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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Sex, lies and cruising: Aussie spills on life at sea

Cathryn Chapman spent years working on cruise ships.
Cathryn Chapman spent years working on cruise ships. Source: Supplied
SEX. Lies. Cheating. Stolen underwear. After years working on-board cruise ships, Cathryn Chapman has seen it all.
And now, the Queensland-based author has penned a book about the saucy world of a life at sea. While the novel, titled Sex, Lies, and Cruising, is fictional, it was inspired by the 40-year-old’s real-life experiences — and they are even juicier.
Ms Chapman, who worked on cruise ships in her 20s and 30s as a photographer, and later joined the cruise entertainment team, spent time in the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexican Riviera for her job.
After becoming overwhelmed with her work life, she “escaped” and moved to Paris, London and then to her Brisbane home.
She tells news.com.au about her cruising days, and let’s just say she rocked the boat!
What was it like working on cruise ships?
“There were things I enjoyed and things I didn’t. You meet a diverse range of people, which is always interesting. Encountering people from countless different countries was something I really enjoyed. I loved hearing all the accents and getting to know a little about other people’s beliefs, customs and traditions.
“Many of the crew, particularly waiters, room stewards, etc, are from poorer countries where they’re on-board purely to support their families. Some of those guys and girls are the sweetest, most hardworking people you’ll meet.
“In reality, crew, staff and officers are divided in day-to-day life on the ship, so it was sometimes hard to maintain those friendships. For example, the Filipino crew generally had their own parties, the officers would hang out in the officer’s bar, staff and other crew hung out in the crew bar.
Ms Chapman said she met people from all walks of life.
Ms Chapman said she met people from all walks of life. Source: Supplied
“Many of the waiters, room stewards, and engine room crew also have really long days compared to other departments and would take advantage of their personal time independently. Therefore you would find the same groups of people would be in the crew bar every night including entertainment team, bartenders, beauty/spa girls, photographers, cruise staff, retail shop staff ...
“So it was boring in terms of seeing the same faces night after night. I think that’s one of the reasons people behave the way they do — they’re bored!
“The main thing I didn’t like was the cheating — in all its forms. Men who had a wife and kids at home, and a girlfriend on the ship. When his wife came on board for a holiday, the girlfriend would move out of his cabin for the week and basically pretend she didn’t know him.
“Nobody would breathe a word. Then the night his wife went home, the girlfriend would move back in as though nothing had happened. The guys often pretend their wives don’t exist, maybe until the day before she arrives.
“I unknowingly got involved with a married man because he’d conveniently neglected to mention his wife over a two-month period, until she was arriving the next day with their children, and his mother! The guys are very forgetful with details at times, so it happened more than once. I guess I’m too trusting.
“Possibly what was even worse, was the people who cheated on their partners who were actually on the ship with them. When one person was working or asleep, their partner would jump into bed with someone else. It happened to me once too, and he was in the cabin next door to me. Horrific.
There were a lot of ups and downs to the job.
There were a lot of ups and downs to the job. Source: Supplied
What were some of the most outrageous things that happened to you?
• The cheating Scandinavian
“This event was actually used in the book as a small part of the main character’s journey. On my second ship in my 20s, working as a photographer, I met an attractive Scandinavian staff captain, who was basically second in command. I didn’t think it was long term, but we got on well and always had a laugh.
“After a few weeks together, a photo of a woman and kids suddenly appeared in his cabin. I asked who it was and he said: ‘Oh, that’s my wife and kids. They’re arriving tomorrow’. I naively hadn’t seen this coming and was devastated. I stormed out of his cabin, and when I got to mine, the phone was ringing — it was him asking me not to say anything to her, especially as she was travelling with his mother.
“The next night when I was stationed to take photos at the Captain’s Welcome Party, he introduced me to her, pretending to forget my name and then posing with all of them for a photo. They walked into the party and I sat on the floor and bawled my eyes out. I’d had my first taste of what was basically the norm on cruise ships.
She was heartbroken after being cheated on.
She was heartbroken after being cheated on. Source: Supplied
• The ‘almost’ lesbian experience
“On my first ship at 22-years-old, I met a Brazilian girl at a crew party who I had heard was a lesbian. I am straight and had never been attracted to a woman, but she was particularly beautiful and something about her was really sexy.
“I was also sick of men because I’d been going through a strained time with my boyfriend on board. He’d also been pressuring me for a threesome, which I kept turning down.
“The Brazilian girl flirted with me at a crew party and tried to get me to go back to her cabin, but I said no. She then asked me to go into a shadowy area of the crew party and pushed me up against the wall and tried to kiss me. My head was spinning with thoughts of what I should do, but in the end I decided to just go with it.
“But as her lips were just touching mine, my boyfriend put his hand on my shoulder and said ‘Let’s go’. He suddenly got jealous and obviously didn’t want to share! She and I had a lunch date a few days later — but the chemistry was gone. She was silly and vacuous. I left lunch early and nothing ever happened. It turned out to be the only experience I ‘nearly’ had with a woman!
How time flies ...
How time flies ... Source: Supplied
• The disappearing underwear
“When I returned to ships in my 30s, I did a week of training on board a ship in the Mexican Riviera. My cabin mate and I did our washing and put it in the dryer before dinner, and during dinner the trainer asked us where we’d done our washing.
“When we said ‘crew laundry’ she said ‘Quick, go get it now. Only use the officer’s laundry!’
“When we got there, our dry clothes were dumped on the table and all our underwear was gone. A group of young men in the crew who were partial to wearing women’s underwear had stolen it. This happened on more than one occasion and on more than one ship.
You had to watch what colleagues were up to.
You had to watch what colleagues were up to. Source: Supplied
• The ‘real’ Jamaica?
“On one ship, we used to go to Jamaica weekly. One day, I went out with my friend, Maurice. This one local guy came up and offered to show us ‘the real Jamaica’. Given that Maurice is the type of person who attracted people to him, I didn’t think it was too strange.
“This local showed us the markets ‘behind’ the tourist trap, where ‘real’ Jamaicans shop. He showed us the area away from the main street, the shanty-shacks and told us about the local culture. Then his ‘friend’ showed up and started walking with us.
“They said they wanted to take us to an art gallery, and as we walked down the hill towards the gallery, I happened to see that it had no roof. It was an abandoned building. I started saying that I had to get back to the ship to start work — but Maurice hadn’t clicked yet, and was saying: ‘It’s cool, we don’t have to be back for a while yet,’ before suddenly realising what was happening and started making excuses too.
“Maurice then asked for a photo with them so that we had evidence of who they were in case something happened. They weren’t going to let us get away too easily, and demanded money. I think they asked for around $150 for the ‘private tour’. I handed over $10 and we practically ran back to the ship. It scared me off going on shore after that!
One incident made her wary of locals.
One incident made her wary of locals. Source: Supplied
• The ‘ol’ slapper’
“One time, back in my 20s, I was setting up a display with my British mate, Trevor. We used to always joke around, calling each other ‘me old luv’, ‘me old slapper’, etc ... and so I was bending down unpacking a box, when I heard a British-accented voice behind me saying, ‘Can you help me over here, please?’, and I yelled over my shoulder, ‘I’ll be with you in a minute, you ol’ slapper!’
“The voice said, ‘Oh, okay then, take your time,’ and I realised it wasn’t Trevor. I turned around to see an older British gentleman standing there, waiting to be served. I blushed from head to toe. He smiled sweetly — so I don’t know if he heard what I actually said or not!”
Why did you decide to stop working on cruise ships?
“I had my heart broken. At the same time I was also sick of the job. The the guy I was seeing, who I thought had future potential, turned out to be a compulsive liar and cheater. I had suspected he wasn’t being honest about a number of things, but he was ‘gaslighting’ me (a term which basically means the person lies to you, but twists it so that you question and blame yourself).
“And the last straw was when one of my closest friends came to me and said he’d just found my boyfriend and another girl (whose fiance was in hospital) in bed together. So I resigned the next morning and booked a flight to Paris.”
She called it quits and is now an author.
She called it quits and is now an author. Source: Supplied
Cathryn Chapman’s new book Sex, Lies, and Cruising is available for pre-order (release date 16 July) and will be for sale as an ebook and paperback at most book stores.

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