Creative commentary plus crafty composition

Archive for the ‘Business Commentary’ Category

Cruising for Options – Part Two

In part one I noted that the temporary lifestyle of a cruise on the high seas (such as the Mediterranean) provides a wave (pun intended) of experiences, which in turn mean opportunities for reflection.  Whether partaking in activities on board, or on shore excursions, hopefully high points resonate stronger than miscues and challenges.

When it comes to what to do while on board, cruise lines are prepared with plenty of options, scheduled or otherwise.

Mind you, the breadth of what’s available will be affected by what class of customer one is.  Paying for a more exclusive class of cabin comes with perks, including exclusive access to certain restaurants and other facilities.  Perhaps it helps reduce the frequent entreaties from staff, or implied in the daily newsletter, to upgrade – which, therefore, all passengers would seem to be exposed to in time.

Also, floating photographers move and lurk around the ship, their snap shots available for purchase in the ship’s photo gallery, so again all are welcome to grin on cue.

It’s interesting to consider the variety of on-board activities.  Using our recent cruise as anecdotal evidence, first of all, the approach is multimedia: the ship has promotion on its own TV channels, with programming rotated and updated throughout the day; there are live performances, featuring as few as one or two artists up to the theatrical show groups for large evening audiences; there are fitness classes early in the morning, and health facilities ongoing; naturally, there’s a range of pools and hot tubs, outdoor and covered; there are sporting and trivia challenges held; there are shops, not inexpensive; and of course there are restaurants, and plenty of bar lounges.  Finally, there is a time-honoured tradition of the cruise: taking time for simply reading in deck chairs or staring out to sea.  This unstructured option continues to be the most peaceful.

Some of the cruise directed activities included: ‘brain waker’ trivia in the morning, general knowledge trivia in the afternoon, adult comedy game about weddings in the evening; spa health and acupuncture presentations, yoga; sales of designer leather, leather handbags, pearls, watches, and art; casino tournaments such as blackjack; and fee chargeable liquor tastings.

One trivia type in which we participated involved a ‘name the landmarks’ contest between senior crew members and groups of the audience.  We connected with a small group from England, and our combined efforts permitted us to just miss out on having the best score in the room.  It can be fun to get involved cooperatively with other passengers in such games.

With all that, there are some categories of uncommon fun I believe could be explored:

  • Create lifeboat rescues of passengers, named at random, with wind machines to churn up waves
  • Hold a ‘Captain for an hour’ daily auction
  • Put different colour dyes into the pools to change their ambience
  • Have a treasure hunt with no place on board off limits
  • Early each afternoon hold a ‘find two empty lounge chairs together’ contest
  • Hold ‘disaster movie’ marathons at the outdoor theatre
  • Have a ‘person on your left chooses your meal’ night at each restaurant
  • Gather a large group of shore excursioners to wait until the last minute to re-board prior to ship departure
  • Hold contests for creatively built statues of discarded beverage cans and bottles
  • Post giant, multilingual, crossword puzzles on several decks, and track who fills in the most correct words

Who knows, a consulting fee for developing innovative cruise activities could be in the offing.

Cruising for Options – Part One

I imagine anyone who has experienced for the first time the temporary lifestyle of a cruise on the high seas (actually in this case, the Mediterranean), has numerous reflections.  Like with almost any vacation, ideally, the high points resonate stronger than the inevitable issues one encounters.

One clear advantage going on a trip involving a cruise is that one has in place a pretty good plan of action, at least insofar as destinations and time available to be spent at each.  After all, some people make these arrangements up to a year, or longer, in advance.  So, one can take time to prioritize what to see and do; one takes on faith that those service groups upon whom planning depends hold up their end.  The latter includes such aspects as organized shore excursions, and local transportation such as the popular ‘hop-on/hop-off’ buses.

On our recent journey, here are a couple of examples of passengers having to adapt on the fly, so to speak, to evolving circumstances.

From its distant nearest port, we traveled to Rome via a pre-booked extension of a hop-on/hop-off bus pass, which included pick-up from and to the port’s transit oval.  After emerging from the ships’ shuttle bus, we were given a map by a representative of the bus company providing the pass, showing its two routes with drop off points in the city, with one route recommended.  When we arrived in Rome, and ventured to the nearest pass stop, we found out that the suggested route had been replaced a week earlier by a newly coded route; plus, we discovered we would be better off to follow the alternative route anyway.  To top it off, Rome has a plethora of ‘hop-on, hop-off’ bus companies, which feature confusingly similar signs for their stops at concurrent locations.

Our day in Montenegro featured a cruise sponsored shore excursion.  Due to the prevalence of narrow, two-lane roads, travel was painfully slow to the inland initial destination, with an excessive amount of time spent there (notwithstanding some impressive scenery), leaving limited time to see the main port town of Kotor before returning to the ship.  Unbeknownst, it seemed, to virtually all passengers aboard, there was an interim stop on the way back, where we were intended to have a nearly hour long diversion, featuring a trade-off between receiving refreshments and listening to a sales pitch mainly about Croatian leather products.  In an attempt to curry favour with our disgruntled bunch, the trip co-ordinator arranged for a more colourful (read: through the mountains) way back, at one point giving us a spectacular view coming down towards the harbour.

In short, whatever kind of fork in the road is followed on shore excursions, there’s good opportunity for surprises which add to memories of a given experience, if not necessarily enjoyment.

It’s an interesting side-bar to this kind of trip, to consider the trade-offs involving time allotted versus cost versus destination appeal, vis-à-vis the different versions of shore excursions to a particular port of call.

Based on my experience, here are some cruise excursion options and comments, with varying degrees of applicability:

  • Excursion operators providing earphones to passengers, for ongoing commentaries, should check these function properly
  • Exercise due preparedness when visiting locations which only accept their own currency
  • When providing buses from ports to distant towns, excursion companies should look for alternative routes to time-consuming, traffic-clogged, two-lane roads to and from destinations
  • Having hand wipes or cleaners is the best way to cope with varying standards of cleanliness in destination washrooms, notwithstanding paying to use them
  • In high temperature ports of call water is perhaps the single most important and cost-effective item one can carry
  • Greater focus on clarity can be exercised by travel providers with respect to helping passengers identify buses on which to embark
  • Souvenir price competition increases as one gets further from the most popular tourist spots in a destination city
  • Those planning itineraries for shore excursions should arrange to maximize time available by minimizing side trips featuring upsells and promotions
  • Given their own years of experience, cruise lines could provide more information and details about ports of call beyond their own costly shore excursions
  • Taking a break in many tourist hot spots means having to cope with mobile locals coaxing you to buy something
  • As the day wears on, prices in many gift shops become increasingly malleable
  • Be aware that some ports of call have more flexibility in returning to the ship on time than others

Part 2 – options on board ship

Life Lessons from ‘The Intern’

In September 2015 a comedy-drama film called “The Intern” was released in theatres.  Starring Robert de Niro and Anne Hathaway, it told the story of a retired, 70 year-old widower (de Niro) who returns to the work-force as part of a new senior intern program launched by a highly successful, internet clothing company, run since its start in her kitchen 18 months earlier, by its hyper-active founder (Hathaway).

The film’s overall box-office gross overall was close to $200 million (budget approx. $35 million).  It was a financial success, but tended to be overlooked by many in the industry because of its being tagged as something of a ‘chick flick’, and which didn’t feature IMAX worthy special effects. (more…)

Reserved Seating Not Needed Here

Our most recent taking in a movie, at our local cinema house, exposed a new wrinkle in the ticket buying experience.  Notwithstanding that my spouse and I were attending a less than half-filled show in the afternoon, we had to select our seats in advance, like choosing concert or airline tickets on a laptop screen.

Apparently, this has become de rigueur at least at some local screens in the last month or so.  One would have thought some warning or notification, if only for public relations sake, would have been justified. (more…)

Facing New Developments

Many of us have memories about tracts of land encountered over the years.  They looked natural, bucolic, perhaps even dreamy – largely because they were undeveloped.

Numerous city boundaries are examples of once-upon-a-time urban/rural landscape divides, where, subsequently, developments have caused diffusion of transition points; the ripple impact keeps expanding, so as to permanently blur any clear sense of dividing lines. (more…)

A Case of and for Beer

Beer is not a beverage for everyone, and certainly not for all ages.

Its taste, while variable between brands, is an acquired one.  That said, it remains viewed by some as a rite of passage, and by many as simply a beverage to enjoy with lunch, after a hard day of work or strenuous activity, or simply to help while away time as an alternative to drinking wine or cocktails.

Its ultimate staying power is perhaps best summarized by a famous line from Archie Bunker in an episode of the TV classic comedy, All in the Family.  In it, he reminds wife Edith (and viewers), that you don’t really buy beer, you only rent it. (more…)

What’s in Their Mindset We Can Mine?

It’s worthwhile periodically to consider what it is that makes some of us so much more successful than others, in certain occupations or other pursuits.

This doesn’t mean we should look to copy what they do.  It doesn’t mean we should be envious.  It does mean we should emulate the positive and practical of their drive, their manner, and their goal-setting.  What is it, in manifestations of their mindsets, we could use to better ourselves and the value of our actions? (more…)