Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Importance of Small Details

By Nichole Giles

My husband and I recently took a trip. It was a wonderful and much needed vacation that we’d been planning, along with some friends of ours, for quite some time. We’ve taken lots of different types of trips as a couple, but never with other people who were not our family members.

This time, we chose to take a cruise. Gary and I have cruised twice before. The first time was just the two of us, on a five-day cruise to the Western Caribbean. Unfortunately, a hurricane came along the day our ship set sail and we were rerouted from Cozumel and Grand Cayman to Haiti and Jamaica. Still, we adjusted. It was our first cruise experience and even though we were staying in the cheap rooms, with just a little porthole looking out at sea from the bottom level of the ship, we felt like royalty.

Our room steward cleaned up twice a day—turning down our bed in the evening and leaving a mint on our pillows. Every day after breakfast, we’d rush to our room to find funny little animal folded from our hand towels. Our waiter, a jolly man from India named Dhabi, placed my napkin on my lap for me every night and then served me juice in a crystal goblet because he remembered that we don’t drink wine. On the nights when we had a hard time deciding between two delectable dinners, he brought us both. Same thing with deserts. Gary and I have never forgotten his name.

On one night, the head chef declared he was creating a midnight buffet of deserts and we were all invited to come see and taste his creations. This buffet was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Beautiful ice sculptures dotted the room, enhanced by sculptures made from melons and other foods. The presentation alone was incredible. I won’t even get into the scrumptious things I put on my plate and actually devoured at such a late hour.

It’s no wonder people come back from cruises having gained weight.

Anyway, that was in 2001. The second time we cruised, we took the kids. It was a three day Baja cruise, very inexpensive, but because there were six of us, again, the cheap rooms. This time a few levels up—on the eighth floor—so we had actual windows. This cruise was also fun. Our room steward even made a towel monkey and hung it from the top bunk in the kids’ room using a pair of sunglasses for eyes. Our kids will never forget that detail. And though the short time didn’t allow for the midnight buffet, there was a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop on board, so we were all happy, even though our waitress was obviously annoyed at the fact that she had to serve little children. Of all the things we remember about that trip, her grumpy demeanor sticks out.

That, and the three times a day when a man with a heavy English accent came on the overhead speakers crying, “Bingo, bingo, bingo!” to announce that a new game was about to start. Something we can’t forget due to the fact that our youngest son—who was five at the time—imitated that announcement for nearly a year. Even now, it comes out occasionally and is good for a laugh or two.

This time, since we were not the original trip planners, we ended up cruising with a different company. This company is one our friends swear by, but one we’ve never tried before. The price was a tad higher, but the ship was about three times the size of our last ship (which, ironically, we happened to cruise on for both of our previous cruises) and the length of the stay was seven days.

The first thing I noticed about this new company was that our room was lots bigger. But then, we’d paid for a balcony upgrade, and ended up on the top level only doors away from our friends. So our room was much nicer. The ship itself was bigger and more complicated, but the choices of pools and places to eat were spread out and numerous. The ship was beautiful, if confusing, and much more stable than our previous one—even on the first day at sea when yet another hurricane formed in the Caribbean and caused us to be rerouted—again.

And we easily adjusted again. It’s what you do when nothing else can be done. We had a good waiter, a good assistant waiter, and a good room steward. They were all friendly and served us well. So it took us a few days to realize that some of the little things we’d come to love and expect were missing. No towel elephants stared at us when we walked into the room, and there was no juice—none ever even available—at the dinner table. Most nights the dinner entrees were…interesting and unusual. But on the seafood nights, the requests for additional portions were met with reluctance. And every day, I found myself cheating off of nametags to remember the waiters’ names. I did remember them by the end, though. (Here's a shout out to Gorge` and his assistant, Gabriel. You guys rock!)

The one thing that sticks out most, though, is the absence of the midnight buffet. No chocolate covered strawberries or petit fours or interesting looking crackers with strange concoctions in the middle of the night. No ice sculptures, no towering cakes, and no key lime soufflé.
Even though our ship was bigger, nicer, more stable and far more beautiful, we missed certain little details we’d come to hope for in our cruise experience. The weather was gorgeous and warm, the company’s private island port—which was our first stop—was wonderful and fun, and the abundance of pools made it easy to take a dip whenever we had the urge. But I never stopped expecting to find my hand towels shaped like a giraffe, or to have our waiter bring me juice. And we watched for that darn buffet every day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from complaining. Our trip was fabulous. Absolutely breathtaking. But I do find it interesting how important those little details are. I’m sure I’ll blog more about the details of the islands and the trip, because there are so many experiences which merit blogging. For now, though, my thoughts are centered on the little details. The small things which shouldn’t matter, which don’t affect the overall experience, but were missed just the same.

It makes me wonder about the little details in my life and which ones I take for granted every day. Which things I overlook, and what the people around me have come to expect and hope for from me. Will I be the person they can all depend on? Who folds their towels into animals and brings them juice in a goblet? Or will I be the grouchy waitress who doesn’t want to serve children?

Life is all about details. Who will remember my name and what will my expression be when I pop up in their memories? The choice is up to me.


ali said...

You are so right on the little things Nichole. I was feeling down earlier this week and during sacrament meeting I was reminded that I shouldn't resent the little things I do around the home or for my family because it's in those little things that I show my love for and serve my family. If I resent those things, don't do my best, or dont' show care in them, that does translate to my family - they feel it.

Like the absence of giraffe towels or mokeys hanging from the ceiling, they know it if I'm not taking care to show my love for them in all the little things I do.

Great post! Can't wait to hear the details of your awesome trip!

Cindy Beck said...

Great blog ... thanks for reminding us that it's the little things that count!

(Oh, and when you get a minute, write and tell me the name of the two different cruise lines, would you? I'm taking my first cruise next year and want the elephants and monkey in my room. :)

Cathy Witbeck said...

I'm so glad that you could take your kids with you on the second cruise. What a great memory to make.