August 04, 2006 Features & Images » Feature Story

Capturing a market 

Lisa Richardson writes a love letter home to Whistler from aboard a bilge-spewing, baby-boomer cleaving Alaska cruise ship.

Not exactly in her element, Whistler local Lisa Richardson toughs out a week-long Alaskan cruise to celebrate her mom's 60th. Photo by Lisa Richardson
  • Not exactly in her element, Whistler local Lisa Richardson toughs out a week-long
    Alaskan cruise to celebrate her mom's 60th. Photo by Lisa Richardson

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I spent a week amongst them – we were mustered through embarkation to safety briefings to buffet dinners, belched onto shore and hustled into buses, to spend between three and eight hours at port, before being herded back on deck. If we acted like cattle, it was because we had no choice. The only way to swim against the current was to jump overboard. And 80 per cent of the people who go overboard on cruise ships are never found again.

My survival tactics, then, involved smuggling alcohol on board to avoid a brutal tab that would have eventuated after a week of gaily swiping one’s room card at the bar; (All-inclusivity is a myth. One senior staff member admitted to me that the larger the ship, the less space on board, with every square foot calculated at generating additional revenue. Spending is made easy. No cash leaves your hands while on board – even a packet of smokes at the ship’s store is put on the room-account to be deducted from your pre-scanned credit card at journey’s end); leaving ridiculously big tips for our cabin staff who discretely ignored evidence of the contraband… and writing a love-letter to Whistler.

A love letter I didn’t know what to do with, so put it in a bottle, threw it overboard, and wondered if it would wash up on a beach anywhere near here…

Dearest,

I know you’re working hard right now, and don’t have much time to look around, smell the roses. It’s an ambitious thing, to become the "premier resort community as we move toward sustainability." (Did you ever think about adding a bit more flavour to your goals, a bit more Neverland? There’s a town that aims to be "the funkiest place in Arkansas." That’s pretty catchy… Oh, never mind.) I really think you’ve been too hard on yourself lately. Worrying so much about numbers, the rise and fall of bar graphs, the doom and gloom of visitor indices, and that crazy Olympic deadline…

So, while I’m faraway-so-close, hulking along the coastline with Captain Vancouver’s sulky words about the monotony of it all on my mind, I want to tell you what I like about you. (Dare I say love?)

First of all, you’re beautiful. In all your changing moods, even in the most mundane moments of my daily commute, you drop my jaw and smack my gob like nothing along the entire Inside Passage. True story. I couldn’t even be bothered to bring my camera out.

Sure, you’re not always on your best behaviour, but you are genuinely kind. I know you get short-tempered with the congestion at Nesters, the lineups and those dawdling folk who can’t seem to walk in a straight line, but when I play tourist with you, you go along with it. You listen to my questions. You try and give me directions. You help me book my bus ticket. You really put on a good show. You told me that role-playing was fun… but now I see why. Every Whistlerite should try it out. Play tourist-for-a-day. See the world with a whole new set of eyes.

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