By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert
We just returned from our 12th Europe River cruise on AmaWaterways and had a wonderful time. A large part of why we had such an enjoyable cruise was the crew and how they took every opportunity to make each day better. After working 20 years as a military officer, graduating from West Point in 1971, and coaching high school football for 16 years, I really think I understand what makes an organization great. The simple answer is teamwork with the right chemistry. So, our goal for 2017 is to try to help all by making their day better—even more than past years. To help you understand our emphasis, I liked to tell you about 2 organizations that have the right chemistry—AmaWaterways and my 2001 Bellevue Wolverines Washington State High School Championship Football team and how both have made us better travel advisors.
And, I’d like to thank my wife Anne, who reminds me every day that I need to deal with our clients with the “How can I make your day better” spirit.
From top to bottom, AmaWaterways just does it right. There is a real emphasis on working together and it shows in all they do. I will tell you about the crew shortly, but the total organization, that works so hard to deliver good travel experiences, deserves recognition. Yesterday was a great example of how good companies work with us to help our clients have better vacations.
I called them 3 times to help our clients. First , for an already booked river cruise client, was a simple check of an air quote for our good friend—answered by friendly person who quickly supplied the info so I could help my client. Second was a call to my group coordinator, Kristie, for a client to find a cruise that would work for a family celebration. Not only did she find a great deal for me and the clients (saving my clients $1000 per person on the cruise we selected), she saved me considerable time by volunteering to email the group sales manager and set up my new group. About 20 minutes later, I got a call from Christine, the group manager, who put together the contract for my group and within an hour all was ready for me to sign the contract. About an hour later, I got an email from our Business Development Manager, Shelia, who congratulated me on the new group and offered any help she could. I called to thank her and to catch up on her travels. Not only did they help me, all treated me like a friend not a business partner, ask personal questions about our travel with Ama on our Christmas cruise. Wow—three folks made my day better—do you think there is a lesson here for all of us?
Our recent experiences with the crew of the AmaCerto on our Christmas Markets cruise on the Enchanting Rhine route from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands was made special by how efficiently the crew took great care of us and how they did it with the “how can I make your day better” spirit. While in the military, I went to work one day and came home 3 months later—a no-notice deployment. Why do I tell you that?—the crew is on an 8 or 9 month deployment and they work 7 days a week often for 12-18 hours a day. Yet every day, they greet you with the spirit—how can I make your day better. Smiles, efficient service, real interest on who you are. Everyone pulls together—great teamwork and good chemistry.
Although they are all good, I’d like to provide a little insight to 2 folks who make our cruise better. The first is Tania, from Croatia, who worked as a waiter in the dining room. We have sailed with her on previous cruises but the pride and professionalism and cheerful manner just made every day better. We got to meet her boyfriend (he is one of the chefs in the galley) late one night as they were taking a break after all their duties for the day were done for a quick visit onshore—they were just going out and we were returning. Thanks, Tania—you made 7 days better for us.
Tania & Anne on our 2016 Christmas Markets Cruise
The second was the hotel manager, Martina, also from Croatia. The hotel manager basically takes care of everything on board except sailing the riverboat. Imagine managing the bar, dining and housekeeping every day for up to 164 guests and keeping all happy. The hotel managers do not have a closed office to concentrate on their job—they sit at an open desk and are constantly interacting with crew and guests—constant interruptions. Always smiling, helpful and never annoyed by the constant interruptions. She helped us surprise the crew with pizza for all (I would be remiss to not mention our traveling companions, the Thomases, who once the learned of the plan, joyfully chipped in and paid half to honor the crew—class act folks! Mark is a retired Master Chief who served his country for 33 years in the Coast Guard and Denise is Doctor of Nursing, great wine lovers, and even better traveling companions). Good leaders earn the trust of their folks and it was very clear to us she had developed quite a team and all bought in—great job Martina!
Some pretty good lessons here—difficult conditions, handled with poise, can result in exceptional results–Thanks for making our 7 days better! Anne and I need to deal with all with the same spirit—how can we make your day better?
The Bellevue Wolverines
I was the defensive coordinator of the Wolverines for 2 years. In my last year we won it all—the best 3A (second highest classification in Washington) high school team in the state of Washington. We were 13-0. But the real story is the teamwork and chemistry of all. Football is a sport that no one ever does everything right every play. It is a hard game and easy to get discouraged. Working as a teacher and coach, I have heard just about every excuse you can imagine about why someone couldn’t get the task done. Yet this group of 55 young men decided they were going to be champions and nothing was going to stand in their way. No one pointed fingers, all accepted responsibility, all worked for the common goal, not individual glory. There was respect for all. We all worked for success by trying to be better every day. The made each day coaching a joy—they made my day better by giving all they had and never anything I asked them to do was too much. While they were a great team, the even better story is that all 55 graduated from college and have gone on to be successful in life—too cool for words!
2001 Bellevue Wolverines–Washington State 3A Champions
The travel lesson here is that partnerships with our clients, where we work to get them just the right trip together, will result in experiences that will last a lifetime. Just like when I was coaching, and I asked myself every day, how can I do this better, we must ask ourselves every day, how can we make our client’s trip better? We also must work hard every day to become better at our jobs, so we can make our client’s trips the best they can be. The more we can be involved in the total planning of the trip, offering wise suggestions to enhance the trip, making arrangements for all phases of their travel, and listening to their thoughts, will make their day better.
My Wife Anne
Every day, in our business, Anne reminds me to take care of our clients before I do any other task for our business and asks me about our clients and what they need for their upcoming trips. She always is going the extra mile, worries about the smallest details, and has great ideas to deliver exceptional trips to all we help. What she is really saying is “How did you make their day better?” It is the guiding principle of our company.
Thanks, Anne, for reminding me what is really important!
The Bottom Line
There is a lot to be learned from these two really good organizations. Do our job well, do it cheerfully, work well in partnership with our vendors and clients, and try every day to improve. Big challenge, but we thrive on getting it right. I think our goal of “How can We make your day better” is a great way to welcome in 2017! We hope you agree with us and will let us help in any way we can.
Happy 2017—May all your travel Dreams come true!
We hope this will inspire you to give us a call (Hank 713-397-0188) or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can help you have a better day, plan a great trip for you, or visit Europe on a river cruise and help you: Savor life . . . make memories . . . visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!