I am Jack Burton, a Tour Director with Royal Celebrity Tours, the land-based-vacation arm of Royal Caribbean International. We operate the pre- and post-cruise Alaska land tours for Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas from Fairbanks in the Interior of Alaska to the port of Seward. We are the only company that provides a Tour Director on each and every one of our Alaska Cruisetours.
Being a Tour Director has its own daily inspirations and challenges. Our guests keep us on our toes and each week is a new opportunity to experience the effects Alaska has on a person. The majesty of this destination has a tendency to turn pessimists who came to Alaska proclaiming “What good is all this wilderness? Sure it’s incredibly lovely, but there’s not even a Neiman Marcus to be had in the state,” into optimists, embracing me in front of everyone boisterously declaring, “
We’re on the move today, leaving Fairbanks and heading south. The day starts at 6 am with a bag pull. This means the luggage is collected from the guest’s hotel rooms and brought down to me and our driver at the motor coach to be counted and loaded into the bays. During the entire cruisetour we handle all of the baggage movement. Nothing like a workout to start the day!
At 7:30 am our 45 guests board the motorcoach to depart for the rail depot. While en route I use a microphone to greet the guests and banter a little before reminding them of our itinerary today which begins with a
The Consist Manager at the railroad depot confirms my group number and allows us to board our railcar, the Wilderness Express® glass domed railcar. All seating is upstairs with dining and restrooms below. Our rail division is in charge during the train ride, and my role is supportive. When traveling to Denali by motor coach, it is part of my job to provide commentary, but on the train we have an excellent host guide who informs us about the area highlights and history. Breakfast service begins once we leave Fairbanks at 8:15 am. While my group is downstairs, I take the time to get myself organized. This is an active group, and they’ve signed up for a lot of optional land excursions the following morning. Once the group returns from the breakfast seating I walk through the railcar to touch base with each guest individually, taking time to visit with them, answer any specific questions regarding the day and to advise them on the land excursions booked for tomorrow morning. We have three more days together before embarkation and I enjoy getting to know my guests and personalizing the land tour.
When we arrive in Denali, it is 12:35 pm and I’m met at the depot by our Guest Service Representative with our Tundra Wilderness Tour (TWT) tickets. As the guests disembark I point them in the direction of the Denali National Park Visitor Center Campus which is a short walk from the depot and our lunch spot. I make sure to let them know when to meet me for their tickets. After everyone is off I use the lunch break to call the last hotel back in Fairbanks to check on a guest’s lost phone charger. Then I call our Land Excursion office in Anchorage to shift a couple scheduled on the Wilderness Float Trip tomorrow to the Whitewater Canyon Rafting activity.
Just after 1 pm I arrive at the Visitor Center bus stop to wait for guests with our driver who’s driven down from Fairbanks with the luggage. It was a quick break but everyone managed to get a bite to eat or something to go. I hand out tour tickets as they arrive and the TWT bus pulls up for boarding. As they embark on their park adventure, our driver and I wave good-bye to the group. I’m a cheesy tour director so as the bus pulls away I do the “Moose Wave”, holding my hands up to my head like moose antlers and folding my fingers down to wave. They love it!
With the group off I now have a little break time for lunch, but there’s more work ahead. Around 2 pm I ride with the driver to the hotel to unload luggage and to check the hotel room assignments for this evening with our Guest Service Representative (GSR). The GSR is a local employee of Royal Celebrity Tours and we have them in each destination to provide additional assistance to the tour directors and guests. I notice there are two couples traveling together whose rooms are on different floors so the GSR corrects this by swapping the rooms within our group, and we advise the front desk of the change. I also check the manifest for my guest with difficulty walking to ensure her room is appropriately on the first floor. The room blocking looks good.
While the luggage is being delivered I have time to email the Land Excursion office new requests for the next couple days that I received on the train. I also create a note with reminders for tomorrow’s itinerary and include details for land excursion meet times.
By now it’s nearly 5 pm and the bell staff should be done delivering the luggage. I check each guest room to ensure that the correct number of bags have been delivered properly. I also have a laptop and a CPAP machine which I’d kept separate from the larger bags to prevent possible damage in transit. I hand deliver these carry-ons. While in the room, I quickly spot check that everything is in order. When my guests return to the hotel this evening my wish is to provide a seamless transition.
I’m done checking rooms by 6:30 pm and it’s getting close to the return of the TWT. I gather the room keys and reminder notes, and wait. Sometimes the bus shows up early and other times it runs late. Either way the tour director is there for its arrival. The TWT bus pulls up at 8:50 pm, and most guests are smiling, having had a great day in the park and also happy to be at the hotel. Thankfully there was favorable weather and several wildlife sightings: grizzly bears with cubs, Dall sheep, caribou on the tundra and even a bull moose! Having 45 people approach you at once can be daunting. I like the bottleneck as the group comes off the bus and funnels through me for room keys as I juggle their miscellaneous questions with remembering their last names.
All in all it was a quiet transition from the bus to the rooms. After a long day most guests are content with a comfortable hotel room after a long day. Only a few venture into the lobby to explore the property or to head to the restaurant and bar. I sit at the Royal Celebrity tour desk and have the chance to get more details from guests on their amazing day witnessing the wild wonders of Denali. With all the logistical work behind me this is how my day unwinds, pleasantly listening to the guests’ stories and perspectives. Tomorrow we’re on the road again for another day exploring the Last Frontier.