In honor of the Royals having their best season in twenty years, life has decided to throw me a few curveballs. I can’t complain about the Royals success, or where life has taken me now, but I didn’t expect it at all. If you would have told me the Chiefs would be sitting pretty at 6-0 this season, I wouldn’t believe you, but if you would have told me I would be where I am right now, that would be even less likely to believe. Let me fill you in on the last two months of my life and get you up to speed on the adventures of Melissa.
I left Kansas City on August 3 and arrived in Seattle to board the Norwegian Pearl and take off for beautiful Alaska. The trip there was only the beginning of a big adventure that was in store for me. My plane was delayed for three hours and we were forced to disembark our plane and reschedule our flights. After waiting around at the airport for all that time, we finally boarded our plane. The plane taxied over to the runway and then came to a stop. This is a prime example of how my life always keeps me entertained. The pilot came over the speakers to tell us that we could not take off because the air traffic control tower had been infested with spiders that were biting all of the controllers. We had to wait for the controllers to relocate so they could give us the ok to take off! Finally, after 45 minutes, I was in the air and headed for my Alaskan adventure. I hadn’t been to Alaska since I visited my grandparent’s home on Kodiak island 12 years before. I wasn’t super excited about exposing myself to cold weather in the summertime, but it was only for a couple weeks right?!? WRONG. After being in Alaska for one week, I was told I would be staying for two extra weeks as manager. Yep, that is right, Photo Operations Manager. I didn’t even know how to find my room on the ship and they were asking me to manage the entire team! It was explained to me that I would only be the manager for two weeks because there was a gap between the two managers that were running the ship. Although I had not even been an assistant manager, or taken the manager’s training course, I agreed to do it. It was only two weeks, and I figured I couldn’t do that much damage in such a short period of time.
It was super cold, but I did come to love some of the places we got to visit in Alaska. I didn’t get out much as I was trying to figure out how to handle my new position. The team was very helpful and willing to put in some extra hours to make everything work. Our first week ended with the most successful sales the team had finished with all summer. With that under our belts, attitudes rose and the team pushed forward. The positive turn the team was taking lead to a call from our corporate office with some new news. They told me my two week stay was being extended to six months. In case you just missed that… my two week stay was being extended to SIX MONTHS. Needless to say, I had a little bit of a panic attack. There were several things I had been pushing to the side thinking the new manager could catch up on them after two weeks. Now I was the new manager, and I needed to get things done, fast!
The next week was equally as successful as the first, and the team was motivated to continue their hard efforts. We celebrated the birthday of one of the photographers, and pushed on with the momentum from the previous two weeks. Unfortunately the next few weeks were tough for us, and the budgets were super high. We focused on positive reinforcement and team building to maintain optimistic attitudes, and the team managed to turn things around and finished at 137% of our budget! One of my employees even bought me a bouquet of flowers to congratulate me. With our success, I was able to free up some time to get a glimpse at a few of the ports we were stopping at before we left Alaska. I was so busy I hadn’t had much of a chance to get to know people other than my own team. Lucky for me, Sam came on the ship. It was such a relief to have someone I knew so well. It was going to take a friend, a hug, and a lot of espresso to get me through the next few weeks.
In Seattle I was able to visit the farmer’s market with the famous seafood stand from the “Fish” philosophy. I had taught multiple retreats and classes on “Fish” while at Pitt State, so it was fun to see the place in real life. I also saw the first Starbucks, did a little shopping, and even made it to the top of Seattle’s famous Space Needle! I loved Seattle and always had good weather while I was there. It was a clean city and the downtown was fresh and full of life.
I have to admit, I was only able to get out in Juneau, Alaska once, and it was to pick up some laundry soap from the nearby grocery store. That being said, I don’t have many fond memories of Juneau, but from what I hear, there are great things to see and do. I guess that just gives me a reason to make it back to Alaska.
Our next stop each week was Skagway, Alaska. I was able to get a bit of free time in Skagway and fell in love with the picturesque little town. They have some great food stops, and famous cupcake shop (with really rude employees), and a fun local play about the history of the town. Being ship employees, we were able to get into the play for free, and made it a couple times to support the performers. I loved the adorable buildings and picked up some fun souvenirs for my little sisters. This was the one place that I bought an Alaskan souvenir for myself too. I had to have something to bring home and prove I had actually been there!
After leaving Skagway each week we spent a day sailing through Glacier Bay. The weather was always freezing, but the views were breathtaking. It was a great day to spend out on the decks soaking in the beauty of Alaska.
Ketchikan, Alaska was always our final Alaskan stop on the journey. Not only was it the first city in Alaska, it is also the Salmon capitol of the world. I ate at a fun breakfast diner there and just couldn’t decide what to order, so I got it all! You only go to Ketchikan once (or 6 times) right?!? One time we saw the Grand Trolley parked right next to this impostor and got a good laugh!
Our last stop of each week was Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Victoria has a fun downtown area, a great little Chinatown, and some delicious restaurants. We were always there on Saturday evenings, so the streets were bustling with everyone on the weekend. It was a fun change of pace from the quiet little Alaskan towns we stopped at all week.
One night in Victoria did not go as we had originally planned, but instead we turned it into a great opportunity to make a photo documentary of Katie in Burger King. You are welcome for the free advertising Burger King. Feel free to use these images in your next campaign.
Our last trip to Alaska did not end in Seattle, but rather took us to Vancouver. From Vancouver we began the journey I am on now. The ship is repositioning to Miami, Florida. The cold weather and rough seas in Alaska make it a less than ideal destination for cruise ships this time of year, so we will be spending our winter in the Caribbean. I am loving the warm weather as we head south bound and am realizing that I am getting paid to visit places each day that most of my friends only get to see on honeymoons and dream vacations. I am taking every chance I get to do some exploring, but with short amounts of time in each port, I have to spend my time wisely. Some places I have done better than others.
Because of harsh weather after leaving Vancouver, we had to miss our stop in Oregon and spent a few days riding out the waves. There were more people falling over and throwing up than there were people participating in the activities on board. I must take this moment to thank my parents for the years of sailboat lessons, because after those rocky days I was able to say I never once felt sea sick and was comfortable out on the ocean. While we were stuck out at sea, the officers got together and we decided to host a party for the crew. I bartended and did a very fine job I might add! Now I know I have a career to fall back on.
After making it through the waves, we did stop in San Francisco, California. I had never been to San Francisco, but everyone I knew that had gone loved it. I had very high expectations, and all of them were fulfilled. I did a little shopping, walked along the waterfront, talked to friends and family on the phone. I did a little pampering (pedicure style) and made it back to the ship to capture the beautiful sunset. We weren’t able to go under the golden gate bridge until after dark, but I did my best to capture a couple night shots from the ship as we went by.
Next we went to LA. This was where Sam was disembarking the ship, but he left a little going away gift to make me smile! Being the theme park enthusiast that he is, he put together this model ferris wheel then added a picture of us and a very punny saying. It was just as nerdy as the two of us and a perfect way to end the fun four weeks we had together. I had only been to LA once before when we went to one of Bob Barker’s last episodes of The Price is Right. My friends Chris and Kelsey, who worked in Hawaii with me, had recently moved to LA, so they came by the pier to pick me up and take me to lunch. It was great to see some familiar faces, and have something to do in my last American port for a while.
From LA we continued our trip south to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Some friends and I went to a beach nearby to catch some sun rays, then wandered over to try some authentic Mexican enchiladas. The waterfront was picture perfect, and getting back in the ocean was so refreshing after only staring at it in Alaska for a couple months.
Now here is where I have to make a slightly embarrassing confession. Our next destination after Cabo was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I did not have any plans for Puerto Vallarta and knowing it was a vacation destination, I was hoping there would be a beach close by just like Cabo. Unfortunately there was not a beach close by, but right across the street was a Walmart. Yep, you better believe I spent my day in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico at Walmart. To make things even more embarrassing, I ran into my friend Owen on the way back to the ship who had just bought some Dominos pizza, so that is what I had for lunch. Welcome to exotic Puerto Vallarta, here is the most American superstore ever, and some American fast food pizza to complete the experience. Sorry for not having a better story from this part of the world, I promise I make up for it in the next port.
Make up for it I did. In Huatulco, Mexico, the beach was literally steps from the ship, and that is where I spent my entire day. I played volleyball, ate quesadillas, swam, tossed around a football (Hey Dad, the boys on the beach were impressed with my spiral throw, thanks for the lessons!) and last but not least, went on a banana boat ride! For only $10 you could take a banana boat out in the gorgeous blue waters. How could you say no? A group of friends and I loaded up on a banana boat and we were off. We were soaring over the blue waves, admiring the gorgeous coastlines when out of nowhere; the driver took a sharp turn and flipped us all off the boat! It was a good laugh and a refreshing dip and we all climbed back on to continue our ride. As we entered into a cove area I saw the driver begin to make the same move he did before and instead of waiting to be thrown off, I took a dive into the ocean. Unfortunately, another girl had the same idea and we collided in the water with a crack of our heads slamming together heard by the others with us. We were both ok, but we got some nice knots on our head as a souvenir from our adventure. While we were swimming back to the boat this time, the engine on the boat started sputtering. The driver told us he was almost out of gas and sped off. For about 5 minutes we all swam around, laughing that we were stranded in the ocean. Only in Mexico would the driver just leave mid-ride. A few more minutes passed and we all began to wonder if he planned to come back for us. Sure enough, he came back around and we climbed back on the banana for one more trip back to the beach. All in all, we had so much fun out on the water, but if you are in search of a 24 hour headache, I know just the man for you to talk to! After arriving back at the beach I went for another relaxing and refreshing swim. My skin hadn’t seen this much sunlight in months, and I am a nice shade of pink now to prove it!
Our next stop was Puerto Chiapas, Mexico. After spending the whole day out and about before, I had lots of work to catch up on, and didn’t get out beyond the pier. It looked lovely from what I saw, and the weather was a balmy 105 degrees. This was our last Mexican stop, before Costa Rica, Panama, and Columbia. Yesterday we passed through the Panama Canal and I had a very unique opportunity and experience. I will write all about it in my next post, so stay tuned!