Who’d ever think that the tools required for work would be a squirt pistol and a tiara? But that is jumping a bit ahead of the story; let’s start at the beginning during the winter of 2005. I had been retired for the past five years and was running out of house projects. Here I was a rousing 55, and felt I was not quite ready for early bird dinners or bingo. Knowing that Alaska ships sailed from Seattle, I though to myself “Self, well they aren’t the glorious liners of yesteryear but still they are ships so what the heck.” Here was a chance to earn a few bucks and maybe even get a cruise or two out of the deal before I got bored. Shows how much I knew…..
Orientation that first season was typical; we got the basics, had a sing-a-long with the Love Boat theme (actually that was rather dreadful, but we all seemed to survive) and met all kinds of folks with all kinds of stories. From 18 years of age to slightly more so, we met and felt each other out. Several had never cruised before, some a few times and a few had done, well lets call ’em a “boatload.” One thing that stayed with me more than anything else – was how much genuine enthusiasm and energy there was among most of the “veterans.” This I took as a good sign and decided to stick around for a while, at least for one season. Again shows how much I knew….. Oh yes, one other thing – the start time was to my way of thinking, the middle of the night. (How true this was to become.)
Basically I am a shy retiring person. One however who loves to laugh and get people to enjoy them. Seems when I am doing “comedy” (if one is being kind) I can pretty much say things that one wouldn’t normally say and not get punched in the nose. Having been on a few “boat rides” it always stuck me how much the guests hunger for entrainment (along with the buffet). Doesn’t even have to be good – just present it and most folks will laugh. After rotating through the various positions I was placed during the disembark (yes – a bit of genuine “cruise terminology”) greeting the passengers and reminding them to have their documents and proof of citizenship ready. I felt that this would be a great time to make them forget that A) they got up at an ungodly hour and B) they were leaving the ship and getting back to reality. Several routines or bits came to be real crowd pleasers. For example –“Welcome to Pittsburg,” and “You traveled all that way to buy a tee shirt?”
In the afternoons at embark (yet another of those “cruise terminology words) I soon landed at my next permanent home, check-in (yet more cruise terminology words) for the Preferred Passengers; those who had obtained platinum and elite status. Here as before, humor was the key and it helped set the mood for the week. (Especially describing some of the sights they would see on Deck 14.) One of the best things about being here is the service recognition employees receive. Whether from fellow employee, supervisors, or passengers, it serves as a benchmark of what we do and why. Pins are awarded based on the level of service achieved each month and it truly means a great deal to all. In addition, at the end of each month an employee is chosen as “Employee of the Month.” Not that we aren’t all doing a good job, but someone has truly stood out. I had received the first level and was expecting to receive the next level. (OK, I knew I had received a few positive comment notices from guests.) On and on the names were called off. Yet not mine. I was getting really frantic when they announced the new “Employee of the Month.” Yep, yours truly. It felt really good to be recognized for doing a job and having a whole lotta fun doing it.
Ok by this time I had a reputation of being a bit of an “outside box” kind of guy – so I started harping for a tiara. After all I was a Princess of the Month and I deserved it. Heck I had earned it…. Sure enough a few weeks later, I received my tiara. (Now every “Princess of the Month” gets one.) In fact since we started this tradition in Seattle I heard that in San Francisco, when they employee are chosen to go aboard for lunch they wear them onboard. Naturally I wore it during work and got even more laughs from our guests (most of them anyway.) People would ask if it was my birthday and I would tell them no, but that it was part of our low cost marketing plan. Also I would be asked why and I would simply point to the ships name or tell them that if they had to ask, they really wouldn’t understand and so on. The guests loved it, and the little ones got a real hoot as well. “Mommy, he’s a boy – why is he wearing a tiara?” During check-in people would ask to take my picture. Now my wife doesn’t even have a picture of me and I HATE having my picture taken, but how can ya turn down these requests. My end of the hall would fill with laughter.
But the best was yet to come. The company gave us a mid-season picnic at the terminal. That alone was pretty out there but it was a good time and they gave us little gifts. Among them were water pistols shaped like fishes. Hmmm – this had real possibilities. The following weekend I was at my post wearing my tiara and fish in hand. Squirting people became a way of life – especially the kids. Also as I explained it was a great form of crowd control or making people dance. The startled look on the folks was hilarious and as soon as the shock of he really squirted me wore off they joined the laughter. And I made sure that my co-workers joined in the fun. It was not all that uncommon during the check-in process for me and another co-worker, to run from behind the counter and have a “Shootout.” But to me even more important than the laughter or the cruise benefits are the friends I have made. These people have become a large part of my life and I truly consider them family.
I am completing my third season in a job that I never figured I would stick to, and having the time of my life. Even when I moved “’cross the pond” and have to wake up at 3:00 AM to catch the ferry, I can’t picture not being here. As I look forward to the end of the season and sleeping in – I know in a few weeks I will be chomping at the bit waiting till next year. After all Princess is not a job- it’s an attitude.