Appreciation documented in a series of letters when one will simply not do, is a great project. Sometimes you want to send a gratitude letter to someone for a concept that has not only added immeasurably to your life but changed the world. Yes, a sea-change in more ways than one.
Part one of this particular multi-phase love letter from a recent Princess cruise passenger is to Stanley MacDonald who, in a flash of brilliance, gave rise to the cruise industry in 1962 when he saw there were not enough hotel rooms to accommodate the number of people who wanted to attend that year’s World Fair in Seattle. He created joy, he created jobs, he created backdrop for celebration, and a setting in which endless creativity could blossom and thrive. Then Love Boats, the book that led to the movie The Love Boat that led to the long-running television series The Love Boat that led to the entire world wanting to be on one. Yes, endless jobs in more than one industry. This gratitude actually is the love letter to Stanley. He, sadly enough, passed away recently at the age of 94, but as there is no statute of limitations on expressing gratitude, any of his surviving family might like to see this letter on their mail pile some day.
Part two of this letter goes to Fincanatieri the Italian ship-building geniuses whose palatial floating hotels buoyantly grace the seas, stay balanced and withstand storms all within the confines of intelligent safety and festive indulgence.
The third letter in this series is to the Golden Princess itself and the enormously gifted crew, from start to end, from boarding to disembarking, from stem to stern, from starboard to port, from forward to aft.
For those of you familiar with the misery of boarding maybe two-hundred fifty people onto an airplane given the sluggish security lines, long waits in cramped spaces without enough chairs, uncaring faces snapping out the next instruction and treating you like not much more than a piece of meat with eyes as you present passports and boarding passes. And, then comes the apparently inescapable gridlock of those two-hundred fifty passengers entering the plane through one small door.
What about getting two-thousand six hundred passengers on board a ship through one small door? Here is how the Golden Princess did it. Beautifully. Without a hitch and without a frown, because they make a point of hiring people who care about people. Getting a job with Princess, according to one of the crew, is not easy. You have to have a good deal of education and experience in hospitality as well as a personality that does not crumble or turn sour under pressure. Yes, two-thousand six hundred people in a line yet each one personally welcomed by the land-crew with a genuine smile and a sweet hand-motion indicating where your next step should be. That next step is to a well-organized couple of tables with papers to fill out, information on your health, and how nice that they care and want to be prepared for potential difficulties. Then comes a special and graciously-run area if you are traveling with liquor. If not, then proceed to the visually endless and what could be an intimidating looking counter until you realize it is manned by a large team whose job and pleasure it apparently is to wave cheerfully at you when it is your turn to approach the counter. And, then your lovely attendant gives you everything you need to board and wishes you a bon voyage. Thank you Golden Princess for making me, just one out of two thousand six hundred people, feel like the most important thing on your agenda.
The staterooms are fabulous, bathrooms ditto. Showers are hot and strong as you like, and they drain swiftly so you are never standing in your own muck, Toilets flush, clean towels appear as if by magic as often as you like, and remember they have to be laundered somewhere on that ship by someone. Oh, the same people who launder your clothing and get it back to you the next day.
After a very short settling in period, passengers are commanded to congregate at various muster stations, from which escape into life-boats will take place in case of an emergency, because the reality is that this ship is about to take to the seas over which no one has control. The crew, while not in charge of storms, is definitely in charge of the essential non-negotiable procedure of saving lives. It is a grim reminder of nature’s potential for rage, and as soon as the training is over, the crew manages to slip back into party mode so thoroughly that danger never crosses your mind. There is a world awaiting your pleasure on board this ship.
There is a library with good books and board games, an Internet center, because being out of touch for 10 days is, for most of us, hardly bearable. Swim in one of five swimming pools and soak on one of six hot-tubs all beautifully designed and maintained. Relax in spas, dine in elegant restaurants with imaginative and varying menus, casual cafés with pizzas, hamburgers, hot-dogs, French fries, sushi, any fancy coffee or tea you could want and pastries so gorgeous that could substitute as jewelry, and an all day buffet with endless things not on any other menu. Go to an enormous theater for movies, live shows and presentations. The casino hums with light, hopes, victories and losses. There is a medical center should you have a crisis. The kitchen is blocks long, lined with cabinets to store 115 tons of food loaded on to that ship for a ten day cruise and the counter-space and appliances to turn ingredients into the voluptuous artwork that will be meal after meal. A front desk staffed by energetic gorgeous young men and women from all over the world tends to your every request, need and whim day and night. Boutiques aplenty for everything from Dramamine, Bonine, aspirin, fancy cosmetics, gorgeous jewelry and clothing. A sanctuary, a track for running or walking, and a basketball court should you feel the need to work off a few calories, spectacular entertainment with the Broadway-worthy Princess dancers, choreographers and singers, a full daily program of activities for passengers aged three or one-hundred and three. There are bands, orchestras, dance floors, singers, magicians, bars and lounges, and a rather extensive art-gallery. In other words, a beautifully run good-sized city.
What goes on in the bridge, of course, is spectacular and a little mysterious because getting a several thousand-ton vehicle from point A to point B is no easy matter what with sand bars, small inlets, navigating floating ice blocks, and unexpectedly changing weather while the ground beneath is a constantly moving thoroughfare. A special thanks to the engineers who take on the complicated and hazardous task of spending a half a day to fill the tank with something like 130 metric tons of fuel needed to burn about 30 – 50 gallons per mile, the first class chefs, the doctor, the chefs and the waitresses and waiters who make meal-time beyond elegant.
Thank you, Theresa Venegas and Don Espinosa for knowing, somehow, after the first night at the Canaletto dining room, what kinds of food and drink we all liked best, for your nightly welcome, attention to everything, your good cheer, your down-to-earth manner, your sweetness and for feeling like family. Landing at your table at the end of each day’s adventure was like coming home. Michael Bruno, thank you, dear, for not only being the best host ever, but for, as it turns out, being a fabulous chef and elegant at every turn. Never a moment in your presence that we did not feel safe and as if you had been part of our lives forever. Your remarkable ability to keep your eye on everyone at the same time and making everyone feel like the only one, well, that is a real magic act. When there is no land in sight for days at a time, you guys are the islands on which we are ever secure and happy. Thank you, Golden Princess, for, well, absolutely everything.
Yes, the genius of Stan MacDonald lives on in the hands of each next generation of organizational and creative geniuses who make the ship a destination instead of simply transportation and who make the high seas home.
If you think you need to wait for a special occasion or a holiday to write a love letter, remember every day is a special occasion in some way or other. And, truth be told, writing a love letter that holds your appreciation is a special occasion all its own as you bathe in good memories.