Posts Tagged With: cruise ships

Promotions, Commotions and Sweet Opportunity

(This post comes in from Donny and I love it. So true of the job and the sudden shocks that come when you least expect them. Thanks for contributing!)

When my boss asked me if I would fill in as cruise director for a few trips, I was hesitant to say yes. At the time, I had been working on cruise ships for over four years and had moved up to the role of purser. If you’re not sure what the purser does, suffice to say it’s the best job onboard the ship. You don’t really report to anyone other than the captain, and no one reports to you, at least on the small ships I worked on. You can spend as much time with the passengers as you want, but when you’ve had enough, it’s easy to say that you have some paperwork to attend to and retreat to your office, where you can kick back and turn on some music. I loved my job, but the cruise director gig had some advantages. The pay was higher, as was the prestige, and it could lead to more opportunities to work on other ships around the world. I said yes.

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Day 1 – Welcome to Alaska

My plane touched down in Juneau, surrounded by endless water to the west and soaring snow-capped peaks to the north, south and east.  I have to say, it felt like I should have embarked on a climbing expedition rather than a cruise.  And, something about the mountains called to me, saying, “wouldn’t everything look so much cooler from up here?  Forget about that dark, flat water.  This is what Alaska is all about!”

A captain friend would later say that Alaska is like “God flooded the Rockies,” and I’ve yet to come up with a better description.  It was the first week in September and the weather was high forties and overcast.  Cold and overcast seems to be the norm in Alaska except for the height of the summer season, which lasts from the second Thursday in July until about 2 o’clock the next day.

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Postcards Home

I sleepily rolled from the thin mattress of my single bed and stood in the darkness of my cabin – my 70 square-foot home in the hull. The polo shirt I’d worn the day before, a pair of khaki shorts and my boat shoes – my uniform – were in a pile at the foot of the bed, just two feet from the door Jared the deckhand was rapping with his fist.

“Sorry man,” he said, “I know it’s super early, but some lady in the lounge wants to talk to you.”

I put on the wrinkled duds, pinned on the Cruise Director name tag, and trudged up the stairwell to meet her. As I looked out the porthole to the dim Caribbean dawn I thought about how surreal my life had become. The day before I’d worked 15 hours, but from 1 to 2 in the afternoon snorkeled the most beautiful reef I’d ever seen. Queen angelfish nibbled on coral spires as a school of blue tang surrounded me. The day before a seasick guest threw up on my shoe. A month earlier we hiked the mythical Mayan ruins of Guatemala. An eighty year-old guest was with me every step of the way. Then, upon hearing that only 3% of the Mayan empire had been discovered, another guest asked where all the undiscovered ruins were. A few months before that I sat with a thousand classmates in white plastic chairs and listened to the Governor of Virginia talk about the future and potential. Some speech.

I wiped my eyelashes loose from the night and laid a hand on the top of my desk for support.

“Good morning ma’am, how can I help you?”

She moved like a bird, twitchy and alert.

“Are stamps still 37 cents?”

“Yup. Still 37 cents.” I reached into the desk drawer for the stamps we kept on hand for letters and postcards and asked how many she wanted.

“Oh, I don’t want any,” she said. “I was just wondering.”

She turned and walked back to her cabin.

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