+27 (0)82 4000 470 rob@robcaskie.com

Mae West once commented that all good things come to an end. In fairness, having flown to Vancouver on 24 May, there were many times during this 3-month season when I wondered whether 26 August would ever arrive.
Upon reflection, it has been a fantastic experience, and about to end, this week. The potential for learning has been important. With the cruise industry returning to operation after two full years of lock downs, and Covid still disrupting the best laid plans, most departments have have to function below full strength. The more one can do, the more useful you become. I have seen Assistant Hotel Directors making coffee at the coffee bar, Safety Officers driving Zodiacs and Ventures Staff waiting tables and fitting parkas. Rather like Shackleton’s policy with AB’s (Able-bodied Seamen) and BA’s (those with degrees and the like). Ice and fog have thwarted best laid plans. Lectures have had to be presented at very short notice, and we have had to be flexible with almost all timings. Yesterday, for example, I was out early on the safety Zodiac. Taylor Gray, photographer, was with me, getting video and drone footage in Endicott Arm. We then towed the 9 kayaks to their operations starting point, before acting as safety boat/photographer for the morning. Changed drivers at noon, dressed in dry suit and life jacket to enjoy a kayak trip, before rushing back to shower and change, then presenting my Allure of the North lecture. Team meeting at 5pm, before hosting guests for dinner.

Expedition ship work began for me in 2013, having been to Antarctica by jet in December 2011. After nearly 10 years I still wrestle with the reality of what these cruises cost versus my being paid to work on them. In most instances we learn more from our guests than they learn from us, and it is a pleasure to be at their service. It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the youngsters just starting their careers (hopefully) in expedition-type work, and reflecting on being in that position just a few years ago. When asked for advice, I always stress the importance of using their receivers more than their transmitters. Little wonder this sometimes falls on deaf ears? It has also been interesting to observe how the ship culture changes when senior officers change. Hosting dinners every second or third evening has provided much opportunity to receive feedback from guests. Be it quality of comparable lines, the level of service on this line pre and post-Covid, various companies payment/refund protocols, to small details like black sea salt on the butter or the quality of the dessert souffle’.

Most significant for me, is being reasonably mobile on my own two feet now, compared with being in a wheelchair in 2019, cared for by Karen. I have missed the care and company desperately; I do NOT miss the wheelchair! In 2019 we enjoyed one cabin for our entire time onboard. This season I have moved cabins 9 times in 12 weeks. The less said, the better. The teachings for me in this regard still remain unclear?
My cabin mate, Scottie Keifer is a delightful American from the Great Lakes area of Michigan. Scottie’s side of the cabin always appears as if hand grenades have exploded inside his luggage before he could unpack. The mess has become urban legend hereabouts, but a finer cabin mate I could not wish for. Scottie maintains he knows where everything is, and can find things by feel in the pitch dark. He proves this regularly by leaving the cabin early, silently.

Self-worth within individuals is created in various ways. For many, I believe, it comes from feeling that one is making a positive contribution through one’s work? After the rigours of lock down in South Africa, and our attempts to eke out a living online, via Patreon and presentations, it is an absolute delight to be working again. Making a positive contribution perhaps, even more important. There is much work locally over the next three months, including a short English lecture tour in October. It is often said that Alaska is a place very few visit only once. I am blessed abundantly by visiting the 49th state in 1996, 2019 and this year, for considerable time on every occasion.
Now it is time to go home!

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