Expat Tales: when home is a cruise ship

As a former soldier, becoming the sports coordinator of an important American cruise company has become accustomed.

One day Byron Blane was helping to defend the nation in the New Zealand army; the next day he hosted tournaments and parties on board and instructed the passengers on everything from the trapeze and zip lining to indoor skydiving and surfboard simulator.

Well, not really the day after. He trained as a fitness professional and worked as a fitness director for Carnival Cruise Line for a year before joining the concert of sports coordinators with Royal Caribbean International. But it was still a big adjustment.

"I remember my first trip was a nervously excited experience," says Blane, who comes from Tokomaru Bay on the east coast.

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Byron teaches a young passenger to "fly" in the parachute simulator.

"I had a five-day cruise four years ago, which helped me, but I had just arrived from an eight-year career in the army, so the change of environment was a bit of a shock" .

Working seven days, changing time zones, living and working alongside people who spoke different languages ​​and getting used to providing customer service was one of his biggest challenges, but soon Blane found her sea legs.

Now working as an IFLY for Royal Caribbean instructor, teaching passengers to "fly" in a skydiving simulator on board, Blane spends three to six months at sea at any time, after which the company takes him back to New Zealand for a break .

His last houseboat – the largest cruise ship in the world, Symphony of the Seas – took him on a Mediterranean tour, taking to Barcelona, ​​Palma de Mallorca, Marseilles, La Spezia, Civitavecchia and Naples.


Byron says, getting paid to travel the world with like-minded people is pretty hard to beat.

The best thing about work, of course, is being able to "see different parts of the world as they are fed and welcomed," says Blane.

"Experience many different things and work with people from different cultures every day".

The worst thing is "stay away from family and friends for long periods of time".

Limited space on a cruise ship also requires some adaptation, he says, as well as having to eat the same food every day for months, especially when you're a fitness professional worried about the nutritional content of your meals.


The hours are long for the crew of many crew members, but they get some free time to explore.

"It's not good, but it's not bad either," he says. "But it's free, so you can not really complain."

And crew members get discounts at on-board restaurants, but many prefer to resist on port days when they can look for anything they want.

Blane says life on board is very social, with human resources teams organizing games, competitions, parties, theme nights and visits to ports of call.

"But at the same time, a lot of crew members work for long hours, you have so many different nationalities living together in a limited space to get to know each other."


Visit the Tower of Pisa: all in one working day for Byron.

Blane spends most of his free time on board at the gym, using the 12 meter long FlowRider surf simulator (being a boy on the east coast, surfing is in the blood), practicing "flying", studying, playing billiards and ping- pong, and socialize.

Long hours, time zones and expensive telephone rates and wi-fi make it difficult to maintain regular contact with people at home, he says.

"But find ways to get around it, most of the crew will come down from the ship on a day's landing, find a restaurant with wi-fi, eat a meal and chat with friends or family."

Getting flights to New Zealand on a regular basis is a bonus, he says, but "most of the time it's not in sync with holiday periods".

Blane would recommend a career on a cruise to anyone "young, single and ready to socialize" who liked the idea of ​​being able to travel to live.

"I'm really grateful to be able to travel the world, to do a job I love and to get paid for it, I hope other Kiwis follow the example, because I've never had any regrets."

If you know an expatriate who wants to share the knowledge of their home away from home, send an email to travel@stuff.co.nz with Expat in the subject line.

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