Sunday, September 15, 2013

THE TOP TEN REASONS TO WORK ON A CRUISE SHIP



Before I wrote Cruise Quarters I wondered would people find my story interesting, after all it was just a story about two average people traveling around the world on a very big ship. But since the publication I have received so many e-mails from readers who obviously love to cruise or in some cases are just looking for love and what most of them say is, “I wish that I could do something like you did - just run away to sea.” So in this article I will give you my top ten reasons for working on a cruise ship.

Just before I decided to join cruise ships I was working as a systems analyst in Boston. I was commuting on Route 128 America’s technology highway.
Through rain, fog and snow, constantly in fear of crashing my compact into the rear of a tractor trailer, every day felt like a suicide mission. The rest of the time I was stuck in an office with the same twenty people, claustrophobia slowly settling in. I dated a lot, some of the candidates hailed from the finest institutions our country has to offer. I was dating more but enjoying it less, dates seemed more like job interviews.

But I always felt like I was missing out on something, the Germans have a word for it torschlusskpanik, literally the feeling that you are missing the boat. Then a friend who was working on a cruise ship came through town and while she was joining a ship in New Zealand, I had a four hour drive to Albany on my itinerary. Four months later I had cajoled and pleaded my way into a job on the Star Princess. My first port was beautiful Saint Martin where the sea glistened a deep shade of aquamarine. I always say that was the day my life went from black and white to Technicolor.

RAY AND I ENJOYING A DAY OFF IN THE CARRIBEAN
The point of my digression is this I was in my thirties when I changed my life but it is never too late to go for it. On the ships I worked as a blackjack dealer but there are many other jobs on a cruise ship. Are you a nurse or a doctor? All ships need one of those. Do you work with children? There is always a need for someone to coordinate children’s activities, are you good with accounting? The purser’s staff keeps track of passenger’s accounts and shipboard expenditures. Retail experiences on your resume? All cruise ships have shops. There are so many opportunities to work on a cruise ship and with a little research you just might find your niche.

  1. You will completely change your life.  Living on a cruise ship is like moving to a new country where the captain is the king. You will make new friends, travel to new places and most of all your life will be filled with new adventures. During my five years on ships I made friendships that still last to this day and I visited every continent on the globe except Antarctica.

  1. You live on a waterfront mansion and the best part is - it moves. Wherever you live on a ship you are only a few minutes away from a gorgeous ocean view. I never got tired of sitting on deck and watching the world go by. Sail-away from Venice is one of the most beautiful sights in the world and I had a front row seat every ten days.

  1. Every day the ship goes to beautiful ports because, ships don’t travel to ugly places. This means every day you get to wake up in a beautiful European city or a tropical island.

  1. Not only do you visit beautiful places, you get to come back every seven to ten days. If you spend a season in the Mediterranean your cruise might start in Barcelona and go to Venice with lots of great ports in between. Then it starts in Venice and returns to Barcelona, by the end of the season you feel like you know these ports and start feeling more like a local than a tourist.

  1. You don’t have to pay any rent; your room and board are taken care of by the cruise lines. As a dealer we had a great gig on the ships we were allowed to eat at any of the buffets, so every day I feasted. Imagine not having to write that rent check every month.

  1. There is no commute, that was the icing on the cake for me. For five years I would wake up each day and decide do I want to take the elevator to work or walk up the stairs. Now who wouldn’t like a commute like that?

  1. It is a great place to save money for all the reasons I have mentioned, free room and board. And I didn’t have to buy a car which meant no car payments. I know you are thinking that sight-seeing can be expensive but if you work on a ship you can always volunteer to help the tour guide by joining the tours and keeping an eye on the passengers. I left ships with the money to start a new life in Palm Springs.

  1. Another perk of ship life is meeting people from all over the world. The crew of a cruise ship is like a mini United Nations with crew members from across the globe all working together to meet the passengers every need. In my casino alone we had staff from Australia, Scotland, America and Canada, and since that time many Eastern Europeans have joined the casino staffs on many ships.

  1. Crew life is fun, although many of the crew work very hard, imagine being a waiter and you are expected to serve three meals, two buffets and a tea-time. So to let off a little steam there is a crew bar where all the crew meets for camaraderie and fun. We have so many crew activities; we danced under the stars, had a pizza party for Venice sail-away and played trivia. There was also crew talent show which just gave the Brits an excuse to dress in drag.

  1. You just might fall in love. For me that was the highlight of my time at sea. I left with a very special souvenir my husband Ray. He was from Scotland and I would have never met him if I hadn’t run away to sea. We met when we both worked on the Star Princess, my lucky ship, and were married four months later. In fact, I know so many couples that met on cruise ships and many ended up married. The majority I am happy to report are very happy.  Though there are no guarantees it just might happen to you and there is no better way to change your life than to fall in love.

So for all of you that have that feeling of torschlusskpanik, I just want you to know that you can change your life. Now hiring practices vary but there are big cruise lines like Carnival, to small lines like the exclusive Silver Seas. There are European lines, there are ships all over the world and in the last ten years river cruises like AMA have become popular, but I am sure that with a little work you can find out if cruise ships are a fit for you.

                                                                    Happy sails to you!

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com. You  can read more posts from her blog at carabertoia.blogspot.com

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CASINO MOVIES THAT GET IT RIGHT


 The April issue of The Atlantic ran a great article about gambling. The title was The Gambler Who Broke Atlantic City. It is a fun article to read and it really explains in an easy to read way about how to win in a casino. Don Johnson is the man who won millions in Atlantic City. The only factual problem was when the author was describing a double down hand; a dealer always turns up their hole card before they hit their hand. But as a casino professional we know that they always get it wrong. It is a rare movie or television show set in a casino that doesn't make some mistake. That is why we took so much care when we were writing Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos And Cruise Ships to get it right.


Don't even start me on 'The Cooler' there is no 'Cooler' it was just something made up to sell a movie. Casinos don't cheat, they may lure you in with bells and neon but the donations you make are purely voluntary.

After we both read the article my husband Ray and started talking about the few movies that have gotten it right. I enjoyed Casino and Bugsy Malone but they were a little before our time. I felt like Owning Mahowny was the best movie about the modern casino business that I have ever seen. This is a movie about an assistant manager at a Toronto branch of a leading Canadian bank. On the weekends he flies to Atlantic City where he gambles hundreds of thousands of dollars. The gambler is played by Oscar winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and his love interest is Minnie Driver. It is the most realistic portrait of a compulsive gambler I have ever seen, maybe because it is based on a true story. Set in the 80's before gambling had expanded into all corners of the country. It shows an Atlantic City at the top of its game.


Ray loved Croupier, which I also loved because who doesn't like to look at Clive Owen? Clive Owen plays Jack Manfred an aspiring writer who becomes a croupier to make ends meet and falls under the spell of casino life. Ray said it really replicated his experiences in casinos in London, he learned to deal there and we talk about his training days in our novel Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. The dealers all used to frequent a Greek Restaurant, The Grecian Grill, after the casino closed at night just like in the movie. What male doesn't like to relive his carefree bachelor partying days? There is a heist in the movie with the usual amount of holes in the story but don't let that get in the way because it is the mood and settings that make this movie so great. 
                                                         
Both movies are a few years old so you will probably have to download them or catch them on a movie channel. But if you like to gamble and are interested in what goes on behind the scenes in a casino they are worth a watch. Or you can read all about it in our novel Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos And Cruise Ships.

 
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

WE HAVE CREATED A NEW ONLINE NEWSPAPER TO KEEP OUR READERS INFORMED ABOUT ALL THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE COMPUTER AND CRUISE SHIP INDUSTRY

If you are reading this blog post right now it is probably a good guess that your are interested in Casinos and Cruise Ships. So to keep our readers up to date and current with what is happening in both industries we have created a new online paper Casinos and Cruise Ships, and the best part is that the subscription is absolutely FREE. So keep yourself informed about the latest developments in the casino and cruise ship industry across the globe. You don't have to subscribe to check it out.

 TO CHECK OUT THE NEW ONLINE PAPER CASINOS AND CRUISE SHIPS CLICK THIS LINK




















Friday, December 9, 2011

EVEN YOU CAN PLAY POKER IN THE CASINO! JUST PICK YOUR FAVORITE GAME

The last time I was in Vegas was to visit the gaming show. The gaming show is the trade show for casinos, imagine visiting a vast hall filled with the newest, greatest slot machines and table games. Now imagine that you can play anything you want - for free! Because maybe if you play that game and like it you will put it in your casino.Well I don't own a casino but I wrote about them in my novel Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships.
Since I'm a dealer, a table games kind of girl, it was easy for me to walk past those machines. I prefer blackjack to Wheel of Fortune. But this year was all about poker. Poker is everywhere. You can play it at your house, you can watch it on television or you can trust your money to some operator out of the Cayman Islands and play online from the comfort of your desk. Vegas has huge poker rooms filled with dreamers, who have all heard about the World Series of Poker and fantasize about winning the million dollar pot.
All this could be yours!

I'm not talking about that kind of poker. I started out dealing in Tahoe where friends of mine were married to people that played poker in the casino every night because that was their job. Poker rooms are also filled with crafty retirees who play every day and as the saying goes if you practice for 10,000 hours you will get good. Those people scare me and they should scare you. I lost my hard earned tips to those guys too many times. But there is a way to play poker and not be intimidated.

The hottest thing at the gaming show was the carnival games. The ones I am going to focus on are variations of poker that you play at a table that looks a lot like a blackjack table. It isn't you against the other players at the table, no ringers here. It is everyone against the house. The most popular of these games are three card, four card and ultimate Texas hold-em.

Three card poker is just what it sounds like, your three cards against the dealers. It is exactly like regular poker only in three card a straight is higher that a flush. I don't know why that is, but someone smarter than me has figured out the odds. All these games are carefully vetted by the Nevada Gaming Commission before they ever hit the casino floor. But if you want to know the odds on any casino game just google The Wizards of Odds.

Four card has a twist, you get five cards but you only use four. But this is straight poker with a bonus, if you bet it you get paid extra on any hand trips or better. Trips is a quick way to say three of a kind. And in this game trips are a better hand than either a straight or a flush.

Probably the most popular is Ultimate Texas Hold-Em. I don't have time to explain Texas Hold-Em but if you know how to play you know that it all turns on the river. But at a table game all the players can win, there is no pot to split. You also don't have to wait for a game, you only need one player and a dealer and the game is on.

But straight poker isn't enough there are more bells and whistles. With a dollar you can enter a progressive that pays out thousands for a royal flush. This is called a side bet. A few weeks ago someone won $69,000 at my casino, not bad for a buck. And sometimes they combine games; at one table you can play three card and five card poker at the same time. All of these games go by different names and have different rules that vary from casino to casino so you need to visit some websites and study the odds. I know it all sounds complicated, but with the dealer ready to help you, in a few minutes you can be playing poker in the casino and have a lot of fun!

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

THE VALLEY VIEW CASINO NEAR SAN DIEGO IS A SEAFOOD LOVERS DREAM

I am not ashamed to admit it I like to eat. and I prefer to eat really great food. My nickname when I worked on cruise ships was the food scout, and my book Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships is filled with vivid descriptions of the wonderful meals I have eaten across the globe. So when I heard that there was an all you can eat lobster buffet at Valley View casino - a small casino set in the mountains north of San Diego I knew that I had to go there. I know some people don't like buffets. they prefer to be waited on but I am a grazer, I like to try little bits of this and that and at the Valley View they had over two hundred dishes waiting.

Last week my husband and I found ourselves with a few days off and we didn't want to get on a plane so we decided to book a night at the casino and enjoy a mini vacation. It was a pleasant two hour ride up twisting roads dotted with fruit stands and horse farms to the Valley View. The rooms were immaculate with a tub and a shower, and gorgeous views.
Infinity pool at Valley View Casino

Now what I haven't told you is that the buffet is free, all you have to do is join the Players Club! They don't have unlimited passes so you need to join early in the day and request a pass to the evening buffet. So we joined the Players Club as soon as we arrived got our passes and then spent the rest of the day hitting the thrift stores in nearby Escondido.  I learned after we checked into the hotel is that if you are a guest there, you are guaranteed a lobster buffet and you even get a VIP Pass for the line. The room also includes a free breakfast so by the time you add up the price of the meals it was as if our room was free.

Now the most important part, the food, how was the food? Everyone knows that a casino can be rated on the quality of its buffet. It is the draw especially for a casino set high up in the hills. I am happy to report that it was great. The lobster was good, they really were Maine lobsters split in half and easy to eat. From the Chinese ribs to the mashed sweet potatoes this was the real thing, home cooked food. But where this buffet really shines is the sweets. There is a huge desert selection, from homemade fudge, crepes and cupcakes to fresh fruit and cheese.

The Macaroons, not the coconut ones we are used to but the fancy French ones were as good as the ones we bought in London one day from a very fancy shop on Regents Street, They literally melted in you mouth. There were homemade chocolates as pretty as anything at See's.

Now less than a week has passed and when we picked up our mail today there was a postcard from you guessed it - the Valley View Casino. They were offering us two free buffets or $30 worth of cash on our next visit. So if you in Southern California or are planning a visit there, I highly recommend a stop at the Valley View Casino, but don't tell everyone, I'm scared they will run out of free lobster!

Below you will find the path to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships:
  


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

THE TOP TEN REASONS TO TRAVEL AROUND EUROPE ON A CRUISE SHIP

Many times people ask me what is the best way to travel around Europe. Well I have toured England and Europe by car and train, but definitely the best way to get around Europe was on a cruise ship. For many seasons I cruised the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. Here are my top ten reasons for picking a cruise ship over train or road.
The Author Cara Bertoia in Leningrad
 1. Sail Away. There is no view in the world that compares to sailing out of Venice on a large ocean liner. I remember the time the crew club sponsored a pizza party on the back deck. To look down on the city of Venice and sail past all the medieval buildings while drinking wine and eating pizza, cooked by Italian chefs will always remain a special memory. The sun was setting and the view was spectacular.

 2. You only have to pack your bags once. When you try to visit a lot of countries in Europe by car or train, you always seem to be packing. Inevitably you leave a few things behind. But on a cruise ship you unpack at the beginning of the cruise and pack the night before you go home no matter how many countries you visit.

 3. You don't have to spend all your time working out how to travel from place to place. When I went by train so much of my time was spent figuring out the train schedules and I ended up spending many of my nights on trains and buses lugging heavy suitcases. I was always exhausted. On a ship one day you are in Copenhagen and the next morning you wake up in Stockholm, refreshed, very well fed and ready for a new adventure.

 4. Speaking of well fed the food is wonderful, plentiful and served at any hour of the day or night. It seems as if in Europe that the chefs try to outdo the local chefs. Besides three meals there is the pizzeria, room service and the midnight buffet. It is a feast and at the midnight buffet it is also a feast for the eyes.

 5. If you pick your ship carefully you will find first rate entertainment. Many of the ships offer history lessons about the ports of call, wine tasting and some feature Cirque de Soleil caliber shows. I never did figure out how they managed to balance so well while the ship was moving.

 6. You can sample many countries on a cruise and if you find a place that you really enjoy you can always return for a longer stay.

  7. Tea Time. I just love tea time. In the afternoon I would always run down from the casino to the lounge where tea, finger sandwiches and adorable tiny cakes were served. I worked on a British ship and no one does tea better that the Brits.

 8. When you travel from country to country you never have to worry about clearing customs, that is all taken care of by the pursers staff, usually when you are asleep.

 9. There is something luxurious about traveling on a cruise ship. From the crystal chandeliers to the polished brass stair railings, ships exude elegance. Even though I was only working on a ship I always felt like a celebrity traveling on a very big yacht.

10. Since my book is called Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships and this blog is Table Games Confessions, I have to mention that most cruise ships have an onboard casino. It is usually a small and intimate room, which closes while the ship is in port but opens as soon as the ships sails.

 Below you will find the path to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships:








Friday, August 26, 2011

CASINOS AND THE HARD ROCK A MARRIAGE MADE IN ROCK AND ROLL HEAVEN

Last week while I was on vacation in Florida, my sister treated my husband and me to a Brian Wilson Concert. Although Mr.Wilson shows his age, he still had the same voice I remember so well from my Beach Boys albums. He belted out his greatest hits for over two hours. It was a great concert and the venue, well where else could it be but at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood. Yes there is another Hollywood.


This casino was massive, glitzy, and heaving with people. The Hard Rock holds a special place in my heart. When I worked on cruise ships, collecting memorabilia from the Hard Rock was a favorite pastime for most of the crew. I even wrote about it in my novel. At first it seemed bizarre to me, collecting tacky souvenirs, but finally I got it. When they got home, the small metallic pins, shaped like guitars proudly displayed on their worn denim jackets proved that they had really been to faraway places.

As I walked through the casino I stopped to watch the monitors that tracked the action at Hard Rocks all over the world. That got me to thinking, how many Hard Rocks are there? I visited their website and found out that there are 173 venues in over 51 countries, so that is a lot of pins to collect. It all started out when Issac Tigrett and Peter Morton couldn't get a decent hamburger in London. They remedied that by opening the first Hard Rock in 1971.

Now I haven't been to all of them, but I have visited many Hard Rocks across the globe. Most of the time the casino staff couldn't agree on anything but when it was a holiday or birthday many times we celebrated at the Hard Rock. When you are traveling for months to far away places on a very big ship and start to feel a little homesick, what you really crave is a bit of home and a good pig sandwich. It was a favorite spot in Acapulco, back in the day when you could walk back to the ship without the threat of being caught in a drug war. Whether it was Singapore or Stockholm you knew that when you ate at a Hard Rock you would get good food at a reasonable price.

Now the big push is to casinos, and my husband and I know a little about this since we have been in the gaming industry for most of our adult careers. From London to Las Vegas whenever we walk into a Hard Rock casino we always see someone we have worked with somewhere in the world. I also love looking at all the memorabilia; they own the world's most comprehensive "visual history" of rock 'n' roll. I never realized that the 70,000 piece collection is rotated from restaurant to restaurant. After visiting the Hard Rock in Hollywood and Las Vegas I must agree, casinos and the Hard Rock are a marriage made in rock and roll heaven.

The link to my novel at Amazon, also available at Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords
Last week while I was on vacation in Florida, my sister treated my husband and me to a Brian Wilson Concert. Although Mr.Wilson shows his age, he still had the same voice I remember so well from my Beach Boys albums. He belted out his greatest hits for over two hours. It was a great concert and the venue, well where else could it be but at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood. Yes there is another Hollywood.

This casino was massive, glitzy, and heaving with people. The Hard Rock holds a special place in my heart. When I worked on cruise ships, collecting memorabilia from the Hard Rock was a favorite pastime for most of the crew. I even wrote about it in my novel. At first it seemed bizarre to me, collecting tacky souvenirs, but finally I got it. When they got home, the small metallic pins, shaped like guitars proudly displayed on their worn denim jackets proved that they had really been to faraway places.

As I walked through the casino I stopped to watch the monitors that tracked the action at Hard Rocks all over the world. That got me to thinking, how many Hard Rocks are there? I visited their website and found out that there are 173 venues in over 51 countries, so that is a lot of pins to collect. It all started out when Issac Tigrett and Peter Morton couldn't get a decent hamburger in London. They remedied that by opening the first Hard Rock in 1971.

Now I haven't been to all of them, but I have visited many Hard Rocks across the globe. Most of the time the casino staff couldn't agree on anything but when it was a holiday or birthday many times we celebrated at the Hard Rock. When you are traveling for months to far away places on a very big ship and start to feel a little homesick, what you really crave is a bit of home and a good pig sandwich. It was a favorite spot in Acapulco, back in the day when you could walk back to the ship without the threat of being caught in a drug war. Whether it was Singapore or Stockholm you knew that when you ate at a Hard Rock you would get good food at a reasonable price.

Now the big push is to casinos, and my husband and I know a little about this since we have been in the gaming industry for most of our adult careers. From London to Las Vegas whenever we walk into a Hard Rock casino we always see someone we have worked with somewhere in the world. I also love looking at all the memorabilia; they own the world's most comprehensive "visual history" of rock 'n' roll. I never realized that the 70,000 piece collection is rotated from restaurant to restaurant. After visiting the Hard Rock in Hollywood and Las Vegas I must agree, casinos and the Hard Rock are a marriage made in rock and roll heaven.