First, this post is not about my vacation. How boring would that be? It’s about a fundamental change in the way people stay connected, or not. But the issue came to light on my vacation, so please indulge me a sentence or two.
Last month, my wife and I took what was, for us, the trip of a lifetime, in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. A Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. In short, the cruise was wonderful. We relaxed, unplugged, saw places I’d only heard of before. The food was good and plentiful. The service – no complaints. And our accommodations were very comfortable. May I never forget how blessed and privileged we were to be able to take such a trip.
If you think these sincere words (and they are sincere) are the wind-up for a complaint, you’re right. Well, not so much a complaint as an observation.
The problem: The Internet service on board the ship was wholly abominable. Indescribably inadequate. And shockingly expensive. It took about ten minutes (and 3 dollars!) to sign in to gmail. Any site that required any bandwidth at all was blocked. And Skype? Are you kidding? One day, I spent five hours of my vacation, and $90, to do about 10 minutes’ work, to send a promised proposal to a client.
Reminder – I’m not whining. I realize how fortunate I am to have taken the trip at all. Now, I’ll continue.
And don’t, as did the “guest services agent” on the ship, give me this lame line: “But you’re on vacation. You shouldn’t be working!”
Earth to Royal Caribbean. As we point out in Rebooting Leadership, the lines between work and play, work and home, home and play, are forever blurred. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of opinion. The fact that it is as it is – is not.
We work in our “off-hours” (whatever those are), and, likewise, play at work. Don’t try to tell me you don’t.
Today’s work, indeed much of today’s life, is facilitated online. If you doubt that, try unplugging your home Internet (or if yours is like mine, wait until it goes down naturally; it won’t be a long wait), and turn off your smartphone. Count the number of things you start to do, before remembering that you can’t.
On the cruise, we were traveling in a group of 19 friends. Many are small business owners, like myself. Others have responsible jobs working for someone else. All of us are used to traveling, at home and abroad, and, have gotten used to being able to connect from pretty much anywhere – hotel rooms, airports, coffee shops, you name it. Call us spoiled, if you like. Overindulged perhaps. But you may definitely call us frustrated with the ship’s inability to provide a usable Internet connection. And to charge us stupid money for the frustration.
Royal Caribbean’s excuses (offered as if highly practiced) involved pointing out that we were at sea, that satellite communications are iffy at best, and that there were more than 3,000 people on the ship, many of whom were competing for limited bandwidth. All invalid. The technology exists to let passengers connect as easily as if they were in the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
I’m pretty sure the problem persists for two reasons:
1) Royal Caribbean (and, to be fair, their competitors) don’t want to invest in making the technology work. They don’t believe Internet access on a cruise vacation is important enough to enough people to make the investment commercially advantageous. That’s shortsighted.
2) An old mindset curiously survives, and yet without nourishment from reality. A pipe, slippers, and brandy anachronism in which we commute into the office at the start of our “workday”, chain ourselves to a desk for a period of time, and then commute home. We’re generations past that. Many in the hospitality field are falling all over themselves to realize that, in order to compete. Not the cruise biz. Certainly not Royal Caribbean.
I relish my downtime. Had the Mariner of the Seas had Internet access that could be taken seriously, I would have had more of it on my vacation. For those 12 days, I could have connected, done my work, kept in touch, and taken care of business, in less than an hour a day. That would have been a small price to pay for 23 hours a day of vacation.
Here’s hoping that this summer, you have the chance to take a week or two, get away, and recharge. But I sure hope you’ve got better Internet access than I did!
Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by creating a great place to work. He and Bill are the authors of the acclaimed business classic Contented Cows Give Better Milk, and Contented Cows MOOve Faster, and the brand new book Rebooting Leadership. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.