We are nearing completion of our first long cruise. We have spent the past 35 nights on board the ms Westerdam, a Holland America ship, voyaging from Seattle, USA to Sydney, NSW Australia. We have met a lot of people who have cruised many times on Holland America, and in the main they really like this cruise line. Some of them have mentioned that post-Pandemic, things were not quite as smooth as usual, and the food is not quite as elegant as usual, but to a person they have praised the staff.
We have found the staff on the ship to be amazing. They are kind, courteous, smart, funny, generous, and professional. Lots of people know the names of the staff who are front and center - the captain, the cruise director, and the shore excursions staff - and they have all been fantastic. But there are so many staff whose names are not highlighted, but whose work has made this journey special. Many staff have greeted us with "good morning", "have a wonderful day", and "can I help you?" throughout the journey, but a few have interacted with us regularly and made our particular journey exceptional.
We have looked forward to evening meals in the dining room in large part because of our conversations with our waiters, Oka and Gus. Yes, they are both wonderful waiters. They know how we want our food, they know we want decaffeinated coffee with dessert, and that I want cream with my coffee. Their service is seamless. But more than their skill as waiters, we have enjoyed conversing with them nightly. We have learned about Bali - where both Oka and Gus call home - and are so taken with the land they have described that we are planning a visit there in 2023. We share their joy when they tell us about their wives and children, and know how much they miss their loved ones back home. When I ask about the song the staff sing for birthdays and anniversary, Oka writes the words on paper for me, helping me learn the tune and explaining the meaning. Oka plays the guitar, and he talks with me about how I might play it on the 'ukulele. Gus, too, helps me practice the tune.
We found ourselves often relaxing in the third floor lounge with a pina colada or other drink in the afternoons. One waiter in particular, Angelo, frequently assists us. He is from the Philippines. Like Oka and Gus, he takes some time to chat with us. We laugh and enjoy each other's company. One evening, I went to the lounge late just to read because Paul was feeling a little ill and was trying to sleep. Angelo came over and asked if wanted anything. I asked if I could order hot tea. "No, I'm sorry m'aam. We don't serve that here." About five minutes later, Angelo came over with a cup of hot tea. He had gone up to the 9th floor buffet area and fixed me a cup of tea, at no charge, without my asking. This is just one example of how the staff tried to make each of us feel welcome and comforted, going above and beyond their job descriptions. Angelo answers all of our questions about special wine events on board, and goes out of his way to provide us with information.
Up in the Explorer Lounge, on the 10th floor bow, we frequently go for special coffee drinks. Regina, also from the Philippines, is usually staffing the espresso machines. Unfailingly she smiles and welcomes us by name. She knows what we want. We talk about the port stops and enjoy the beautiful views together. We find ourselves looking forward to her smile in the mornings.
Our porters, Dwi and Heri, help us so quietly and seamlessly we hardly notice they are here. When we go out in the morning - maybe at 8am, maybe at 10am or even later, they clean our room while we're away, whenever that might be. They always make it neat and clean. They take our laundry bag in the night, and bring our clean clothes in the afternoon. When we see them in the hallways, we always hear a cheerful "good morning Miss Kim, Mr. Paul". It is hard to track them down, but I did get a nice photo of each of them.
The song the waiters sing on birthdays and anniversaries is called "Serta Mulia". Oka explains that this is a song telling the recipient they are honored, and wishing them a long life. While this song is usually sung at birthdays, I sing it here to honor the staff. Paul and I wish you all a long life, and sing to your honor and with great respect. Your efforts are noticed. We see you when you walk an elderly person to the elevator. We see you when you go the extra mile to give passengers what they want. We see how hard you work. We appreciate your unfailing optimism and good cheer. We thank you, Suksma, Salamat! We wish you well. Send us an email from time to time, and let us know how you are doing! And, if you are in a city we are staying in, let us know! We'd like to treat you for a change!