Working in Alaska since 2002 has been a pleasure! I started as an Outfitter in 2002 as a summer job back in my high school years. It proved to be fun, fast paced, and exciting to work in tourism and being my first real job, I had a real sense of accomplishment and pride when I was giving guests my best in customer service. I really liked talking to people from around the world and sharing with them the state I have called home since 1999, after moving from Tampa, FL. The speeches we gave on the coaches, called expedites, were my favorite thing to do. After all, I was one of the first smiling faces they saw on their trip and I wanted to make a good first impression! (You should know that I am a theatre lover and later majored in theatre in college, so I loved talking to the crowd!) I believe I was pretty good at making them feel welcome, comfortable, and confident in my knowledge of the area and their tour itineraries.
My first year, I will always remember how I hated salmon before moving to AK. The Alaska Salmon Bake venue gave us a free comp ticket to try their food so we could give our guests the suggestion to dine there while in town. I was impressed they actually got me to try salmon and surprisingly I loved it, because of their brown sugar based secret sauce. Well, I got so excited about the food, I did tell the guests about it and sold a bunch of dinner vouchers, as well as tickets to see the Palace Saloon show (since I’m the theatre buff). To my surprise, at the end of the season, Alaskan Experience (who owns the Salmon Bake and Palace show, as well as another dinner and show venue in Ester that I sold) awarded me with 2 round trip Alaska Airlines tickets for being the top seller in Fairbanks! Wow! What great perks at this job! The connections with our vendors are awesome! A few years later, I also worked for Alaskan Experience partially because of that connection!
After working a few seasons, I finally took advantage of the space available cruise program for employees. It was unbelievably inexpensive and my first request was confirmed a month in advance to be on the brand new Island Princess’ 3rd voyage through the Inside Passage in August 2003. I worked right up until I started to see guests arrive in Fairbanks who would be on the very cruise I was going on! I ended up finally doing the exact tour that I had been a part of on the other side. Now I could truly put myself in the guest’s shoes! I took the train to Denali and McKinley, stayed a few nights, and did a bunch of comp tours. The cruise itself was an amazing experience and even living in Alaska, I had never been to all the little southeast towns. Snorkeling in Ketchikan, Hiking in Juneau, and catching a Salmon bare handed out of a stream running with tons of them in Skagway were among the highlights of my ports of call! The ship was beautiful, the food was superb, the staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the theatre shows were so vibrant and intriguing!
When I got back from my trip, I felt even more prepared to answer the guests’ questions since I had actually been through the whole tour myself. I loved telling people about other things to look forward to at our other lodges, on the ship itself, and neat things to look out for on their ports of call. I had a wonderful sense of my job being a breeze, with each day being another shared experience between the guests and I. Although there are days where you juggle lots of issues at once, I always found it to be a fun challenge, and being busy makes the day go by quickly. I even took on a position one summer of being a Luggage Liaison between the company and the Airlines. I helped track down any delayed luggage and worked any issues guests had with their luggage. I know it may not sound like fun, but working with a good crew out at the airport made it easier! I also implemented an organized system with detailed notes and a log book that is still being used today. I think it wasn’t always that scary when I had to tell a guest their bag didn’t make it on this flight, because my confidence and knowledge of the system left them feeling like they were in capable hands and they would soon receive their bag in their room.
Getting off work (as much as I like being there) and doing things around Fairbanks is a nice change of pace. Go canoeing on the Chena River, have a BBQ with friends at Pioneer Park (or Alaskaland as it will always be remembered by the locals!), catch a summer movie, go for a hike, relax at Chena Hotsprings, go on a 4-wheeling adventure, horseback riding, ride a bike, try rock wall climbing, go out dancing with friends, a baseball game, the Solstice celebration, Golden Days festivities, go to the Fair in August, etc…play in the midnight sun! At the end of your work day or work week, you should definitely take the time to put aside a little of your hard earned cash and enjoy yourself. There’s so much to do outdoors and the friends you make here, how could you not enjoy the summer!
I continued to work almost every summer since I first began, but being out of state for most of college, I skipped a summer or two. One of the summers I skipped was to actually take another space available cruise with my mom in Europe. (She worked as a driver guide one summer and loved it!) My mom is from Denmark, so going round trip Copenhagen for a 10 day cruise through the Baltic was awesome! Again the cruise ship never ceases to amaze me with gorgeous accommodations, awesome staff, delectable food, and great entertainment! The ports of call included Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Estonia, and Russia. There are too many fabulous experiences to reflect on, but I love telling friends and family all about these foreign countries and our adventures there! We also stayed in Denmark for a full month visiting family I hadn’t seen since I was a young girl. I was so grateful that my job with Princess had led to me seeing parts of the world I may not have experienced and family I may never have met had I not taken advantage of the perks; memories I will cherish for a lifetime!
After graduating with my BA in Theatre Performance and Youth Drama from Central Washington University, I worked for a bit there in Ellensburg before hearing my Fairbanks summer calling to me! I decided I would move back and have my summer job back. I drove the AlCan (Alaska-Canadian Highway) and survived with a small chip in my windshield. It was fun driving up with a girlfriend of mine and seeing part of the trip I took back in ’99 to move with my family from Tampa, FL to North Pole, AK. It took 3 days from Seattle to get to Prince Rupert, we took the ferry for 2 days to Haines, and then made the last overnight right outside the border with only a handful of hours to drive the next day. It was the first week of March and there in the sky, the beautiful Northern Lights were dancing, as if to welcome us back to the great north, the last frontier! After dealing with a flat tire, we rolled into town and I was so excited. There’s that strange feeling that nothing really changed, the people with their small town friendliness and the Alaskan wilderness backdrop, and yet at the same time so much has changed with so much build up in the town as little as Fairbanks grows by leaps and bounds!
I went in for my interview with a manager, who offered me my seasonal position with no reservations, but mentioned that I might check out a position that was open for year-round full time and fully benefitted. I figured why not give it a shot since I enjoyed working seasonally, a full time position could be full of rewarding experiences! Having been around for many years, my knowledge of our operations and my eagerness to dive into a new position apparently rubbed off on my current bosses. I am now the Administrative Assistant for Interior Operations. I help manage our fleet for Alaska and cater to a senior level of executives. I work in Fairbanks year round and I really enjoy the position so far. The office staff and their constant buzz during the busy season around the office, makes for a great work environment. There also seem to be as many perks as the seasonal jobs and more! I’m guessing that the next chapter in this story of mine will be a fun, challenging and a great life experience just as the past years have been! So come join us for a great seasonal job, you never know where it might lead you!
Christina – Administrative Assistant – Fairbanks, Alaska