Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cruising: Going Behind the Scenes “By Invitation Only”

Several times last fall upon returning to our cabin during those long, lazy days at sea (a favorite feature of repositioning cruises) we would find a small envelope in the holder at our door.

“You are invited. . .”  began the note tucked inside it.

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Savoring one of those 'days at sea'

Those unexpected invitations were how we found ourselves among randomly convened small groups of fellow passengers at some on-board event or some ‘behind the scenes’ place.

A regular part of these gatherings were the speculations about why we had been invited. There was never an apparent common denominator: some guests were long-time loyal cruisers, some were on their first voyage, others were staying in suites, some celebrating special occasions and many were like us, simply cruise enthusiasts with several cruises in our travel history.

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The normally off-limits heli-pad cocktail party
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One of the most interesting of those events was a Sail Away Cocktail Party held on the normally-off-limits heli-pad at the bow of the ship.  The event, lasting about an hour, was held just before we sailed from Lahaina, Maui for the South Pacific, as that forward location would have been far too windy once the ship began moving.

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The heli-pad as seen from the bridge

Another invitation took us to the bridge for a quick tour with an even smaller group of fellow passengers.  Invitations, passports and handbags were checked before we stepped past the security door into the bridge.
The photo of the heli-pad above, I took from the bridge and the photos of the bridge below, I took from the heli-pad.

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The bridge and officers in it as seen from the heli-pad many stories below it

While on the bridge, we were allowed to take photos of and ask questions about this high-tech computerized center.  (The old ship’s wheels of yore now serve as wall displays (this one in a Maui hotel) and the new version comes with a cushioned driver’s seat.


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Navigational tools have changed

Our visit was brief but not rushed – and there was  time for a photo with the ship’s Master (captain). As we exited the bridge, another small group was waiting to enter.

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The TravelnWrite Scout and Scribe post with our ship's Master

[One interesting thing about cruising -- and the above photo illustrates it well -- are the steps taken to prevent the spread of germs, particularly Norovirus, (should there be any lurking on the ship).  At all gatherings – cocktail parties, meet the officer parties, or  tours like this – guests and crew were discouraged from shaking hands or making any body contact  – you’ll notice we all were abiding by those rules.]

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My place setting at the Captain's Table

We told you in earlier posts about dining at The Captain’s Table, which is also a ‘by invitation only’ event.  Again, each time we’ve been fortunate enough to be invited, we’ve  found a mix of travel and cruise enthusiasts – all most interesting conversationalists – but who shared no other ‘common denominator’ to which the invitation could be linked.  (Thank goodness, I remembered Miss Manner’s rule: eat from the outside – what a set of flatware!)

SilhouettePt12012 251Just like airlines, cruise lines have customer loyalty programs. On Celebrity, the line we’ve sailed most often in recent years, it is called “Captain’s Club”.

The more cruises you take on the same cruise line the more ‘rewards’ you receive. . .like invitations to afternoon cocktail parties for returning guests. There you sip champagne, nibble appetizers and mingle with the ship’s officers with entertainment provided.



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Celebrity's Captain's Club offered entertainment at the afternoon cocktail party

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These events are also ‘by invitation only’ and on most cruise lines, the invitations to such events begin with your second voyage.

These festive gatherings also draw hundreds of returning guests.







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Solstice-class ship's theatre

The ‘by invitation only’ events often include behind-the-scenes tours that take guests back stage to see the behind the scenes workings in the enormously large  theatre or through the galley to see the precision movements required of the kitchen staff who serves thousands three times (and more) during the day.

SilhouettePt12012 225That’s it for today’s tale.  Photos used in this post were taken on three recent Celebrity cruises.

If you have cruised have you also received those unexpected invitations? If so, where did they take you?






We are heading out:  It won’t be long before we are off to Greece for another adventure going ‘where the winds blow us’ and – if the techno gods and travel gods synchronize -- we will begin reporting from Greece soon.  Hope you’ll come along with us.

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And, as always thanks for the time you spend with us. We wish you safe and satisfying travels~
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36 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It was fun! Makes me want to book another cruise. Have a great weekend. . .

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  2. Yes, we were privileged to enjoy some private events on a ship when we cruised with World Explorer. I still miss them, as they had the perfect blend of luxury and learning.

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    1. That's how we feel out these Celebrity ships; plenty of opportunity to learn. The story I did on repositioning cruises for the Seattle Times two weeks ago, made me realize these ships could be considered floating classrooms!

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  3. Very cool. I've been on 3 cruises and have never had a special invitation. Years of watching The Love Boat always made me long to sit at the Captain's Table and be invited up onto the Bridge. (I may have also wanted to invite someone in for a nightcap. Being young at the time, I thought they would close the door and put on Santa hats.) You are so lucky. I think the behind-the-scenes tours would be my favorite.

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    1. They are fun and it is nice Celebrity has kept them as 'treats' as I know some cruise lines actually list them as a purchase option; like you pay to take a galley tour. Ughhh. Thanks for the visit, Michele.

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  4. I've only been on one cruise. It was a few years, but I have been thinking about it the last few days, so it was interesting to read your post today. The events sound interesting. Maybe it's time to book another cruise.

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    1. I heartily recommend booking one, Donna. Try a repositioning cruise - some of the best values to be found!

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  5. What a fantastic experience to be invited to go behind the scenes, Jackie. I would absolutely love that. That is fascinating on the not shaking hands part. I never in a million years would have thought of that and this is the first time ever hearing of it. Sure makes sense though, doesn't it?

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    1. It is kind of weird though, Mike, as we've all been brought up shaking hands when introduced. . .so sometimes it ends up in a laugh session as you stick out your hands and then as if you'd touched a hot stove, you hank them back and fold them across your chest! Thanks for the visit today .. .

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  6. What a great addition to cruising "life"! I never new about the germ thing (great idea). I have over 200 students this semester. Some of them want to shake my hand at the end of class. I inwardly cringe and silently scream GERMS....:) My hands get washed immediately after!

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    1. Knew...that is (not new) :)

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    2. Oh, I do that all the time, Nancie. And most the time I don't catch it. I would keep plenty of that hand disinfectant stuff in my classroom if I were you. Urrggh. . .nice touch, but still as you said, 'germs'!

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  7. What fun! And the idea of going behind the scenes via special invitation sounds very grand. Yes, you'd have to have your wits about you at the Captain's Dinner with all that silverware! Oh my! It makes sense about the handshaking, doesn't it. Come to think of it, The Queen of England always wears gloves on Royal duty for hand shaking, doesn't she!

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    1. Oh now that is funny Jo as I hadn't even thought about the Queen's gloves preventing germs. . .I just figured her Royal Skin probably wasn't supposed to touch the 'commoners'. Double duty maybe? Thanks for the visit today!

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  8. On our second Celebrity cruise, our party of 8 somehow earned the VIP treatment. Unordered hor d'oeuvres mysteriously appeared each evening in our cabins, we were invited to a small meet and greet with the Captain and senior officers in the Captain's quarters and to a tour of the bridge. Our cabin steward wanted to know if we were VIPs of some ilk. (We weren't). The only thing we can come up with is that our travel agent somehow had us tagged for special treatment. It worked. We've been on quite a few Celebrity cruises since then.

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    1. It is fun to have such unexpected treatment, isn't it, Suzanne. Perhaps we all enjoy it even more than do the 'VIP's' as it is routine for them and so very special for us! Have a great weekend over there in the Sandwich Islands.

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  9. Hi Jackie, sems like your are prone to "special invitations":) But I'm glad this one is a pleasant event.
    It nice that loyal cruisers are rewarded with "by invitation only" events. Loyal or not, you two are special and deserve all the special treats.

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    1. Oh you! Far too nice a comment but it is always a pleasure to see your name and thoughts in the blog! Have a great weekend you two!! xJackie

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  10. How fun! What a delightful surprise to find out you'd been invited somewhere interesting for who knows what reason. :-)

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    1. Yes, especially for those who think long days at sea might be boring. They certainly aren't when you get these kinds of unexpected, but lovely, surprises! Have a great weekend. xo J.

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  11. How exciting for you, Jackie. It must have made you feel really special.
    I'd jump at these 'by invitation only' events too, especially one to the bridge.

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    1. It is special, Marcia and what a great marketing tool they have there. Of course, I want to be loyal to that cruise line because of how special they've made me feel!

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  12. What a wonderful time you two have been having! A very nice image series, too.

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    1. Andrew, how nice to see you back at TravelnWrite! I had been missing your blog and your comments of late. Looking forward to getting caught up with you.

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  13. I had no idea that these invite only events existed on cruises, it sounds amazing! Love that you got to see behind the scenes :) Really intrigued as to how they decide who to invite though...

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    1. Guess the invitation list will always remain a mystery, Catherine . . .and that is what makes it so much fun. Thanks for stopping by today!

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  15. What fun! It would be great to see behind the scenes. Now you've let the cat our of the bag I'm sure there will be a lot of people waiting for one of these envelopes to appear and then be very disappointed when it didn't! Have fun in Greece!

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    1. Thanks, Jenny, for stopping by today. I bet if they cruise long enough and far enough, those cruisers will all end up with invitations to special things. . .
      We are certainly getting excited about Greece!

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  16. We haven't cruised with Celebrity yet - this article makes us want to book really soon :)

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    1. Viv - Thanks so much for stopping by. I think you would love a Celebrity cruise - let us know if you book one!

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  17. I've only been on one cruise, but this story and photos make your experience seem quite intimate. Lovely.

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    1. A decade ago we claimed that we 'were not cruise people' and then we tried a couple of them. Now many years and 20 cruises later, we are most definitely 'cruise people' and lovin' it! Thanks for visiting, Kristin, hope to see you again soon.

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  18. What a treat to do these behind the scenes...makes the cruise even more special, thanks for the tour!

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  19. Oh this is so cool! I had no idea that there were "invitation only" or behind the scenes get togethers on cruises, what a unique concept!

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