Month: July 2014

DON’T WASTE YOUR WEEKENDS

What would you think if your boss unexpectedly announced that you’d be getting 100 additional paid vacation days a year?

Surprise! Your boss already has done that. It’s called “the weekend.”

For most of us, those two days are Saturday and Sunday. But even for those who find themselves having to do some work on their weekends it’s important not to take for granted those days’ tremendous value. It’s equal to having another 104 days, or nearly 15 weeks of paid vacation each year.

Like most people, you probably think of those as “your” rightful days off. But properly understood in their historical context, those weekend days were never “our” days to do with as we wished until the mid-20th Century.

To be sure, some people have been taking one day off a week since at least around 3400 years ago. That’s when the prophet Moses received the Ten Commandments, one of which was the charge to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy. But the practice did not reach semi-universal status until sometime in the mid-1000s A.D., when Christians began taking Sundays off.

The very first instance of a two-day weekend did not occur until 1908. Owners of a New England mill began closing on Saturdays and Sundays so that all employees could have their day of religious observance off. For the first time everyone got both days off, giving people an unprecedented amount of something new called “leisure time.”

Henry Ford, whose trail-blazing ideas about labor greatly impacted Western business and culture did not begin shutting down his car factories on both Saturdays and Sundays until 1926.

Three years later the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Union became the first labor organization to include a five-day work week in its contract demands. The standard 40-hour workweek, which makes the two-day weekend possible, did not become law in the United States until 1940, giving formal birth to the modern concept of “the weekend.”

So the question remains, what will you do with your 104 weekend days off a year?

Here are 8 ideas:

1. Drive to a nearby state and explore its charms and delights.

2. Go to the lake. A couple of water mattresses, an old inner tube, and a few Styrofoam “noodles,” plus a tent and a camp stove can turn a cheap get-a-way into a life-long memory.

3. Take an immersion course in something you’ve always wanted to try. Maybe it’s a foreign language, or cooking, or a musical instrument, or photography. Just dive in up to your neck.

4. Become a tourist in your own city. Visit the museums. See the sights. Get a tourist brochure and do all the things it suggests out-of-towners do.

5. Get a list of the best day trips from your town (check online travel sites like tripadvisor.com) and explore all the great scenery and marvels within a day’s drive.

6. Visit the mountains nearest you. Take a hike. Pack a lunch. Swim in a cool mountain stream. Marvel at nature.

7. Drive to another town to attend a pro, college, high school or even little league game – or a concert or art exhibition. The “what” matters less than the “go.”
8. Take a 3 day/2 night cruise

Not all weekend “vacations” have to be elaborate, lengthy, or costly affairs. And you don’t have to travel half way around the world to see some amazing things. Nearly all of us live within a short drive of world-class destinations.

And, realistically, you probably can’t take a trip, even a short one, every weekend. Sometimes you have to use a weekend to run errands, work around the house, or pay bills. But my point is that if you begin to look at your weekends as something more than just “days off” you will get to enjoy many, many more great experiences each year- experiences that will create life-long memories and come back to your Monday feeling recharged and ready to go.

…Josh Leibowitz

NOROVIRUS: Not A “Cruise Ship” Disease

This might come as a bit of surprise, given the history of reporting on this rather stomach-turning subject, but of all the public places where people tend to gather in large numbers one of the places where you are least likely to contract the much talked-about “norovirus” is aboard a cruise ship.

Big headlines and breathless TV reporting in recent years might cause you to think that cruise ship passengers are in elevated danger of contracting a nasty “bug” like norovirus, but the reality is quite different. Indeed, if you want to lead your life in such a way as to never come down with a case of norovirus, you could do worse than to take up permanent residence onboard a cruise ship. And you almost certainly would never go into restaurant or a banquet facility, or attend a catered event. You’d also want to avoid hospitals and other healthcare facilities, schools and even your kids’ daycare.

Oh, and you wouldn’t go to work either… or home.

That’s because you’re more likely to pick up norovirus in all of those places than you are aboard a modern cruise ship. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s data is irrefutable. Each year there are 19 million to 21 million reported cases of norovirus-caused illnesses in the United States. Between 56,000 and 71,000 Americans are hospitalized each year because of norovirus. Between 570 and 800 people die in the U.S. as a result of norovirus. Yet the CDC recently concluded that well less than 1 % of all U.S. cases of norovirus are contracted on cruise ships sailing to or from U.S. ports.

Startlingly 64% of all U.S. reported cases of norovirus are contracted at/via restaurants, and another 17% stem from banquet facilities and catered events. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities including nursing homes and rehab centers are responsible for about 1% of cases. Schools and daycares are responsible for another 1%. That leaves just 13% for the CDC’s “Other” category, within which offices and other types of workplaces (excluding on-site cafeterias) are, by far, the primary contact point for norovirus transmission.

That’s not to say that you will never get sick – from anything, including norovirus – while on a cruise. It does happen. Any place where large numbers of people gather can be a point of disease transmission. But based on the news coverage of the issue in the last few years, you’ll be shocked to learn how infrequently that really happens to cruise passengers.

Of the 11 million or so passengers who embarked on cruise ships from U.S. ports in 2013 only 817 came down with a case of norovirus. Expressed mathematically that 817 out of 21 million norovirus victims looks like this .00389%. Put another way, you have a 1-in 15,000 chance of getting norovirus on a cruise, vs. a 1-in-15 chance of getting it anywhere on land.

Okay, nobody’s perfect, but 10,999,183 of our industry’s U.S.-embarked passengers DID NOT come down with norovirus last year. That’s not to minimize the ill effects felt by the 817 of our industry’s passenger who did, but the facts don’t justify those big headlines and breathless TV reports (or heightened consumer concern).

So why do stories about cruise ship-related cases of norovirus get reported that way?

It’s because our industry, like no other I know of, voluntarily reports all illnesses contracted by our customers. The Cruise Line Industry Association’s voluntary health standards oblige us to have fully-trained and well-equipped health facilities onboard our ships, and to adhere to strict cleanliness and health protection protocols and procedures for our cabins and public areas, for our food preparation and service areas, and for out potable and waste water and other life support systems. And we report every illness or injury – something no other hospitality and travel industry segment does. We do that because we know that our passengers pay sizeable amounts of money to enjoy the fantastic culinary, cabin and entertainment delights aboard our ships. Neither they nor we want their much-needed and well-deserved vacation spoiled by illness.

You see, we don’t just sell cruises. We sell experiences; the kind that turn into life-long memories; that make hard work rewarding; and the kind that bring strangers together, friends closer, and lovers and families closer than ever before. So we go to great lengths to prevent illnesses from robbing our guests of the experiences they seek whenever they come aboard.

Experiences create memories.

…Josh Leibowitz