I started writing this post onboard the Holland America Line MS Zuiderdam as Linda, her sister Debbie (who had her own cabin BTW), and I sailed the inside passage between Vancouver Island, British Columbia and the mainland of BC en-route to Glacier Bay, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, Alaska before returning to Vancouver.
Linda and I started cruising in 1985 and I confess I was a reluctant participant in our first cruise. What was I going to do for 14 days on-board a cruise ship? I had a great time and Linda thought she might have to call security to get me off the ship.
That particular cruise was magical. It was a Holiday cruise where we spent Christmas, New Years and our anniversary on-board.
This isn’t an exaggeration; I came off the cruise a changed person. I never had a vacation that was so relaxing and mind clearing. I was in a very stressful job situation at the time having recently participated in the startup of a technology company. I was in dire need of a break.
Since that first cruise we have now accumulated about 200 days on various cruise lines.
Being on a cruise ship is an interesting experience. The people are as varied as the ship and the itineraries they sail. It has been said that each ship has a personality and we’ve found this to be very true. The Captain and crew set the tone of the ship. Like any large organization, if you get a bad leader you usually have issues with the staff and the feel of the organization. We’ve seen the tone of a ship change the day after a new Captain comes on board. In one case, the tone was very regimented and the ship had a sense of being “uptight”. We had a change of Captains and the crew loosened up considerably. There were more smiles, more laughs, and the Captain made a point of thanking the crew for their efforts. This was in stark contrast to the first Captain.
The physical ship itself also has a feel to it. Some of this is the décor. Interior designers are paid big bucks to have the ship convey a certain image. Sometimes the image they convey is not to my liking.
Additionally, the ship itself has a definite feel. We’ve been on ships that had such a pronounced vibration we had trouble sleeping. Other ships had strange noises that we couldn’t figure out. We’ve even had crew on one ship tell us that the entire ship had a strange feel to it and these are people that sail on the same ship for up to a year. You can trust their instincts.
A cruise provides a microcosm of the world we live in. Sometimes this microcosm is very specific. We’ve been on cruises where we appeared to be the youngest on the cruise and we were in our 40’s and 50’s. One cruise had me convinced that an entire senior’s village had been displaced but that certainly doesn’t mean it was bad. We had a great time.
This Alaska cruise was far more diverse. We had a mix of cruisers including mothers to be, families of all ages, the physically challenged, and of course, seniors.
At breakfast one morning, I watched a family of five consisting of what appeared to be two teenagers, a boy and a girl, and a younger girl who appeared to be about 11 or 12. They were all smiles and appeared to be a very loving family. Dad unconsciously I’m sure, gave his youngest daughter a pat on the shoulder as he was heading to the buffet lineup. Dad caught the son trying to steal a piece of bacon from the youngest sister’s plate while she was getting something else to eat. A pretty typical sibling action I’d say. Dad told him to leave her food alone.
I saw a man arrive for breakfast with a backpack strapped to his shoulders that I’m sure would have held enough supplies for a two-day trek. Why he found it necessary to bring something of that size to breakfast is beyond me. We weren’t even getting off the ship that day so it certainly wasn’t forward planning.
One of the breakfast buffet staff had to move a guest’s power scooter out of the way. Here he was with a big smile on his face, driving past his buddies and taking the long way to where he needed to store it. He was having a great time.
It truly amazes me how people forget a simple “please” and “thank you” when interacting with the ship’s crew. These people work harder than most of us ever do in our lifetime and they do it for what we would consider inadequate wages. Yet, I’ve seen cruise passengers treat them like “the help” being brisk to the point of rudeness and taking them to task for what I would normally consider to be a minor issue. Linda and I have always gone out of our way to acknowledge their efforts and appreciate their work. This has been returned to us many fold during our cruising years. We get smiles and warm conversation plus we get to know a bit about them and their families. They in turn remember us, what we like to eat and drink, and greet us warmly whenever they see us. It makes you feel good.
TO BE CONTNUED