Downtime, Measured in Hours

Today is another turnaround day between cruises.  This morning everyone got off, and by later this afternoon a whole new group will have arrived.  There’s a period of time between about 10AM and 1PM when the ship feels so different.  The suite attendants and butlers  are working at breakneck pace to get the rooms ready for the next occupants.  Managers, officers,  and guest relations people are hustling behind the scenes to be ready, but everywhere else, the ship is quiet.

It feels a little like that moment between exhaling and the next inhalation.   The bars are empty, the gym is empty, the lobby is empty, the restaurants are empty.

I was the only one in the gym, and then a little later, the only one in my section of the restaurant where the lunch buffet is served.  Eventually, down at the other end, the singer from the supper club was coming in to start her day, having slept in after her late night show.  Most of the waiters were standing at attention with no one to be attentive to.  It is a part of life on the ship that most passengers never see.

That was beginning to change by the time I finished lunch.  The first arrivals were trickling in.  The sense was rising that we were on duty again, no longer part of the private life of the ship but a piece of the collective identity of those in service to the experience of the guests.  In a few minutes the Cruise Director will come on over the sound system to announce that the rooms are ready, and the halls will fill with new guests and their butler escorts, “going public” again.

That for me is the start of the new cruise. I am in my room now, but when I next step out into the hallway it will be as my public self, with a smile and a name badge. I will be Laurel Corona, Guest Lecturer again.

In a few hours I will stand up in one of the lounges to greet new guests with a pitch for what I will be speaking about, then on to dinner with the solo travelers, as I always do the first night.  Before I know it I will be back in my room brushing my teeth and hopping into bed.  It begins in earnest tomorrow, with my first talk and from there, an ongoing obligation to stay actively and pleasantly in the public eye.

I’m ready.  I’m just glad there’s time for a nap first.