You’re almost there! You’re in the home stretch! Your medical exam is done, your paperwork is being processed, and now all you have to do is wait – and pass your STCW Basic Training! Personally, this was the most fun thing I’ve done for any job training anywhere. At this point, as far as I know, the only people who have to do STCW are those going on the Pride of America, but who knows, things change! Luckily for you, NCL pays for your flights, which will lead you to the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education in Piney Point, Maryland.
The week also includes free housing and free food, which is some of the best food you will have during this job. You’ll be training alongside trainees of the SIU program, who will be here for much longer than you and then will go off to make a fortune on merchant ships. But for you, there will only be seven days to learn and be tested on Crowd Management, First Aid, Personal Survival Techniques, Maritime Security Awareness, Personal Safety, and, everyone’s favorite, Basic Firefighting.
Without giving away too much, you will be starting training at about 8am every morning until 8pm at night, sometimes only until 6, but either way it’s very full days and good preparation for what’s ahead, hours-wise. The two most important things to study are First Aid/CPR/AED and Basic Firefighting; these two classes have a test on the last couple of days with 20 questions, and if you miss more than three questions per test, you fail. If you fail a test twice, you cannot continue to the Pride, and it’s NCL’s choice if they will let you to repeat the course.
The other test that held some people up was the practical water safety test. There are several things you’ll need to do to pass: jump into a pool in a bright orange “Gumby suit” (this is fun), flip a raft over, float on the surface of a pool for a minute, and the most difficult challenge, climb into an inflated raft from the water without assistance. As easy as this sounds, it’s pretty hard when you’re wearing a bulky life vest and all you have is your arm strength and a rope ladder that moves every time you try to get up into the raft.
On this same day, you do the practical test of Basic Firefighting, which is awesome. We were required to put on an SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) mask (which freaked me out due to my deathly fear of suffocating), crawling through a dark space with a partner to find a body, putting out two fires with two different types of extinguishers, and operating a giant fire hose in a team to put out a real, very large fire. It’s a really cool day.
Besides that day, you pretty much just go to classes in a classroom all day and take notes. There was a group of us that would hang out at the bar every night and study, which ended up paying off because every member of the bar crew passed both tests on the first try. Overall, Piney Point was fun because of how close we all got. We spent a lot of time together in those 7 days, and it was nice to have a group of friends going into the madness that would be the ship.
Hopefully by now, your MMC has been approved! Mine was approved a couple days before I left training, and man was I pumped. At this point, all you can do is say goodbye for now to your new friends, hop on a flight home, and wait for your new flight details! If your MMC was approved before you arrived in Maryland, they probably have already set you up to fly straight to Hawaii, in which case, that’s it! You’re on your way! Let the adventure begin!
Now that you’ve completed the process of getting to the ship, time to find out what living and working on a cruise ship is really like!