Talk your way into a free cruise

By Chloe Winston
This item appears on page 14 of the December 2013 issue.

To cruise or not to cruise? That is the question. Cost is not the major drawback. What to consider is your body, your patience, your endurance and your ability to find pleasure in many new experiences.

A quick summary of the positives — great food, usually anything and everything you desire plus new experiences with cuisine; great cabin service, with stewards smiling, anticipating and pleasing; great ports of call (places you wouldn’t see otherwise), and great opportunities to learn and experience new things.

A quick summary of the negatives — tendering, i.e., transferring between ship and shore via the pathway to hell (well, not always, but…); for anyone with a handicap, despite the best efforts of all, patience is required, not optional, and, lastly, service (the downside to great service is growing accustomed to it, then having to go home without it).

I used to laugh at people who cruised. Now, a self-appointed expert on cruising after 30 cruises, I laugh at myself. How did my mind make a 180-degree turn? Simple. I accompanied a friend on a cruise and went to hear the destination lecturer talk about Norway. He was so absolutely awful that I stormed the office of the cruise director. 

One doesn’t usually do that; cruise directors are “safe” from passengers, but I must have looked determined that day. I told him how terrible the speaker had been, said I could do it better and asked where I could sign up. He gave me an agent’s name, and in 2002  I began a new career giving destination lectures on Norwegian Cruise Line cruises, 30 of them, and a writing workshop, my favorite.

What was the workload like? On a 7-day cruise, I was obliged to give four talks; on longer cruises, like the 19-day one I took to South America on the Norwegian Sun in November ’09 (my last outing as a lecturer), I gave seven or eight talks. As a retired teacher, I enjoyed the fact that my audiences were far better behaved than my former students had been.

Did I get paid? No. Did I get tips? Heavens, no. Did I pay for the trips? Gosh, no! Well, what did I get? My entire trip was free, AND so was the trip for a friend. 

On different trips, I took multiple friends, a daughter and a niece; we always had a window room. We were treated like regular, paying passengers. We did pay for round-trip airfare to wherever the ship was docked, unless it was Seattle or San Francisco, where an easy drive would get us there.

It began to pall after 30 cruises, however, so the only cruise I’ve taken since 2009 was one to Hawaii, courtesy of a friend who had been on nine trips with me. 

I have been on ships of Holland America, Princess and Celebrity, but my favorite line is Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). Many lines have copied several of NCL’s innovations, which tells you something. I always had plenty to do while at sea with NCL and always had wonderful service.

You may hear a story about NCL and their three US-named Hawaiian ships, when they once hired American kids for crew. The disastrous service from those lazy young people still haunts NCL. I’ll bet your travel agent, like mine, does not recommend NCL, but the reason, when you ask, is always related to that one season.

If you have a talent, a love for history and culture, could teach napkin folding or give test-challenges for little reward but lots of fun, maybe you, too, would like to sail the seven seas. See you aboard!


Redding, CA