I had initially planned a large scale trip across Canada in order to celebrate the completion of my formal education. Somehow, when planning this trip I came across an ad that gave me the idea of pursuing seasonal work. Working and living in Alaska would give me the opportunity to thoroughly experience interior Alaska while not draining my bank account in the process. Having nothing to lose, I submitted my application online for various positions at three random properties across Alaska. Less than a week later, I was surprised to receive a phone call from Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge asking for a phone interview. The interview ran for about an hour and over the course of it I was completely sold on working with Princess Tours in Alaska for the summer. Two weeks later I was e-mailed a contract and started making my flight reservations.
Flying from Pensacola, Florida to Anchorage, Alaska was a grueling 20 hour ordeal for me. Regardless of my lack of sleep, when I arrived at Ted Stevens International Airport at 4 in the morning I was wide awake and ready to meet my new co-workers and [with 12 hours to wait until the motor coaches arrived to take us to MPL] explore Anchorage.
The first city bus to depart the airport was scheduled at around 6 and the wait was spent mostly at the airport café mingling with some co-workers from Serbia. To be honest, I had not really expected to be working with such an internationally diverse population, however during my time with Princess I would make friends with co-workers from Bulgaria, Russia, Moldova, and a variety of other countries. One of the Serbian girls had worked for the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge the previous season and so I quizzed her to know better what to expect.
When I returned from a few hours in Anchorage, I found the airport crowded with youthful looking people. I began meeting and greeting everyone that I could. Most of the people that I met were on summer break from their universities. Within 15 minutes I had met people from every corner of the United States. I mingled for a while; even meeting a few of my fellow front desk agents before the jet lag overtook me.
The Princess Tours people arrived at around 3 and everyone clustered around as we were given our room keys and luggage tags for our respective housing areas; the Park and the Bench. At this point I was still rather unclear as to where we would be living in relation the lodge. After loading our luggage on the luggage truck we were allowed to board the motor coach and I dozed off for 30 minutes.
We made our first stop at the Wal-Mart in Wasilla. It was very helpful and I wish that this opportunity would have been known before leaving Florida as I could have packed less. At this point I had given up on trying to sleep and decided instead to look out the window to see the scenery along the Parks Highway.
At about mile marker 132, the coach driver pointed out the lodge as it came into view from the right hand side of the coach. We first stopped at the ‘Park’ to drop off those who were assigned to be living there. Many of the rooms were Travco trailers lined up along a softball field and separated from the coach parking areas by twin two-story buildings.
The coach then took the remainder of the new employees down to the other housing area and dropped us off. We were greeted by a number of managers who were waiting to point us in the direction of our new rooms. I found my room to be quite comparable to a college suite-style dorm. There were two beds, two ½ sized dressers, and a sink with mirror in the room. There was a heater under the window but there was no need for an air conditioner. Opposite of the entrance, there was a short hall that led to the bathroom and one of the other rooms.
Shortly after making my bed, I wandered toward the main lodge building in hopes of finding the Employee Dining Room. Though I was not sure where I was going, people followed me down the road assuming that I knew. The employee housing area was no more than 10 minutes walking distance from the main lodge where the EDR was located. When we arrived, we found a hot buffet-style meal waiting for us. Sometimes the food has been wonderful, sometimes it has not been my cup of tea, but there is always something to eat and drink at the EDR. The kitchen staff does the best that they can to cater to everyone. Little did I know it then, but the EDR was to become the place where I would pass much time while at MPL.
Since then, working as a front desk agent has been a rewarding experience to say the least. The volume of guests and the shear size of the property have presented a number of guest service challenges and learning experiences. This has a solid experience for my resume and I will feel that working in the capacity of front desk agent at MPL is definitely preparing me for my future career. For many of us, the first week felt a bit chaotic, but since then my fellow employees and I have really come together. From being complete strangers with varied experiences, we have grown to become a team that is able to take on the challenges of the day. It has been inspiring to see what we have become in such a short time.
Working for Princess here has been an amazing opportunity. I have taken thousands of dollars worth of tours, ridden on the Alaska Railroad, and have been to a plethora of attractions across the state at no charge. I have experienced more on my days off than many do in a lifetime. Seasonal work with Princess has definitely been the best way to see Alaska.