Wii ‘re Still on the Ship
Written by: Kuki
This morning we woke to beautiful blue skies, and abundantly warm temperatures, anchored off the coast of Belize. It’s hard to imagine that a Tropical Depression, moving slowly towards Hurricane status, is bubbling not far from this area (closer to Honduras where we were supposed to be heading tomorrow). It’s likely that we went through part of that weather system yesterday.
Tendering to shore is required in Belize as there is no dock. It’s about a 25 minute tender ride, but they seemed to handle it very well; they were already announcing open tenders available before 10 A.M. Mrs. Kuki and I did not go ashore this morning. I wanted to make contact with my family at home again. I got to talk to my father in the hospital this morning, and that eased my fears somewhat. He is getting more stable, and insisted I stay where I am, and enjoy the remaining few days of the cruise. I took his words to heart and began my day with the most delicious chocolate croissants, with my coffee!! I’ll be hunting for those every morning for the next three days!
Feeling much relieved after my morning conversation we got some prime real estate on deck, by the Sapphire Pool, and enjoyed the pleasant sunshine. By mid afternoon some of our CruiseMates friends had returned from their trips ashore, and we decided to go bowling in the Fyzz Lounge. Unlike her newer sister ships (Gem and Pearl) the Jewel does not feature real bowling alleys. We were bowling on the Wii gaming system hooked to the large flat screen TV in the Fyzz Lounge. It was a lot of fun! They also have 3 private rooms available to play Wii, or sing Karaoke privately. We had to end our fun playing Wii a bit early because they were using the big screen in the lounge to show a movie. And because two 141 year old ladies showed up to watch the movie, we ended our game.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down for a casual visit with Julian Brackenberry, the ship’s Hotel Director. When we’d met earlier in the cruise I recognized his face immediately, but couldn’t recall from where. Julian had previously worked with HAL, Princess, and Carnival.
At one time he’d also left the cruise industry for positions on land, to see if he preferred to “settle down”. During that time he’d managed the Tarangire Sopa Safari Hotel, and then the Blue Waters Resort in Antigua. However, the lure of the lifestyle of working at sea was much greater than Julian expected, and he returned to the cruise industry. The “lifestyle” of the sea is something that you hear a lot about when talking to any of the long timers on cruise ships. For many outside of the industry it’s perhaps difficult to understand the draw of a career that requires living in the confined space and society of a ship, working seven days a week, for periods of 4 -6 months, and sometimes longer. In Julian’s case he works for 4 months, and then gets 2 months vacation. Each time, he returns to the Jewel, so at the moment the Jewel is considered “his ship” for the next 2 years. It appears that he and his executive officers and department managers are doing an excellent job, because this ship is clearly a “happy ship”; meaning the staff and crew seem pleased to be here, and very friendly towards the passengers. I’ve yet to walk by a crew member who doesn’t make a point of greeting us we pass, and are more than willing to stop and chat. Julian was very pleased to hear my comments because as he put it, when the ship was under “Code Red”, battling to get rid of and prevent outbreaks of Norwalk Virus, it put a great strain on them, because it involved so much extra cleaning work.
As he’d come from cruise lines with more traditional dining room systems we discussed the dramatic differences in regard to the operational systems involved in running the Freestyle Dining system. Julian acknowledged the challenge of the Freestyle system, but also voiced his preferences from a manager’s point of view.
Julian explained that even in the “main” dining rooms, where there’s no surcharge, each evening they accept a certain percentage of reservations, and keep a certain percentage of the available seats open for walk in traffic. In most cases they are able to arrange for a standing reservation if you prefer to dine at the same time, at the same table, each evening. Or, even if you choose to make use of the other restaurants (with surcharges) on occasion, but would like to come back to one of the main dining rooms, to have particular servers service you, they can be arranged in advance.
I inquired about the staffing system in the dining rooms, wanting to know if they move staff around as demand requires in different dining rooms and restaurants. Julian told me the restaurant staffing is set up in teams of 10, and they normally have specific work areas assigned. However, with Freestyle, if it becomes obvious a particular venue is slow, while another is getting slammed with high demand, they will move entire teams to help cover the demand, and keep up service levels.
For the restaurants carrying a surcharge the vast majority of use is by people making advance reservations. As a result they have a very good idea of staffing requirements for those venues in advance. I found it particularly interesting to get a peek and explanation of the systems used to handle the demands of Freestyle dining. I hope you did too, or you’ve wasted your time reading the last 5 or 6 paragraphs.
Last night at our group dinner at Mama’s Italian Kitchen I once again had the chance to poll those in the group for their views of the cruise. As the end of the cruise is drawing nearer I thought their opinions may have changed, but that was not the case. It’s an admittedly small sampling, but everyone seems to have loved this cruise. So, it appears the only people who we’ve run into who have complaints are the “laundry room” crowd. Could it be that doing your own laundry makes you grouchy?
To be honest, we did encounter a major complaint today. Apparently, for some reason, the iced tea served in the self serve dispensers and in the restaurants has changed, and word is it’s now awful. My assignment now is to find out who, what, and why it changed, and have it corrected before there’s mutiny of the iced tea drinking passengers.
Tonight there was a cocktail party held in the Courtyard, normally for the exclusive use of the guests in the Courtyard Villas. All suite guests and VIPS were invited for drinks with the ship’s senior officers, and we were invited to bring along the group of CruiseMates we’ve been dining with most nights. The Courtyard is a beautiful area, with a small pool, whirlpool, gym area, and sauna for the use of those in the Courtyard Villas. There’s also a beautifully furnished sun deck above on Deck 15 for their use.
The area was a very nice spot for a cocktail party, and guests mingled with each other and the ship’s senior staff. The acapella group, The Cat’s Pajama’s performed a few songs for the group as well, before they performed to a packed house later in the evening for all guests in the Crystal Atrium.
During the cocktail party, Julian (the Hotel Director) stopped to visit, and I introduced Julian to “the gang” told him they had a very serious complaint, and I had told them they could address their issue tonight; taking it directly to the top. And they discussed the issue of the change in taste of the iced tea. We were, of course, kidding about it being a serious issue, but Julian couldn’t understand it, and didn’t have an explanation, but said he’d look into it.
Immediately after the cocktail party we went to dinner at La Bistro for our second visit. Whatever had been wrong with the iced tea, it seemed Julian had it dealt with already, because the iced tea drinkers were once again in iced tea heaven.
The meal was once again fabulous!! If you’re sailing the Jewel, have dinner at La Bistro ($20 per person surcharge), order the mushroom soup in a bread bowl, the beef tenderloin entrée, and the chocolate fondue for dessert, and you’ll walk away feeling like you were on a culinary cloud.
I’m sure if you’ve been following the tales in my daily blog, by now you realize we’ve been getting somewhat preferential treatment; 1 – because Mrs. Kuki and I are in suite, and 2- “they” know I am writing daily reports for CruiseMates. The thing is, we’ve also been very busy watching, and taking note of, the service of others around us, and talking to many of them as well… and in reality our service isn’t much different than every guest seems to be getting. At this time the Jewel does seem to be “clicking on all cylinders”, and it’s very difficult to find negatives to write about. I’ve got two days to keep looking though!
Here’s a picture I think is very representative of the cruise most passengers on the Jewel are experiencing.
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Posted: November 6th, 2008 under Kuki.