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Last week my family and I went on a cruise to Alaska with four other families and we didn’t die. Not that we should expect to die on a cruise, but being confined with a bunch of kids on a giant hunk of steel has a way of making one consider one’s mortality.

Cruise ship parking lot

Not only did we not die, but I learned a thing or two. For example, it’s common knowledge that the constant wave like motion of a ship can make one queasy. I learned that I could counteract that effect. Drink just the right amount of alcohol and its effect cancels out the queasiness in a process called phase cancellation. Look it up, it’s SCIENCE.


We went on a Holland America cruise to Alaska in part because a family friend is a Senior VP at the cruise line and they convinced us it’d be a good idea. The cruise tends to cater to an older crowd than something like Disney Cruises. Even so, it worked pretty well for us. It meant that the pool was never too crowded.

I used to live in Anchorage, Alaska. This ensured I was ready with the puns for our first port, Juneau.

Me: Where’s our first stop?
Friend: Juneau Alaska.
Me: Yes, I know Alaska. But what city?
Friend: Juneau.
Me: If I knew, I wouldn’t ask.

This was when I wisely ducked away.

But since you like puns, here’s a couple of other Alaska related puns as told by my coworker, Kerry Miller:

Hey pal, Alaska the questions here
I really do appreciate the way Alaska survived the 2008 financial crisis. Their secret? Fairbanks.

Lesson here, puns are awesome.


Back to the cruise. Our friend arranged a couple behind the scenes tours. One was below deck where we got to see the galley where all the food is made and the storage facilities. I was particularly excited to tour the room where they stock all the liquor.

The logistics of stocking a ship of two thousand passengers and one thousand crew is mind boggling. They take a very data driven approach tracking every meal ordered so they can predict what supplies they need given the specific trip, time of year, and audience.

One thing we noticed while touring the storage was they stocked expensive premium sticky rice for the crew that was different from the rice they usually served to customers. We noticed this because we’re Asian and good rice is important.

It turns out that the crew is predominantly Filipino and Indonesian and our friend noted that if they tried to cut costs with cheaper rice, they’d face a revolt. They know this because they’ve seen how much of a hit to morale cheaper rice was on other cruise lines. He fought hard to keep the quality rice because it’s important to keep the crew’s morale high. Not just with rice, but also by enlisting and empowering the crew itself to notice when conditions could be better and to do something about it.

Lesson here, foster a culture where people are empowered to find and fix problems rather than always looking to you to fix it and things actually will improve.

And we noticed the impact of high morale. We were really impressed with the quality of service. The crew always seemed genuinely happy and friendly. Perhaps it’s years of practice in the service industry, but I’ve been to nice hotels where everyone is nice, but you get the sense they don’t really care about you. I really got the sense the crew cared.

So the lesson here is to stock the good rice. Happy people do better work in every way.

Alaska Raptor Center

Another port we stopped in was beautiful Sitka. We took a tour of the Alaska Raptor Center where they rehabilitate injured raptors such as eagles and owls and release them into the wild when they’re strong enough fliers to be on their own.

Our second tour was of the bridge where the Dutch captain showed us the navigation systems and the controller for the ship. The view from the bridge was quite spectacular. We asked the captain whether he’d been on any trips where anyone fell overboard. No, but there was one trip where a very drunk passenger dropped anchor while they were out to sea. At the next port, the passenger tried to sneak off but they had the authorities waiting and they had camera footage of the incident.

Lesson here, phase cancellation only works when the wavelengths are equivalent amplitude. In other words, don’t overdo the drinking.

The ship had a place for kids called “Club Hal” where you could drop kids off for a few hours at a time and go enjoy some Pina Coladas (to help with motion sickness of course). They had a lot of structured activities and a few X-boxes set up. Naturally, since this was convenient for us, my kids hated it. Over time, they warmed up to it a little as the kids at Club Hal held a revolt and demanded more kids choice activities and got their way.

Lesson here, it’s important to balance a bit of structure with letting kids choose what they want to do.

Now I’m back home and back to work and after a few days, the ground has stopped moving, so all in all, a successful trip. We didn’t have internet access for most of the time and I think that was a huge factor in me feeling refreshed by the end. I definitely recommend when you take vacation, fully disconnect from work and even the internet. It’ll do you a lot of good and the tire fire on Twitter will still be there when you get back.

Lesson here, take a vacation now and then, eh?