WHERE BIG SHIPS CAN'T GO
As onboard events go, Oprah was going to be a tough act to follow. We knew that. A whole lot of energy had gone into A Conversation With Oprah. It might have been time for a pause in the inspiration action. But event organizers and Holland America Line cruise travelers took a short breath and got right back to business. Apparently, an unexpected outcome of Oprah’s Share The Adventure Cruise in Alaska has been the creation of new travel terminology. ‘Oprah Cruising’ as it is being informally called around Holland America’s ms Eurodam, is bringing a slightly refocused viewpoint to all things travel. Let me explain.
Talking with random passengers on the ship in situations ranging from a ride on the elevator to a 4X4 ATV Wilderness tour, the atmosphere is generally more relaxed. On any tour promoted as a wildlife viewing experience of some sort, there is always someone not happy about the results. Unless the beautiful specimen of whatever they are looking for runs across the field in slow motion, stops and poses at attractively and phoned ahead to let the photographer know they were about to do that, they’re disappointed. Not so on our 4X4 ATV Tour much more typical of such excursions: we saw a speck on the horizon said to be a bear. The Hubble telescope could not have captured that image.
Standing by with my personal statistics to make them feel better (one good shot out of five viewing opportunities is great, the reality is more like one in ten) the need never came. Everyone had a good time enjoying what we did see. Wierd. “File that away for later,” I thought. Must be a fluke. Not really.
The Oprah infused Super Soul 100 show of the day was New York Times best-selling (Love Warrior) author Glennon Doyle. Also the founder of Momastery.com where readers meet for a daily dose of Doyle-filtered topics ranging from parenting to sisterhood, addiction, recovery, and pain. This lady has seen and experienced it all, a fact that a former stranger becomes aware of rather quickly.
“Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated,” says Doyle, adding “So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.”
Doyle’s thoughts were quite consistent with concepts introduced by Oprah on the previous day. Talking with passengers Suzanne and Sherry from Charleston, North Carolina began the conversation. Experienced cruise travelers, they too noticed a more relaxed, open and accepting atmosphere on their general orientation tour of Sitka. Tom and Sue from Ontario related similar thoughts. Interesting. We’ll put that thought on hold for now, but probably come back to it. Actually, if this was any other travel experience, this entire last paragraph would not be here but be in my notes of themes to explore, should they come up again. This is more than that. I can just feel it. We’ll come back to this later. Now, let’s answer the big question that has been asked every step of the way in person on the ship and via reader email questions:
The Question: What of this O, The Oprah Magazine-sourced content will be on the rest of the Holland America fleet?
The Answer: Some form of what we are seeing on Oprah’s Share The Adventure Cruise will be on the entire fleet. There are three possible levels of intensity: A, B, and C
A: Oprah Is On Board– that was scheduled to be this cruise only. There are other sailings advertised as Share The Adventure cruises which will have members of the Super Soul 100 onboard telling their inspirational stories.
B: Super Soul 100 Members Speak- like our presentations with Glennon Doyle (above) and Fitness Evangelist Angela Davis, they or other similarly inspirational people will be on board
C: Oprah Cruising – No Oprah or Super Soul 100 speakers but all three levels will have these features that will directly impact daily shipboard life:]
- Just Breathe, offering meaningful meditation and movement.
- O’s Reading Room, allowing guests to discover new authors and stories.
- Love That!, delivering a workshop on style advice and the essential pieces every woman needs for travel.
- Let’s Eat!, providing tips on indulging in good food without guilt and learning a lifetime of healthy habits.
Important to note: the additional layer of good added by Oprah Cruising works because it is stacked on top of a hotel operation in place that nails the basic experience. Without that level of excellence, even Oprah would fail.
More To The Point: Cruise travelers would get far less out of the inspiring the speaker if the steak was cold, the bed was lumpy and/or they wished they had a mint on their pillow like that other cruise line used to do back in the day.
Let’s Land This Plane: Avoiding the annoying distractions that come with travel is a cruise world most effectively dealt with by sailing small and/or luxury cruise lines. Until now. The Oprah element layered on top of a very comfortable and efficient Holland America travel experience meets or exceeds expectations I have had on smaller ship and luxury cruise lines. I don’t believe I have ever said that of a big ship cruise line. Let me give you a specific example of this concept:
Pop-Up Experiences Fleetwide
When Master Chef Rudi Sodamin designed the concept of Sel de Mer, the effort went far beyond a new menu for a specialty restaurant, although that would have been quite an accomplishment. A French seafood restaurant heavy on fresh ingredients was a tall order for a ship at sea. Making that concept flexible enough to do well in a dedicated venue every night or be featured just one night of a seven-day sailing is a challenge. Add on custom designed tableware, a unique service style, and dedicated wine list. It just got even more complicated. Still, it works on Holland America Line for a couple reasons
- Master Chef Rudi Sodamin for whom everything is ‘easy’ as he likes to say. It’s not hard to become a fan but that’s not what this is about. Chef Rudi lends not his name but his talent to the Holland America culinary operation by leading a team of chefs, not just one with a recognizable name.
- The Holland America Line Culinary Council- is a diverse group of chefs that disproves the notion that too many cooks spoil the soup. On the contrary, they make fine dining an attainable goal with an ultra-high satisfaction level.
Some images of dining at Sel de Mer last night, normally a space occupied by the Holland America’s signature Pinnacle Grill steakhouse.
At the end of the day, returning to my stateroom in anticipation of another life-changing thought card from Oprah, I was not disappointed. Well, I was and I wasn’t. No new card to peruse before sleep but a lovely plate of chocolates since we dined at Chef Rudi’s Sel de Mer. I sat right there, ate every single one of them and read a couple pages out of Oprah’s book. I’m not sure if it was the chocolates that got me past missing a thought from Oprah or a rather prelimnary result of this inspiring cruise. I suspect a bit of both.