As I start this, I’ve been home for 24 hours since returning from my first ever cruise, a father-daughter endeavor with a friend and his daughter too.
And I’m reflecting.
I can’t shed the feeling that citizens of the world — and its leaders — could learn a lot from a cruise ship. I’m not saying the Royal Caribbean Empress of the Sea is utopia, but there sure were people from across the globe uniting for a common goal of togetherness and fun.
The crew of 700 or so, based on the parade of nations on deck 5, represented (I think it was) 60 countries and included our smiliest wait staff, Diana from Jamaica and Avishek from near Madagascar.
There were performers from Philippines and a continuous line of multicultural buffet area workers guarding hand washing stations telling everyone through huge smiles to “washy washy” before entering to dine.
Even when a guest would grunt at the reminder, they were met with a smile.
Everyone seemed driven to make guests and each other happy — and it seemed genuine and not because of fear of losing a job. Maybe it was fear, but I’m choosing to believe otherwise.
And the guests — made up of far more Americans, but many with accents also representing several parts of the globe — gave off a similar vibe.
Doors were held for each other, arms were extended when a rocky boat threatened to topple another, and the claps were just as loud for those who couldn’t sing at karaoke as those who could (although everyone got sick of Roger.)
And the kids, ours included, were bonding over curiosity, guitars, broken English and Spanish and Google Translate.
I went wireless on the trip, which at times made it tough for me and my buddy, Bob Bishop, to find our kids. When we did find them one night, they were on a side deck with other boys and girls from Chile and the United States, playing guitar and ukulele and singing.
I heard one Chilean boy trying to impress the ladies with Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” I got a good feeling from seeing them bonding.
Through research I learned that these cruise ship companies recruit workers from ports all over the world. These are GOOD jobs for them, so I’m sure they’re all smiling and working hard to keep them.
But I was also struck by how few Americans were working, and I was trying to imagine young Americans as state room attendants and waiters and bartenders and those working to squeegee water and spilled drinks off the deck or saying “washy washy” a trillion times a day — and smiling.
I was wondering if they could keep the consistent smile through these tasks — and maybe their absence from the ship answered my internal question for me.
I was talking to an area hospitality business owner who has gone on cruises, and he said no matter what he tries, his workers don’t rise to the level of the cruise staffs — even though they’re really good.
Our kids posed for pictures with Diana and Avishek, they chased around Eric — one of the activities coordinators — and eagerly greeted Kenneth — the stateroom attendant who twisted towels into cute little animals on their beds each day.
Maybe I’m reading too much into my five-day getaway on the Empress of the Seas. Maybe I should have shut my brain off and enjoyed a few more cocktails. But I can’t help thinking I was supposed to learn something about humanity and togetherness and an ability to get along and work for a common good where religion, race, political parties and geography didn’t matter much.
And as I’m writing this, I’m enjoying the memory of those huge, toothy smiles and that feeling of being one with people from all over the world.
It’s a good feeling.