When I was first told that me and everyone on my mother’s side of the family (all eighteen of us) were going on a weeklong cruise to Alaska over summer, I was less than pleased. It had always been one of my grandmother’s dreams to go to Alaska and she was ecstatic to take us along. Everybody else in my family had this massive sense of anticipation, and I was completely against the whole thing. Alaska?! Why would we go there over summer vacation? I want to go on the Disney Cruise!” were common statements spewing from my mouth in the months leading up to the trip.
The dreaded day finally came, everything that could have gone wrong did. This was our first time out of the United States, so there was a health check at the port in Seattle and my sister had been sick a few days before. She failed the check and this held us up for about an hour at the port. Then, the woman behind the ID counter couldn’t match my father’s photo to the one on the computer. We finally were shown to our cabins on the ship (the Oosterdam on the Holland America Line) and to say I was mortified is an understatement. It was so small! And to find out that at age 15 I had to share a bunk bed with my sister only made things worse. I loudly exclaimed “UGHH! This is the worst trip EVER!”
I can look back at that moment an laugh with great feelings of nostalgia now. That week ended up being the most amazing, life changing experience I’ve ever had. I’ve always been a musical theatre enthusiast, so seeing the shows every night was a huge joy. I would even sneak into the second showings to see them again! The cast so kindly took me under their wing and brought me backstage. They were all such outstanding performers and I couldn’t believe they were taking the time to give me one-on-one advice!
I still haven’t mentioned the cruise director. Jay, age 26. The sweetest, funniest, most charming…okay, I do have a bit of a crush. He made the trip so much fun and welcomed us right away. Even though he was the “celebrity” of the ship, he took time to talk to any passenger that just wanted to chat or had a question or even (like me) wanted a picture and a hug!
During that week I connected with my seventeen other family members more than I ever could have imagined. Many of them I hadn’t seen since I was very little. They all have such wonderful and specific personalities. I learned that my cousin is training to be a gourmet chef. My aunt is a staunch Republican. Perhaps the most exciting thing was finding out that I come by my love for performing honestly; my uncle won the ship’s karaoke contest! Sitting in the front row cheering him on was an absolute blast.
One week after stepping onboard the Oosterdam, my life was changed. I knew what I wanted to do for a living: work in the hospitality business. I want to make peoples’ vacations the most memorable times of their lives. I want to meet as many new people as possible and learn about the world through traveling. That cruise was pure heaven for me. Oh, and the gorgeous Alaskan glaciers and landscapes weren’t so bad either.
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