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.

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