Touring the tourists' haunts

Fifth-graders get rare look at ship

Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2004

While many of the 2,001 passengers of the Coral Princess watched the Mendenhall Glacier in awe, a group of 41 fifth-graders of Harborview Elementary School were looking at her lavish casinos and Broadway-style stages in matching amazement.

"I feel like a millionaire," said Ivy Lalalama, 11, looking at the ship's glistening interior decorations. She had never been on a cruise ship before.

For the past 10 years, it has been a tradition for Juneau's fifth-graders to have a field trip to the cruise ships.

"This was at first conceived as an educational program," said Paulette Simpson, education coordinator of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. "We want to show the students that tourism is an important part of Juneau. Our goal is to get all the kids on board once."

Brian Price, cruise director for the Coral Princess, described the relationship between the ship and the city as symbiotic.

"Juneau is one of the biggest shopping places for the crew and passengers and there are a lot of exciting things to be done here," said Price, who has played golf at Mendenhall Golf course, had salmon at Gold Creek Salmon Bake and hung out at the Red Dog Saloon. "When we leave here, we try not to leave anything behind except the money in our pockets."

Cruise ships have been important to Juneau's economy. Between May and September, 42 vessels, including Coral Princess, will make about 587 calls to Juneau and bring approximately 850,000 passengers. Each passenger is estimated to spend $175, according to the McDowell Group's Alaska Traveler Survey. Ship personnel will add another $7 million to $8 million.

Christine Trostel, a Harborview Elementary School teacher, said it is good for the students to see how tourism has supported Juneau.

"The tour is one of the highlights each year for the fifth grade," Trostel said. "The ship is like an adult Disneyland."

Indeed. The Coral Princess, which is 964 feet high and 126 feet broad, boasts state-of-the-art gyms, 24-hour dining and luxurious spas. The French-made, 18-month-old ship has 900 crew members.

But Charlotte Robertson, the ship's youth activity coordinator, said the Coral Princess is also a paradise for children of various ages.

While smaller children can paint ceramics at the ship's pottery studio, older children can play video games. The ship also brings a disc jockey from Los Angeles to entertain teen-agers.

Coral Princess' youth program is both entertaining and educational. Working with California Science Center and the Miami Seaquarium, the staff teaches children math and the endangered species in Florida.

As the staff led the students through the labyrinth-like Coral Princess, the students also learned such interesting trivia as why there isn't a 13th floor on the ship.

"You don't have 13th floor on a ship or in a hotel," said Catherine Jamieson, assistant cruise director. "It is bad luck."

Near the end of the tour, Price held a question-and-answer session with the students. He encouraged students to consider working for a cruise when they grow up.

"Do you have a position for testing video games?" asked Tyrel Kramp, 11.

"I am afraid not," Price said. "But you can work as a dancer, an engineer, a captain or a waiter. There are many jobs on the ship."

The tour impressed not only students who have never taken a cruise, but also those who have.

"The cruise ship I took had only one big pool in the middle," said Phillip Murray, who took a cruise to Hawaii with his family last November. "It didn't have so many swimming pools and it didn't have roofs that could open and close like this one."

The tour ended with the students having pizza on the deck next to two swimming pools and Jacuzzis that have retractable roofs above them.

While devouring pepperoni pizza and Coke, Bethany Munod, 11, said she would like to work on a cruise ship one day.

"I have taken a cruise before so it was exciting for me," she said. "I'd like to work with little kids on a cruise so I can play around with them."

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