw that my names were misspelled. I had it corrected, returned the papers and then…

My graduation date was entered incorrectly. I went through the same process and patiently waited. Every time I would pass my corrected documents, it would take days sometimes even weeks before I would hear an answer. There were so many applicants during that time and they were busy checking everyone’s files. This went on for months as they found a few more errors which back then I couldn’t understand. I waited in agony.  Initially I was brimming with hope. Later on, it turned into despair. I just wanted to find a place to heal. I just wanted to restore myself. Why can’t other people help?

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives and the one who seeks, finds and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7)

Well I asked and sought and knocked. But guess what? Nobody answered. Nobody showed up. Sadly, nobody opened the door.

I was running low on budget. My savings were quickly going away. I felt horrible and disappointed. I can’t afford to just stand still and do nothing. My family was expecting me to help with the expenses. The meager amount I was getting from the temporary jobs I took during that time was not enough to cover the bills and provide for our needs.

Someone Said Hello

And then when I was about to hit rock bottom, something glorious happened. While I was contemplating what to do next, I received a text message. And this unexpected message changed the course of my life journey.

I read it quickly. I was more shocked than thrilled. It was an invitation for an interview to work on ships. The strange thing was, I submitted my application to this agency two years prior, not willingly but more so to please Mama who’s been pushing me to work outside the country so I can earn more money. I read it again trying to make sense of it and all the crazy things that seemed to crush me then. I guess there’s no harm in trying. And so, I did.

The next day, I found myself in a small office in Kalaw Avenue. I sat in front of the fleet manager who was so puzzled to see me there. I tried so hard to convince him I should get the job. And with God’s amazing grace, I got it. Within a few minutes, I felt redeemed. The frustration brought by the looooooooong wait for something that was not for me vanished. Truly, God can change one’s destiny in a snap of a finger. Only if it’s His will.

I joined my very first ship December of 2011. Pacific Dawn was my first ship. I must say, ship life has been one of the most incredible journeys I have ever taken. I explored amazing countries, met wonderful friends, and discovered my stronger, better, and wiser self. Most importantly, I saw God’s face.

The God I Know

The shuttle stopped. We’re in Sembawang Shipyard. I saw my new ship, my home for the next exciting three months. Now everything made sense. I began to understand. I was ignorantly knocking on the wrong door after all. What I then thought to be a rejection was in fact a redirection preparing me for an even brighter future. Thank You for leading me to the right door.

Have you ever been rejected? Have you failed many times before? Once you audition your dreams, not everyone will listen. Along the way you might get turned down. Not everyone will give you a chance. You might feel defeated and I know it’s an ugly feeling. Please encourage yourself. Don’t lose hope. Never give up on your dreams. Remember my story and how I found my door.

If one door closes, don’t feel sorry. The world will not end. Just keep looking and knocking. Just keep praying and believing. For God will open doors. Mind you, He knows which doors to open. He knows how to pick the best out there. Believe me. He makes things beautiful in His way, in His terms and in His time.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

Sunset’s Promise

Sunset at Sea

Today’s free show has been incredibly great. I’m glad I didn’t miss it. Thanks for reminding me that no matter how bad a day or a cruise has been, beautiful things can happen in the end.

As the setting sun with its warm glow kisses the sea, I pray it sets me free. I pray it takes all my hurts away. And when tomorrow comes, You will gift me with a better day. The sky proclaims the works of Your hands. But most of all, it boasts Your everlasting love.

I thought I saw a glimpse of heaven today. With its gates wide open, I saw You standing still. Your hands reached out to me. You whispered something softly. You wiped my tears gently, told me not to weary and let go of my worries. For Your loving hands are writing my beautiful story. 

For You know the plans You have for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future.

I will hold on to that promise. I will keep hoping and believing. When that future comes the sun will sleep beautifully again. My questions will be answered. Perfect love will cast out all my fears. I will find Jupiter.   

I’ll follow my dreams. 

Jen

Lessons from Disneyland

The PLAN

This week is my dear friend’s last cruise. I’m still dreaming about our last cruise’s adventure.

When Norwegian Epic cruise ship went for an emergency stop due to engine failure, the cruise schedule abruptly changed. We couldn’t sail straight away. We were delayed for almost two days. We stayed in Port Canaveral and loaded guests. But we waited for the engine to get fixed before we finally started to move again.

My friend and I had a crazy idea the night before. Let’s go to Disneyland! We’ll go see Mickey Mouse no matter what.

And so we did. Thanks for the help of good friends even strangers who moved mountains just to make things possible for us.

We rode a car and traveled for more than an hour. Are we there yet? Like young kids we couldn’t wait. Our eyes were fixed on the windows looking for signs to tell us we’re heading close. A sweet dream is within our reach. We couldn’t be more excited.

The PARK

And the long wait was worth it. The minute we’re inside the park, we were not disappointed. I couldn’t help but cry. I was emotional and thrilled at the same time. I thought of Papa and all the other dreams I made as a child. I thought, “Some dreams don’t die.” They just lie idle in our minds. When the time is right God will bring them back to life.

Lessons from Disneyland
Disney’s Dreamland

This special place is a huge melting pot of ideas, dreams, and gifts. I’m grateful to have explored it with a good friend. We walked around like kids. Strolling in awe. Overwhelmed and beyond excited. Gladly taking in all the beauty and magic.

I stood in front of a magnificent castle where a grand parade ended. I realized that there is no scarcity of gifts. And when we work together with the talents we’re blessed with, we give birth to a masterpiece. Then we give joy and service to our families, friends and people we won’t even meet.

You might be wondering what gifts you have? What you can share? Or how do you serve? That’s okay. Questions are good. They make you want to look for answers. Many years ago, I was on the same place. Confused, without focus, no solid dreams, lacking confidence, having only little faith.

The GIFTS

Bo Sanchez once shared, “Nothing remains small in the big hands of God.”  And I found it to be true. When we believe, God’s heart is touched. He gives us courage. He gives us healing. He gives us wisdom. He gives us love.  You see that little faith grew. That little faith helped me find myself, my gifts, and my dreams. I took a special journey towards self-discovery at sea. My experiences on ships molded me.

After working on cruise ships for a long time, I discovered that gifts are connected to one’s dreams and ultimately to one’s life purpose. These are some important lessons I learned about gifts. Hopefully, these lessons will help you too. It doesn’t matter whether you haven’t found your gifts yet or you know exactly what they are.

The first and most important lesson of all – God is the giver of gifts. All gifts are from Him as all beautiful things are. “He formed our inmost being. He knit us in our mother’s womb.” He planted deep desires in our hearts that can be fulfilled using the gifts He blessed us with. Achieving our dreams will bless the world and will bring glory to His name. To make our dreams real, there are three things we must do with our gifts. They are  G-O-D.

The G-O-D

Give

The first step is to give. It is by giving that we’ll discover our gifts. It is through service that we’ll know what talents we have. When we help others wholeheartedly and selflessly, we find out our interests and our skills which are related to our gifts. Our gift is something we like and we’re good at.

My many years of teaching and working with kids helped me discover my gift in organizing and communicating ideas. Inside a tiny classroom, I found my happy place. I thoroughly enjoyed telling stories to kids and helping them read. Little did I know that one day I will share my adventures on ships and the lessons I got from the sea.

There are also other gifts I found. They are not necessarily skills nor talents, but they are what make up my personality – the core of who I am. My gentle and quiet spirit bless the people I’m with because I bring them peace. My patience for others makes them want to be more understanding and kind, too. My faith in the Lord and everything good encourages them to stay optimistic and to always have hope.

So go out there and serve. Dirty your hands even when it’s hard. You have to work and give it your all. It may seem that nothing is happening right now but in time you will reap the rewards of your labor.

Own

The second step is to own. It is by owning our gifts that we’ll distinguish ourselves. Owning our gifts gives us a better understanding of who we are. Owning our gifts means accepting their strengths and their limits. Owning our gifts means accepting that our gifts are all different. Our gifts are not equal but equivalent because God is not a boring God. He enjoys variety. Our varied gifts bring color to the world. Our God is also a strategic God. He makes sure we’ll need each other. He wants us to work together in our weaknesses and strengths. Then He’ll cover the difference.

When I first started doing ships, I hated the parties in the open deck. My job required me to dance in front of cruising passengers. Every time the island party is on, I would wear my floral dress and a fake smile on my face. I would think of my teacher friends and the difference they make in the life of young students. And I would feel so little of myself. For while they were out there doing something noble and making a difference, I was on a big ship dancing Macarena. And the worst part, I sucked at it. I can’t dance. I can’t sing. I’m too shy and too quiet.

But then through the years, I realized that it was just a pruning stage for me. I realized that I don’t have to be upset if I can’t do those things. I can be good at something else. Since my gift is communication, I looked for opportunity to use it. I tried hosting shows, events, and parties for families and kids on the ship. I shared stories of my adventures and lessons learned through the Internet hoping that in my own little way I can be the difference that I seek.

Do

The third step is doing. It is when we do or act on our gifts that we develop them. We work not just at the start but also in the end. It is actually a non-stop doing. We don’t content ourselves with simply knowing what our gifts are. We have to seek every opportunity to better if not perfect them.

When we improve our gifts, we improve ourselves. Then we bring more value to others. We make not just own dreams come true but we help others go to where they want to go, too. We make many many more dreams come true.

When I finally owned my gift, I deliberately sought ways to use them even when it’s inconvenient. Even when I’m too shy to stand in front and talk. Even when I’m scared people won’t listen to me. Even when I fear nobody would read my stories. When we want to develop our gifts, we find the will to do the right thing to do no matter how uneasy we feel.

The DREAM

This website is something very special to me. It houses adventures and lessons learned that are anchored on my gift which is to communicate and to teach. It is also my gift to the world and to all young Filipinos wishing to work at sea. This site aims to inspire and to guide. This site aims to move people to act in courage, joy and faith.

Like me, the site is also on its journey. There are still many things to work on. There are still many things I don’t know. But all big dreams start with a first step so here it is. In all its simplicity, it seeks to one day leave a legacy.

Are you still wondering what your gifts are? Don’t feel bad. Help always comes. God will meet you where you are. He will use you where you are and bless you where you are. So cheer up!

Thank you Kooki, Villain, Rebel and Hazel for this wonderful Disney memory that I truly won’t forget. Here’s to all our gifts that we’ll share with love. And to all our dreams that we’ll pursue with courage.

Follow your dreams.

Jen