Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Try Everything

A modern day cruise ship is, quite frankly, a marvel of engineering and business practice. When the Intrepid Junior Blogger first floated the idea of a cruise vacation I was a bit hesitant. In my head I had a vision of cruise ships as the final bastion of the elderly vacationer, those too frail to cope with iffy hotels in foreign countries and bouts with food poisoning from hole-in-the-wall roadside restaurants far off the beaten tourist path. The IJB was insistent, though, and the more I learned the more excited I became as I realized that cruising - and cruise ships - had changed.

Never one to start at the bottom, the IJB opted for the largest cruise ship on the ocean - Allure of the Seas. At the time I had no idea this choice was inspired by a video from her Grade 7 science class that showed the design and building of the Royal Caribbean Oasis class ships, of which the Allure is one. In fact I didn't learn that part until we were on a beach in Labadee, Haiti. Once I knew that, though, I put the information together with an offer from the cruise line to participate in a behind the scenes tour that would take us deep into the ship and onto parts most passengers never see.

The tour was not inexpensive, but it was easily worth every penny. From seeing the IJB glow in the engine control room as she carefully looked at displays showing what appeared to be complete chaos to me but were actually intricate electrical circuitry, to her face when we stood on the bridge and the second officer called her by name, it was an amazing experience, three hours that may well have been the best moments of the cruise. We stood on the helipad which passengers can't normally access, we saw the crew quarters including their pubs and restaurants, we went backstage at the theatre and in the massive galley kitchens. We eschewed the plush carpeted stairs for the guests and moved instead on the narrow and steep steel crew stairs, discovering the laundry facility (with the million dollar plus washing machine) and the garbage sorting room (where they recycle every scrap they can and minimize environmental impact as much as possible). We met a Sous Chef, the Laundry Master, the Second Officer (who seemed quite taken with the IJB as she has this air about her sometimes and I suspect he saw a potential ship's officer in her, too), a Ship Engineer, and more. But there was one person we met who struck me and who said something so profound it goes far, far further than a cruise.

His name is Hendrick (coincidentally the name of my beloved gin, too) and he serves as the Provisions Manager on the Allure. Now maybe this doesn't seem like a big job, unless you consider that the Allure is fundamentally a town afloat. 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew depend on Hendrick's ability to make sure all provisions on board are sufficient for the cruise, as all supplies are brought onboard in the USA and no quick trips to the closest island grocery store are allowed to replenish the stock. Hendrick has in his hands the entire cruise in many ways, because if his order is faulty it will affect the ability of the passengers to enjoy the cruise, the ability of the crew to deliver the excellence they promise and result in disappointment. But it wasn't really Hendrick's job that impressed me most, although I was quite impressed by the magnitude of it and his calm demeanour given the task. No, it was what Hendrick said to those of us in the tour.

"Try everything," he said. "Do all the things the ship has to offer, enjoy every minute, don't waste a second when you've worked all year for the holiday."

It was one of the most profound things I've ever heard, because I think it's pretty much the motto for a good life, off and on cruise ships and vacations.

Try everything. Two simple words but what a world they hold.

Just over three years ago there were several things I would have never tried. I would have never submitted an article to a magazine, I would have never agreed to write a weekly column in a newspaper, I would have never auditioned for TEDx, I would have never applied for a job doing communications professionally, I would have never agreed to emcee an event, I would have never danced with the stars, I would have never done a fashion show, I would have never bought my own house, I would have never...well, I would have never done all the things I have done for the last three years. And then I tried those things, which led to trying more things, because trying everything is like a disease where you suddenly want to try ALL the things. This year the IJB and I plan to try more things, as we have a few plans, ideas and schemes in the works. We are going to launch head first into trying all the things, because, well, she and I are on this ship together and we have the chance. And as we go I will use a new hash tag I've adopted thanks to Hendrick, designed to share my new adventures with others. I am always delighted to see a hashtag I coined over two years ago (#ymmshoutout) still pop up on occasion, and so this year I introduce #tryeverythingymm - my nod to Hendrick, a brilliant philosophy for cruise ships and life and a community where you have the opportunity to try everything.

Try everything. Not just on a cruise ship but on life. Life is, after all, just a slightly longer cruise ship ride. We embark one day as novices to the whole experience and depart one day hopefully having had the time of our life - literally. We need to do all the things life has to offer, enjoy every minute and not waste a second when we have spent our entire lives working just to be where we are.

Try everything, friends. Try everything.

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