Apropos of nothing

 I thought this entry deserved its own, rather than lump it in with the Live From the Getaway series.
One thing I have learned in life is there are two kinds of people when it comes to dealing with challenges:  Those who say "It can't happen", and those whose instinctive response is "How do I make this happen?"

And in the world of customer service, the former have no business.  Too many people in service jobs these days don't even realize the reason they have a job is to think, try, and overcome.  You could program a machine to endlessly repeat "We can't".  Employers could get a chimpanzee to work cheap if all they wanted is someone who looks cute in a uniform.  You are there because they WANT someone who can draw outside the lines, when necessary, to keep customers satisfied, and returning.
Oh, and p.s. - yes, you probably are smarter than your supervisor.  The reason he/she is your boss and not the other way around, is he/she has a history of actually figuring shit out.  It's almost never necessary to resort to rocket surgery.  Even limited intelligence, with the right attitude can figure out what needs to be done to keep the clients happy.
Now, one of the reasons I have always enjoyed cruising with my wheelchair user brother is this "can-do" attitude amongst cruise ship staff.  Our very first cruise was 33 years ago on the Carnival Tropicale.  That's over 10 years BEFORE the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed in to law.  The doors on that ship were 22" wide.  His wheelchair was 26" wide.  We figured out (because I am the latter type of person, which is why I've managed to deal successfully with my brother for 35 years, while most of his family is the first type, and would have let him languish in a facility, where he probably would have died 30 years ago) how to work a standing transfer, standing him up, collapsing his chair, opening it back up on the other side of the door, and doing a swivel/pivot in to the chair).  More importantly, the crew on that ship figured stuff out, too.  There were 2 steps down in to the main dining room on that ship.  And no ramps, anywhere.  The first night, the maître d' sent a couple busboys over, they each grabbed a wheel, and carried him down the steps.  Without us even saying a word.  And for the rest of the cruise, every time we walked in the dining room, a couple staff came over to get him to his table.  That kind of service was a major selling point on cruising.  And it's always been that way.  Not only have ships vastly improved in terms of accessible cabins, ramps and flat thresholds, etc, but in most of the industry the staff and crew are both A: more familiar with wheelchair users and how to best accommodate them, and B:  Of the "How do I make this happen?" mindset.
Sadly, this last week I had a run in with that first type of person.  I am sorry, but this deal with the strobe light in the ceiling just didn't have to be an issue. 
First off, it's completely unbelievable to me that the light can't be switched off when necessary.  If that is true, it's the worst bit of engineering since engineering was invented.
Second off, it's completely unbelievable to me that no one has the ability to remove the bulb.  If that is true it means these two ships (Breakaway and Getaway) will have to be scrapped when the bulbs fail (as light bulbs generally do, eventually), since I have been told in most solemn terms that they are REQUIRED by ADA for the passengers safety.
Third off, it's just not that hard to cover a light.  Which is what I finally did, just before two guys from engineering showed up with some cardboard and duct tape.  My apologies for my attitude when they showed up and I assured them I had an even better solution, because I am not burdened by the title "engineer", but do have an above average IQ.
Finally - Norwegian Cruise Line, a few years ago, in response to several lawsuits over ADA, instituted "Access Officers".  These Access Officers were supposed to be the "go to" person for disabled passengers with issues.  Sadly, the program is a complete and epic fail.  To quote from Norwegians website:
"Once you have boarded, you will be met by staff who will have all of the information that you conveyed to Norwegian Cruise Line either directly or through your travel professional. Staff will be available throughout your cruise to see to your needs. Norwegian Cruise Line has Access Officers who will be the primary go to person for all of your needs. Norwegian Cruise Line also has a centralized internal corporate resolution staff to assist the Access Officer, available by telephone 24 hours a day."

Well, swell, except the "meeting" turns out to be a two page letter with the name of the access officer (no direct extension to call), and a list of where the accessible bathrooms are around the ship.
Twice since these Access Officers were born, I have cruised Norwegian with my brother.  On the first, the person was scared to death of disabled people and would not make eye contact with my brother.  It took a phone call from a Vice President of the Corporation to get her to meet with me. 
And on this one, the Access Officer was a nice lady, but definitely in the 1st category.  When I FINALLY got her to respond, after Guest Services was completely unhelpful, all she could offer about the seizure inducing strobe light was "We can't do anything".  Well, gee...is your job to hide behind ADA (which, of course, cruise lines routinely assert doesn't apply to them when they are being sued, but then want to use as a reason for their policies when they think it's in their favor) and say "We can't", or to fix problems for disabled guests by asking yourself "How do I make this happen?".
I think the reason the program is pointless is that it is assigned to certain job titles, period.  Personally, I would ask for volunteers, and perhaps give them a small stipend for taking on the added duties.  Persons With Disabilities really need to have someone who is sympathetic and understanding of their needs...not just a few minutes from someone who has been told to handle this task whether they like it or not. 

In that sense it's kind of like the kids programs.  All the kids camp counselors are self-selected people who actually LIKE children, as well as being trained specifically to handle them.  They aren't just assigned from the general staff and told to deal with kids all week every week.  I am sure you can see what a disaster that could be.
Anyway...that's enough from me.  I will continue to recommend Norwegian to many, if not most of my clients.  For the able bodied, it is a great cruise line, with much to recommend it.
Those with disabilities, however, will continue to be sent to Princess and Royal.

1 comment :

  1. I can't believe the experience you had in reading this and now know the full extend of the frustration you went through, which should have never happened. You are point on and can relate as my father was also in a wheelchair. I had the pleasure of spending some nice quality time with you and your brother who is a sweetheart! I hope that they can rewrite or revamp these situations to comply with ADA so that anyone with disabilities can enjoy their vacation.


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