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.


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