Ships and Champagne (excerpt)
....given her background in sales and marketing, within days of contacting the employment firm Flavia was offered an interview. It was for a position with Royal Caribbean as a Cruise Specialist—an entree to a career that I suspect many of the readers of The Joy of Cruising would have been very enthused about in their thirties. Flavia, however, was not all that excited, as the opening involved a position in a call center, which was far from the ideal environment given Flavia’s extroverted personality. (Above Flavia on her first ever cruise, Grandeur of the Seas.)
Flavia reflects back on the day she arrived for her interview with Royal Caribbean with amusement. “My attitude was already negative and when I saw one of the employees arriving at the office in jeans and tee shirt, I was quite disgusted. Only later did I learn that Friday was ‘dress down’ day.” Long before she was blogging about couture and style, Flavia was cognizant of how people should present themselves—even though her presumption about the employee’s attire was incorrect!
It turned out it wasn’t so much an interview as a written assessment administered to a roomful of applicants. Applicants would move on to an interview with Royal Caribbean staff only if the assessment score was adequate. Flavia dutifully took the exam, still not particularly enthused about the position. In fact, Flavia had arranged an interview for later that day with a previous employer and was just going through the motions at Royal Caribbean. While waiting for the assessment to be scored, the applicants were shown a video of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Flavia had never cruised before. It was at that moment of watching that video that Flavia’s life was changed forever. “I mean really, really, changed,” Flavia told me. “The ship was huge; it looked like a lot of fun and it had a pool and a kid’s club. Then there were endless other things; I just kept thinking, what, there’s a rock wall; what, there’s a surf simulator; what, there’s a mini golf course; a theatre, parades, parties, nightclubs. My mind was blown.” Now Royal Caribbean had Flavia’s attention. She was captivated by what was on the screen. “Now I wanted that job; I had to have that job, I had to get on that ship. It was like everything else just melted away and I had one vision: getting onboard that cruise ship with Lucy, my daughter.”
....Now Flavia found herself fantasizing. This cruise ship on the screen meant there was a way she could travel again, and even as a single mom. Normally a cruise would be out of reach financially for Flavia, but she had recalled one of the Royal Caribbean staffers mentioning something about free or very cheap cruises during their presentation to the applicants. “I had to get on that ship, and I had to get this job. That was that.” Flavia did get the job with Royal Caribbean. She set out to make her fantasy of traveling with her daughter a reality.
The Royal Caribbean call center training was rigorous and comprehensive, providing Flavia with in-depth knowledge into Royal’s products, services, and system. It also included training on Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises as they were all under the same parent company. It was six weeks before she was allowed on real telephone calls, and once that began, she was subject to constant monitoring and mentoring on her performance and was accountable for a stringent set of criteria to meet on each call. Flavia and her call center colleagues faced financial consequences for failing to meet the call standards as determined by the Royal Caribbean Quality Assurance team. There were many times Flavia wanted to rip her headset off and quit. But her mind kept going back to that video about the cruise ship. So, she resolved to get past the six-month probationary period, take her daughter on a discounted Royal Caribbean cruise, and then quit!
Despite the demands and tedium of call center work, Flavia thrived and frequently exceeded sales milestones. As a result, she was offered a free “familiarization” trip (familiarization trips are for employees and travel agents, but not everyone is lucky enough to get one; they are usually based on sales performance.) Flavia could not believe it. The fantasy was about to become a reality in the form of a four-night cruise on Grandeur of the Seas departing from Palma de Mallorca, Spain and docking in Málaga, Spain. Flavia was overcome with gleeful anticipation. “I did panic a bit I must admit,” Flavia said. “I wondered if it would really be everything I had expected. What if Royal Caribbean had just told me it was great, but in actual fact when I get onboard I am going to hate it and be stuck on the ship with a bunch of people I don’t like? Suddenly I started to worry.”
When we arrived at the port there was a huge ship, just like the one in the video. Then as we turned the corner there was what seemed in comparison a small, not so impressive ship behind it. Oh no, that was the ship we were going on, not the lovely big one. Now I was really worried.”
Flavia boarded and found that “small” ship to be quite nice and it did not feel small at all. In fact, once onboard she found it to be huge. The ship was gorgeous, with a lovely chrome and beech atrium with marbled floor and a ceiling that seemed to extend to the sky. The first food venue Flavia and her colleagues tried was the buffet with a seemingly endless array of choices. After eating they went to the sundeck and Flavia laid out on a sun lounger. She felt like she was back at the beach, only there were really friendly waiters wearing Hawaiian shirts saying hello and asking if anyone wanted anything. She also found the other cruisers to be very personable. The cruise was off to a great start and getting better and better.
Flavia kept hearing others talking about the sail-away: go find one of the many ideal vantage points on the ship, with a cocktail in hand for sail-away. Flavia chose to join the group of Royal Caribbean employees that she was sailing with on the top deck. Cocktail in hand, steel drum band playing and guests joining members of the Royal Caribbean entertainment team to dance on the deck stage, the anticipation was thrilling. That larger ship, the Liberty of the Seas, the one Flavia mistakenly assumed was meant for her to board, went off first. Despite already being captivated by the more modest ship she boarded, Flavia watched wistfully as the “ship like the one in the video” sailed past. Someday….
Read the complete story of Flavia’s transformation from cruise line call center rep to cruise travel influencer in Chap 8, Ships and Champagne, The Joy of Cruising. Preorder soon....
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