Sea ViewsFrom President and COO, Adam Goldstein

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The Last Frontier: A Day in the Life of an Alaskan Tour Director

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, “ I can’t wait to tell my friends about the grand time I had in Alaska!” You never know what to expect, and that’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to work the busy summer season in Alaska!

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 motor coach 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 train ride south to Denali National Park, a lunch break and a bus tour into the park. Although I will have contact with the guests during the day, this is the last time I will address them as a group, and I want to ensure they feel informed and prepared.

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.


30 responses to:
“The Last Frontier: A Day in the Life of an Alaskan Tour Director”

  1. Jeff Goldberg

    Last summer we went on the pre-cruise land package and it was spectacular. Absolutely exceeded all expectations. My only dissappointment was the amount of time we could spend in each place. We will be coming back. Highlights of the land tour and cruise can be seen in pictures here,

    • Adam

      Thanks for sharing your photos, Jeff. We appreciate your feedback and we’re glad you had a great time.

    • Stan

      Your pics have got me champing at the bit for our Alaska cruise/tour next month (May). Thanks!

  2. Betty Postier

    I have been on an Alaska Inside Passage cruise, and I loved it I am so proud that is part of the USA. It’s a wonderous place. I asked for Hawaii because I’ve never been there.

    • Adam

      We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Betty.

  3. Patricia Tunney

    We are hoping to do the Alaskan Cruise tour next year. I loved this blog, it made me confidant that we will have a good tour. So many people tell me other cruise lines have a better cruise tour, but I don’t think any of them have a dedicated tour guide. We have always trusted Royal Caribbean and will do Alaska with them too.

    • Adam

      You won’t be disappointed, Patricia. We’ll see you next year.

  4. Jo Holt

    I am so looking forward to our cruise/tour in August, 2012. This will be the first cruise for my husband and myself and we are already checking other cruises that Royal Caribbean has to offer. See you in Alaska

    • Adam

      We’re happy we could be apart of your first cruise, Jo. We can’t wait to have the two of you onboard. See you soon!

  5. Tim

    I loved this. I am very interested in doing an Alaskan Cruisetour one day so this was very insightful as to how at least part of it goes. So thank you very much.

    • Adam

      You’re welcome, Tim. Please visit this page for more information on Alaska cruisetours.

  6. curtis wade

    i would love to see alaska and explore the beauty and wildreness love it

    • Adam

      We hope we can be apart of that someday, Curtis.

  7. Jewel Ashmore

    have been south to Mexico would love to go north on a cruise

    • Adam

      We’re sure you’d have a great time, Jewel. What about Alaska interests you the most?

  8. Ilona Martin

    OMG- Jack– I can’t say enough about Jack as a tour guide and person. We did the Radiance/land tour in May/June 2006. Just saw Jack’s photo . What an amazing trip. Just may do it again. Thanks so much Jack and for the wonderful memories and your great personality!

    • Adam

      We’re happy to hear you had a great time, Ilona. We hope you can make it back soon.

  9. Carolyn

    In late July 2010, my family boarded the Radiance for our first cruise together. Our group included the two grandkids, age 2 and 5. We had so many adventures in Alaska! It could not have been better. The countryside and scenery is incredibly beautiful and the wildlife awesome. We made wonderful memories.

    After ending the cruise, my husband and I continued on a 4 day cruise tour ending in Fairbanks. Jack Burton was the very best tour leader we have encountered in all our travels. He was extremely knowlegable and effective as our tour leader. it was exciting to read Jack’s blog and to see he is still spending his summer in Alaska. I hope someday we wil cruise the inside passage again. Don’t miss it!!

    • Adam

      It sounds like you made some amazing memories, Carolyn. Thanks for sharing with us.

  10. Heather Remington

    We LOVE cruising on Royal Caribbean, but I don’t like the COLD! I would like to go on an Alaskan cruise. When is the best month?

  11. Larry Loomis

    Our group did this land tour, Fairbanks to Seward, in July, 2009. Claudia Werner was our tour guide and Jason was our bus driver. The trip, Claudia, and Jason were fabulous. We became close friends with Claudia during the trip and have remained in contact since the trip.

    We enjoyed our trip with Royal Caribbean so much that we booked a Mediterraen Ocean cruise in September, 2011. Can’t wait for our next trip with Royal Caribbean!!

    Larry Loomis

    • Adam

      It’s great to hear your tour guides were so fabulous, Larry. We’ll see you and your group the next time you’re onboard.

  12. Rita

    We will be seeing you in June of 2012. Very excited about our Alaskan cruise. We have been to Alaska and love it. Think the RC cruise will be a very nice trip. Love the idea of not having to rent a car and do all the driving this time. The train will be a great way to adventure. RC trips are always a fun time. They treat you like royalty. Every girl needs some special treatment now and then LOL.

    • Adam

      We look forward to having you onboard in June, Rita.

  13. Ken Joyner

    Probably the best vacation we have taken!

  14. Brenda Norris

    My husband and I are going on an Alaskan cruisetour this coming May with two other couples. We can’t wait!

    • Adam

      Sounds exciting, Brenda! We’ll see you soon.

  15. Miriam Cartmell

    Sailed northbound from Vancouver to Seward in June 2010 on Radiance of the Seas. Family of 18 total…awesome! we did different things in ports along the way but our favorite was Whale Watching in Icy Straight Point (some of the guys did the zipline) and Hubbard Glacier. Not all the family stayed together after the tour but 5 of us did the 14 day cruisetour.
    The train was so fabulous with great views you wouldn’t see from the road and the food was such a big great surprise..yum. At one point we were stopped on a track siding and watched another triain go by…soooo…checked out the other lines railcars…RC was definately better design and finishings than Holland and Princess. we did the Husky Homestead in Denali, and the Tundra Tour. Ended up in Fairbanks which was warmer than any other location on the trip.
    Darren our tour guide was so wonderful to us, helping us right from the beginning in Seward when we realized we left my husband’s coat in the cabin. He called the ship, they found it and delivered right to our tour group!! Darrne was also so very tolerant that I kept one of the numbered bags each morning to stash our last minute items…we probably drove him nuts but he was so gracious.
    Just fabulous!!!

    • Adam

      Hi Miriam, we’re glad you and your family had a great time. We hope to see you soon.

  16. James Benge

    I have a transatlantic sailing paid in full for April 2012, I booked the sailing May 2010. Checking the website found that the prices had been lowered. So I contacted the your company and requested an on-board credit for the difference, I was told by a supervisor that this was not allowed. He offered to upgrade the category, but no credit for the $$ difference. The difference is $152.25. Please explain why you would sale the same stateroom to someone else for a discounted price but you would not return the difference to a Diamond Member. How is this fair and what impression are you giving your loyal customer? I hope you will respond to me or have one of your assistants take care of this. Thanks, James Benge

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