Saturday, April 20, 2013

Our Nation's Capital At Your Pace: Enjoy Washington DC's Top 5 Tours

    Washington DC is one of the most visited and most buzzing of American cities.  There is so much to see and do. When staying in the Washington area, there is no shortage of excitement.  From monuments, to museums, to iconic buildings, visitors cannot find an American city more diverse.  There’s a question brewing in the back of everyone's mind, which may be “How do I get the most out of my visit without having to do so much walking?”.  There’s a simple answer.  That answer is going on a tour.  To get the most out of any stay in our nation's capital, it is best to know about the top five tours in our nation’s capital.  Each and every one of them are full of excitement.  Which one is the best?  Here is the countdown! 

5) Old Town Trolley Tour: If anyone wants to have the opportunity to hop on and hop off, experiencing the monuments, museums, and famous buildings throughout the day, this is a convenient tour for anyone to enjoy.  The Old Town Trolley takes visitors from Washington’s Union Station past many of the cities highlighted landmarks, including Arlington Cemetery, the Vietnam Memorial, and the World War II Memorial.  At the beginning of the tour, the driver shares a handful of historical notes about Union Station.  Avid railroad fans on the tour will truly appreciate the information.  The Old Town Trolley route is marked by special signs indicating where riders can re-board.   Tour tickets are $39.00 for adults and $29.00 for children at ages 4-12.  Children under the age of 4 ride FREE.  Further tour information is available at   

4) Bike And Roll-Sites By Segway: Has anyone ever ridden on a Segway scooter?  They are a lot of fun.  Segway tours are popping up in just about every city around the country.  Seeing Washington DC by Segway is an experience visitors will most definitely appreciate.  The Segway scooter is an incredible break-though in technology.  The tour takes visitors from the Capitol, to the north side of the White House, to a variety of off-the-Mall spots, and an unforgettable ride down Pennsylvania Avenue.  The tour can accommodate groups up to eight people.  Visitors must be at least sixteen years of age to participate.  Riders must weigh between one hundred to two hundred and sixty pounds.  The tour cost is $59.00.   

3) "Bike And Roll" Bike Tour: For those who are into biking, this tour is a lot of fun.  There’s nothing more exciting than touring around Washington DC and getting a healtly workout simultaneously.  Visitors will bike to and learn about the many sites, including museums, monuments, and the National Mall.  While the tour is in progress, visitors learn about the many iconic buildings in the city including the White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court.  In addition, the tour guide shares key information about current exhibitions, major events, and practical tips for planning the rest of the day.  The bike tour costs $40.00 for adults and $30.00 for children.  Further tour information is available at   

2) Open Top Sightseeing: If visitors can imagine seeing our nations capital with the wind in their faces and blowing through their hair.  They will truly enjoy this open top sightseeing tour.  The tour will take visitors around the city featuring stunning views of the Capitol, the White House, the Washington Monument, and the National Cathedral.  Hint: It is the only tour which takes visitors to Georgetown and Arlington National Cemetery.  There’s more to it.  The tour ticket also includes a free boat cruise on the Potomac River.  The tour cost is $40.50 for adults and $22.50 for children.  Additional tour information can be viewed at

1) DC Ducks Tour: Ducks tours are the most exciting tours to experience.  They’re becoming increasingly popular around the country.  The DC Ducks Tour is the tour which visitors most definitely don’t want to miss.  It is truly the most unforgettable experience.  Riders are to sit back and let their captain turn back the pages of history.  The captain takes riders for the ride of their life in a restored World War II amphibian vehicle. 

    The tour begins with the captain sharing his/her wealth of information about Capitol, the White House, the Supreme Court, the Smithsonian museums, and the National Mall.  Midway through the tour, the Duck vehicle enters the water at Pentagon City Park Marina.  Touring around our nation’s capital by bus is one thing.  Viewing it while cruising along the Potomac River is another.  The captain takes riders along the Potomac River, and points out many of the sites they don’t get to see from the downtown area.  He/She even takes riders to the end of the runway at Ronald Reagan National Airport to experience some take-off and landing action.  The DC Ducks Tour is an experience for the whole family to enjoy.  The tour cost is $39.00 regular rate/$29.10 online rate for adults; $29.00 regular rate/$26.10 online rate for children.  Further tour information is available at      

    The five tours shared above all have one thing in common.  They all start and conclude at  Washington DC Union Station.  Union Station is located on Massachusetts Avenue, in the heart of the downtown area.  Washington’s Metro is the most user-friendly subway system in the country.  Union Station is served by the Metro subway’s red line.   Connections are available at Metro Center (red, blue, and orange), Gallery Place-Chinatown, and Fort Totten.  Gallery Place-Chinatown and Fort Totten are both served by the red, yellow, and green lines.  Map and fare card information can be viewed at  The tour desk is located in Union Station’s main grandeur.  Bike And Roll is housed next door in a glass structure adjacent to the National Postal Museum. 

    With all its museums, monuments, and well-known attractions, Washington DC is a fun city to visit at any time of the year.  It is not just a city that awaits adventurous travelers, it is a city that welcomes the world.  It is a city that shows itself off to the world as a city of ongoing history, progress, and diversity.  Whether visiting for the day, three days, or a whole week, these top five tours allow visitors the chance to see Washington DC at their pace.  There are open top buses, Duck tours, hop on and off tours, and bike and Segway experiences, all to be enjoyed. They’re all a variety of adventures presenting the opportunity to not just witness history, but to be a part of history.       

Friday, March 29, 2013

Newport, RI Hotels: History At Your Doorstep

    Newport, RI is the most charming city in New England.  Not only is it the most charming, it is teaming with history.  It is historic for its colonial background, fishing culture, and its historic mansions.  If anyone is looking to stay for two or three nights in this stunning New England town, he/she doesn't have to look far.  There are a handful of hotels in Newport which suit all travelers’ needs.  Without flipping through all the hotel listings, here is a list of hotels for visitors' consideration.  Whichever hotel anyone may choose to stay at, he/she will not be disappointed.  The hotel which visitors choose to stay at will have them feeling like part of the town and part of history.

    As mentioned, finding a convenient hotel in Newport isn’t difficult.  There are five hotels to be considered.  They are not just run-of-the-mill hotels, they are the five of the very best.  They are hotels recommended to millions of visitors.  Aside from visitors, they are preferred by parents, friends, and families of Salve Regina University students.  Let’s begin with the big names, and move down the list to the more quaint and intimate ones. 

5.  Marriott-Newport.  Located on America’s Cup Boulevard upon entering Newport, the hotel is conveniently located next door to the Newport Gateway Visitors & Transportation Center.  The hotel features a spacious lobby with a vaulted ceiling and atrium. Fathoms Restaurant, located towards the rear of the lobby, features American cuisine including an incredible breakfast buffet available daily.  The Marriott-Newport also features a twenty-four hour fitness center and a business center.  The nineteen meeting rooms feature top-of-the-line audio visual equipment.  The hotel features complimentary newspapers and wireless internet access.  The Marriott-Newport is just minutes away from Thames Street, Tauro Synagogue, and the Redwood Library.  Trolley service to the mansions is available at the Newport Gateway Visitors & Transportation Center.

4.  Hyatt Regency-Newport.  The Hyatt Regency-Newport is situated on Goat Island, nestled on the edge of Newport Harbor.  The hotel features one of the most incredible harbor views anyone could ask for.  It is the view of the Claiborne Pell Bridge (f.k.a Newport Bridge).  On a rainy day, visitors should keep an eye out for that beautiful rainbow and be sure to have their camera ready.  The hotel has a wide array of must-haves, including a business center, full-service spa, patio, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and the Windward Restaurant.  The Windward Restaurant specializes in seafood dishes and features a daily buffet breakfast.  Just like the Marriott-Newport, well-known tourist attractions are just minutes away.

3. Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina.  Situated near the corner of America’s Cup and Memorial Boulevards, the Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina offers a prime location on Newport’s harbor front.  The mansions and the famous Cliff Walk are within a two-mile distance.  The hotel features an indoor swimming pool and harbor view sundeck.  Men’s and women’s spa facilities are located on site. The Pier 49 Seafood & Spirits restaurant is a New England visitor’s treat.  It specializes in New England cuisine, overlooking the boat-filled Newport Harbor.  The hotel’s rooms include a handful of top must-haves including flat panel TVs, high speed Internet access, and Keurig coffee brewers. 

2.  Jailhouse Inn.  The Jailhouse Inn is located on Marlborough Street, two blocks east of the Marriott and Hyatt Regency.  The Jailhouse Inn is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is formerly the Newport County Jail.  The hotel’s rooms are home to furniture well-suited for the well-traveled and weary tourist.  The rooms are furnished with mahogany dressers, rustic style beds, and night stands.  Complimentary European continental breakfast is served each morning, while complimentary afternoon tea and cookies are served in the downstairs lounge.  Washington Square is less than one hundred yards from the Jailhouse Inn.  Visitors ought to treat themselves to the restaurants and shops on Thames Street, the Opera House movie theater, and a relaxing walk along the harbor front less than three hundred yards away.      

1. The Hotel Viking.  The Hotel Viking is located on the northern end of Bellevue Avenue, at the intersection of Tauro Avenue.  The hotel features a restaurant, bar, and a lounge.  The Hotel Viking has an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, and business center.  Both the business center and hotel rooms feature complimentary wireless Internet access.  The rooms at The Hotel Viking all have hair dryers, complimentary newspapers, and TVs with premium channels and pay movies. All of The rooms at The Hotel Viking are non-smoking.  The Redwood Library, International Tennis Hall of Fame, and Newport’s mansions are just blocks away.  

    A town as quaint and tranquil as Newport may leave any traveler wondering, “What was it like here a century ago?”.  Another question which may come to mind would be, “What’s the best way to get here?”.  For those who wish to take the train, the ride is one which anyone would truly appreciate.  The closest station to Newport is Kingston, near the University of Rhode Island.  The cab ride to Newport is twenty minutes.  If flying, Providence’s T.F. Green Airport is forty-five minutes away.  By car, the drive from the New York/New Jersey area is three and a half hours.  The drive from the Boston area is approximately ninety minutes.     

    Visiting Newport, RI is an experience no one will ever forget.  From its rich history, to shopping, New England cuisine, and to its quaint charm, Newport has something for everyone.  From hotels with a simple life flavor to everyday pampering, visitors experience Newport in a variety of tones.    Visitors can enjoy the fresh air of the harbor, take in the history, or just sit back and relax.  Newport is the place to experience it all.  It is the city where New England shines.  Ultimately, it is where American history comes alive.    

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Washington D.C. Hotels: So Many, So Close, So Convenient

    Our nation’s capital is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  Washington D.C. is visited by millions from all over the globe.  They visit the famous memorials, the gorgeous parks, they go on tours, they attend sports events, visit on business, and visit the world-renowned Smithsonian museums.  Washington D.C. is home to it all.  To make any trip to the Washington D.C. the utmost pleasurable, there are plenty of hotels to accommodate visitors’ traveling needs.   To make the selection process easier, I researched the hotels in the area.  These hotels are the utmost convenient and closest to the action.

    There are hundreds of hotels in the Washington D.C. area.  There are too many to choose from.  They feature an assortment of amenities including spas, buffet breakfasts, conference rooms, comfortable lobbies, and internet access.  Many visitors like to book certain hotels in Washington D.C. that are in close proximity to transportation and tourist attractions.  The less walking to do, the better.  You or I cannot argue with that.  I’ve been traveling to Washington D.C. since I was five years old.  Dozens of hotels have been built over the years for the exact reasons.  If you have visited the various hotel web sites, the hotel listings are never-ending.  Where do you stay?  Which hotels are best?  There are two-star, four-star, and top of the line five-star rated hotels.  I found ten of the best hotels in the Washington D.C. area for your enjoyment.  Whichever ones you feel that fit your traveling needs, the choice is yours. 

    There is no better area to begin than in downtown Washington D.C.  Marriott has plenty of hotels in Washington D.C., including its subsidiaries.  To start off, the Washington Marriott is among the downtown favorites.  It is located six blocks away from Dupont Circle, the Dupont Circle Metro station, and Georgetown.  The hotel is located eight blocks away from the John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts.

    Located a short distance from the National Mall is the well-renowned Mandarin Oriental.  The hotel is located three blocks south of the National Mall, the Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and most convenient of all, the Smithsonian Metro station.  The hotel features a wide array of recreational activities including Segway rentals, swimming pool, motor boating, golf, a running track, and bicycle rentals. 

    The Grand Hyatt and the Marriott at Metro Center are minutes apart from each other.  They offer conference rooms, spacious rooms, an array of dining options, and are both walking distance from the Metro Center station.  The Grand Hyatt features a twelve-story atrium and a seven thousand square foot blue lagoon with a two-story waterfall.  The hotel is located three blocks away from the Verizon Center, home of the Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics.  The White House, Smithsonian museums, and monuments are all a five-block walking distance from the Grand Hyatt. 

    The Marriott at Metro Center features a handful of convenient must-haves.  Like many major hotels, the hotel rooms are equipped with wireless internet access.  The hotel features a business center and a fitness facility.  The National Museum of Women In The Arts, the Warner Theater, the Washington D.C. Madame Tussaud’s Museum, and the famous Ford’s Theater are located within a quarter of a mile distance.

    One of the more convenient hotels in downtown Washington D.C. is the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel.  The L’Enfant Plaza Hotel is conveniently located two blocks from the National Mall and Smithsonian museums.  The two closest are the National Air & Space Museum and National Museum of The American Indian.  The hotel features a restaurant called the American Grill, well known for serving steak and seafood.  Also featured is the Foggy Bottom Pub which offers an assortment of microbrews and pub-style favorites.  Wireless internet access is available, plus a fitness center with a free-weight room.  To top it off, the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel has a rooftop outdoor pool. The L’Enfant Plaza Metro station is located outside the hotel’s driveway.  L’Enfant Plaza station is served by the green and yellow lines.  The yellow line serves Ronald Reagan National Airport, just four miles away.  Connections with the red and green lines are located at Gallery Place-Chinatown, two stops away.

    Staying in downtown Washington D.C. is surely convenient.  However, some of the hotels in the downtown area can be pricy time to time.  Use your discretion while booking.  The area which I highly recommend is Crystal City.  Crystal City is a district located across the Potomac River in Arlington, VA.  There are five hotels in the Crystal City area which are in close proximity to the Metro subway and Ronald Reagan National Airport.  The Sheraton-Crystal City is located across the street from the Crystal City Metro station.  It is also in close proximity to the Fashion Center at Pentagon City. 

    The Hilton-Crystal City features a few visitors’ favorites of its own.  The hotel is located one mile from Ronald Reagan National Airport.  If you are an avid jogger, the George Washington Memorial Parkway winds its way around the airport.  If you enjoy golfing, the Hains Point golf course is located on the Potomac River, just three miles away.  Complimentary transportation is provided to the Crystal City Metro station and Ronald Reagan National Airport. 

    Located on the Jefferson Davis Highway, adjacent to Ronald Reagan National Airport, is the Hyatt Regency-Crystal City.  The Hyatt Regency-Crystal City features a twenty-four hour business center, nineteen meeting rooms, and a seventeen thousand square foot exhibition hall.  A three-story glass atrium rises above the lobby.  The hotel includes a fitness center, a seasonal outdoor pool, and a jet spa surrounded by a sunning deck.  Fine dining is available at the Chesapeake Grill on the eighteenth floor.  The restaurant features sweeping views of the Potomac River, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the National Cathedral.  Complimentary airport shuttle service is available during scheduled times. 

    There are two Marriott hotels in Crystal City which I have stayed at often.  The rooms are fantastic, the buffet breakfasts are fabulous, and the transportation is over-the-top efficient.  The Crystal City Marriott and the Marriott Crystal Gateway are the two best hotels in the Arlington area.  The rooms in both hotels both have hair dryers.  The Crystal City Marriott and the Marriott Crystal Gateway both feature business centers with wireless internet access.  They also have meeting rooms for small groups. 

    The Crystal City Marriott and the Marriott Crystal Gateway share one great advantage in common.  They are both connected by an underground walking corridor, leading to the Crystal City Metro station.  The two hotels sit directly above the Metro Station.  Ronald Reagan National Airport is one stop away in the southbound direction, while the Pentagon is just two stations north.  Arlington Cemetery, the Smithsonian museums, the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, and Washington Monument are just less than fifteen minutes away via the blue line.  The National Archives and connections at Gallery Place-Chinatown are just ten minutes away via the yellow line.  Having mass transit available at your doorstep is the greatest advantage any hotel guest could have.  It definitely makes life a whole lot easier.    
    Visiting Washington D.C. is always an exciting experience.  No matter what the occasion, our nation’s capital provides a wide array of hotel accommodations.  Whether you like being close to the famous tourist attractions, having large or small business functions, or just being in close proximity to transportation, Washington D.C.’s hotels have it all.  The ten hotels shared with you are among the best.  Not only are they the best, they are by far the most convenient.  You may not be the President, but it sure pays to live like and be treated like one.   

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Smithsonian Institution: Exhibiting Progress And Diversity As One

    Washington DC is my favorite U.S. city.  It is the nerve center of our political world and home to my favorite railroad terminal.  Aside from monuments and iconic government buildings, our nation’s capital is home to another notable tourist destination.  The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s oldest museum organization.  It is made up of eighteen museums, including the National Zoo.  With the most user-friendly subway system in the country, getting around this massive complex is a piece of cake.  Having been a visitor since I was five years old, allow me to show you some of the Smithsonian’s highlights.  If you’re a history fan, or even a avid traveler, you’ll be able to explore Washington DC with more than just ease.  You’ll be exploring Washington DC with confidence.

    When visiting the Smithsonian Institution, it’s always best to visit some of the museums you haven’t visited before.  They’re the ones with the exhibitions which will leave you thinking, “Gee, I didn’t know that!” and “I definitely want to come here again!”.  The one museum which has gained my interest is the National Postal Museum.  The National Postal Museum is located right next door to Washington DC’s Union Station.  If traveling to Washington DC by train, exit the terminal to your right.  The museum is inside the old US Post Office, directly across the street.  Once inside, you’ll take an escalator down into the museum.  The National Postal Museum features plenty of displays and exhibitions.  One of the newest demonstrations is a sit-down theater viewing of how our US Mail system functions on a daily basis.  You’ll be amazed by the complex sorting process involved in delivering the billions of pieces of mail you send and receive each day.  It’s a presentation you’d ought to see.  Another display in the museum shows the anthrax scare back in 2001.  The letters, once laced with the lethal poison, are on display along with the environmental suits used during the investigation.  It’s among the remnants of our country’s great history, events which changed our lives forever.

    Once your visit to the National Postal Museum is complete, it’s time to ride the Metro subway to the heart of the Smithsonian Institution.  The Metro subway is made up of five colored lines; red, orange, blue, yellow, and green.  The sixth line, silver, is currently under construction.  Once complete, it will connect downtown Washington DC to Dulles International Airport.  Union Station and the National Postal Museum are located on the red line.  Metro features a wide assortment of fare card options at You can place up to forty-five dollars on a fare card.  If you’re visiting Washington DC for the day, a one-day pass will cost you just fourteen dollars.  It is active until 3AM on weekends and until midnight on week nights.  Metro accepts cash and all major credit cards. 

    Once aboard the Metro subway, take the red line to Metro Center.  There, switch to the orange or blue line.  The blue and orange lines run parallel through downtown Washington.  Take either line to the Smithsonian station.  The Smithsonian station is located very near the Washington Monument, right across the way from The Castle, the Smithsonian Institution’s original building.  No visit to the Smithsonian Institution is complete without a visit to The Castle.  Some of the best exhibitions are held at The Castle.  It is not to be missed. 

    Across the National Mall is one of my longtime favorites, the National Museum of American History.  The National Museum of American History is home to one of the most famous artifacts, the American flag flown over Fort McHenry.  It is the flag flown during the very battle when “The Star Spangled Banner” was written.  The museum features a smorgasbord of interactive displays and exhibits for visitors to discover.  You might want to put aside a good few hours of your day to visit the National Museum of American History.  It’s a museum which you could get lost in.  I don’t mean “lost” in terms of navigation and getting separated from your family.  I am referring to the enormity of the place, and the never-ending hallways and exhibition halls.  They are jam-packed with artifacts for many to appreciate.  To satisfy a hunger of “historic” proportions, the museum features two cafeterias for your enjoyment.  When done enjoying your meal, feel free to head back upstairs to visit remaining exhibits before calling it a day.

    Very near the National Museum of American History is the future sight of the Smithsonian’s nineteenth museum.  In 2012, President Barack Obama helped break ground on the National Museum of African American History & Culture.  It is the only national museum specially indebted to the documentation of African American life, history, art, and culture.  The new museum is expected to open to the public in 2015.    

    In Washington DC, it is good to wear a comfortable pair of sneakers.  There’s tons of walking to do when visiting the Smithsonian Institution.  On the eastern end of the National Mall are two other favorite museums, the National Air & Space Museum and the National Museum of The American Indian.  Next door to the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Air & Space Museum is a must-see.  On a yearly basis, new exhibits are always on display.  Every visit to the National Air & Space Museum is different.  The National Museum of The American Indian is adjacent to the National Air & Space Museum.  It takes guests on a story-like journey back in time to the roots of our Native American ancestors.  It is not just a story involving history, but a story of survival.  The National Museum of the American Indian and the National Air & Space Museum can be accessed by the Metro’s yellow and green lines.  The L’Enfant Plaza station is located one block south of the National Air & Space Museum.  No matter where you are in downtown Washington DC, the Metro is always well within your reach.

    If zoos are among your favorite places to visit, the National Zoo should be on your must-see list.  Like the National Postal Museum, the National Zoo is located on the Metro’s red line.  If riding the orange and blue lines, connections are available at Metro Center.  If riding the green and yellow lines, Gallery Place-Chinatown is your transfer point.  The National Zoo is located in Woodley Park, three stops from Metro Center.  Gallery Place-Chinatown is one stop west of Metro Center.  Here’s some simple advice.  Just flip a coin!  That’s all there is to it.  The National Zoo is home to a brand new exhibit, the Speedwell Conservation Carousel.  It features fifty-eight different species, including those currently endangered and threatened by extinction.  It may be a carousel, but it carries out a message to visitors about the ongoing challenges of conserving endangered species.

    Unlike all world renowned destinations, the museums of the Smithsonian Institution are the world’s most intriguing places to visit.  They welcome history buffs, the adventurous, and the just plain curious.  If you wish to visit these incredible museums in the near future, don’t hesitate to use the Metro subway system.  Whether you’re visiting for the day or staying in the area for a few nights, the Smithsonian Institution has plenty to see and experience.  It’s a community of museums which inspires millions to learn something new every day.  Whichever of the Smithsonian Institution’s famous museums you plan to visit, remember three things.  You’re not just discovering history.  You are forever part of it, actively experiencing it, and courageously writing it.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The World's Greatest Part-Time Job

    Everyone remembers a job they once enjoyed.  We all have had jobs which have led us to what we love doing now.  I’ve gone from being a Walt Disney World cast member in Florida to being a judge’s assistant.  From there, I became a teacher.  In the midst of all of that, I became an avid cruiser.  From that experience, I became a cruise line agent in the New York area.  Having been a cruise traveler since I was sixteen, let me share with you what an honor it is having this part-time job.  I may have been a substitute teacher for a while, but having the opportunity of playing a role in many families’ cruise vacations is where fun is truly defined.

    I started working with the cruise lines in February 2009.  I remember the very day I started.  I remember signing in, meeting my supervisors, and reporting to my morning post. More than anything, I remember welcoming the guests as they boarded the ship throughout the afternoon.  The memories are so vivid.  They play back time and again.  Having been a Walt Disney World cast member in 1999-2000, I am no stranger in playing that intricate role in a family’s vacation.  The Cape Liberty cruise terminal in Bayonne, NJ is my home port.  I have the most wonderful colleagues, including the best supervisors.  I can never imagine ever topping that.  Every work day begins with waking up at 5am, washing up, and putting on my uniform.  Putting on the infamous Royal Caribbean name pin adds so much more to me as a person.  I become a person who represents a cruise line well known for so much.  Or, do I become a person who represents so much of himself? 

    Commuting to Bayonne in the morning is the drive I truly enjoy.  In contrast to driving to the school where I substitute teach, it is a commute I look forward to all the time.  Driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, watching the sun come up over New York City, and practicing my jokes is all part of the fun.  Crossing the I-78 bridge, I witness the most awe-inspiring sight of all.  Watching my ship, Explorer of The Seas, sailing in through the Verrazano Narrows can’t be a beautiful sight.  It is also a reminder, that the work day has begun.  More than that, it’s time to make another 3,600 guests happy.  Walking into the main check-in area, I meet with my supervisors.  They are the utmost pleasant people I enjoy working with.  Whether it’s a friendly hello, or asking how my drive to work was, it’s a great start to the day.  Immediately, it’s time for the morning briefing.  The cob webs come out.  Then, it’s off to disembarkation time.  It is time to send the guests home.

    Around 8AM, the show begins.  It’s time for the express walk-off guests to come off.  The general disembarkation follows immediately afterward.  I cannot believe how heavily people pack.  I joke with the guests time to time.  Every now and then, I would ask a guest, “Did you steal the anchor?”.  My most favorite line is, “Once clearing through customs, go back around and do it again.”  Oh, do the guests get a kick out of that one!  I love getting them going with that line.  One morning, an elderly couple was arguing over their luggage before getting off the shuttle bus.  As the husband stepped off, he said “Son, don’t get married!”.  I replied, “I’ll do my best.”  Before long, disembarkation is over.  It’s time for the embarkation process to commence.  I quickly eat my lunch, share my laughs with my colleagues, and it’s back into the ring.  I log into my computer station in the check-in area, and I start raising my station number paddle.  Every party I check in, I always ask how they’re doing and whether they had a pleasant trip to the terminal that day.  I ask them for their filled out health forms, their cruise ticket, their passports, and the credit card they have printed on their ticket.  Having been working in Bayonne for five years, I have the system down pat.  A few changes may have been made over the past year or so, but the job is fun as always.  There’s never a shortage of excitement in Bayonne.

    This past summer, I was blessed with the work opportunity of a lifetime.  I was on the Disney Magic staff in New York City.  Unlike all the other ships I’ve worked, the Disney Magic was an experience like no other.  Having been a Disney cast member in Florida, I am no stranger to making guests happy.  For the record, I have never been on any of Disney’s ships.  I did sail on the Starship Atlantic, or “The Big Red Boat”.  Already familiar with Disney’s terminology and their guest service standards, it was very easy assuming the role.

    Checking in Disney cruise guests was a ton of fun.  I met guests who sailed on the “Big Red Boat”. Every family I checked in was the utmost pleasant.  In Disney World, I was a custodial cast member.  Yes, I swept the streets and cleaned restrooms at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (f.k.a. Disney-MGM Studios).  When working the Disney Magic, I felt as if I was promoted up a notch.  Wearing the Disney Cruise Line costume was truly an honor.  When I finished my last day with the Magic, I didn’t want it to end.  I cried on my train ride home.  I’ve never felt that way at the end of a season.  After twelve long years, I couldn’t have felt more blessed to work with Disney again.  I seriously cannot wait for the Magic to return. 

    I have had plenty of great work days working with the cruise lines.  That’s an understatement.  There have been some hard days too.  On a cold January day in 2010, the Explorer of The Seas was returned to Bayonne from a ten-day period in dry dock.  It was a whopping twenty-two degrees out.  The guests started showing up around 10:30 AM.  It seemed as if they all got the memo.  The embarkation area was jam-packed with guests.  There was a mixture of guests who were angry and guests who didn’t have a single care in the world.  Which guests I did I enjoy helping that day? That’s a no-brainer!

    Every sailing day, it’s always important to expect the unexpected.  During that frigid day, I was kindly asked by one of my supervisors to assist some of the elderly guests to the restroom via wheelchair.  I had never seen such a crowd in a long time.  The rest rooms had long lines.  It looked like Disney World on New Year’s Eve.  I assumed that all of the Fast Passes were distributed.  Once I was done assisting the guests, I returned the wheelchair to the guest drop-off area outside.  There were two long lines outside, each at least more than one hundred feet long.  Guests were getting restless, yelling . . . shouting . . . and screaming at the port security guards.  They were yelling and screaming at my colleagues, too.  There was this elderly woman who got in my face and said “I have never been so degraded in my entire life.” Less than an hour later, guess who checked in at my computer station.  You guessed it!  She came right to my station and said, “It’s me again!”.  I said, “I’m going to get you taken care of and on your way in no time, Mam.”.  She said, “You’d better, young man.  This is an absolute disgrace!”. At lightning speed, I checked her.  I presented her stateroom card, and she was gone.  Phew!  As comedian George Carlin once said, “Some don’t have much to bring out in the first place.”.

    I have worked many jobs in the past.  At age fifteen, I delivered newspapers in my hometown.  In college, I was a weight room attendant and a comedian.  After graduating, I moved on to Disney World.  After working in Florida, I moved on to the Bergen County Superior Court.  In 2003, I landed my very first teaching job.  However, there’s one job I enjoy which I cannot compare with past jobs.  Being a cruise line agent in Bayonne and New York City has been a true blessing.  For three straight Fall seasons, I had the opportunity to travel with my colleagues to Boston.  There, we worked with Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of The Seas.  At all three ports combined, I have never enjoyed such a great work experience.  I have worked with the onboard staff of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival, and Disney.  Week-in and week-out, my incredible colleagues make it a work experience to treasure.  Whether in rain, snowstorms, or threatened by hurricanes, we work together like a family.  Now, that’s a job well worth hanging on to.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christmas Aboard The Queen Mary 2: A Western Caribbean Cruise To Remember

    The 2006 holiday season was a highly emotional one.  Thanksgiving Day, my mom was given a clean bill of health after a short battle with breast cancer.  A few weeks later came the Christmas vacation we all desperately needed.  We sailed on a seven-day cruise onboard the beautiful Queen Mary 2 to the Western Caribbean.  The ports-of-call were Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozumel.  I couldn’t wait.  We had to fly to Ft. Lauderdale, FL for the cruise.  We were loaded down with luggage like you wouldn’t believe.  We even had to pack formal wear in our bags.  We left Newark, NJ a good hour late due to poor weather.  We finally landed around 1pm.  When we landed in Ft. Lauderdale, we got hit with more rain.  What a way to start a vacation! Getting on board the ship went faster than getting to the terminal. We were sure happy for that.  At that moment, it was time to relax and be ready to have a good time.

    Just as we entered the ship’s main promenade, Santa was sitting in his chair.  It was the sight we were all looking forward to.  We paused with pictures with Santa, and we headed to our cabins.  We were on deck six, just two decks up from where we boarded.  At our cabins, we met our cabin attendant, Larry.  He was the nicest gentleman you could meet.  He showed us our life jackets, our evacuation route, our muster station, and our dining assignment.  Afterward, we went upstairs to the King’s Court buffet on deck seven.  The buffet on the Queen Mary 2 is absolutely incredible.  There isn’t one item you ask for that they don’t have on the buffet.  The buffet was that inviting!  After a late lunch, it was time to sit back and wash it all down with a few drinks.  Onboard the Queen Mary 2, I drank a B-52 for the very first time.  A B-52 is Kahlua, Bailey’s, and Grand Marnier mixed straight up or on the rocks.  It’s goooooood!! See my earlier story about cruise drinks entitled “Cruise Drinks: Straight Up And Straight Down”.  The cruise was officially off to a great start.

    Day two was a sea day.  We were en route to our first port-of-call, Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Breakfast onboard the Queen Mary 2 was awesome.  That morning was kind of unusual.  I was at the King’s Court breakfast buffet and I came across a rather strange situation.  I was at the bacon tray.  There were fifteen strips of bacon stuck together.  What was I going to do, pull them all apart at the buffet and hold up the line? No! I did what every man should do.  I took the whole chunk of bacon as it was.  I scarfed down fifteen strips of bacon with my breakfast along with my fresh fruit and my toasted bagel.  How’s that for being brave? I skipped lunch because I was so full.  What a day it was! The second night of the cruise was a formal night.  My dad, my brother, and I wore our tuxedos.  We had three formal nights during that week.  You’ll be so proud of me.  Of all three formal nights, I never complained once about being dressed to the nines that often.  I’m usually not a big fan of weddings and anything that involves a tuxedo.  That cruise was a true breakthrough for me.  I finally was a good sport after all.

    Celebrating Christmas Eve onboard the Queen Mary 2 was an experience like no other.  It was truly something special.  Immediately following dinner time, it was time to attend Christmas Eve mass in the Royal Court Theatre, the ship’s main theater.  My brother and I volunteered to give out Holy Communion to the crew and staff in the upper tier.  After mass, we all assembled in the ship’s main grandeur for a Christmas carol sing-along.  Members of the crew and staff also were present.  The cruise director led the singing.  We must have sung ten different songs including a few favorites.  After the sing-along, my family and I went back to our cabins.  We changed out of our formal wear and we went downstairs to the Golden Lion lounge for drinks.  Yes, I had another B-52.  Oh, do they taste great!  It was the perfect ending to a perfect day at sea.

    Christmas Day, we pulled into Montego Bay.  The ship launched its own tenders to take us to and from shore.  It was a gorgeous morning.  There were two other cruise ships docked at Montego Bay; Star Princess and the Costa Magica.  My brother and I went on the Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin Cove tour.  It was a rather long bus ride to Ocho Rios, where they’re located.  The ride was just under two hours.  Our tour guide was very friendly.  She pointed out many key locations along the way; Montego Bay’s airport, and yes, many of the all-inclusive resorts located along Jamaica’s north shore, including Hedonism.  Our tour guide was so funny when she said, “There are no kids allowed, but you can make them there!”.  Oh my Lord, was everyone in the bus laughing their butts off.  It was a fun drive not to forget.

    Shortly later, we arrived at Dunn’s River Falls.  The tour guide gave us a few safety instructions.  One of the most important was stay together and not venture off without telling anyone.  Secondly, we were told not to buy anything from the street vendors.  Some of them are not to be trusted for many reasons.  We all had to wear aqua shoes so not to slip on the rocks. Climbing up Dunn’s River Falls was not hard at all.  As long as you climb up the ledges that are sound, you’re good.  Dunn’s River Falls was the location used for the 1989 Tom Cruise/Elizabeth Shue movie “Cocktail”.  Remember the romantic love making scene there in that film? I do! Great movie!  While my brother and I were climbing the falls, we came across the utmost grotesque scene ever.  I thought Tom Cruise and Elizabeth Shue had it going good at the falls.  We saw this fat lady in a bikini climbing the falls.  I am not sure if she was from our ship.  She was probably from one of the other two ships.  She was so chunky, and so heavy-set, that she needed two men to hoist her up the falls.  Oh my Lord, was it out of place.  I could barely look.  It looked like Jaba The Hut on a forklift.  We got to the top of the falls without vomiting.  After watching a fat lady in a bikini with two athletically toned guys hoisting her up with their hands in her crotch, yeah, that made me want to keep my breakfast down.  I was happy I was able to keep all fifteen strips of bacon, my toasted bagel, and fruit down.  Phew!  It was a tiring climb, but a whole lot of fun.  They even took pictures of us climbing the falls.  I never bought a copy.  I kept away from those vendors as we were told.  Without a doubt, it was truly a fun day  I’d tell everyone about it, like now!

    The last part of our tour was Dolphin Cove.  There we got to swim with the dolphins in a closed in lagoon.  There we also had lunch.  The lunch special, barbequed jerk chicken.  Oh, was it awesome.  No one does jerk chicken better than the Jamaicans.  While we were walking around through the forest, there was a guy challenging people to have a snake sit on their head.  Oh, God, he put this green tree snake on my head. I froze up like an Eskimo.  I like watching snakes on TV, but not wearing them.  It was quite the experience!! We then headed back to the tour bus, to take us back to the ship.  It was a long hour and forty-five minute ride back to the ship.  I wanted to stop in and stay hello to the people at Hedonism, but I picked up a brochure at the cruise terminal.  That is definitely a must-do on my list.  Back onboard the Queen Mary 2, we got suited up in our tuxedos once again.  It was dinner time, and time for the Christmas Gala Buffet.  After dinner, we all went to the Royal Court Theater for the Christmas celebration show.  It was an amazing show, featuring many more Christmas carols performed by the guest performers and the Cunard singers and dancers.  It was an incredible program, well put together.  Another great day onboard had come to a close.

    The following morning, we arrived in Grand Cayman.  It was not a pleasant morning at all.  When I woke up, the swells outside in the harbor were fierce.  Many of the ships that had arrived that morning were struggling to get their tenders into position.  Many of them scratched Grand Cayman and left.  The Queen Mary 2 and a few other ships stayed to tough it out.  Tender service was limited due to the horrific sea conditions.  When we finally boarded a tender, we were being tossed around like dolls.  It took a good hour or so to reach shore with the rough waves.  When we finally arrived on shore, we visited the Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville restaurant.  We visited the gift shop.  My brother stocked up on every single album he didn’t have.  When we were finished there, we took a taxi cab ride to the town of Hell.  Yes, I said “Hell”.  Why is it called Hell?  Just behind the post office, there is this shallow body of water.  There were these jagged rock formations jutting out of it.  The gentleman who first settled the town and saw these formations commented wondering, “Where am I, Hell?” I even bought a t-shirt that said “I’d Rather Go To Hell Than To School!”.  The taxi driver took us back downtown so we can board our tender to the ship.  By the time we re-boarded the ship, the Queen Mary 2 and Star Princess were the only two ships remaining in the harbor. The sea conditions were indeed that bad. At six o’clock, we were underway again.  Next stop, Costa Maya, Mexico!

    Our next two days were in Mexico.  After Grand Cayman, we docked in Costa Maya.  We went on a shore excursion to the Mayan ruins of Chachchoben.  Wow, what a well preserved Mayan village! We took tons of pictures left and right.  There was so much to see there.  Chachchoben, in the Mayan language, means “City of Corn”, because it was the crop which made the village flourish at the time.  There was so much to talk about back aboard the ship later on that night.  Later on around midnight, there was a pirates party on the stern deck.  It was a lot of fun.  From the stern, I could see all of the ships following us to Cozumel.  It was sure quite the sight. After the party, it was time to split the sheets. Another great day of cruising was over.

    The second to last day of the cruise, we docked in Cozumel.  I looked out the window, and I could not believe how many cruise ships were docked there with us.  I counted eighteen in all.  Royal Caribbean and Carnival made up a vast majority of the count.  That morning, my brother and I went on the Atlantis submarine excursion.  Now, that was awesome! The ocean there dips as deep as four thousand feet.  The many species of fish and undersea life was unbelievable.  It was incredible and plainly breathtaking.  Don’t think that the submarine excursion was the only thing we did in Cozumel.  We also browsed around the duty-free shops near the cruise ship pier.  We didn’t buy a single thing, but it was fun to just walk around. Afterward, we headed back onboard the ship.  Our time kicking around in Cozumel was done.

    Remember what I said that the submarine and duty-free shopping weren’t the only things we did in Cozumel?  Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of The Seas docked right next to us.  It was also docked next to us in Costa Maya.  Early in the morning, I got to watch this young and good looking lady wearing nothing but her bathroom towel, combing her hair over the edge of her balcony.  Girls doing that hair bob thing is so mesmerizing. The really funny part was that my brother and I were able to keep up with the schedule with everyone onboard the Grandeur.  There was this one cute girl in her twenties, in a red bikini who had to be caught up with her color on the sun deck .  She was in the same chair the day before, so we knew when she’ll be there the following day.  To all you guys out there, girl watching on a cruise, or on another ship is an amazing experience. It’s something you don’t want to miss out on. Aside from girl watching, we even watched the belly flop competition on the Grandeur.  The Queen Mary 2's top deck is a good fifty feet higher than the Grandeur’s.  It was a type of day that I hope to experience again very soon.  Fingers crossed!

    At six o’clock at night, we cast off from Cozumel.  We were on our way back to Ft. Lauderdale.  We had our third and final formal night of the cruise.  The food on the menu that night was fabulous.  I don’t know how I managed not to get cocktail sauce from getting on my cummerbund, but I didn’t.  That’s why I cannot stand tuxedos on any occasion.  The following morning, we were speeding along at sea.  Late that morning, I read in the cruise program that they were doing sign ups for the passengers’ talent show.  When I showed up at the Chart Room to sign up, the cruise staffer recognized me right off the bat.  She said, “You look familiar!”.  I told her that I had performed in the show back in July, doing my comedy bashing on wedding traditions.  Five o’clock came along.  It was show time once again in the Queens Room.  There were a lot of other fascinating performances.  One young lady did a belly dancing routine.  Another family did a group performance of the song “High Hopes”.  Well, I did my comedy performance doing a bashing on birthday traditions.  It went alright, but not my best.  I got a good applause, but it wasn’t my strongest.  That cruise was a bit different than the July cruise.  There were many people from other countries onboard.  To this day I ask myself, “When on earth am I going to learn to play the guitar?”.  The farewell show later that night was of the variety type.  The stand up comedian, Jeff Wayne, did a short performance.  The acrobatic duo, The Moosen Men, did a short routine of their own.  The two female guest entertainers, Suzanne Godfrey and Jeri Sager, did their final routines on stage.  The grand finale was performed by the Cunard singers and dancers.  One of the best cruises I’ve ever been on had come to an end.  Unfortunately, it ended too soon.

    The next morning, we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale.  We went to breakfast upstairs and then we finished packing our carry-on bags.  While waiting for our luggage number to be called, we watched the longshoremen load the endless pallets of food provisions for the upcoming trip.  What stuff they need to keep twenty-eight hundred people well-fed!  Finally, our color and number was called.  We went downstairs to the main deck.  We shook hands with many of the staff as we left the vessel.  Leaving any ship during disembarkation is an empty feeling.  We went through customs, got our luggage together, and headed for our airport bus.  I don’t remember much from the rest of that day, but I do remember asking my dad one big question.  While we were leaving Newark Airport’s long-term parking lot, I asked my dad “Can we do that again?”.    

Friday, September 21, 2012

God Save The Queen!

    The one ship I had wanted the chance to work with was the Queen Mary 2.  Monday night, November 16th, 2009, I got that chance.  My staff administrator called to tell me that someone called in sick for the Queen Mary 2.  It was an opportunity to work with one of the most beautiful ships in the world.  Did I take the job? Oh, did I!  I was requested to be at the Brooklyn Red Hook Terminal by 7:30 A.M.  My dad and I woke up at 5 A.M. the next morning.  We quickly ate, had our coffee, and we hit the highway.  It took about forty minutes to get there.  The Brooklyn terminal is a really nice looking cruise terminal.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the easiest to get to. We arrived at the terminal with plenty of time to spare.  My dad told me, “Moose, be sure to let us know how you’re doing, ok?”.  I wished my dad a good day at work, and he drove off.  My day with the Queen Mary 2 started.  I walked in, went through security, met up with the pier coordinators, and signed in.  I was assigned to do wheelchairs during disembarkation and boarding.  I could not argue with that.  Many of my colleagues in Bayonne who’ve worked the Queen Mary 2 before told me about the enormous tips they’ve gone home with.  Ok, let’s not get carried away.  The Queen Mary 2 is one of my favorite ships aside from the Explorer of The Seas.  It was time to get my “ship face” on!
    The Queen Mary 2 started its disembarkation right on time.  One of the supervisors quickly briefed me on which gangway to use when entering the ship, which gangway to exit through, and the proper route to take during boarding.  It was very straight forward.  First, the ship’s security staff  had to take my ID photo.  The ship’s security officers took my photo, and it was off to the races.  All of the disembarking guests requiring wheelchair assistance were gathering in the Golden Lion, one of the lounges on the main deck.  One of my colleagues from Bayonne was dispatching the wheelchairs on board.  Once I arrived at the Golden Lion, I was introduced to my first guest, Mary.  Talking about a “small world after all”, this guest and her husband were avid railroad travelers.  As I was wheeling her off the ship and through customs, I asked her what transportation she had leaving the terminal.  She said, “We’re taking the train from New York Penn Station to Kissimmee, Florida.  We have a time share down in the area”.  I responded, “You’re taking the Silver Star!  Oh, that’s a really nice ride.  I’ve been wanting to go to Disney World by train for a long time.  You sure picked a beautiful day for riding the rails.”  “We sure did!”, the husband replied.  After I helped the wife out of the wheelchair and into the taxi cab, the husband tipped me.  I said, “Thank you very much, and enjoy Florida”.  The taxi pulled away and they were off.  Back to the races!

    A few minutes later, I headed back to the ship to tend to the next guest.  This guest was just as pleasant as the first.  Her name was Edith.  I introduced myself, and asked how her trip was.  She told me that she had the sways after their five-day crossing from England.  She answered, “It was awful! We had twenty-five foot swells coming over from Southampton.  The captain said that it was the roughest weather ever encountered in the ship’s history.”  I plainly said, “She’s built to handle waves like that.  Hey, you’re in New York now, and you made it safely, which matters.”  I then said, “My family and I had rough weather all throughout our Christmas cruise on the Norwegian Gem last year.  It wasn’t fun, but we enjoyed ourselves as much as we could.  Sometimes, you have to make the best of the worst of situations.” Edith responded,  “You know David, you’re very right about that.  You must have a masters degree.” I started laughing when I answered, “I have a masters in education from Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City”.  When we found her limousine, she gave me a healthy tip.  Once the door was closed, the driver stepped on it.  Off she went!  I love New York taxi and limousine drivers. “Floor it!” has got to be their motto.  I quickly headed back to the ship.  I tended to another guest, and did the same thing.  His name was George.  I wheeled him through the gangway, helped him find his luggage, pushed him through customs, and brought him outside to his transportation.  While I was doing so, I ran into a familiar face.  As I was approaching the gangway, I met up with the cruise director, Ray Rouse.  He was the cruise director on both of my cruises on the Queen Mary 2, just three years before.  He was talking to the security staff.  I  snuck up on him and said, “Good morning, Ray!”.  He turned around and he recognized my face right off the bat.  He said, “Hey, how’s it going man!” How’s your family doing?”.  I said, “We’re all hanging in there.”  He said, “Give your parents my kind regards!”. I replied, “I sure will.”.  Before I knew it, disembarkation was over.  The Queen Mary 2 stood ready to receive her new guests.  Lunch time!

    At lunch time, I went outside to the hot dog cart and bought myself an Italian sausage sandwich.  That kept me alive and kicking for the whole day.  Hey, when you’re Italian, some form of meat is always on the menu.  Lunch time was a good hour long, which wasn’t too shabby.  While we were eating in our own little corner of the embarkation lounge, we were all talking about the Baltimore trip.  That trip was the topic of discussion all day long.  Who wants to forget Baltimore?  That was a work day like no other, a bonding experience I should say.

    At noontime exactly, embarkation began.  I quickly reported to the terminal entrance where all of the guests in need of wheelchairs were waiting.  The first guest I assisted, was rather pleasant.  His name was Eugene, which is my middle name.  They have sailed on the Queen Mary 2 once before.  They told me that they were very much familiar with the ship.  I made sure they had all of their belongings, and I took the husband through security.  First I went through, and then security patted him down.  Once the rest of his family walked through the metal detector, I took them to the check-in counter.  Even though I didn’t know all of the New York check-in staff, they sure knew that they were doing.  It’s my job in Bayonne too, so I’m in the same “boat” as them.  After this family was done checking in, they followed me and the husband onboard.  As we entered the ship, I asked the family, “I’m sure you are familiar with the lounges and clubs on board.  Are you?”.  They said, “Oh yes, David.  This ship is absolutely wonderful.”  I took the husband in the elevator up to their deck, while they followed along in another.  Finally, we reached their cabin.  They gave me a very healthy tip.  I’m not going to say how much.  Doing the job properly, and keeping the guests happy is what matters. 

    The next guest I assisted was very friendly.  He had a wonderful family, too.  His name was Henry.  They were absolutely wonderful.  I remember it well.  This family was sailing on the Queen Mary 2 for the very first time.  I took them through security, and then to the check-in area.  While they were filling out their health forms, I asked them about how they heard about the Queen Mary 2.  They said, “We heard that this ship has quite an on board atmosphere.”.  I said to them, “That it is.  It’s an incredible ship. There are plenty of things to do and plenty of places to hang out.  Once we’re on board, I’ll point out some of the popular places.” The wife said, “That’s so kind of you.”.  Once they were checked in, they followed me and Henry through the hallway.  They didn’t want their embarkation portraits taken.  They said, “They’ll be taking pictures all throughout the trip!”.  I retorted, “They sure know how to sneak up on you and pop the flash.  I love the Titanic grand staircase backdrop they set up on formal nights.”.  I then added, “The photography staff on board does an incredible job.  There’s never a time when they take a horrible shot of you.”.  Just as we entered the ship, I showed them the duty free shops, the Golden Lion, and the casino.  I then said, “On the deck down below, there’s another place called the Chart Room, where the champagne is always flowing.  Also, do check out the Queen’s Room and the G-32 Lounge right next door.”.  Henry said, “You sure know this ship, David!”.  I answered, “Every cruise is like practice.”  We took the elevator  up to their cabin.  They too gave me a healthy tip.  As I left their cabin, I said, “Enjoy your cruise, and have a great time.”.  “We sure will, David. Thank you so much for your help.”.  It was back to the gangway and to the terminal once again.  The day was going awesome.  Well, so I thought!

    It was a gorgeous afternoon.  I had already assisted two guests onto the ship.  Embarkation was going great.  I had assisted two guests who were absolutely pleasant.  Just as I returned to the wheelchair waiting area, that’s when I met “the fat guy”.  This guest and his family flew in from Poland.  If I can recall, Jon was his name.  This guy was one heavy dude.  He had this pot belly you would not believe.  He looked like he weighed three hundred and fifty pounds, maybe more.  He got up using is cane, and sat down in the wheelchair.  When he sat down, I could have sworn I heard the chair’s axle bend.  I started thinking to myself, “How in God’s name did the plane get off the ground?”.  They spoke broken English, very little I should say.  I took him through security, and the family followed behind us.  Pushing this guy was a challenge.  I was then wondering why they didn’t check him in at the curb.  Once they were all checked in, I pushed this guy toward the boarding area.  This guy was H-E-A-V-Y.  I thought I was pushing a pallet load of food provisions.  Yikes!  We entered the boarding area, and we passed the photography staff.  I was glad they didn’t take this family’s photograph.  Who would want to take a picture of this guy?  This guy had me on the verge of a hernia.  When we entered the elevator, this guy’s body mass took up half the space.  I was sure hoping the elevator would make it to the gangway level.  It did.  Phew! The first leg of the trip was over.

     Getting Jon on board the ship was one challenging situation.  The easy part was over, well, sort of.  Immediately afterward, I began trying to get the wheelchair over the metal bulkhead and into the gangway.  He was so heavy, he was sliding forward, and almost slid out of the chair.  The gangway then pitched downward, and then it would turn sharply to the right, then upward, and then onto the ship.  I didn’t want this guy to slide out of the chair and get hurt, so I had to do things the hard way.  I turned him around and I dragged him through the gangway backwards.  This guy, Jon, was heavier then Jaba The Hut.  As I was dragging him through the descending portion of the gangway, I felt my chair pushing against me.  The last thing I wanted was for this guy to run me over.  I then started thinking to myself, “If this guy runs my butt over with this wheelchair, what a way to go out!”.  I couldn’t imagine my tombstone saying, “R.I.P.  Do Not Despair.   Pancaked By A Fat Guy In A Wheelchair”.  Pulling this guest through the gangway was like a sequel to The Little Engine That Could, or should I say.......ah, forget it.  Finally we reached the end of the gangway.  I was fearing that the ship was going to list.  He nearly ran me over as I carefully rolled him down the bridge plate into the ship.  He made it!

    Finally, the real easy part was coming up.  I was wrong!  The ship had these metal bulkheads which I too had to navigate over.  When I hit one of them, he nearly slid out of the chair.  I had to turn him around again and drag the chair backwards.  The elevator door opened, and I took him into one elevator.  The rest of his family followed in another.  I was so glad they did that.  I was afraid the elevator wouldn’t move an inch with everyone else in it, including him.  We finally arrived at their deck, five decks up exactly.  I was then whispering to myself, “How in hell is he going to get around this ship?”.  Well, I left that up to them.  The wife tipped me ten dollars.  I said, “Have a safe trip, and take care.”.  I returned back to the gangway.  When I returned, I was met by a bunch of my Bayonne colleagues who were just giggling at me.  I said, “Did you see the guy I was pushing? THAT WAS ONE...HEAVY DUDE!”.  One of my dear colleagues, Paul, said, “You should have charged him per pound, Dave.” I said, “Shut up!”.  I then said, “I hope they loaded enough food on board.”.  The rest of the day went along without a hitch.  Before I knew it, embarkation was over.  The Queen Mary 2 was preparing to set sail on her thirteen-day Caribbean cruise, with one fat guy in tow. I really mean, “in tow”.

    When work was done, Paul, a few of his Brooklyn colleagues, and I signed off and left the terminal.  As we were waiting for the bus to take us to Jay Street, we watched the ship leave.  I still couldn’t believe that a ship that big can float.  Having sailed on her twice, that was one incredible ship to work at.  Once we got off the bus at Jay Street, Paul showed me the way to the subway station.  We all said, “Good Night” to each other, and I walked down the subway steps.  I took the A train to New York Penn Station, where I took the train to Secaucus, NJ.  There I changed trains to finish the trip home.  The long day’s work, including pushing a three hundred and fifty pound man, sure caught up with me.  When I walked in through the front door of my home, I shared my story from my parents and brother.  When I told the story about Jon, the fat guy, did I have my mom and my brother laughing hard.  That was the topic of discussion for a month, even on Thanksgiving Day at our friends’ house.  Here’s to having an exciting and rewarding job!