The Summer of Ecstasea


Dublin-based PR executive Orla Hennessy remembers a summer that she wished would last forever - a dream job on board an Abramovich yacht anchored off the Côte d'Azur.

Have you ever had a summer so good, you couldn’t put it into words? Well I’m about to try!

At the ripe age of 19 myself and four friends took a leap of faith based on my nostalgia of a childhood holiday and boarded a plane to France. Our destination was Antibes on the Côte D’Azur, 30 minutes from Nice: a beautiful village with a picturesque old town full of culinary wonders and a progressive new town for shopping.

Through a combination of internet trawling and Leaving Cert French we secured ourselves a one bedroom apartment in a complex…with a swimming pool. The thought of it – our own pool for three months! Our parents saw us off from Cork airport. There were tears and words of wisdom, calls for contact and lots of ‘minding each other’. Our excitement was electric. Off we went on our adventure.

When we reached our destination it didn’t take us long to figure out the lay of the land – yachts, yachts and more yachts. Large glimmering hotels on the water staffed by English, Australian and Kiwi twenty somethings in shiny white polo necks and khaki shorts. We wanted in. It quickly dawned on us when we started floating over CV’s that jobs in pubs, shops and restaurants were
not plentiful. So we adapted…

The aim of the game was to get up early, get down to the port and offer our services as a stewardesses for the day. A couple of things got in our way of becoming millionaires that summer:

Orla (2nd from right) and friends

Orla (2nd from right) and friends

Firstly, we were having too much fun spending our days sun bathing by our pool and frequenting Antibes’ beautiful beaches. Next, there was the night life. And, of course the constant convincing of each other that ‘we will start tomorrow’. So we lived on a shoestring; cooking in and consuming large quantities of cheap but tasty French wine in advance of going out and mingling with the docked sailors. (I won’t disclose any more information here, but there were a few broken hearts that summer – mostly ours!).

We made lots of friends; most notably two young Kiwi ladies who came to visit us in Ireland and whom we have subsequently met in many far flung parts of the world. We also handily made friends with a head stewardess and steward who provided us with just enough sporadic work to fund our lifestyles.

When we could finally see the bottom of our bank accounts, instead of trailing back to Mum and Dad, we got out of bed at sunrise and went down to look for work. We were in luck: Ecstasea had docked.

A helicopter landing on the upper aft deck of the Ecstasea

A helicopter landing on the upper aft deck of the Ecstasea

At the time, this beautiful luxury yacht was owned by Chelsea billionaire Roman Abramovich. They took us on for a week of day-work at a rate of €100 a day with lunch provided. Our ship had literally come in! We were set to slog cleaning windows, polishing tables and running q-tips between wooden flooring. No easy work I’ll tell you, and truthfully… the place was already clean!

Each room on the Ecstasea was themed and decorated to a level of decadence I have not seen repeated since – the Versailles room, The Millennium room etc. And then there it was – the man himself’s bedroom, full of Chelsea memorabilia in all its glory. At the time, I considered explaining my situation to this fortunate man and asking for €1000 to see me through the rest of my summer in style, but I didn’t have a pen…

We were fascinated hearing the stories of the people working full-time on the boat many of them with families left behind. The staff would spend weeks on end travelling around with the yacht to the Mediterranean in the Summer and the Caribbean in the winter; incurring no expense and on hefty salaries. You have to have certain qualifications to do the work full-time. At that time, my friends and I made a pact: we would all come back to secure our fortune. As the years pressed on and more and more time was spent on study and developing a career, the prospect of cleaning rich people’s floors appealed less and less. Sometimes, after staring at a computer screen for hours however, the appeal comes back to me!

As students, the experience we had introduced us to a level of wealth and internationalism that we had never experienced in Douglas or Blackrock in Cork. It opened our minds to the world of travel and to the opportunities available to those who search for them.

When Ecstasea left, we took our earnings and spent the rest of our Antibes summer celebrating it away. Not alone were we introduced to a whole other world; we had grown up, we had fended for ourselves and had made lifelong friends with an exciting story to boot!

(Orla Hennessy is an account executive with public relations company “pr360“)

More Links
Antibes/Juans-les-Pins Official Tourist Site
Official Tourism Website of the Cote d’Azur

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2 Replies to “The Summer of Ecstasea”

  1. Marylin Hall says:

    Fantastic! Am now motivated to sending my daughter down there for next summer.

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