Central Middlesex Hospital nurse pens memoir of her former life on the high seas

PUBLISHED: 13:49 04 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:50 04 February 2019

Annette Bodden-Whisker in her days as a cruise ship stewardess

Annette Bodden-Whisker in her days as a cruise ship stewardess


A Central Middlesex Hospital theatre nurse has found time to pen her youthful adventures aboard a cruise ship in a new memoir.

Old Salt is Annette Bodden Whisker’s lively account of her time above and below decks on the Song of America, one of 14 ships she worked on before settling in England and training as a nurse.

The 54-year-old started to write her memoir in 2003 then “pushed it to the back of the cupboard” until now.

Jamaica born, she left her Caribbean homeland at 22 having successfully applied to work on boats.

“When I was 14 I made a promise to myself to travel, work on a ship and become a nurse and I’ve done all three,” she said.

She joined the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in 1988, when boats were “a man’s world” and she was one of only two females on cabin duties.

“I worked 11 years on the ship. Life at sea is hard work although I had a lot of fun and some great memories.”

She added: “I loved Alaska, I love the cold, I love the snow; I’m a Caribbean Eskimo.”

Then her intinery changed and it was off to warmer countries including Mexico and Cuba.

She was soon promoted to officer and during her time survived hurricanes, helped rescue refugees fleeing Cuba and Haiti in makeshift boats, and saw a crewmate arrested for murder while on shore leave.

“A lot happens on board a ship. One thing I learnt is that you have to be able to turn your hand to anything. I’ve done everything from repairing and altering clothes for passengers to standing in as a dancer for several weeks.”

She became a nurse in 2005 and in her second year of training joined the army. She joined CMH in 2008 and a year later posted to Camp Bastion for three months to work on the main surgical ward of the field hospital.

In 2010 the army gave a plaque to the hospital as gesture for letting her go.

“It has all been a fantastic experience and I’m lucky to have fulfilled my three career ambitions.

“My advice to anyone is get busy doing whatever it is you really want to do in life.”

The book is available on Amazon for £11. Go to

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