The Atlantic - North to South, November/December, 2018

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic
December 8th 2018
Published: December 8th 2018
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The Atlantic, North to South – December 2018

Dawn breaks over my last morning in Barcelona and after enjoying another great buffet breakfast at the Hilton, it’s time to make my way down to the lobby, grab a local taxi to the cruise ship terminal and begin yet another adventure on the high seas. As I left the hotel the rain began to fall, as if the city was crying at my departure (yeah, like that would happen – NOT) – and it continued to come down harder as I approached the World Trade Center Terminal. Arriving here early made check-in was a breeze, and in less than 30 minutes from being dropped off, I was onboard and making my way to the restaurant for an early lunch, while the staterooms were being readied. One of the easiest onboardings I’ve had this year. This trip, I’ll be sailing on Celebrity’s Eclipse…… first built in 2010 and refurbished in 2015, she carries a passenger complement of 2,085 with a crew of 1,250, and once again I’m in Concierge Class on Deck 9. For a delightful change, I have several acquaintances also taking this cruise – some of whom I haven’t seen in quite a while – really makes the entire voyage much more enjoyable. I’ve already been greeted by 6 crew members from previous cruises …. makes me almost feel at home. Even though we are still 4 weeks from the Christmas holiday season, the ship is already decked out in festive décor on all public decks. Guess they are in a hurry to get everyone in the right frame of mind. Still, it seems way too early for me but then, I’m close kin to Scrooge (bah humbug) …. what do I know? By 5pm the mooring ropes were tossed from the dock and the Eclipse slipped her earthly restraints, preparing to head out to sea. Picking up speed quickly, we left Barcelona behind in our wake and a glorious sunset was on display from my balcony. First night onboard is always my favorite – probably has a lot to do with Prime Rib being on the menu – and after dinner with a delightful group of people sharing my table, I was ready to call it a night by 11pm.

The following day was our first port of call – Cartagena – but as I had visited and written about it just last month, elected to stay onboard and just relax. It was quiet “do nothing at all” type of day and upon finding a comfy corner chair in the Ensemble Lounge, I devoured an engrossing spy novel from my Kindle for a few hours. As with most brand loyalty programs certain “perks” are granted at higher levels, and so it is with the Captain’s Club. Each evening between 5 and 7pm in most of the bars onboard, Happy Hour kicks off…..needless to say, I was happily ensconced on a bar stool at the appointed time, sipping a strong Manhattan, chewing on the maraschino cherry, while contemplating the cruise crowd around me, getting their buzz on. Some 5 complimentary drinks later (hey, who’s counting – I lost track after #3), I “gracefully” slid off the stool and made my way to the Eclipse Theater to catch the early show, and then to dinner as usual. Only negative of the day was the inedible French Onion Soup…do the words warm dishwater mean anything to anyone – yes, it was that bad.

Once we bid adieu to the European continent during the early morning hours and passed thru the Pillars of Hercules – aka the Straits of Gibraltar – the weather changed drastically. Roaring winds whipped around the ship and woke me from a deep sleep. Pretty wild night overall and once dawn had broken, it was high waves, rain and a heavy overcast. But all is not lost, the sun broke thru by mid-morning and the seas settled down to more of a gentle roll.

Got to try out of the ship’s specialty restaurants that evening, the Tuscan Grill. It’s located aft with large picture windows framing the frothing ship’s wake, and when luminescence is present, moonlight and starlight make the ocean sparkle like diamonds in the dark. The atmosphere is very relaxed with cozy 2- and 4-person tables, and the low light ambiance only adds to the iconic and sophisticated interpretation of Tuscan cuisine in a steakhouse restaurant setting. I selected the crab cake and minestrone soup as starters……filet mignon was my obvious choice as an entree, and when accompanied by eggplant parmigiana and broccoli, well I’ve simply died and gone to steak heaven! When presented with the dessert menu I was about to decline as I was so stuffed, but then I saw fig gelato as one of the many delicious choices….my defenses crumbled…so much for my resistance to temptation. A small flute of limoncello (hand made in the ship’s kitchens) sealed the deal on a “dinner to die for” …. I just about managed to waddle back to my cabin. For you true steak lovers out there, give Tuscan Grill a try – I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Next morning we were headed southwest paralleling the Moroccan coast on a direct run to the Canaries, where the first of two island stops will be Lanzarote, the fourth-largest island in the archipelago. Often called the "Island of Eternal Spring" it has a subtropical-desert climate and is both the northernmost and easternmost of these autonomous islands.

A little bit of history:

Lanzarote is believed to have been the first Canary Island to be settled. The Phoenicians may have visited or settled there, though no material evidence survives. The first known record came from the Roman author Pliny the Elder while on an expedition here. In 1336, a ship arrived from Lisbon under the guidance of Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello, who used the alias "Lanzarote da Framqua".From 1730 to 1736, the island was hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, producing 32 new volcanoes over a stretch of 11 miles. The most established festival on the island is held each year on September 15th in the village of Mancha Blanca, in honor of Our Lady of Dolours, also called the "Virgin of the Volcanoes". People from all over the island participate in this pilgrimage, mostly dressed in traditional costumes. The island has an international airport in the capital city of Arrecife, and tourism has been the mainstay of the island's economy for over 40 years, the only other industry being agriculture. Lanzarote is also a well-known wine producing region. The vineyards of La Geria are a protected area, where single vines are planted in pits 13’ to 16’ feet wide and 6’ 7” to 9’ 10” deep, with small stone walls around each pit. This agricultural technique is designed to harvest rainfall and overnight dew and protect the plants from the constant drying winds.

By 9am my friends and I were exiting our floating hotel to negotiate with Vidal, a local taxi driver who agreed to give us a content-rich tour of his island, lasting approximately 6 hours. Leaving the capital city of Arrecife, we made our way to the geographical center of the island to view a work of the artist Cesar Manrique, a giant pure white symbolic structure, known as the Fertility Monument or the Monumento at Campesino. On the same grounds, is a museum built as a tribute to the local farmers and their way of life. Over the centuries the farmers of Lanzarote have developed a unique method of cultivation in an arid environment. The restaurant which was built around a lava flow, serves traditional Canarian food and the Gift Shop sells local Crafts including the local pottery is still made using traditional techniques – no potter’s wheel and fired in an open fire.

A short drive brought us to a local church painted a bright white, as are most of the buildings here. The massive wood doors showed the age of this structure (probably 200 – 300 years) and walking inside, presented the opportunity to photograph a small but very beautiful altar with simple wooden pews – just what you would expect from a small village church.

Our 3rd stop was definitely the highlight of the entire tour: Timanfaya National Park or, as it’s more popularly known, the Fire Mountains. This national park forms part of a broad area created by volcanic eruptions between 1730 and 1736, with the last recorded eruption in 1824. The long eruptive process drastically changed Lanzarote’s geography, leaving more than a quarter of the island completely buried under a thick layer of lava and ash. Just before reaching the park gates, Vidal stopped at a local market and purchased some sweet potatoes – we just assumed it was to take home for the family dinner. Once inside the park, we drove up to the Visitor’s Center and with massive lava fields in every direction, it felt as though we were traveling thru a Martian landscape. As only park vehicles can drive on the designated road here, we left the taxi and climbed aboard a regular tourist coach for an hour’s exploration of this incredible region. The coach carefully threaded its way around the ‘Ruta de los Volcanes’ – a narrow road closed to normal traffic, that snakes through the most spectacular areas of the park. This trip is included in the 8 euros ($9.03) entry fee, and, notwithstanding the somewhat dated audio commentary and music, shouldn’t be missed. This extremely narrow road mandates one-way traffic and in sections, the drop-off down into steep valleys had part of the coach hanging over the precipice…. I was mentally writing my obituary on two occasions that this happened! But what scenery there was to be had. Lava contains a myriad of colors and makes fabulous jewelry. We wove between massive lava flows towering above the bus, then across arid desert-like terrain…. we really were in the middle of nowhere. Lichen gleams from many of the surfaces and ferns/aloe vera plants cling to cervices in the lava rocks.

A visit to the park is a must for every visitor to Lanzarote. It’s only from this coach ride that the scale of the eruptions can be appreciated, with an estimated 2,000,000,000 meters of lava spewed out from more than 100 volcanoes onto previously-fertile land and villages, as well as reclaiming some new land from the sea. Although most of these eruptions took place long ago, Lanzarote’s dry climate means that the volcanic landscape is relatively unchanged since that time. Despite there being no recorded deaths attributed to the eruptions, it is estimated that more than 44% of the island’s population emigrated during those years, and there are many accounts of livestock being killed by poisonous gases. Yaiza’s parish priest left a written account describing the destruction of villages, terrifying earthquakes, mountains arising overnight, explosions and raining hot ash.

Back at the Visitor Center, we had the chance to experience first-hand the geothermal anomalies present in the area (thought to be caused by a Magma intrusion under the island). Although volcanically dormant now, temperatures of up to 1130F have been recorded at a depth of 43’, and up to 531F at just 4”! We got to witness demonstrations of this intense heat as straw auto-ignites after being dropped into a shallow pit, steam gushes out of the ground moments after being poured into a hole as cold water, and the gravel underfoot is hot enough to burn your hand. The cleverly-designed El Diablo restaurant in the Center utilizes this geothermal heat for cooking, by placing a large grill over a deep pit loaded with raw chicken and results in a delicious BBQ. This pit serves a dual-purpose since it was originally created to ventilate conducted heat from the restaurant’s foundations. Vidal had a surprise for us - a hole in the wall where those sweet potatoes I mentioned earlier, had been roasting in a thermal vent since our arrival, and were now baked to perfection.

While visitors are not allowed to wander freely around the park, you can choose to view the volcanoes from the back of a camel. One of our party was planning on taking a camel ride, but when we arrived to do that, they were closing for the day and leading the camel pack back to their stables for the night. Obviously they have shortened winter season hours of operation.

The day was winding down and what better way to celebrate the oncoming sunset than sipping some local wine. The startling black landscape of La Geria, Lanzarote’s wine-growing region, is for many, the quintessential Lanzarote, marking this island out as truly different to the other Canaries. Thousands of pits, each containing a single green vine, cover the floor and lower slopes of the valley. Each pit contains volcanic lapilli or picon (small porous volcanic pebbles) to allow the vine’s roots to reach the soil and is protected from the wind by a crescent-shaped stone wall, known as a Zoco. The region and its unique grape-growing techniques enjoy a protected status, thanks in no small part to the work of the local artist, César Manrique, who brought La Geria to international attention in 1964 with his photographic exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art. It was here that we had a little wine tasting and finally split open those 4 baked sweet potatoes as a cocktail snack. Surprise, surprise, these tubers are all white – not a splash of yellow to be seen – and tasted heavenly with no butter, no salt – nothing but the crispy skin and delicious pulp…..we all gorged on this treat and it complemented the sweet white wine perfectly. How many tourists can boast of eating food cooked from a volcanic thermal vent?

A little bit of history:

Following the 6 years of volcanic devastation, the islanders believed the area had been rendered useless by the thick covering of picon, but eventually they noticed plants beginning to colonize the area. They discovered that the picon not only acted as a type of mulch, protecting the scarce rain water from evaporation, but also allowed the dew (La Geria is often blanketed in mist during the early morning) to condense inside the porous stones and drip down into the soil. Following this observation, islanders began digging hollows out of the loose picon and planting fig trees and vines in the soil that lay beneath. Walls were built to prevent the picon from falling back into the hollow and to protect the plants from prevailing winds. The dominant grape variety Malvasia, was introduced from Crete another southerly island, with vines well-suited to strong sunshine and an arid climate.

It is often claimed that William Shakespeare enjoyed drinking wine from Lanzarote, however this is extremely unlikely, since there was no wine-making tradition on the island until after the eruptions of the 1730s (over a century after the Bard’s death). Interestingly, there are references to wine being exported from Lanzarote in the 1630s, but it turns out that this was a tax dodge to re-export wine from Madeira to the Antilles.

Just one more stop to complete this marvelous private tour, and what better location to enjoy the setting sun than the beaches of Lanzarote: Puerto Calero and Puerto del Carmen. Dusk was falling fast as we approached the coast road and of course we had to stop to take some stunning pictures of the blazing orb as it slowly sank into the Atlantic waters. The swaying palm trees were a stark black contrast to the orange, pink, blue and purple skies on the western horizon, but time was slipping by and we had to return to the ship, prior to the 7:30pm sailing departure time. It was full dark as we approached the docks in Arrecife, and it was a sad goodbye to Vidal who had shown us so much of his beloved island. And what did all this cost you ask? Would you believe 28 euros ($31.78) per person plus tip? Now that’s what I call one hell of a tourist deal. Contact Vidal Umpierrez on his mobile: 34 605 865 172

Our last European connection on this cruise comes the next day when we arrive in Gran Canaria, the third-largest island in the archipelago, but the one which accounts for almost half the population. It lives up to its cliché as a continent in miniature, with a dramatic variation of terrain, ranging from the green and leafy north to the mountainous interior and desert south. To glean a sense of this impenetrable quality head to the center, where the sheer drama of the mountains more resembles the Tibetan highlands than a relatively small island. Contrasting with these unspoiled peaks and valleys is a rugged coastline interspersed with white sandy beaches and, more famously (and depressingly), a garish tiara of purpose-built holiday resorts.

Gran Canaria is a popular port of call, created by people coming in from over a thousand different points. The strange melting pot of aromas and colors seemed to catch ancient travelers by surprise, here at the last European port of call before taking on a long ocean adventure. Nobody expected quite such a melting pot so far from the main centers of the world. For over five centuries now travelers have been saying “this shouldn’t be here”, but it is. Borderlines make up their own rules. Just go behind the beaches and see for yourself. You will find aboriginal silos on clifftops, a neogothic church in banana plantations, a hidden pre-hispanic city, a colonial district slap bang in the middle of traffic… the strange magic of a place from nowhere. Gran Canaria is a great big melting-pot of cultures, with over 117 different ethnic groups that have come here to stay, if only for a while. On an island that for years was considered to be “the end of the world”, at the other side of the ocean where only the imagination extended further, with a port that now welcomes over 100,000 visitors each year. The constant crisscrossing of people from all corners of the world has produced a unique culture, a patchwork built up of many pieces that spans the globe.

Gran Canaria has a HOHO bus… tickets start at $23.21 and run every 30 minutes, from 9am to 6pm daily. Stop #10 (of the 11 bus stops) at Muelle de Santa Catalina, is about a 5-minute walk from the cruise terminal dock. Free Wifi is available on the tour buses and going into the casino downtown, gets you a free tapa and drink with the bus ticket. However based on yesterday’s success, we opted to try our luck again with a private tour – who says lightning never strikes twice? Our new driver (Victor) was another “diamond in the rough” and for the second time, we experienced an island location which is only possible when traveling with a local. Leaving the port of Las Palmas (the capital city), Victor drove to Playa de Las Canteras, a gem the city doesn’t keep hidden away. It is a long strip of sand that stretches for miles along the bay, a place of special charm to be found only 3 or 4 blocks along from the cruise terminal. And it has a peculiar feature which is known as “La Barra”, a long rock formation spreading not far from the water’s edge. A singular strip of volcanic rock that protects a large chunk of the beach from the tides, and which turns the bay into the best place this side of the globe to swim and practically “walk on water” on days of low tide…..and before you ask, no I didn’t spot Jesus performing this event!

Every holiday season a sand nativity scene is created, and this year it will be presented at Las Canteras from November 30, 2018 thru January 7, 2019. If you think you have seen clever sand castles in your time – think again. This is one of the main Christmas references of the city and island and has once more begun to come to life. A total of 8 international sculptors have begun modelling the different traditional Christmas scenes so that this artistic project of ephemeral sculpture can begin to receive tourists and locals. The sculptors who participate in the modelling, will dedicate their work to the defense of the rights and welfare of children. To that end they have displayed the message ‘A child can change the world’ on the sand, to launch this year’s initiative. During the 2017 event, more than 170,000 people viewed the “Sand Bethlehem” during the festive month. The attention to detail of these sand sculptures is beyond belief – the artistry is stunning – how I wish I could be here on opening day, but alas I will be far away by then.

Next up was the city’s cathedral, where panoramic views of Las Palmas from the top of the structure were to be had. The 1.5-euro ($1.71) ticket granted access to the elevator and we stepped out onto the open-air terrace between the church’s two bell towers….and yes, we did have 360-degree views of the entire city at our feet. This was the first church to be built in the Canaries, on the orders of Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon, after Gran Canaria was conquered in 1478. Construction started around 1500 but was not completed until almost four centuries later. It is a combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Neoclassical architectural styles, as numerous artists were employed on the project during these years. Directly in front is the rectangular-shaped Plaza de Santa Ana which over the years, has served as both the social and commercial heart of the city. At the far end, sits the Town Hall rebuilt in 1862. The Bishop’s Palace constructed in the 16th century is also accessible from this square. Want to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus? Then a visit to Casa de Colon (Columbus House) is a must for your “things to see and do” list. Just a couple of blocks from the cathedral is the museum, which was the residence of Las Palmas' governor who received the explorer there. Here you will find navigational equipment needed to negotiate the treacherous waters of the "Dark Sea", the name given to the Atlantic Ocean by seafarers more accustomed to the Mediterranean and North seas. Columbus made a stopover in 1492 when his original plan to sail on to the westerly island of La Gomera to stock up on food and other supplies, was foiled. After his fleet was sabotaged by his own crew, he made the unscheduled stop in Las Palmas, a fledgling settlement that had only been founded some 14 years earlier.

Enough of the city already, its streets, its buildings, its historic structures…..time to head for the hills and some fresh air. Be prepared for an interesting drive to reach Caldera de Bandama which is about 2,000 years old and a 30-minute drive from the city center. The 4-mile drive on a winding road took us past several vineyards, where the grapes for the popular Vino del Monte grow, before arriving at the peak. This volcanic crater standing some 1,867 ft high, has an observation area where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the entire north and east coast and the mountainous center in the west. On a really clear day, you might even get to see the neighboring island of Fuerteventura in the north east. This crater - named after Dutch merchant Daniel Van Dame, who in the 17th century grew vines in the crater - features a bottom with an abandoned farmhouse and the outlines of terraced fields. If you are more of the adventurous type, you can even climb down into the crater via a steep path, which is about a 30-minute hike. Today the whole area is overgrown with palms, orange and fig trees and on the slopes of the crater, thrive eucalyptus and agaves among shrubs and bushes. The photo opportunities to be had at the peak are simply incredible…. I ran my camera battery down, I took so many pix!

Just one more important stop in Las Palmas to complete our tour of this marvelous island – the historic old part of town known as La Vegueta. Probably the most interesting sights to see here would be the Church of the old Augustinian Convert where the High Court sits today; the baroque Church of San Francisco de Asis; the somber-looking Old Seminary and last but certainly not least, the Museo Canario (Canary Island Museum). Just around the corner from the Museo Canario is the Plaza del Espíritu Santo (Square of the Holy Spirit), a charming square with an impressive monumental fountain located in its center, surrounded by several stately historical houses and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.

It was 1:30pm but none of us wanted to return to the ship just yet and eat ship’s food for the umpteenth time, so a decision was made to dine on Lebanese food… of our party is Lebanese, so of course we left the menu ordering in her tender hands. On a side street in La Vegueta, Victor dropped us off at El Coto Libanes, a small family-owned and operated restaurant with an outstanding menu and reputation. Just as we approached the front door, it was opening for the afternoon foot traffic – obviously our visit was meant to be! The next 90 minutes saw a feast of goodies arrive at the table: lamb and chicken kebabs, hommus, tabule, falafel, ful, salad, flat bread, yogurt and my personal favorite, baba ghanoush…. all you heard were groans of culinary delight as we demolished these dishes. I was instantly transported back to the Middle East….it doesn’t get any better than this. We had a mid-afternoon sailing departure time, so with great reluctance we said goodbye to this clean and cozy little restaurant diamond and rejoined Victor to return to the docks. Of course you want the bottom line for this glorious day……30 euros ($34.07) per person plus tip for the 5 hours we spent in exploration. Want to take this trip or just need an airport transfer to your hotel? You can contact Victor Ponce via email, Read some of his reviews on Tripadvisor for more information.

Our final port of call was Santos, where we docked at 9am the following morning. Although it's also the location of Latin America's largest seaport and Brazil’s leading container port, Santos isn’t just a boring port town. Being yet another working port, passengers are prohibited from walking to the terminal, so it was shuttle time from the gangway once more. From the terminal, luxury coaches are available for transport to the city center ($15.00 per person) and you’re dropped off at a major shopping center – Praiamar – a trip lasting approximately 15 minutes. The city of 420,000 residents just 47 miles from Sao Paulo, features a 4-mile stretch of beach divided into just as many social cliques as found on Ipanema. A verdant promenade, known as the beach garden, separates the sand from the seafront condos and hotels, along which you can walk, amble, bike, skate, rollerblade, throw frisbees, you name it. It is considered the gateway to Sao Paulo, but for many cruise ship passengers with very limited time on land, many chose not to make the 2-hour drive each way and remain in Santos instead (I’m one of those). As it happens the distance involved plus the heavy traffic, were the reasons our evening departure was delayed for more than two hours, as one of the ship’s coach tours was unable to return in time for the scheduled 6pm sailing. For sightseeing, the city offers the Coffee Museum where at one time, coffee prices were negotiated, and a football memorial, dedicated to the city's greatest players, one of which is Pele. Trams here date back to 1861 and they are a great way to traverse the city and peek at the main tourist attractions, especially the historic XV de Novembro Street. Lunchtime was an adventure, and following the recommendation from a tourist guide, Café Paulista was the obvious choice. Nothing available in English here (menus and/or conversation) - everything Portuguese – and all the customers wearing work uniforms, marking them as locals. The waitress made a valiant attempt to describe the menu in her native language, and eventually with the help of others, the food order was placed. Fish, grilled meats, whole beans, rice, salad and beverages arrived, served family style, which was more food than 3 people could possibly consume at one sitting. This same waitress graciously discounted the bill by 50%!,(MISSING) resulting in a $18 bill….it doesn’t get any better (or cheaper) than this.

What better way to bring our visit to Brazil to a close, than enjoying a folkloric show performed outdoors at poolside in the late afternoon. One of the local Samba schools provided a dance and band team to entertain guests with an hour-long performance. The five female dancers were dressed, as expected, in very minimal clothing with thongs as narrow as dental floss and tiny bra tops – the males in the crowd were drooling from minute one and thoroughly enjoyed the show, especially when pulled up on stage to dance alongside the Samba girls. When cleavage and bare butts are part of any performance, you can always count on a large male attendance!

A last little bit of Brazilian history:

The region of modern-day Sao Paulo was inhabited by the Tupi people and Guarani. The region was divided in chiefdoms at the time of encounter with Europeans, with the most notable chief being Tibirica, known for his support for the Portuguese and other European colonists. The Portuguese village of Sao Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga was founded on January 25th, 1554. A Jesuit college of twelve priests built a mission on top of a steep hill. The college was named for a Christian saint, the Apostle Paul of Tarsus. For the next two centuries, Sao Paulo developed as a poor and isolated village that survived largely through the cultivation of subsistence crops by the labor of natives. For a long time, Sao Paulo was the only village in Brazil's interior, as travel was too difficult for many to reach the area. On March 22nd, 1681 the capital was moved to the village - the new capital was established on April 23rd, 1683 with public celebrations.

In the 17th century, Sao Paulo was one of the poorest regions of the Portuguese colony. It was also the center of interior colonial development. Because they were extremely poor, the inhabitants could not afford to buy any African slaves, as did other Portuguese colonists. The discovery of gold in the region in the 1690s, brought attention and new settlers to Sao Paulo. On July 11th, 1711, the town was elevated to city status. Around the 1720s, gold was found by the pioneers in the regions near what are now Cuiabá and Goiania. The Portuguese expanded their Brazilian territory to incorporate these gold regions. When the gold ran out in the late 18th century, Sao Paulo shifted to growing sugar cane. Cultivation of this commodity crop spread through the interior and was exported through the Port of Santos. At that time, the first modern highway between Sao Paulo and the coast was constructed and named the Walk of Lorraine.

Ever wondered what it would be like to have a life at sea, to live and work on a cruise ship? An opportunity arose to have a one-on-one chat with the Captain’s Club hostess Melissa, to pick her brain and ask probing questions of someone who has done this with Celebrity for the past 10 years. A native of Guatemala, Melissa obtained a university degree in Business Administration, with a career plan of following in her parents’ footsteps, both of whom were CPAs. But this wasn’t her idea of a good time and while visiting a friend in Costa Rica, she saw a flyer seeking applicants to work for Celebrity and see the world. She interviewed and within 3 weeks was hired for a Guest Relations position. For the past 4 years, Melissa has been with Captain’s Club and loves it – she has even turned down career-advancing promotions to remain within this department. Why would an ambitious woman do this? “It’s the people” ….. she says….” I’ve learned how to deal with difficult situations, solve problems and interact with people from different countries, cultures, expectations and as a result, I’ve grown and increased my personal skillsets”. When asked about the pros and cons of shipboard life, she struggled to find even one negative…..that says a lot about her job! Yes, the work days are long – there is no such thing as a day off, only a few hours down time between manning her desk and working in the various lounges and restaurants, seven days a week. Embarkation Day for every cruise is always the longest (between 14 and 16 hours), but thankfully the others are more reasonable. And on the pro side, she does get to leave the ship to be a tourist in the most exciting and exotic ports of call, the world has to offer. Her contracts with Celebrity are approximately 6 months in duration, then it’s a couple of months back home before starting a new one, sometimes on a new vessel. And where does Melissa see herself in the next 10 years? With the company offering internal career fairs every few months, her options are many and her future is bright. The Guest Relations career route is the one for her, and when asked if there is anything she would do differently given the opportunity, her response was an emphatic NO. Considering a career in the hospitality arena, and maybe even onboard a cruise ship? Ask Melissa what she thinks – she has all the answers! Until my next adventure……cheers

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