Sunday, August 16, 2015

Hot In Alaska, Pt 7: Service With A Smile

"We spray paint them on," joked one service provider when I asked how they keep smiling when as soon as one group of nearly 2000 passengers disembark a new batch is getting on board, expecting fresh faces and excellent service.

There are 800 crew members on Noordam's Holland America. The officers are generally Dutch. Service providers are largely Indonesian. Others are from across the globe. They work long hours for months at a time going back and forth along the same routes. Their windowless quarters are below sea level at the bottom of the ship. There are times, no doubt, when they do not want to smile but most do. Some even make a point of remembering your name.

Towards the end of our 7-day excursion to Alaska, staff were literally centre stage at the Vista Lounge where we saw performances nightly. They deserved the heartfelt burst of applause when they finally appeared in front of the waiting audience. The service staff, in fact, were the only ones I saw on stage getting a standing ovation, although the entertainers on board were superb.

Musicians, dancers and singers did their utmost to please. We enjoyed everything from classical music to the man at the Piano Bar, Michael Sara, who for hours on end fulfilled every request and could mimic such greats as Elvis. Unfortunately, I could not find an online presence for these talented artists.

A cruise ship is a floating hotel with a never-ending buffet. Each meal can be as large or small and as decadent or nutritious as the appetite desires. In addition to not cleaning or making a bed for seven days, not needing to cook a meal or brew a single cup of coffee was a treat for me. Come to think of it the service providers do everything I do regularly at home but they do it for 2000 people.

A variety of fresh orchids graced most tables and our biggest stress was trying to find a coveted window seat at the usually crowded Lido Restaurant.

From the restaurant windows throughout the trip there were often visual feasts. We saw whales spray from their blowholes and a school of leaping dolphins (perhaps escaping the whales) near the ship. It was an exciting surprise whenever wildlife appeared and I was too busy looking to take pictures.

Lido Restaurant I assume is named for Lido Island in Venice which we actually visited a few years ago during our European trip. The print below of romantic Venice hung on a wall of the ship near our room.

Ironically, I said the one place I would like to revisit is Lido in Venice. I never dreamed we would end up in a restaurant with the same name while cruising in Alaska ... but somehow it seemed perfectly fitting to celebrate an anniversary after decades of marriage in this special way.

(Incidentally, on a side note, I was thoroughly impressed with the creativity of the Greek government that recently repurposed a cruise ship by sending it to the Island of Kos to become a temporary shelter and registration centre for thousands of migrants fleeing war torn Syria.)

Our cruise was just for fun and it was, indeed, a good experience overall. Seven days on board a ship felt about right. Passengers were from across the globe and a nice mix of ages. Several people had some form of physical/health issue so my husband was not alone in that regard. I should not have been too surprised that the weather and geography in southeast Alaska was somewhat similar to the Gulf Islands near our home in southwest British Columbia.

Just as some folks further south think Canadians live in igloos, I mistakenly assumed most of Alaska was cold year round. Perhaps that is true in the northern mountainous regions but Juneau and the other places we visited were hot spots that proved to be no escape from the heat wave this summer.

Links to each of my Hot In Alaska cruise posts are as follows:
Pt 1: Setting Off From Vancouver
Pt 2: Settling Into The Noordam, Melting In Juneau
Pt 3: Skagway & The Historic Route To The Yukon
Pt 4: Margerie Glacier Interlude
Pt 5: Picturesque Ketchikan
Pt 6: Sunrise To Remember
Pt 7: Service With A Smile

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle to view BC scenes.

To see more sights from around the globe visit OUR WORLD at the sidebar.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms


  1. I knew of someone that worked on Cruise ships. She loved it! Did not have to have a place to live, so no rent to pay. It is not for everyone though. Looks like you had a grand time on your cruise.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful trip...I've been on the Holland America cruises...the service is amazing.


  3. Happy Anniversary! And what a glorious trip.

  4. Oh, such fun!! I do love cruises and this looks like a terrific one!! Thanks so much for sharing the beauty and the fun!!

  5. I have never been on a cruise ship so I have found your experiences very interesting. How wonderful that you had such a grand time!

  6. Great photos and I'm glad you had an enjoyable trip. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Heavenly voyage and wonderful photography! for OWT

    Happy week to you,
    artmusedog and carol

  8. Glad you had a great time and thank you for recognizing the service personnel on the ship.
    Love your photos of the harbors and the sea!
    Have a Happy Week!
    Peace :)

  9. I’m happy for you, Maria, you had such a nice cruise for your Anniversary. The cruise ship as a moving town or hotel seem to be no problem for people with a slight health problem different from cruise for immigration during the hard time. I like the photos of the window-seat and the views from the window.


  10. I once came across a series of videos made by musicians on various cruise ships. The one titled "Cruise ship musician cabin tour" left a particularly strong impression, but there was another one made by a girl that I remember as well. She said that they were so sleep-deprived, mealtimes were often skipped in favour of sleep. When I read your first post, I must admit I wondered what your impression would be of the musicians :) It is great to read that you were treated to stellar entertainment, had wildlife viewings and got to live like honoured guests for seven days. Happy Anniversary, Maria! I'm hoping the success of this adventure will lead you to many more.

  11. Hi Carol, Thanks for your good wishes. You might be interested to know that the classical music section was away from the hubbub of the ship and consisted of a duo that I believe said were from the Ukraine. The man played the violin and the woman was on the piano. They had a varied repertoire that they repeated. They played only periodically in segments of less than an hour throughout the seven days and did not seem at all sleep deprived. Their schedules coincided with meal times when people lined up at one of the restaurants just outside the small room where they performed. I cannot speak for any of the entertainers on board but most seemed buoyed by doing the work that they loved in front of an appreciative audience.

  12. I like very much that you pay tribute to the hard- working crew. We cruised on two different lines and different places, but had the same sorts of only good experiences with the staff. Another thing we did when my husbands health wasn't so good was to take a week at an all inclusive resort ... Much the same as a cruise with no work at all to do and good entertainment etc ...and not needing to go anywhere except to the beach. (We were in Puerto Vallarta.)


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