Rainy days are the norm in coastal Alaska, especially in Ketchikan. With an average of 13′ of rain per year, they are the rainfall capitol of the United States. No matter how self-evident the fact that this is beyond any crewmember’s control, the misery brought on by a rain-filled vacation shows clearly in the ratings and comment cards used to judge us at the end of a cruise.
I remember early in my ship career experiencing my first such cruise, where every day was drenched in heavy rain from the moment the ship departed Vancouver until the moment we returned. The weight of the weather hung dismally from the guests’ shoulders as they complained about food, entertainment, prices and activities. Some even did complain about the weather, not with the expectation of change of course, but at the end of their long list as if to point out that even God was being difficult. I was always tempted to smile brightly and say, “I’ll do what I can!” Instead I learned the unwritten rule most of us catch onto eventually: Don’t ask “How’s your cruise so far?” in the rain.
Amidst this kind of gloom, smiling faces shine like the sun. The guests who have a good time regardless not only of the weather, but of the wet blanket effect of those around them are genuinely special people. They are a reminder to us all that happiness is a conscious choice to be made everyday. Usually we find it in individuals, family groups or friends who work off each other’s energy, but there was a particular tour group that intrigued me because they seemed to be strangers with nothing in common but that unshakable joy.
When a woman from that group interrupted a stranger’s run-on complaint with a joke, a smile and an over-the shoulder wink to the crewmember she’d rescued, my curiosity was peaked. The next time I saw her I commented on her positive attitude and asked what made the difference. She said her tour company had brought all the travelers together for a pre-cruise talk covering the basics for first time cruisers. In closing the Tour Leader had told them:
“… but most importantly, remember you’re not buying the weather. You’re buying a room on a luxury cruiseliner, unlimited food, and a trip to Alaska. You will see mountains, trees and ocean. There will be live shows, a casino and a spa for your enjoyment. In short, it may rain every day, but there will be plenty for you to enjoy anyway. If you really don’t want rain, then perhaps you could consider the dry season in the Caribbean.”
It was a good speech just stating the obvious and yet it worked. No one cancelled and everyone enjoyed. I wonder now whether more of us would choose to be happy through the hard times if we’d listened more carefully to the tour guide coming in. I’m almost positive we were warned that there might be rain.