“That’s the biggest difference,” he says. “I mean the immersion we give to the environment and the up-close nature of the experience, where not only are the ships smaller and you can see things from a different vantage point, but then when we get our guests into the zodiacs—the motorized excursion craft—you really get the true sense of being an explorer from the water’s edge as you get up to a glacier or up close to shore to view wildlife. Or get close to a floating iceberg where you’re five feet away from a female seal who is staring at you with curiosity, just as you are staring at it. That truly gives you the sense of being an explorer and that’s something that’s very, very special.”
That same feeling of exploration, Thomas explains, is magnified even more with the cultural experiences clients will enjoy on the new global voyages aboard Cruise West’s new Spirit of Oceanus. “What I’ve just described in Alaska is really part of the core essence as to who and what we are and we’ve tried to take that concept in the way we’ve approached the World Cruise, which is actually a compilation of 24 individual cruises with no ports repeated.”
Thomas cites an example of what’s waiting for guests as they overnight in Rangoon, Myanmar. “What we wanted to do was something that would really allow us to immerse the guests in the experience. So we’re going to be bringing our guests early in the morning to a pagoda where not only do we watch a very special ceremony—it’s a daily event, the food offering to the monks where they line up in a long procession and other monks and superiors or family members offer them food for the day because they can only eat at certain parts of the day—our guests will not just watch it like most cruise passengers do, ours will actually participate in it. They will line up with a plate of food and each one will offer their plate to an individual monk as they go through the procession.
“Later, we’ll go to another pagoda to take part in a very revered ceremony called the Novitiation. Every boy must enter the life of a monk and, I believe, spend two years in that capacity and then at the end of that 2-year period, they can either stay in that lifestyle or go back to civilian life. One of the things that is very special is the Novitiation ceremony where the young lads take the first step in their life as a monk during which they have their heads shaved. They’re then given their robes and then it’s tradition that monks or family will present gifts to them to help them through this initiation. The gifts will be something like bars of soap, a towel, a plate—things of that nature. So we’ve arranged that our guests will become a part of the ceremony and be the people who are offering gifts. The monks then get into a procession with their families and they have a big parade through town and our guests will stand side by side with the monk to whom they offered these gifts and march in the parade with the monks and their families. So again, it takes them from being an observer to being a participant. And this is the thing we like to do.… Our mission statement is to create unforgettable memories and this type of experience certainly does that.”