Sunday, January 26, 2014


Previously I had served for three contracts, my first contract was on the Carnival Dream in the Caribbean and then I did two contracts on the RCCL Rhapsody of the Seas where I went to Alaska, Hawaii, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific.  Then I took a year off and went on a working vacation in Yosemite National Park. If you followed my previous blog "AcuDoc’s Excellent Adventure" you know all of this. Those that have not I would suggest that you take at look at the link provided to gain further knowledge on starting your career as an Acupuncturist at Sea as well as the different Ports of Call during those contracts.

Now that I have made the decision to once again work for Steiner, just like everyone else it's time to start the paperwork involved and make appointments. The task can be daunting especially for those that have not run the gambit before.

As mentioned in my first post of this blog I start by looking at my ships itinerary. Obviously by doing so I know my ships homeport and having received my boarding date from Stephanie I can start to look at airfares.

When I first started working as an Acupuncturist at Sea Steiner would pay your flight to and from your ship if you committed to a seven-month contract, this is no longer the case.

I personally do my best to fly with Southwest Airlines and the reason I do this is two fold. One reason is because their fares are very competitive. My flight from Boise, Idaho on Southwest was $242 to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and on Delta Airlines it would have been $263. But, and it is a huge but, on Southwest you can bring two carry on bags and two check in bags for no extra cost. On Delta you are allowed only one carry on and your first checked bag is $25 and the second $35 costing you an additional $60. Even though I have a Seaman's Book these fees still have applied when I have flown other carriers.

Depending on how much time I have between contracts determines how long I will watch airfares, as they typically will increase or decrease. On this contract even though I have a couple months before I join the Oasis I watched the fares for about three weeks before purchasing my flight. That is when I noticed that the airfares on the day of my flight increased, all but the exact flight I wanted, I got lucky.

On the subject of flights I never fly standby unless I decide to arrive at least two days ahead of my boarding date. This of course also means that I will have two days in a hotel adding to the overall cost unless I have a friend or family in the area.

I opt to arrive the day before embark and pay for a flight to ensure I do not miss movement. When I was in the Navy missing ship movement is a major offense and working on a cruise ship is not any different and it could cost you your job. It will certainly cost you a lot of money and a major headache to meet your ship at its next port of call.

Next I start looking at lodging and where to stay. Just like with flights I start well ahead of time. The reason for this is not only are prices usually lower booking well ahead of time but also in port cities you are not the only person looking for a flight or lodging.

On the Oasis alone there are 5,400 guest and they all need a place to stay at least one night before the ship departs. And obviously there are many ships leaving from these ports. This can cause a shortage of affordable hotel rooms in the area especially those close to the port itself. Couples that with if you are joining your ship during a holiday period it could compound the problem.

Like everyone else I use a number of different search engines on the Internet to look at lodging. Generally I use, Orbitz and Kayak. I also always check to to see how the hotel is rated and their rates. Another great site is as they have usually have good prices. I have found they seem to have the best photographs of the hotel, room and accommodation’s as well. Then before I make my reservation I ALWAYS check the hotels website. Many times I find that the price is lower on their site then on those of search engines.

I also try to find lodging near the port. This is just personal preference for the convenience of a short trip to the ship the next morning. Also take note that many times hotels will offer a shuttle to the ship. I have found that this is great for the guests coming on board as it is usually around noon or later. But for those of us that work in the spa it is too late in the day. We need to be on board earlier as spa tours start at 1pm. So this usually means a taxi to the port. Also there may or may not be a shuttle from the airport to the hotel so call and ask and maybe you will be able to save a couple dollars.

On the subject of transportation, you may also need to find a way to get to the airport for your flight if you do not have a friend or family that is able to take you. This is usually the case for myself as I live in the mountains in a resort area and I leave my truck at a friends house a few hours from the airport for safe keeping when I am on ships.

This means I need to make my way to and from the airport and I usually rent a car. Be aware the many car companies do not offer one-way car rentals and those that do often have a very high one way drop off fee, sometimes over $100.

I have found a website that usually has very low rates for car rentals both one-way and round trip called On this trip it was just about to rent a car from Avis for close to $100. At the last minute in checked and got the same car from the same Avis office for just under $40. This website consistently has the best car rental fees. In some cities like Seattle I found it was less money to hire a car service then to hire a taxi so be sure to check these rates as well.

Okay now we have our ship confirmed, flight, lodging and transportation to/from the airport, lodging and port. I make copies of all pertinent paperwork and keep it in a file along with my Passport and Seaman's Book. I always keep this paperwork with me in my daypack and not in my checked baggage. Don't laugh I have seen people at the airport that have not done this and caused major problems for themselves.

There is also a lot of other paperwork that needs to be completed before joining you ship. You will need a Passport that is current and depending on where in the world you will be you may need a Seaman's Book. If so Stephanie will send you the paperwork for this.

You will also need to schedule a complete physical, ten panel drug test and national criminal background check. Paperwork will be sent to you from Stephanie well ahead of time stating what you will need.

You will be given list of approved maritime physicians for your physical, one of which is more then likely in an area that is close to you. In the Los Angeles area there is one in San Pedro that I have used. This will cost around $400 if I remember correctly and will include your drug test.

On this contract as a Vietnam Veteran I am using the VA to do my physical. I faxed them the form to make sure they were able to conduct the physical at my local office as it is quite extensive. Once completed it will have to be sent into the cruise line for approval as I am not using one of their pre-approved doctors. I do not anticipate any problems but be aware if you use your own doctor there could be.

Your physical is usually good for two years so if you are doing another contract within this time frame you will still need to get a ten panel drug test before joining your next ship. There are a number of companies that provide this service and I recently check and the cost is $65 and the result are back usually within and hour. Try

As far as the national criminal background check you will also need to obtain this before joining your ship. There are a number of companies that perform this service online and most will cost around $50. I have found a website, that will do an instant background check for $24.95. This is the best price I could find.

There will be additional paperwork from the cruise line that you will also need to fill out including immigration papers. As I still have a couple months to go I have not received this yet. When I do I will mention it in another posting.

For those of you that are returning to ships don't forget to take any training certificates form your last few cruises. Some of the training is good for a couple years or more and it will save you from having to retake any courses once aboard. More on this later.

I know this sounds like a lot of work and it is so make sure to start it earlier, keep it in a safe place and it will keep you from having any future headaches having to rush and get your paperwork completed at the last minute.

May you have safe travels and smooth seas....Larry

Also visit my first blog AcuDoc's Excellent Adventure at for more information on ships and ports of call.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Well It Is Starting All Over Again…

I’m heading back continuing my life and career as an Acupuncturist at Sea working for Steiner. This time I have been confirmed to join the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas in April.

Previously I had served for three contracts, my first contract was on the Carnival Dream in the Caribbean and then I did two contracts on the RCCL Rhapsody of the Seas where I went to Alaska, Hawaii, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific.  Then I took a year off and went on a working vacation in Yosemite National Park.

Overlooking Juneau, Alaska

Kauai, Hawaii

Picton, New Zealand

Sydney, Australia

Vanuatu in the South Pacific

Yosemite where I have been living for a year during my working vacation

But of course if you have followed my previous blog "AcuDoc’s Excellent Adventure" you know all of this. Those that have not I would suggest that you take at look at the link provided to gain further knowledge on starting your career as an Acupuncturist at Sea as well as the different Ports of Call during those contracts.

I started that blog in December 2010, as there was virtually nothing I could find on the Internet that gave me any information about my new career. Unfortunately I am unable to access it now so I have started a new blog "AcuDoc’s Excellent Adventure…The Sequel" to continue the story of my life at sea and inform you of the realities of being an Acupuncturist at Sea.

For those of you that do not know my next ship, the Oasis, is the largest cruise ship in the world. It has a crew of 2,394 to serve 5,400 guests, that a total of 8, 000 people. It is almost a quarter mile long being 1,185 feet in length, 198 feet wide and a height of 236 feet making it the same size as a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. In fact I remember once when I was in Nassau, Bahamas on the Dream I was on the top deck looking across at the Oasis docked next to us and I was looking into staterooms…it still had three or four decks above us. In other words it is HUGE!

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

The Oasis next to the 900+ foot Grandeur of the Seas

The size of this ship in itself is going to be a challenge for a few reasons. My first ship The Dream was Carnivals largest ship with a crew of 1,369 and 3,652 guests and the Rhapsody having 765 crew and 2,435 guests had a learning curve. Each ship has a learning curve and is different. They all have their own personalities from the crew to the passengers to the ports of call.

I found that I was not a fan of large ships, which I also have heard from a number of other acupuncturists. Still when offered the Oasis I jumped at the chance and I think of it as an honor being offered the largest ship in the world, especially after being gone for a little over a year. To me it shows the confidence that Dan, Stephanie and Natasha have in me to get the job done.

And what is the job? As every manager will tell you are not on the ship to be on vacation, your job is to serve the guests and perform a service, in our case acupuncture. You are there to “make the numbers”, which is the target revenue that Steiner has deemed for you. As my first manager Raj would say at the end of every staff meeting “get out there and kick ass” and that is what is expected of you.

This means promoting yourself at spa tours, conducting seminars, booking patients, rebooking patients and selling herbal formulas. But I am getting ahead of myself. Lets start from the beginning, actually this new beginning for me.

About a week ago I was received an email from Stephanie Kimber, the Manager of Oriental Medicine Programs for Steiner. She does the training in Los Angeles, hires you and places you on your ship. The email read “call me immediately.” When she answered the phone and realized it was me she said, “where in the world do you want to go, what ship and when…we have an opening for you.” During our conversation and ones to followed we discussed the Liberty of the Seas where my good friend Tonya Weber is now serving and my last manager Emmett Homan is the manager. If you have the chance to work with either of these two people take it.

It was looking like I was going to relieve Tonya when her contract ended but then I received another call and was asked what my thoughts would be to join the Oasis. I had to think about it a bit because like I said I am not really a fan of big ships. Also though I like the Caribbean I had already seen many of its ports of call. But after doing some research I found it now goes to the Mediterranean, the Netherlands and England for a couple months. So within minutes of her phone call I emailed her and said “Confirm me on the Oasis for April 26th."

Here is a tip for you. By research I mean going to the cruise ships website, in this case Royal Caribbean and seeing exactly where the ship goes and its ports of call. Also note the number of "sea days" the ship has as those will be your busiest day and when you see most of your patients. I also look at how many hours the ship will be in port. As an experienced Acupuncturist at Sea I can visualize where I can take my free time and when I need to be on board to treat patients.

These are all things I look at to determine if I want to work on a given ship. Know up front that Stephanie will assign you your ship and on your first contract you will more then likely be told which ship is available. Also know the better you do your job the more opportunities and say you have on which ship you would like for your next contract. Stephanie is great so if you work hard, prove yourself in turn you will be rewarded the ship you want if possible and if it is available.  

Caribbean Ports of Call for the Oasis that I have already experienced

Nassau, Bahamas

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Orient Bay on the French side of St. Maarten

Beach at Philipsburg, Dutch side St. Maarten

Cozumel, Mexico

Next I contacted Dan Brown, the Director of Operations and Oriental Medicine working my way up the chain of command. Over the years Dan, like Stephanie and I have become good friends and it was nice to talk with him again. I thanked him for his invitation back to Steiner, told him that I have confirmed the Oasis with Stephanie, shot the breeze for a while and we said our good-byes. He is a busy guy...

My next email was to Natasha Spencer to thank her for this opportunity. Natasha is the Director of Maritime Spa Operations and has the final word. We had also become friends over the years and I received an email back from her saying welcome back.

At this point I want to say that you may have heard horror stories about working for Steiner and I am sure that some of them are true.  But I can only write and comment on what I experienced. Those that followed my first blog know I hold no punches and tell it like it is. With that said on ships management and staff come and go as contracts end different times. During my three contracts I had five different managers. I only had one that I would not care to work with again. It was also my experience that if I had a problem with a manager Dan, Stephanie or Natasha were only a telephone call or email away. I found that each of them will fight for you and have your back if you were in the right and let you know if you were in the wrong, as it should be with upper management.

So in closing today I am waiting for Stephanie to call to discuss the paperwork involved in order to join a ship. It is tedious and there is a lot of it. As my situation changes and progresses I will report it here so you will know what to expect should you decide to become an Acupuncturist at Sea along with me and the other 160 acupuncturists that have decided to treat patients on cruise ships and travel the world…

Enjoy and as always any comments and questions you any have are greatly appreciated.