Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kudos Emerald Princess Staff

Aboard the Emerald Princess ship were 3100 passengers and 1200 staff. A nearly 3 to 1 ratio. That is one enormous boat! It was a floating city with just about everything and anything you can imagine. I don't know the recruiting and training tool Princess uses for their army of staff, but they are doing something very, very right! The people made our cruise amazing. There was always a smile and a warm greeting for us and ALWAYS something extra special for Connor.

Given that we live in Brussels where so many callously bump us on the street and in the grocery store aisles - and the stores seem put out by customer interaction - I didn't remember what it was like to be served like royalty. To have your needs and desires met before you could even voice them. But that is exactly what we felt like...Princess seemed a fitting name.

Here are some images of Connor with some of her favorite friends:Mihaela from Romania managed the breakfast buffet. She would dote on Connor all through breakfast, giving us time to eat in peace while her conversation provided the engagement and entertainment. Every morning she would ask Connor where she was going that day. So we helped prep our daughter with a daily answer before our meal. It was a big game and Mihaela and her staff would just gasp in amazement when Connor accurately answered her question, "Helsinki!" or "Stockholm!" or "St. Petersburg!" They acted like she was just the smartest, sweetest, most beautiful child they had ever seen with sincerity and love.

Norma, from the Phillipines, was a magnet to Connor in many venues. She must have been a jack-of-all-trades because we saw her in the bar, outside on the decks, and in the theatre waiting tables. Norma loved to give Connor high fives! Norma has a 4 year old daughter at home with family who she left for 10 months to work on the ship. I think Connor made her miss her daughter more and that was part of the attraction.Lino, our room steward - also from the Philippines....Lino was the first person we met on the ship. He knocked on our door to welcome us and see if there was anything he could bring us just as we arrived. A great first impression. He was there every time we entered or left our room all 10 days. He would hear Connor's feet running down the hall and pop out of whatever room he was in to tell us to "Have a good day!" or "Goodnight!" It didn't feel right leaving our hall without Lino's greeting. He had that wonderful knack of folding our clothes and arranging our things to make the room feel sparkling and organized in a tiny space. He folded towel animals - which Connor carried around with her everywhere - and arranged all her friends in her crib every night with care.For some reason Connor wasn't into giving hugs to Lino, yet she would scamper down the hall calling for him each and every time. She was quite the little flirt!Jelena from Romania was the showstopper of the cruise. Her job was to greet everyone as they entered the dining room. We had "anytime dining" meaning we could just show up whenever and didn't have to abide by a strict dinnertime. Jelena chatted up the folks if there was a slight delay in readying a table. She was drop dead gorgeous with her blonde hair, elegant poise and million dollar smile. She greeted Connor by name after the first meal and Connor took right to her. Jelena is destined for stardom and her warm, genuine personality is a bonus. She was the perfect woman for her job and I loved when there was a small wait because it meant we got to speak longer to Jelena!And best of all was Randy. Randy, also from the Philippines, was our waiter. Even though it was anytime dining we made a special request every night to sit with Randy. He also has a 2 year old daughter and he was preparing to leave the boat at the conclusion of our sail to reunite with his family in the Philipines after 10 months apart. He showed us their photo and I felt like we were counting down the hours with him we were so excited. There is something very compelling about seeing a grown man so giddy to return to his family. It was especially touching when Randy brought his camera to dinner one night to be sure to take our photo together so he could share us with his wife. He said he had told her all about us.Randy made us feel like it was a gift to HIM to wait on us. He seemed to look forward to our arrival and could not have been more attentive to our meals. He would let us place custom orders for Connor...steamed broccoli, plain pasta, and berries were our favorites.When he brought Connor's broccoli he would insist on cutting the stalks off the trees leaving only the florets for her. Really, I am not kidding. We didn't ask him to do it of course. It was as if he was preparing food for his own daughter with the amount of time and TLC that went into his attention to Connor.Randy knew by the end to bring the dessert berries with mostly blueberries and just a few match Connor's eating habits.And from the rest of us Randy put up with this.... Just look at the amount of food on the table. The guys got into the routine of ordering multiple entrees just to try it all. All you can eat food can be so tempting...especially when it comes to the desserts!Also in the dining room with Randy were Jesus who was a meal captain (?) and Ryan who helped bus the tables. One of the first nights Jesus picked up one of Connor's toys and was teasing her with it playfully. I guess Connor didn't get that he was just kidding and thought he was taking one of her stuffed animal friends away. She burst into tears. And Jesus clearly felt badly. We laughed it off and tried to explain to Connor. When our plates were cleared though we saw Jesus, Ryan, and others approach our table with a little cake with a candle and they were singing "Happy Birthday!" They brought the treat to Connor, serenaded her and had her blow out the candle. We all knew it wasn't her birthday, but this was their way of making amends for the tears from before. Very clever.This birthday charade continued every single night after that. After a while Connor got sick of it being HER birthday so she wanted it to be "Balu's birthday" and "Elmo's birthday" and so on. Yes, they were singing to stuffed animals by the end of the cruise with the same gusto and gumption! I couldn't help but to wonder what the other cruisers thought as they witnessed this nightly. Jesus was a barrel of laughs. He made a baby out of an armload of tablecloths and showed off some origami skills by making this "shirt" for Connor.We of course left the recommended tip - which was significant. Although the Emerald Princess team made us wish we could empty our bank account in appreciation and gratitude. We settled on thank you notes instead. Connor drew pictures on each of these and hand delivered them to all her friends. You would have thought we had handed them a fortune instead of a piece of paper with magic markers.
Yep Mihaela, Norma, Lino, Randy, Jesus and Jelena made us happy and spoiled. Connor's expectations will never be the same! Our little Emerald Princess!

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