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Cruise Feature Article
Final Report From the Viking Serenade

. . .as a Cruise Staffer

by Steve Garrod

April 12, 1999

Hello Everyone!!

Well, I disembarked the Viking Serenade this morning at around 11:30 a.m. It was a bit of a hassle because I have so much luggage but things went smoothly after that and now I am just taking it easy in sunny Costa Mesa, CA. I have a flight back to Chicago at 7:30 a.m. That will be nice in that I'll be home in the early afternoon. Once off the ship, Yasmin and I shared a last few moments and tears as the Viking Serenade blasted her whistle for lifeboat mustering and then sailed from the harbour (sans passengers) to San Diego. *sigh* Another chapter in my life with its page turned ....

This past Friday I stood on the outer deck of the bridge wing to watch us sail from San Pedro. It was beautiful in that my family stood at the Ports of Call shopping/restaurant village as we set sail. I quickly spotted them (as small as they were) and we saluted each other as the Viking Serenade turned out of port. They enjoyed their cruise that week a lot and I enjoyed spending time with them on the ship. On the formal evening I joined them for dinner in the Magic Flute Dining Room and the biggest coincidence was that their table was the SAME table that John Iglehart and I had on our cruise over a year-and-a-half ago!!

This past weekend was a bit busy as assistant cruise director but - overall - it was fantastic!! I really enjoyed the experience of taking on all of the responsibility and recognition. Richard Cooper was great to work for as well, and I really gained a lot more respect for him being his sidekick.

I also enjoyed having stayed in the Assistant Cruise Director's cabin, even if it only was for a few nights. Having run all of the weekend's bingo sessions was great as well and we were very successful!! The hostess Linda Norris organized a cruise director's department get-together last night in Richard's cruise director cabin. That was a lot of fun and very touching, too. One very funny point was picture time. Richard and I posed for a picture as the star c.d./a.c.d. combination (heh heh) holding a cake that said "Congratulations Richard and Steve". Now ... can you imagine what that photo will look like to others if they have no introduction to it?

Right after that we went off to my final farewell show in the Hello Dolly Lounge. We performed the "In the Navy" routine and then comedian Greg Otto performed. Our sea sketch was a laugh in that when I came out on stage as the Tennis Player I took a pin and busted Yasmin's left water ballon breast. She screamed as water poured all over the stage. Everyone backstage was roaring and the crowd got a good laugh, too! Our farewell number was touching in that I took the microphone and brought Richard out for a final round of recognition and then he saluted me for having been a.c.d. and then heading to the Splendour of the Seas in Europe. The audience was very appreciative and gave everyone a standing ovation.

The weekend-as-Assistant Cruise Director experience was great but it is difficult to assess in that it was only one cruise. I have some experience now but it would have taken another week or so to really get settled in and get my bearings. I am generally a very organized person so that aspect helps me immensely with that position.

Well, with mixed emotions I will close off my final report here. My contract on the Viking Serenade definitely provided me with excellent experience and wonderful friends and memories! I am sure that I will see several of the same people on my next ship ... in fact, I already know of about 5 people who will be there. I am sure that I'll never be back to the Viking Serenade to work again, but it was a great way to set me up for bigger and better things in just over six weeks.

Steve J. Garrod

Line

Steve GarrodI have had a great passion for cruising and working aboard cruise ships since the age of twelve. In 1987, when I was in the fifth grade, I took my first cruise with my family on the Song of Norway. I immediately realized how exciting shipboard life was and already started thinking of a profession on board. The following year, we sailed during the inaugural season of the Sovereign of the Seas. After cruising on such a big and beautiful ship, my love for cruise ships was then hopeless - I was addicted! By May of 1998 I had taken thirteen cruises, mostly on Royal Caribbean, but also with Norwegian and Carnival Cruise Lines.

During high school I began to research the processes and contacts to get a job on a cruise ship. On each of my cruises throughout those years, I interviewed many cruise director and purser staff members. I desired a position in the purser's office, but I was willing to discover what the other jobs had to offer.

Throughout my years in high school and attending Northern Illinois University, I studied intensely three foreign languages - Spanish, French, and German, which led me to also research the possibility of working as an international host aboard ships.

By the fall of my senior year in college, I had a complete database of cruise lines, addresses, and contact names that I would need. On my last couple of cruises before graduation, I verified the names of hiring partners and their respective phone numbers, etc. I sent out my resumes with photos and cover letters to Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. I received some letters back with no availability, and a few phone calls indicating that I needed to wait until I was closer to graduation. This was very reassuring to me but I also wanted to hear something a bit more concrete. It was frustrating waiting through the final months of my schooling not knowing how quickly I would be able to get a shipboard job after graduation. I kept calling, sending, and following up with my contacts.

A few weeks before graduation, I discovered that a friend of mine, John Iglehart, had applied to Holland America Line. The more that I read about Holland America Line, the more that I developed an interest in the company and its ships. A few days before my graduation I sent a resume to a contact at Holland America and got an immediate response. I quickly faxed some references and I WAS HIRED just two days before I graduated on May 9th, 1998. I was absolutely ecstatic even though I had only a week to get ready to fly to Vancouver to board the Maasdam to sail the Inside Passage to Alaska for a four month contract.

I could hardly believe that I made it! I had a wonderful staff to work with and I enjoyed the challenges as well as the social life aboard the Maasdam. I found the ships of Holland America Line to be extremely well designed and very tasteful in decor and presentation. My friend John also worked for Holland America that very summer aboard the Ryndam. We were able to meet up when the Maasdam and Ryndam docked together in Juneau, Alaska. We shared and compared our experiences aboard the ships and also our enthusiasm for finally working at sea.

I thoroughly enjoyed Holland America Line, but became nostalgic when we docked with or passed by a Royal Caribbean ship. I had always aspired to work for Royal Caribbean and wondered if there was still something there that I would prefer. I continued for the next several months fine-tuning my shipboard skills on the Maasdam, but also kept my contacts with Royal Caribbean. I kept in touch via email with a top cruise director from Royal Caribbean. I made temporary plans to continue on another Holland America ship, but did not rule out the possibility of switching cruise lines. During one of my last cruises on the Maasdam, I met a passenger who had a direct link to a hiring partner with Royal Caribbean.

After I returned home to Chicago in September of 1998, I was undecided about signing another cruise ship contract, as my life was working out very well back home. I still sent all of my information to Royal Caribbean with the hope that I would get an offer at some point. In the meantime, I was working in retail sales and spending time with good friends back home.

In early October of 1998 I received a preliminary phone call for employment with Royal Caribbean. I was interviewed in both English and Spanish, and literally hours after that interview, I was offered the position of 'Shipshape Coordinator' on board the Viking Serenade. I had applied for the position of purser, and I was a bit skeptical of taking a cruise staff position, especially on an older ship of the fleet. After some encouragement from friends and family, I decided to take the opportunity with Royal Caribbean.

Early on the morning of October 14th, I was on a flight to Los Angeles. I spent a couple of days in San Pedro preparing myself for my new endeavour. I was a bit concerned that I was heading into a six-month contract versus the four-month contracts with Holland America Line, but I watched eagerly from my hotel room's balcony as the Viking Serenade slowly sailed into the Port of Los Angeles on the morning of October 16th. I then became more excited about the whole experience and shortly was on my way to the ship.

Ironically that morning, I quickly discovered that my ship was docked with Holland America Line's Statendam - a sister ship of the Maasdam. I met up with the cruise director whom I worked with all summer and he was beside himself discovering that I was actually boarding the "other" ship.

Moments later I boarded the Viking Serenade and my adventure with Royal Caribbean International began! I started my contract in October with a wonderful staff and one of the best cruise directors in the fleet - Ms. Laurie Rizzo. Rizz, as most guests know her, is very efficient and demanding and I think that that was the very best way for me to start. This contract was full of "firsts", including working aboard ship over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. My family and a good friend came to cruise with me over the New Year's and January 5th sailings. I also had the chance to meet many guests who had been following my web site and reading my updates from America Online or other sources.

The Viking Serenade's itinerary is not the most popular in the fleet to work but I must say that I have met some of the most influential and best co-workers ever. The times that I have shared with my friends on the Serenade will not be forgotten!

One year ago I could never have imagined my being here now! I feel that I have a lot of future opportunities in the cruise industry due to my knowledge of foreign languages and great experience on Holland America and Royal Caribbean. I always look forward to sharing my experiences and advice with those who are interested in the field or just interested in the ships that I have worked on.

Steve Garrod can be reached via email at: sgarrod@cwix.com. You can view his photos and complete "travelogues" on Steve's web site at: http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Shores/3190.


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