I recently posted an entry on some of some memorable work-related events from over the years. The topic today is memorable travel experiences I have had during my years at Royal Caribbean, and a few from before I joined the company. I would like to hear from you about your own favorite travel experiences.
1990 & 2002 – Alaska cruise and excursions most notably the Taku River flightseeing and salmon bake, the helicopter tour that landed on the glacier and the boat trip to see the orcas. This is a major bucket list experience and so far we have cruised twice in Alaska. Even if the local bear that ran to the grill and licked the remnants of the salmon was staged, it was entertaining. The views of the blue ice in the glaciers make for top notch sightseeing. But the best memory of all is the kayak trip near Ketchikan with my then-7 year old son in a rainstorm so powerful the water penetrated all seven layers of our clothing starting with the orange rain gear which only succeeded in turning our bodies orange.
1995 Singapore & Hong Kong – As Sun Viking began her Asia service we needed to celebrate the occasion properly. So in each of the two hubs of our program, the Captain (I believe it was Capt. Ericsson in one city and Capt. Bang in the other) and I had the honor to participate in a Lion Dance. This is a very colorful Asian tradition that requires a decibel level greater than that of a space shuttle launch. I have a suspicion that I am not a natural Lion Dance executive but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
Late 1990’s – I cannot think of too many occasions where I’ve pulled rank but there was definitely one exception to the rule. My family and I spent a very enjoyable day at Xcaret park near Playa Del Carmen with a group of Royal Caribbean colleagues and their families. We left the park late to return to the ship and missed the ferry by one minute. Then the weather deteriorated and the next ferry was alarmingly late thus jeopardizing our ability to make it back to the ship before departure. So I called Miami and requested headquarters to advise the ship of our predicament and ask it to wait for us. As we walked to the gangway we were fittingly razzed by the guests looking down on us from the lower balconies.
2002 New Zealand – I was on Legend of the Seas for an Anchored in Excellence visit to the ship. In Tauranga, I got in a car the moment the Legend docked, raced to the local airport, took a small plane to a landing strip along Lake Taupo, went fishing for two hours and returned just in time (through a powerful rainstorm) for Legend’s scheduled departure for Auckland. About 8 years before, in the same area of the North Island, I visited the hot springs in Rotorua where the water is lovely and the sulphur smell in the air is less so.
2003 Hawaii – Again on an Anchored in Excellence visit several of us took a helicopter ride along the Na Pali coast on the island of Kauai and hovered in a several thousand foot high canyon in the middle of a rain forest. I have enjoyed some spectacular helicopter rides over the years. This was the most amazing.
2006 Galapagos – Our cruise on Celebrity Xpedition was our greatest family sightseeing vacation. Each island was a new variation on the theme of remarkable flora, fauna and geography. The guides were fantastic for our children and the twice a day snorkeling was a recurring highlight. I won’t try to describe it all here. Suffice it to say this is one incredible trip.
2006 Prague – My wife and I attended a conference over a long weekend. On the Saturday night, the private owners of a wing of Prague Castle hosted a party for the conference attendees. The family had worked for three years to be ready for that night and it was the first time they had been able to entertain in their “castle” since Hitler arrived in Prague in 1939. Back in the day, the family was one of the benefactors of Beethoven and several of his symphonies were performed for the first time in the Great Hall. The Prague Youth Choir sang at the party. Wow.
2010 St. Maarten – The first Royal 5k. Ok, this is more my parochial interest. It was great to experience a legitimate road race starting with a horn blast from Oasis of the Seas. Besides the race, we had Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter and the “Ambassador of Running” Bart Yasso on the cruise to interact with the runners. It was filmed by ESPN International. We are working on repeating and expanding the Royal 5k series.
Some earlier vacation “out-takes”:
1971 Port Antonio, Jamaica – My family took a raft trip on a bamboo raft. The trip started out in beautiful weather but eventually we encountered by far the greatest rainstorm I have ever personally experienced. My 5 year old little brother was developing hypothermia and there was nothing we could do but sit there and get pounded until the raftsman got us to the end of the river. This is the third mention of powerful rain in this blog entry. Apparently rain and travel memories go together.
1980 Connecticut – A bunch of Princeton seniors rented an RV to drive to New Haven for the Princeton- Yale football game. We were so football obsessed that while driving through one random town we noticed there was a little league football game going on. So we stopped the RV and watched the game. I’m pretty sure Princeton could have beaten either team but they didn’t do much against Yale for the 15th (and last!) year of the streak.
1984 Iquitos, Peru – My law school roommate and I traveled around South America after graduation. On a hike through the Amazon near Iquitos, a saba ant (ormiga muy grande would be another way to describe it) bit my left ring finger. My finger got close to three times its normal size. If I had been married then I think I would have lost my finger. It didn’t help that the well-meaning guides fashioned a home remedy of applying fried guava which only succeeded in burning my finger on top of the ant bite. The bite mark is still evident 27 years later.
1986 Oulu, Finland – My best friend and I were driving around the Nordic region and stopped to play miniature golf. The course was merely awful until the 18th hole at which point it became impossible. We took dozens or even 100’s of shots at the hole with no success. Somehow the slant of the hole was warped in a way we could not handle. Eventually the female course manager ran out to us yelling (in Finnish, which had limited effect) and gesticulating. At first we assumed she was mad because we were taking our tee shots over and over. But finally we decided she was mad because we were not properly placing the ball for each tee shot!!!