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too much mango

Too Much Mango

By Elise Lentz.

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for more than 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the final word in Elise’s monthly series of installments for 2018. Here we go, one last time, following Elise behind the scenes at sea.

A Crappy Story

It’s hard to believe that this is my 12th posting. As I thought about all the stories I’ve shared with you, I’ve realized that writing them has taken me on a yearlong journey down memory lane. I was thinking about a few different travel vignettes that I wanted to write about next, when my focus totally took a different direction.

I was browsing a holiday flyer advertising gift ideas. And there it was, next to the Chia Pet, an ad for Poo Pourri®. My curiosity got the better of me and I had to research this further. I checked out their website that cleverly claims the inventor “hatched” the idea while in a smelly bathroom near Dallas Texas. I chuckled to myself as it made me reminisce about my own bad bathroom memory.

too much mango

Poo-Pourri

It was summertime in PA in the late 80’s. Tim and I and another couple packed up my car to head down to the Jersey shore for a weekend. It was dark outside by the time we pulled into a backwoods gas station to fill up with gas, grab some sodas and use the bathroom.

This was one of those old-school facilities where the bathroom is a unisex room accessed from the outside of the building. You had to ask the attendant inside to get the key to open the door. In order to assure no one walked away with the key, it was normally securely fastened to something large, like a block of wood or a hubcap.

My friend gets the key and bravely makes her way to the bathroom. As swiftly as she entered the room, she ran out even faster, screaming in disgust. She threw the key (still securely attached to its anchor) back at the attendant then ran towards us and jumped into the car.

Once safely inside the car, she proceeded to provide extreme detail of what she witnessed. The picture she painted is best explained as someone taking (what she eloquently described as) a “disco poop.” Keep in mind, this was the 80’s and disco was still around. If you use your imagination and dare to go there, you can paint your own picture of what she must have observed.

Scarred For Life

Her story scarred me for life and to this day, I will never enter a gas station toilet that requires a key (securely attached to a 10-pound weight) and is not located inside the building. Years go by and I continued to pray that I would never have to experience a toilet story that horrific. And then it happened.

So, I’m  with a group getting ready to board a small ship for a cruise through the Panama Canal. We have a shore excursion in Panama City touring the historical ruins of Panama Viejo.

too much mango

Elise transiting the Panama Canal. * Photo: Tim Lentz

We are heading back to the bus to visit the next site when one of my guests, “Grandpa Bob,” approaches me expressing his need to find a bathroom. I knew the only WC on the site was a ¼-mile walk in the opposite direction of the bus. I explained to “Grandpa Bob” that within 20 minutes we would be at the next venue and a toilet would be at his disposal.

I continued to make my way towards the bus, when I realize “Grandpa Bob” is missing. He was traveling with his grandson and I asked him what happened to Grandpa?  In a typical teenage boy response, he shoots me a sideways glance of “who cares” and returns to listening to his music.

I almost reached the bus when I looked behind me to see “Grandpa Bob” running across the field. In the distance behind him, I noticed the outline of a “Porta Potty” positioned behind a tree.  Now I must have been to this same site at least 30 times before and I never noticed that “Porta Potty” before. I greeted  “Grandpa Bob” at the bus, he boarded and off we went to the next site.

Is Grandpa OK?

We now arrived at the museum. I provided the logistics explaining we would use the toilet first then we would tour the museum.  Everyone exited the bus, except “Grandpa Bob.” His grandson walked by me and I inquired “Is Grandpa OK?” This question was met with a roll of the eyes and an indignant shrug of the shoulders.

I got the group situated in the museum and I returned to the bus to look for “Grandpa.” My driver, now with a disgusted look on his face, threw his head towards the back of the bus where the toilet was located.

Now, I need to digress at this point in the story. Anyone in my line of work understands the love/hate relationship bus drivers have with toilets onboard. They “love” to advertise that their bus has one, but they “hate” for anyone to actually use them. Some have even gone so far as to install pad locks on the doors.

too much mango

Locked bus toilet.

So at this time, I walked to the back of the bus and knocked on the door. I asked  “Grandpa Bob” if everything was OK?  I heard some rustling inside and “Grandpa Bob” grunted “I’m OK!”  I advised that I would wait outside for him and as I walked past the driver, I sheepishly glanced his way and whispered “I’m sorry.” 😬 It was at this point I started to realize, this wasn’t going to end well for the driver.

“Grandpa Bob” emerged from the bus. I asked again if everything was OK.  “Grandpa Bob” had sweat rolling down his forehead and replied: “Too much Mango.”

I got “Grandpa Bob” back with the rest of the group in the museum and I proceeded back to the bus to make peace with the driver. That’s when the flood of memories from that traumatic scene of the 80’s gas station toilet poured (flushed?) back into my mind. There was my driver, on his hands and knees in front of the toilet.

Armed with rubber gloves, rags and a large plastic bag, he looked at me with eyes that ached in disbelief. He didn’t speak English, but he didn’t have to for me to understand what was going through his mind. As I sheepishly exited the bus, leaving my driver to deal with the effects of too much mango, I think I heard the faint sound of the Bee Gees playing on the radio.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

 

Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Hitting the Road  (Part 1)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — The Voyage Begins (Part 2)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Sleeping Around (Part 3)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Shook Me All Night Long (Part 4)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Say Cheese (Part 5)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Good Cruises Gone Bad (Part 6)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Whatever the Client Wants (Part 7)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Crazy Cruise Charters (Part 8)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Yoko Ono Encounter (Part 9)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Losing a Friend at Sea (Part 10)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Surreal Tour Guide Spiels (Part 11)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — The Effects of Too Much Mango

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Surreal Tour Guide Spiels

Surreal Tour Guide Spiels

By Elise Lentz.

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for more than 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the 11th in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story behind the scenes.

From Baloney to Rome: “Hail Caesar”

I have heard of people in near-death situations having out of body experiences. I would often think how surreal that must be to actually witness yourself from a different plane. And then — it happened to me (fortunately not via near-death).

In my college years I worked as a tour guide in a baloney factory. (And that’s no baloney.) Don’t go there; trust me, over the years I heard all of the bad boloney jokes. For those of you who are not familiar with baloney, it’s beef cured in a smoke house — like a sausage. Tourists would visit this rural area of Pennsylvania and want to tour the factory.

Think about it, people vacation and visit the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory, Jelly Belly Jelly Bean factory, breweries and distilleries, and so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a life altering tour of the iconic SPAM® museum and factory. So why wouldn’t you want to add a tour to a Pennsylvania baloney factory as an itinerary highlight of your family vacation?

Surreal Tour Guide Spiels

Baloney!

My job was to walk them through the manufacturing process from conception to consumption. Some days I would give the same tour 10 or more times and my “shtick” soon became very repetitive. It was like I just pressed play and the words would flow from my mouth without me even having to think. And that is when it happened.

I drifted outside of my body and found myself floating above my little tour group. I was looking down, watching myself deliver my “spiel” and looking around the factory grounds contemplating my life and wondering if I would ever totally rid the smell of smoked meat from my hair. That’s when it occurred to me that I could see my mouth moving, but I wasn’t able to hear what I was saying. I freaked out, because I know I inherited what I call the “no-filter gene.” It is a trait that allows me to spew words from my mouth without my brain running it through a filter first. Not exactly sure of what I was saying to these people, but I noticed that my little tour group was laughing. This is not a big deal, except my pre-recorded delivery didn’t offer anything funny at this point in time of the tour.

I decided to force my mind to get back into my body and that is when I realized what I was saying. I was telling them about my college public speaking assignment I just completed. My lecture topic was to demonstrate how baloney is made and I brought visual aids. I built a display smokehouse out of a big cardboard box complete with miniature baloneys hanging in the house. My little tour group was losing it when I explained my miniature baloneys were tampons wrapped in old panty hose. I stapled the “cord” of my tampon baloneys to the roof of the smoke house so my baloneys were hanging in proper smoking form.

Back to the Ships

While working on a cruise ship, I was with passengers who disembarked the ship after a cruise for a tour of the Colosseum in Rome followed by a stay at a hotel. My “no-filter gene” kicked in once again. Things came out of my mouth before my brain could process what I was doing and here is how it all went down.

I had a group of approximately 30 people, 2 of which were single ladies in their 80’s who were traveling together. For this story, I will call then “Marge “and “Betty.” When we arrived at the Colosseum, “Marge” and “Betty” both decided to leave their personal items on the motor coach. Prior to entering the venue, the group stopped at the designated meeting location and all were informed of the time to reconvene in case anyone got separated. When the group finished the tour at the exit of the Colosseum, I noticed “Betty” was missing. I asked her friend “Marge” when she last saw “Betty,” but she couldn’t remember. We exited the venue and went to our meeting location and “Betty” was still M.I.A.

Our company’s policy states if you aren’t at the designated meeting location on time, we assume you left the group and you were on your own to rejoin the group at the next location. Considering “Betty” was alone and in her 80’s, it could have been possible that she was injured or had a medical situation and her wallet and all forms of identification were left on the motor coach. Being concerned for her well-being, I left my group with the local guide and I went back to the Colosseum to find her.

Surreal Tour Guide Spiels

Elise & Tim in Rome

Betty, Betty

In my broken Italian, I explained to a security guard that I was missing an older lady and needed help finding her. The security guard allowed me back into the Colosseum, took me by the hand, and walked me through the Colosseum. He guided me into a side access door which led into a small room. The room was furnished spartanly (no pun intended) and only contained an old desk and a metal file cabinet with a microphone sitting on top. The man handed me the microphone and gestured that I speak into it.

So I made a quick announcement: “Betty, Betty traveling with Elise’s Group please meet me at the exit” and I repeated it. I thanked the man and proceeded to go to the exit to wait.

I waited for 10 minutes and then I decided to call the hotel to see if by chance “Betty” was there. As I was on the phone with the front desk, they advised she had just walked in. Relieved, I took a taxi back to the hotel and met with “Betty. She told me that she did not have her watch set properly and thought she was late for the meeting time and assumed we all left. She knew she did not have her wallet with her, but sweet-talked a taxi driver to take her to the hotel. When she arrived at the hotel, she sweet-talked the doorman to pay the taxi driver and assured him she would repay him when her purse was returned. All was good — “Betty” was safe and happy and reunited with her purse and the group.

Later that day, I shared this story with my husband Tim. He stared at me in disbelief and said: “Wait a minute. Are you telling me you actually made an announcement in the Roman Colosseum?”  That is when it hit me exactly what I did.  There, in this iconic Roman venue, where 42 emperors announced the fate of gladiators, my voice and my name echoed through the arena as I searched for Betty.

I sat there with Tim with my mouth agape and then he added:  “I hope you finished it off with ‘Hail Caesar’!”

 

QuirkyCruise Review

 

 

Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Hitting the Road  (Part 1)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — The Voyage Begins (Part 2)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Sleeping Around (Part 3)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Shook Me All Night Long (Part 4) 
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Say Cheese (Part 5)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Good Cruises Gone Bad (Part 6)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Whatever the Client Wants (Part 7)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Crazy Cruise Charters (Part 8)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Yoko Ono Encounter (Part 9)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Losing a Friend at Sea (Part 10)

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Losing a Friend at Sea

Losing a Friend at Sea

By Elise Lentz.

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for more than 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the tenth in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story behind the scenes.

Part 10: Losing a Friend at Sea

In a prior post, I shared a story of a memorable small ship moment with AC/DC lead singer, Brian Johnson. While that was my only “known” interaction with someone famous, outside of my “stalking” Yoko Ono in the ladies room, there have been other people who have touched my life in special ways too. While my posts generally exude a level of humor, I feel it only fair to issue a spoiler alert — this month’s article may tug a little at your heart.

Because we have spent so many years on some of the same ships, we have become friends with many of the crew members. The world of working on ships is unique. Because you are away from your land-based family and friends, for extended periods of time, the ship becomes your home and those onboard become your surrogate family. You learn to respect and take care of each other, because these people are your support network, in good times and bad. You share laughs together and shoulders to cry on when needed.

We all agree that our career at sea is a strange work/life relationship. When you are on board — you count down the days until your contract is up and you can return to your “real life” on land. Then when you are “home,” you count down the days until you return to your “ship family.” Those of us in the industry can relate to each other and this unique way of life — which is also a major factor in making this bond of  “life at sea” so much stronger.

Over the past 10 years Tim and I have worked on a very small vessel — 88 meters (288 feet) with 30 crew members. As you can imagine, on such a small ship, the crew and passengers have a lot of interaction with each other. This intimate cruising environment makes for very memorable and unique experience for the passengers.

Losing a Friend at Sea

The 64-passenger Le Ponant.

A Kind Soul

It was on this ship that I will never forget the gentle kindness and friendship of one of the crew members. This person happened to be the ship’s Doctor. He loved to interact with the guests and would often participate in the evening entertainment and play games and dance with the passengers. When the ship was chartered with a group, he joined the guests on the shore excursions and brought along his medical bag, just in case anyone had a medical situation needing his attention. Guests felt safe and comfortable in his presence and he would always receive the biggest applause during the crew farewell ceremony at the end of a cruise.

Near the end of the cruising season, I recall the Doctor being very excited. When the ship arrived in Nice, France, his wife would be boarding the vessel for the final cruise. They would then disembark in Marseille, France, for some time off, as the ship was taken out of service for its scheduled technical stop. Before arriving in Nice, I remember the Doctor sitting in a café in Taormina, Sicily, on FaceTime with his wife, expressing how he couldn’t wait to see her again. He showed us photos of them both together and beamed with both pride and love.

Who would have ever thought that moment would be his last conversation with his wife. That evening he had passed away, peacefully, in his sleep. He was only in his early 60s.

The crew members were in shock of his sudden and unexpected passing. In essence, they lost one of their family members. Unlike most of us dealing with a personal loss, where you can mourn in the privacy of your home, the crew was still in the face of the public and had to continue to work and provide service to the 60 passengers. The Captain made the passengers aware of the passing of the Doctor and even though they only spent a few days with this gentle, kind man, many were saddened by the loss of their new friend.

The Captain wanted to honor the memory of his friend and fellow officer by paying tribute with a special memorial. Before sailing away, from the tiny island of Lipari, in Italy, all of the crew and passengers lined up on the top deck of the ship. The crew, dressed in their uniforms, lined the port side of the Sun Deck, while the passengers took their place on the starboard side.

Le Ponant was anchored off the coast of the island of Lipari. * Photo: Elise Lentz

The sun was just starting to set and the air was filled with the sound of Ave Maria gently performed by the ship’s musician. The Captain unfurled the sails and the ship slowly began to turn away from the tiny island where we left our friend, the good Doctor. Tears filled my eyes and my heart was heavy with the emotions of losing a friend. In a moment of silence, as we sailed away, a tiny bird landed next to me on the top deck. It sat there, looking at me, as if it were reassuring me that all was OK.

The next morning, I awoke early and was standing on the outside deck. I was watching the sun rise and composing myself — as I was mentally getting ready to face the passengers. We were still hours away from land and our arrival into Amalfi. All of a sudden, another little bird appeared and landed on the deck next to me.  My eyes immediately teared up again, but my heart felt a sense of lightness.

While my brief moments with the little bird may not mean much to anyone else, to me, it served as a reminder that life is short and to relish the unique moments that unexpectedly touch your life. To this day, that memory still brings a smile to my face as I think about the wonderful man who cared for so many people in such a gentle way.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

 

Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Hitting the Road  (Part 1)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — The Voyage Begins (Part 2)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Sleeping Around (Part 3)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Shook Me All Night Long (Part 4) 
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Say Cheese (Part 5)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Good Cruises Gone Bad (Part 6)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Whatever the Client Wants (Part 7)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Crazy Cruise Charters (Part 8)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Yoko Ono Encounter (Part 9)

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Yoko Ono Encounter

Yoko Ono Encounter

By Elise Lentz.

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for more than 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the ninth in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story behind the scenes.

Part 2 of Memorable Small Ship Moments, Hello Yoko Ono

In a prior post, I shared a story of a memorable small ship moment with AC/DC Lead singer, Brian Johnson. That was my only “known” interaction with someone famous. Other than the time I stalked Yoko Ono in the Hotel Danieli, Ladies Room, in Venice. Read on.

For a few years, Tim and I ran a small-ship cruise tour for Tauck that originated in Venice and that allowed us to spend a lot of time in the famous Hotel Danieli prior to boarding the cruise ship, which at the time was Ponant’s 90-passenger Le Levant. We were in the hotel lobby, waiting for our room to be ready, when I noticed the bellmen carrying a large quantity of Louis Vuitton bags and travel cases. They carefully stacked the bags in the lobby — just opposite of where we were sitting.

Yoko Ono Encounter

Tim having breakfast on the patio of Venice’s famous Hotel Danieli. * Photo: Elise Lentz

I will share with you that Tim is well aware of my fantasy that someday, I would prance around town, doing my daily business, toting a beautiful Louis Vuitton bag. Diligently, he constantly reminds me that it would be nice to retire someday (before we die).  So to appease my fantasy (in reality — to shut me up for a while), he found me a very poorly crafted $20 LV street bag. The only characteristic that somewhat represented a real “Louis” was the color scheme. The entire bag smelled like glue and after a few days of using this grandiose purchase, the handles of my pleather bag cracked and split. Buyer beware — this is what you get when buying a street bag that is so cheap that it couldn’t even be classified as a bad knock-off.

Ok, back to the “real deal” in the Hotel lobby. When I saw this amazing collection displayed before me, my female instincts kicked in and I was determined to remain camped out in the lobby until I witnessed who owned this treasure trove. And then she appeared. Coming down the sweeping staircase was a very petite woman complete with a fedora hat and large, dark sunglasses. She sat down on the couch across the lobby from me. Trying to be stealthy and nonchalant, I would periodically peek over the top of the magazine I was pretending to read. Finally, it occurred to me, this was Yoko Ono. She was in Venice for the 2009 Biennale art show and was checking out of the hotel.

After a few minutes, Ms. Ono got up from the couch, walked past the reception desk and preceded down the hall.  Spending so much time in this hotel, I knew the only place she could possibly be going was to the ladies room. What happened next is something I did, but to this day, I still can’t explain why I felt compelled to do it. I followed her.

Ladies Room Rendezvous

I knew there were only two stalls in the ladies room, so there was a good chance I could approach her.  I excused myself from Tim and went to pee (even though I didn’t have to go).  When I arrived in the ladies room, Ms. Ono was already in one of the two stalls, so I settled into the free stall. Because I didn’t have to go, I put the lid down and made myself comfortable, still wondering what my plan was. After what felt like a very long time, I heard a flush from the stall next to me. That was my cue to get ready. I matched her flush, with my own flush, and exited the stall. As I approached the sink, the ladies room door opened. A strange woman poked her head into the bathroom and looked around quizzically before leaving. I began washing my hands and once again, this strange woman poked her head back into the room. Again she appeared confused and then left. It was then that I realized this stranger must have been Ms. Ono’s handler, possibly wondering what could be taking her so long. That same thought crossed my mind. What was taking her so long?  By this time, I was already on my third version of singing “Happy Birthday” to myself as I washed my hands. Then finally, her stall door opens and she approaches me.

Yoko Ono Encounter

Just the two of us …..

I couldn’t believe it. I still had no plan. I could have asked her about her art; John Lennon; if she got a great deal on her Louis Vuitton collection. But I had nothing. All I could muster was a squeaky “hello.” She looked up at me, glaring over the top of her sunglasses and then preceded to the sink. To the relief of both of us, her handler reappeared in the ladies room to announce that her water taxi was here and it was time to go.

I dried my hands and with my head hanging low, I slunk out of the ladies room and sulked back to the hotel lobby. Now empty of those gorgeous LV travel bags, I returned to the couch and plopped down next to Tim. He could tell from the look on my face, my mission (whatever that was) was not successful.

Was that the last time I ever stalked someone? Heck no! But the next time, I was sure to have a plan. Maybe I’ll share that story in the future.

🐧🐦

 

Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Hitting the Road  (Part 1)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — The Voyage Begins (Part 2)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Sleeping Around (Part 3)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Shook Me All Night Long (Part 4) 
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Say Cheese (Part 5)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Good Cruises Gone Bad (Part 6)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Whatever the Client Wants (Part 7)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Crazy Cruise Charters (Part 8)

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Crazy Cruise Charters

Crazy Cruise Charters

by Elise Lentz.

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for over 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the eighth in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story behind the scenes.

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 8)

In a previous post, I talked about some of the more interesting themed charters our ships hosted. I mentioned that the ship (in a nutshell) “caters” to the whims and desires of the charter client.  One such request came from the organizers of a gay charter to have the captain don a toga during their themed toga party. As reluctant as the captain was to strip himself of his formal uniform, he did comply and amazingly managed to find a way to attach his epaulets (stripes) to his makeshift toga. (I still wish I had a picture of that…)

Another captain faced a few “unique” requests during an Orthodox Jewish charter. When the rabbi wanted to have the dinnerware blessed in the seawater, all of the dishes and glasses were crated up and placed in a large cargo net. Using the onboard crane — the netting and crate were lifted over the side of the ship and “somewhat” gently dipped into the ocean.  Mission accomplished — all items were blessed in the ocean.  “Mission impossible” — not all of the dishes and glasses made it back onboard.  So the next time you are snorkeling around St.Thomas you may see a new coral reef consisting of china dinnerware and crystal glasses.

Not all charters are remembered for their parties and fun-loving guests. And as you know, just because someone may have a lot of money does not mean they have a lot of sense.  And this next story proved that wealth is not always a direct correlation to intelligence.

There was one charter that consisted of a family reunion, and this multi-generational family (and their friends) took over the entire ship. Some of the younger members, bored with “Uncle Joe’s” family stories, “Aunt Alice’s” card games and pulling grandpa’s finger, decided to turn their cabin into a circus act. Complete with music blaring from the room, one young man took on the role as ringmaster to attract the interest of the other younger cruisers. With an abundance of teenage hormones, two of the more “beefy” muscular boys decided to host a ringside act and show off their bravado and skills of strength to their friends. Without any grace or skill whatsoever, they proceeded to turn their cabin’s bathroom door into a trapeze. The young audience encouraged and cheered on the acrobatic performers until…. the trapeze broke. To the disbelief of the chief engineer, the final act of these circus clowns resulted in the steel framed bathroom door being bent beyond repair. Unfortunately for the chief engineer, that was not the worse of the nightmares he would face on this cruise.

The swimming pool onboard was very petite and passengers would refer to it as “an Olympic sized bird bath.” Late one night, after some of these same clowns grew tired of fornicating and smoking in the dark on the outside decks, they decided to host a “cannonball” diving competition in the pool. This resulted in a major crack in the bottom of the pool. Leaking water has to go somewhere — and it did — into the main lounge which was located on the deck below the pool.

You can’t make this shit up.

So how did grandma and grandpa “Warbucks” address these situations? History has proven that people with money often dig themselves out of “ugly situations” by throwing money at it, in this case, with a check to pay for the damages. The “Warbucks” couldn’t deny the damages their group wreaked on the ship and they paid up.

The “coup de grâce” for the captain that week was the day we were in Mykonos, Greece. For those of you who have been there, you know the winds can be unrelenting. The ship was docked and the family (and friends) disembarked for a day onshore. The daughter–in-chief, who was the mastermind behind the “Warbucks” clan, stayed onboard to plan the evenings’ events.  She approached the captain wanting him to reposition the ship and anchor off-shore, so the family could enjoy “the twinkling lights of Mykonos” that evening during dinner. The captain was very hesitant about this request and explained to Ms. “Twinkling Lights” why this was not a good idea due to the forecasted increase in wind speed. Wanting nothing to do with his answer and as any spoiled brat would do, she whined until he finally gave in. The captain contacted the port agent and advised him that he would give up his docking location to go to anchor. This also meant the ship would need to establish tender operations to get all the passengers, who were currently on shore, back to the ship.  The captain left the dock and attempted to anchor. The winds continued to grow and the captain advised that he did not think operating the tenders in these conditions was safe.  Ms. “Temper Tantrum” stomped her feet and pouted until the captain lowered a tender.  What I then witnessed was one of the scariest tender operations I would ever see.  The winds were so strong that the waves tossed the tender around like a cork bobbing in water. To make matters worse, the ship broke free from its anchorage and was now drifting. At this time, the captain told Ms. “Thang” to get off his bridge and he was going take the ship back to the dockage. Fortunately, the sailor was able to slowly maneuver the tender back to the dock and safely re-board the vessel once the ship re-docked.

Finally, the cruise ends and the poor crew has the daunting task to clean and repair, in four hours, what in essence was a weeklong frat party. To this day, whenever I hear people mention Mykonos, visions of “spoiled kids of privilege” dance in my head.

Crazy Cruise Charters

Elise in Mykonos, while the charter queen harassed the captain on board. * Photo: Tim Lentz

To quote a line from Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” I can relate, in that there are times you are disappointed with or dislike the chocolate you received, but then there are those amazing chocolates that create a special, comforting memory. Each journey we are on is like receiving a wrapped box of chocolates full of surprises.  Next time I’ll share with you some of the most “special chocolate” treats that stick in my memory.

 

Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Hitting the Road  (Part 1)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — The Voyage Begins (Part 2)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Sleeping Around (Part 3)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Shook Me All Night Long (Part 4) 
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Say Cheese (Part 5)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Good Cruises Gone Bad (Part 6)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Whatever the Client Wants (Part 7)

 

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Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 7)

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 7)

by Elise Lentz.

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for over 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the seventh in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story behind the scenes.

 

So when a group wants to charter the entire ship, what do you do?
Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 7)

Elise has seen it all ….

Typically, whatever the client wants….

Over the years there have been a few times when the ships we worked on were chartered by groups.  It’s possible you may have searched for a specific week to take your vacation and noticed that the cruise line has that week either blocked out or even removed from their schedule.  That’s a good indication that they are running a ship under “full-charter.”

So what are some of the themes we hosted while working onboard?

One time a car manufacturer offered a cruise for their top car salespeople. If their car sales were on par with the volume of booze consumed and casino winnings earned ­— then they were definitely the top salespeople in the entire world. I remember the bar manager being in a panic after the first night. He quickly realized that his top shelf supply would be depleted within two days and the group may have to resort to finishing out their cruise with Bud Light and Jägermeister.  And until this cruise, I have never seen a Casino Manager in complete fear. I have always been told that “the house never loses.” That typically is very true — until this cruise. Outside of being world class salespeople, they must have also been masters of counting cards. The Casino lost its shirt (and pants and jockey shorts). In order to honor the payout — we cleaned out the purser’s safe and actually had to get approval to dip into the emergency reserves onboard. The ultimate finale of this trip was witnessing a large, very hairy, grown man, strip down to his “tighty whities” and on his bare belly, perform the worm dance across the back deck during the deck BBQ. Just when I thought that show was bad enough, the next morning we had to witness him showing off his self-inflicted brush burns.

Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 7)

* The Daily Beast

If there was a Gold Medal for the most fun charter — it would have to be a New Years’ Gay Cruise. This group came onboard complete with Professional DJs, Comedians and Drag Queens. Their entertainment staff knew how to make grand entrances. One day the group went to a public beach, in the Caribbean, for a party. The star of the party was being escorted to the event in the most dramatic way. Imagine this — a zodiac (inflatable boat), blaring disco music, streaming towards the beach with a 7-foot-tall drag queen, dressed in a green sequined mermaid outfit complete with a long flowing blond wig. Locals on the beach started to look around and quickly realized this was not going to be their typical day at the public beach. One night the group rented space on the island of Montserrat to host a private toga party.  They donned their finest togas (aka bedsheets) and prepared to disembark the ship via tenders to go ashore. I remember the purser waiting at the bottom of the gangway to help “check off” the disembarking passengers. Innocently, she was reminding the guests to keep their ship’s ID card in a safe place for the night.  One man boldly lifted up the bottom of his toga, to reveal an “au natural undercarriage” and announced that he did not have a place to store his ID card. I can only surmise that if he asked for help, she could have made a suggestion of where he could put that ID card and then offer a little advice on seeing the spa manager to book an appointment for a “manscape” (look it up!).

Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 7)

#manscape

There have been other “themed” charter cruises my colleagues have experienced. One being a Nudest Only cruise. The only rule enforced was the passengers could not be on the open decks naked until the ship was so many miles off the coast. They were like kids at a candy store waiting for mommy to say it was “OK” to select the candy of their choice. They could barely contain themselves waiting for the moment to strip down and feel the wind in their hair…   The crew started to wear sunglasses to help avoid uncomfortable eye contact and to camouflage where they may be uncontrollably starring. Imagine this — it’s Captain’s Night and the passengers arrive by walking down a flight of steps to be greeted by the officers standing at the bottom of the staircase. It looked like this: (1) bare feet (2) ankles (3) hairy legs and knees followed by (4) quoting Austin Powers — their “twig and berries.”

The charter theme that wins the award (whatever award that may be), was the Swingers Cruise. The stories I heard about this charter were enough to make you need therapy and a hazmat suit. That’s one episode I never saw aired on The Love Boat…  At least not on prime-time TV.

So, what else can I share of “behind the scenes life” on board?  …. See you next month.

 

Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 1)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 2)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 4) 
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 5)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 6)

 

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behind the scenes

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 6)

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for over 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the sixth in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story behind the scenes.

 

Part 6: Good Cruises Gone Bad

By Elise Lentz.

“Elise, I need a letter.” If I had $1 for every time my Hotel Director said that to me during a cruise, I could have retired 10 years ago. What he was referring to was a letter I would compose apologizing for something that didn’t go just right for a guest. On my computer I had an entire folder filled with these letters to cover all kinds of situations.

For example,  one such letter may start out: “I’m sorry the wine service at dinner last night was slow and didn’t meet your expectation…  Blah Blah Blah.” The Hotel Director would then sign it and typically a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries accompanied the letter to the passenger’s cabin.

This particular journey there was a new letter I had to create. “I’m sorry you found a fly in your salad at lunch today”….  “I’m sorry you found a fly in your glass of wine today”….  “I’m sorry that your nap on the outside deck was interrupted by a swarm of flies today”….  That trip was like a horrible Alfred Hitchcock film. We had the invasion of the flies.

behind the scenes

Elise writing letters ….

Our itinerary had us sailing off the coast of Spain near the port of Tarragona. That year the region experienced an abundance of rain and the grapes on the vineyards were starting to rot. The locals couldn’t harvest the fruit fast enough and if the wind was just right, you could catch a hint of the musty smell of spoiled grapes. This mixture of moisture and decaying fruit became the perfect breeding ground for flies. Millions of flies and they were everywhere and in everything. You were afraid to open your mouth because as soon as you did….  “I’m sorry a fly flew into your mouth today at lunch… please accept our apology and enjoy these strawberries covered in chocolate and flies.”

So you may ask yourself, what could be worse than a full-blown “epidemic” of flies?  The answer is the dreaded intestinal illness and all it takes is “one culprit” to get it all started. I was standing in line at a salad buffet when I witnessed a man struggling to get the salad dressing to flow out of the bottle. I was in shock when he resorted to inserting his finger into the bottle to resolve his dilemma. When I didn’t think it was possible to experience anything more disgusting than that — I was sadly mistaken. Another passenger was at the carving station in a buffet and grabbed a pre-sliced piece of meat with his fingers and placed it on his plate. He then inquired with the chef as to what kind of meat this was. Not liking the answer, he picks up the meat from his plate, with his fingers, and throws it back onto the carving station. For those of you who really know me (and my personality) can probably finish the rest of this story. I just couldn’t let this go without saying something and my commentary went like this: “Excuse me, you just touched that piece of meat with your fingers and now after you proceeded to finger it again, you decide to throw it back onto the carving station. This is how people get sick.” Needless to say, “Mr. Snatch and Grab” picked the meat back up (with his fingers) and put it back on his plate, glared at me and took a seat.

When an illness started to spread onboard, the cleaning process needed to be implemented early and swiftly. Crew would be armed with containers of sanitizing cloths and we would wipe down everything that anyone could have touched. We would see the housekeeping staff decked out in what looked like a white hazmat suit. They were covered head to toe in protective gear with a sprayer filled with chemicals strapped to their back. Every surface on the ship was wiped and sprayed. It looked like something out of a Ghostbusters movie.

Another time, late at night, the swimming pool onboard was drained. Once again Ghostbusters were on the job scrubbing down the empty pool. I felt a sense of dread for the crew involved in the clean-up, but at the same time a childish grin came across my face as I had a flashback of the “Doodie!” scene from the movie CaddyShack. It was about this time that I thought to myself — no one would ever believe these stories if I told them. But I’m here to tell you — you can’t make this stuff up.

And if you don’t believe me – come back next month. We have a man in “tightie whites”performing the worm, a 7-foot drag queen dressed as a mermaid, and crew wearing sunglasses to avoid looking at “twigs and berries” during a nudist cruise.

 

Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 1)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 2)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 4) 
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 5)

 

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Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 5)

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? 

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for over 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the fifth in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story.

 

PART 5: So Where Are All Your Photos?

By Elise Lentz.

In my previous post #4, I mentioned I would share more stories of other people I have met during my travels. I will save “Part Duex of interesting passenger stories” for a later installation.  Since many of us in North America have just celebrated Mother’s Day, I thought it appropriate to dedicate this article to my mom.

How many times in your life have you not followed your mother’s advice? Or worse yet — you just flat out ignored it?  As each new birthday passes me by, I wish I heeded more of my mother’s advice.  I’m not talking about the “cardinal rule”…. to make sure you have on a clean pair of underwear before you leave the house.  That one I still follow. What I’m really talking about here is taking the time to document and share photos of my travels.

Elise & TIm Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 5)

Elise eating ice cream on her “vacation!” Lol

My mom and I have a running joke we share. Every time before I leave on an assignment, she tells me “Enjoy your vacation.” At first, I would get so frustrated with her for assuming that just because I was on a cruise ship meant that I was on a floating holiday. How dare she equate my long working hours, with a constant smile frozen on my face for days/weeks and months on end, as some sort of working vacation?  But with age comes wisdom and I finally wised up.

Those closest to me know that I am a very driven individual. I can get so focused on what I am doing that I often lose sight of other things happening around me. This “trait” (or some may call it a fault) is what makes me, me. I remember before I graduated college, my goal was to have a job lined up, ready to start, before I donned the cap and gown.  Sacrifice of personal time (a.k.a. fun) was all just part of the process.

This personal “drive to succeed” carried over to my life onboard the cruise ship.  The focus was to deliver the best experience for the passengers. But in order to do that — to my level of standards — required me to focus 100% on the passengers and their expectations. So, one day, when an innocent crewmember approached me asking when I was going to run the crew BINGO night, I almost lost it.  Are you kidding me? I just cashed in a great paying corporate job, a nice house, three cars and said goodbye to friends and family. I came onboard, starting a brand new career in a field that I knew nothing about. BINGO! How dare they assume I was here to have fun?  This is when I should have heeded my mom’s advice, but like any good daughter — once again, I ignored her words of wisdom….

Keeping in mind, Tim and I first started on the cruise ships in 2003. This was light-years before the advancement of the technology we have today.  I remember the first time the ship docked in Oslo, Norway. As soon as the authorities cleared the vessel, Tim put on his sneakers and ran the town to find where the ATMs, Tourist Office, local attractions, etc. were located. Why? Passengers getting off the ship for the day would want to know this information and we needed to be ready.  How times have changed. Today, you pull up an APP on your smartphone and everything is available at your fingertips.

During that time, any photos and videos we did take, of the locations we visited, became our “APP.” However, the photos we have are not of Elise eating an ice cream on the beach.  (Well, there is one ice cream shot.) These pictures were used to help us remember logistical details for each location.  Some of our itineraries may visit a particular port only once per year.  So these photos were not for display in a picture frame. They were to help us explain to passengers what type of terrain will they be walking on, are there steps with a hand railing, how many stalls are there in the ladies restroom, etc….

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 5)

Collage: Tim Lentz

So when my mom would say to me, “make sure you take pictures,” once again, I would scoff and roll my eyeballs.  Yes, mom, I take photos, but not ones you want to see. My mindset during that time was not forward thinking.  I didn’t imagine that someday I would share my story and that people would actually want to see some photos of what my life was like on the cruise ship.  Spoiler alert….  If you are excited to see photos accompany all of my stories — don’t get too excited.  Do I regret not following my mom’s advice?  You bet I do.

On our first ship, the hotel director once said to Tim and me, “Your biggest fault is you care too much.”  While I know he meant that as a compliment, he also meant that as constructive criticism to help us avoid burnout.  Did we heed that advice?  No way…  If I didn’t listen to my mom, why would I listen to him?

Our first contract was a seven-month assignment on the Windstar Cruises ship, MSY Wind Surf — 308 passengers.  For months, the itineraries were varied, rarely repeating ports of calls. Never having a day off, we were running on adrenaline to keep us going. I’ll never forget the last day of our contract. Our flight back to the USA was not until early the next morning, so we went to a hotel for the night.  As soon as we arrived – the adrenaline stopped flowing.  Our bodies knew we were no longer in the “spotlight” and everything shut down.  Last thing I remember is running to the bathroom and hugging the toilet as Tim climbed over top of me to reach the sink.  We got violently ill…..  I guess that is what happens when “you care too much.” And “No” — I don’t have a picture of that.

So now when my mom says, “enjoy your vacation,” I realize it is a gentle reminder to step back and appreciate what is around you.  Sort of like, “take your time to stop and smell the roses.”  Being older and wiser, I have finally begun to follow my mom’s advice.  Today I will stop and smell the roses and I’ll take a picture of that rose.  And just for the record, I do all of this in a clean pair of underwear.

 

Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 1)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 2)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea  (Part 4)

 

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Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 4)

Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 4)

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for over 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the fourth in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story.

 

Part 4: My fondest small-ship cruise memory

By Elise Lentz.

After 15 years working on small ships, people often say, “I bet you have some great stories.” When you take into consideration that a typical cruise is 7 days, we realistically have spent a significant amount of time with thousands of people. So the response is “yes,” we definitely have some stories to tell. This is normally when my eyeballs roll into the back of my head as I think about some of the real winners…

In the service industry, there is something referred to as the 20/80 rule. In any group, there will be 20% of the people that take up 80% of your time. Those 20% are the ones who you will never forget. Unfortunately, it is typically for all the wrong reasons.

However, there are a few stories that still make me smile and will stick with me forever. Here is one of them.

Tim and I were working as crew onboard Windstar Cruises’ MSY Wind Surf during a Christmas cruise out of Barbados. The Barbados itinerary is one of the most logistically complicated for the embarkation and disembarkation of passengers, because of the airlines’ flight schedules. Disembarking passengers would start to leave the ship as early at 3:00am.  That was not a typo, I did mean 3 in the morning. Embarking passengers would arrive throughout the day and continue to arrive after midnight.  For Tim and me, this schedule required us to work around the clock for almost two days.

A passenger sitting alone by the pool

The evening of embarkation, those passengers that arrived earlier were starting to make their way to dinner. Tim was walking on the outside decks and noticed one guest sitting alone by the swimming pool. He wandered over to make sure everything was fine and struck up a conversation. The guest mentioned that he traveled a lot with his business. He said he only took this cruise because his wife was excited about getting away with him and she insisted that he needed a vacation. As it turned out, the guest lived (part-time) in Florida, same as Tim and me, and they started to talk about some of the places they were both familiar with. When the guest mentioned some Florida blues bands he knew, Tim commented, “Sounds like you are in the music industry.” The guest replied: “Yes, I’m Brian Johnson.” Now Tim grew up listening to a lot of music and it didn’t take long before he put 2 and 2 together. Brian Johnson = lead singer for AC/DC.

While we do get a passenger manifest containing everyone’s name, Johnson is about as familiar a surname as Smith, so we didn’t have any “red flags” to clue us into the fact that we had a world-renowned rock and roll star sailing with us. Tim immediately notified the hotel manager that we had a major celebrity on board and we are all given strict orders to let Mr. Johnson have a peaceful vacation with his wife.

That worked fine for all of us, with the exception of the dining room manager.  He was a wonderful man from Croatia, who happened to be a huge fan of AC/DC.  The entire trip his face was frozen with a permanent smile and the familiar songs of AC/DC blasted in a steady stream from his office. He could hardly contain himself and at one point, in passing, I mentioned to him to “keep his pants on.” The dining room manager asked Tim, “Why is your wife telling me to keep my pants on?” It was at that time I realized that some of my “common” phrases and slang were not universally recognized to other nationalities. On the ship, the Indonesian and Pilipino crew would also have some slang sayings. For example, when a big cleaning needed to be done it was known as “soapy soapy.” If there was an abundance of something, they would say “plentong, like rice.” If something wasn’t fully understood, or seemed illogical, you would hear “why like that?” We were definitely a cultural mix and full of our own phraseology.

Ok so… “keep your pants on”

I’m getting to the good part of the story.

As I mentioned, this was a holiday cruise and for much of the crew, it was a difficult and emotional time. Many of us were thousands of miles away from family and friends and while we were spreading the “holiday cheer” to the passengers, our hearts were heavy. That’s when Santa Clause delivered us all a special message. Brian Johnson offered to give the crew a private concert on Christmas Eve. We worked with the ship’s house band to learn a few of AC/DC’s biggest hits. We did a major “soapy soapy” in the crew lounge and we even built a small dance floor.

Christmas Eve arrived and after a night of singing carols and drinking egg nog, the passengers went to their cabins with dreams of sugar plums and sandy beaches dancing in their heads. That’s when the crew came out to play. Our guest of honor was escorted into a place passengers never see — crew space. But that night we were proud of our little retreat, as we had transformed it from a smoke-filled, stale-beer-soaked, carpet-stained hang out into a classy looking night club lounge. We filled the room with stage lighting and a sound system we stripped (a.k.a. borrowed) from the passenger bars and lounges. The female crew excitedly ditched their crew uniforms in exchange for party dresses, heels and lipstick.

Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 4)

Brian Johnson of AC/DC and Elise shaking it all night long * Photo: Tim Lentz

Officer rank & order went over board

For the next hour, the crew onboard the MSY Wind Surf was joined together by the magic of music. Officer rank and order were set aside as we became one big family away from home and we had our gracious guest to thank for this special gift. While he could have easily spent his evening relaxing, he paid it forward by doing what he knew how to do best — perform.

In the early hours, we stealthily replaced the “borrowed” equipment to the passenger bars and lounges and grabbed a few hours of sleep before facing the passengers awaking to Christmas morning. They were singing carols and we were humming Back in Black.

While I have never traveled with a known celebrity again, there have been other passengers who have touched my life.

I’ll share a few.  Come back next month to find out who….

Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 1)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 2)
Click here to read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)

 

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Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for over 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the third in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story.

PART 3: Working and sleeping aboard a small cruise ship

By Elise Lentz.

It takes a special relationship to work, 24 hours a day,  7 days a week, with your spouse.  Some may even venture to say it takes a “lobotomy.” In a previous post, I mentioned that Tim and I spent 14 months “full-timing” across the USA in a 24-foot RV. That adventure allowed us to test the waters of cohabiting in small quarters for an extended period of time. After surviving that journey, we asked ourselves if we were ready for the ultimate test of our marriage. We knew there would be a lot of challenges ahead of us. We would be entering a brand new career working in foreign countries we have never been to before and leaving the security of the family and friends we knew. The only thing that was a constant, in all of this, is we had each other.

Could we work side-by-side and live in small quarters, 24 /7 for seven months? And could we do it without killing each other?  It turns out, we did not kill each other (though we had our moments…).

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)

Elise testing out the mattress in their Wind Spirit cabin. * Photo: Tim Lentz

Spending the last 15 years together, on the high seas, many people remark that we are living their “fantasy.” With that, I’m often asked, what is it like to live and work onboard a cruise ship. First off, it’s important to understand that there is a dramatic difference between working as crew and working as a tour leader — and we have done both.  As crew, you are hired by the cruise line and live and eat in crew quarters and your work schedule is 7 days a week for months on end.  As a tour leader, you are hired by a tour operator to manage their group onboard. You are classified as a passenger, so you sleep in a passenger cabin and dine in passenger restaurants and, in general, you get some down time during your assignment.

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)

Our cabin on the Wind Spirit. * Photo: Tim Lentz

With that in mind, “life on board” can best be described in terms of Clint Eastwood’s movie — The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. 

When we started working for Windstar Cruises, we were hired as crew and our positions were classified as officer status. I would equate ship-board life as similar to being in the military, where your rank defines your amenities.  Tim and I shared a cabin together and, thankfully, it had its own bathroom (The Good). Other crew members bunked together in smaller living quarters (sometimes 4 per cabin) and used a communal bathroom down the hall (The Bad).  The crew mess hall had a separate area for officers, which meant the officers mess offered less fish heads, rice and hot sauce and more curry dishes.  The one thing they both had in common was an abundance of cigarette smoking (The Ugly).

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)

Our very own cabin bathroom on the Wind Spirit. * Photo: Tim Lentz

Crew areas are your “home away from home”

The size of the ship determined the amenities available, where some “larger” small ships offer a separate crew bar, gym and lounge.  But no matter the size of the ship, Karaoke can always be found (Which can be The Good, Bad and Ugly). OK – you get the drift….

I had no idea what working (on average) 16+ hours a day, 7 days a week for 7 months would entail. Being “on,” in front of the public, all day long, for months on end, takes a lot of energy, patience and self-control. Being only human, there are just some days you want to curl up under a blanket with a cup of coffee and a good book. I remember one such day about five months into my contract. We docked in a small Caribbean port and I was at the end of the gangway greeting passengers as they disembarked for the day.  A lady approached me and asked the following question: “How should I walk?” I politely replied to her: “Well, normally I walk right foot then left foot then right foot then left foot.” I will be the first to admit, it was not one of my finest moments, and she made sure to note this in her comment card by writing: “Hostess was a smart xxx.”

It was at that time I realized my own physical and mental limits. For me, working in such a high profile position, in the public eye for 7 months (without a day off), was not healthy. So while I loved what I did, I needed to find a better way to do it.

During our tenure on the ships, we would often meet tour leaders who were responsible for a group they brought onboard. It may have been with a corporate incentive group or an organized touring group. The tour leader, in essence, was a passenger working on board.  As crew, I couldn’t stop thinking about this. As I explained previously, they were assigned to passenger cabins and dined in the passenger dining rooms and had days off.  (The Good… The REALLY GOOD).

From Crew to Tour Leaders = Cabin Upgrade

We were finishing a four-month contract in the Aegean, when we were approached by a tour operator to join their organization as a husband/wife tour leader team aboard their small-ship cruising programs. After working as crew for five years, this was an offer that was hard to turn down (refer to The REALLY GOOD above). We would now be “working passengers” on board some of the finest small ships and leading groups on luxury tours around the world.

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)

The little crew office behind the Wind Spirit’s Reception Desk. * Photo: Tim Lentz

However, despite what some may think, just because you are on vacation, doesn’t mean those serving you are also on vacation. People will ask me — “So how do you get a gig like this?” I often reply, jokingly, that #1, you need a big bladder because you are the last to pee, and #2,  you need a small stomach because you are the last to eat (The Bad).  The reality is, to make sure your vacation runs smoothly and appears effortless, takes a lot of “behind the scenes” work for the tour leader.  But… I can now do that work in luxury passenger areas rather than crew areas (The Good) and I know that I don’t have to wait four-to-seven months before I get a day off (The Good… The REALLY GOOD).

Our time spent onboard ships over the past 15 years was not without its challenges, but it also offered us many memorable moments.  Want to hear a few???  I bet you do. OK. Next time….

 

To read past installments, click here:

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 2)

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 1)

If you like what you’re reading, don’t miss a post and subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com, it’s free!

 

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Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for over 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US based Tour Operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the first in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Part 1: Elise & Tim Chuck Corporate Life to Hit the Road & the High Seas

By Elise Lentz.

How we wound up at sea is a voyage in and of itself…

We are high school sweethearts and credit our 30-year marriage to having similar goals and dreams in life. This means we got into this business because Tim and I had an early mid-life crisis together.

We were both working corporate jobs and never seemed to have enough quality time together, let alone have the time to take a true vacation. We had a nice house, cars and income — but something was missing. On a whim, I bought a book: Six Month Off: How To Plan, Negotiate & Take The Break You Need Without Burning Bridges Or Going Broke. Who knew that book would lead to us quitting our jobs, selling our house and cars, storing our “treasures,” and buying a 24-foot RV.

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes

It all started with a 14-month RV odyssey across the US. * Photo: Elise Lentz

Phase 1 of the Plan

We started the adventure by parking our new RV for a month, and then with two backpacks, our passports, Rick Steves’ Europe through the Back Door, and a Europe train timetable, off to Europe we went. Growing up in a small town in central Pennsylvania, this was a big deal for us. It was our first trip outside of the United States and once we got our passports stamped for the first time, all of the fear and trepidation of leaving our corporate jobs began to fade away. Not having an idea of what to expect made it even more exciting.

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes

A month backpacking through Europe was the precursor to a life at sea.

We spent one month backpacking through Europe, sleeping in hostels and pensions, and riding the rails. Of all the amazing places it was the kindness of strangers in a foreign land that was most memorable.

Phase 2 of the Plan

After our successful month taking a break exploring Europe, we were now ready to start “phase 2” — a 14-month RV journey across the USA with two mountain bikes strapped on the back. The trip surprised us with beautiful scenery and gracious people, and only a few breakdowns — the RV and once even our bed! (don’t ask).

Back from the RV tour, we realized that we loved being together and traveling, but we needed to figure out how we were going to survive at this long term. I found myself paging through the newspaper and saw an advertisement for a Windstar Trans-Atlantic cruise. Now you’re thinking “how is this going to pay the bills?” I thought the same thing, but we decided to approach this cruise as a two-week life planning session. Try to explain that as a business deduction to the accountant. We were up for two weeks at sea — with little to no TV or Internet. There would be a lot of time to reflect on what was important to us and what we wanted to do “when we grew up.”

Excited about this plan, we made the final payment on the cruise on September 10, 2001. Yep, the day before the horrific 9/11 event that rocked the world. The travel industry took a massive hit and we thought we would be getting a call that the cruise had been canceled. The ship still had to relocate across the Atlantic shortly after — with or without passengers — so the cruise line decided to bring along whomever still wanted to sail.

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes

Tim at the bow just before boarding. * Photo: Elise Lentz

On a small ship that holds 148 passengers, there were 21 onboard. Needless to say, two weeks at sea with only 21 people, we all got to know each other well. Searching for our next path in life, Tim and I focused on spending time with the cruise directors. On this ship, it was a “Host & Hostess” couple, which in essence is the cruise director and shore excursion manager.

Talking with them about life onboard, we disembarked the ship with a plan. We wanted to be them….

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes

On that 2001 Windstar cruise, Elise & Tim had plenty of time to talk to the crew, including captain Martin Scott.

Jumping in with both feet

First, we needed a plan to gain relevant training and experience in tour management and hospitality. Traveling to Colorado, we attended the International Guide Academy and became certified as tour managers. Armed with a certification, we then spent time working for a ski resort as mountain guides and resort hosts. With a few additional assignments in tourism, we felt ready to pursue our “dream.”

We valued our relationship and vowed to each other that whatever assignment we pursued, we would do it together. Windstar Cruises was one company that needed a team who could work together and share a cabin. As a married couple, spending 14 months full-time in a 24-foot RV, we had already proven that we could survive in small spaces without killing each other.

In life, anything worth pursuing is worth the wait. Persistence paid off, the timing was right — and we were hired.

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes

Hired!

Was it everything we ever thought it would be?

Well let’s save that for another post….

See you soon. — Elise

To read more installments, click here:

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 2)

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 3)

If you like what you’re reading, don’t miss a post and subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com, it’s free!

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Speaking of backpacking through Europe, if you’ve got plans to travel in Spain, here’s a helpful article about Safety in Spain from our friends at Alltherooms.com — Is Spain Safe?

Richard White

Heidi posed some questions to polar expedition expert Richard White, who has spent years at the ends of the earth as a guide, educator and wildlife lover. Richard works for EYOS, a purveyor of luxury yacht cruises to the world’s most coveted and remote places. In the past he’s also guided for Lindblad Expeditions. Richard’s an excellent photographer as well; click here for his Antarctica photo essay. Read Part 2 of our Q&A with Richard.

Connect with him on instagram @richthebirder or richard@eyos-expeditions.com.

 

QC: Do you have a favorite part of the poles?

Richard: The sub-Antarctic islands — whether places like South Georgia or the islands to the south of New Zealand. There is more biological diversity in those regions, and as wildlife is my main interest, diversity will always be a draw. It’s a perfect day if you get lucky with a great wildlife encounter or great weather and beautiful light.

They are also less visited than the Antarctic Peninsula, so that is an added attraction.

 

QC: What still makes you gasp in wonder?

Richard: A killer whale surfacing next to a Zodiac…

Killer whale surfaces next to zodiac driven by Richard. * Photo: Sean Todd

Killer whale surfaces next to zodiac driven by Richard. * Photo: Sean Todd

QC: How many trips have you taken to Antarctica?

Richard: I have never kept a count of how may trips I have done. In part because there is no simple way to measure. For example, how does a six-week research voyage compare with four 10-day trips? Or five weeks with eight people on a 20-metre sailboat compare with 10 days on a 200-passenger vessel?

All I can tell you is that my first trip was in 1998 as a researcher, my first as a guide in 2003, and I have missed two seasons since 1998.

So probably more than 25…

 

QC: If you have one golden message for small ship cruise passengers in Antarctica, what is it?

Richard: The one golden message is go. Don’t debate whether it is worth it, just go. And go for as long as you can afford (both in financial and temporal terms), and on as small a vessel as you will feel comfortable.

And then when you are there, seek out your own moments and your own experience. You will be with others, some of whom will be strangers, in close proximity, for days, maybe weeks. But don’t just accept their experience or the shared experience. Make the effort to find some personal space, or with a partner, and try to hold that moment and take in the scale of what you are experiencing.

Gentoo penguins nesting at Neko Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula. * Photo: Richard White

Gentoo penguins nesting at Neko Harbour, Antarctic Peninsula. * Photo: Richard White

QC: Do you get stir crazy if you’re “home” for more than a month or two?

Richard: No. It is a holiday, I can do my own thing, why would I go crazy? And assuming I can get out and walk in some kind of green space, or open space, then I can be happy anywhere.

 

Rafflesia plant. * Photo: Richard White

Rafflesia plant. * Photo: Richard White

QC: What’s packing like for you? You must be expert by now.

Richard: Packing is easy, yes. A few items of favourite tried and tested gear. And so much relies on an efficient laundry system on board.

 

QC: Can you imagine not traveling and guiding? Do you want to do it until you can’t physically handle it?

Richard: I don’t have a retirement package, so I guess I will die in the saddle…

 

QC: “Who” is your favorite kind of passenger? Least favorite?

Richard: There is no simple answer to this, but I will try.

Favourite — engaged. And then the opposite end of that spectrum. Everyone finds their own level of engagement, so it is not that one approach is “right” or “wrong.”  I guess another way to answer would be “happy” and “grumpy.”  But some people are happy when grumpy, it is their “normal.”

 

QC: After working for a few months straight, do you want to hide from people?

Richard: It really depends on the people. See above.

 

QC: How many airline miles do you have?

Richard: Not as many as you might think. I might only fly six times a year with work if I work three times, two-month contracts each time.

 

QC: If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be?

Richard: Probably living on an island studying seabirds. And I have a passion for island restoration programmes — getting rid of non-native species to restore island ecology. It can be very effective conservation work, although not cheap. We are all hoping that South Georgia has been cleared of rats through recent efforts by the South Georgia Heritage Trust — this would be a huge result.

Stork-billed Kingfisher in the Hindhede Nature Park. *Photo: Richard White

Stork-billed Kingfisher in the Hindhede Nature Park. *Photo: Richard White

QC: Besides your college degree, do you have other certifications?

Richard: I have qualifications as a Zodiac driver and in gun handling and first aid.

They are necessary — it is getting harder to find work without the relevant pieces of paper. One of the challenges the industry faces as it grows is finding new talent. Qualifications are one way, but should never replace relevant experience. But it is easy to get caught in a classic Catch 22 where you cannot get one without the other.

 

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author.  All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.