These are our Vacation Heroes

It takes many people to make this giant floating hotel known as Norwegian Encore work, and to make guest experiences special. There were many more people who I could list, but these are the ones who really went the extra mile, sometimes in a routine task for them, sometimes when it came to helping us get off the ship successfully in the midst of our crisis.

They are not listed in any particular order.


Surina Taljaard

Surina was the General Manager’s secretary during the Alaska leg of the trip. Her contract came to an end on arrival back in Seattle, but she extended to work back in the photography department for a time. We were going to have her take the photos we wanted to have as part of the Romance package I’d bought for the Repo leg, but that was not to be…

In the first week Surina was available for any need we had, and she coordinated a number of surprises we enjoyed during the week. Whenever there was a surprise experience or token of NCL’s affection, it was Surina we saw. She helped me coordinate Internet to be able to live blog the trip, too. She always did so in a calmly professional way and with genuine appreciation for us as cruise guests.

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Julius Cantel Villavelez

Julius was our Room Steward.

Of course you become attached to your room steward, especially on a trip you expect to be 28 days! Julius was the face of NCL every time we saw him, whether it was hard at work in our room or one of the others in his block, asking if we planned to go ashore (and following up inquiring about how our time on shore was), and numerous little things like an extra towel for Roxan, a firmer pillow for me, and so much more.

I did not spend enough time to get to know Julius the way I’d hoped to — learn about his family and home country, that kind of stuff.

For everything you did, thank you kind sir!

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Francisco Agena Jr

Francisco is Julius’ immediate supervisor, based on the interactions I saw between them. I had the impression he might have been higher up the management ladder than that, but I don’t know his full scope of responsibility. We met Francisco about the same time we met Julius, and he was also very attentive to our needs.

The biggest thing he did for us was when he helped expedite our laundry the last day so we could be packed for customs inspection at the needed time. His interactions with Julius showed Francisco to be a caring, compassionate boss who also holds high expectations.

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Maye Yasay

Maye led the team of waiters serving in our section at Cagney’s the first night, setting the tone for our trip with excellence.

But I think she was behind a surprise we received on Los Angeles day. We ate at Cagney’s the night before, using one of the meals in our Romance package. That came with wine and the meal. We conversed more with Maye on this evening, having sought her out after the Three Divas show which ended not long before Cagney’s closes. I believe we mentioned that this trip was our delayed 30th anniversary voyage.

When it came time for dessert, out came a Happy Anniversary slice of cake! And the next morning we had a Happy Anniversary banner hanging in our room, which stayed there for the rest of our voyage. Those unexpected moments of joy are among the things we will cherish about Maye and this trip.

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Avelino Resurreccion

I don’t know who came up with the idea to put the Local Maitre D’ in an officer uniform or whether Avelino has earned higher status than the Maitres D’ in the other restaurants, but having him in the Local is a stroke of genius! His attention to each customer is amazing. We thought we were being greeted by a member of the management staff every time we were in the Local, and it actually wasn’t until just before the trip ended prematurely that I learned he was “only” a Maitre D’.

Avelino doesn’t just go through the motions. He seems to truly care about each and every customer. When a customer next to me on sail-away day for the second trip had language and hearing difficulties and was unable to get the waiter to understand they wanted a slice of bread to eat with because that was the custom in their country, I explained the situation to Avelino and they had what they needed in short order.

His above and beyond moment, though, was the genuine expressions of sorrow he had for me and Roxan as we were dealing with hear dad’s death on our last day aboard. Those will be treasured forever.

Wilson Hooker

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Our back and forth on whether and when we were going to leave the ship meant a lot of trips to guest services! Add to that issues with our Vibe passes not being encoded on our cards for the second trip, and our room card not opening the door the night we got back on from Los Angeles, along with the numerous questions that came up related to all that, Wilson was excellent at defusing stress and getting the situation rectified as quickly as possible.

On the day we debarked, he was one of the Guest Services people assisting us, and was in the office during the customs search. I also spoke to him about the CruiseNext purchase, and he was the one who said he would pass on to his replacement the need to continue calling the CruiseNext manager, as his shift was coming to an end by that time.

Wilson, as a person on the front line of customer service, you have to deal with a lot of things both great and small, and while I hope we were easy passengers to deal with I also saw you work with an upset customer with aplomb and saw them walk away from the desk at least understanding why the issue had happened, even though it was one of those things that nothing could be done about. Great example of quality customer service work!

Katja Francisco Fuhrmann

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As you might imagine, all this presto-change-o we were doing created a pretty complex bill. Katja was the person who sat down with us in Starbucks and explained why things were as they were on the bill, especially with the different handling of excursions and the $50 credit per excursion between when we originally booked and how we experienced it on the ship.

She also dealt with a couple of credit card issues for us and consolidated our two accounts into one to simplify things for the rest of the time we were on Encore. She was the person who called security after we filled out the paperwork on my “lost” wallet. Through it all she was calm, professional, and extremely personable. Thanks so much for your help, Katja!

Kimberly Esguerra

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Kim was the person who stepped into Surina’s shoes in Seattle for the second leg of the trip. I feel badly that nearly her entire interaction with us was based on crisis! We didn’t get to meet until after the Cruise Critic / Facebook roll calls’ Meet and Mingle event on Monday the 24th…and she already had a message from Roxan to deliver: to check my NCL app texts because we needed to go home. So it was, “Hi, Kim, so great to meet you, and now I have an urgent situation I need help to deal with.” That was the initial thought we’d need to get off the ship, first in San Francisco then in LA.

Kim checked on us frequently as we worked through the process, learned of the PSVA fine for getting off the trip before Encore had docked in Mexico, and as we came to the determination we were getting off in LA because flights back from San Francisco were just unbearable.

I feel so bad for calling her and waking her up at 6:30 in the morning the day we determined we would not need to go home in LA! I didn’t even stop to consider that she might not be on duty yet — something in me figured I’m up, surely Kim is working! I felt like a heel, but she dealt with the situation in a friendly manner and got the wheels turning once she *was* on duty!

Once again Kim was right there when we needed her to get the ball rolling to debark in Puerto Vallarta. And she was the last person there when we turned to get in the taxi that evening. Her spontaneous hug for each of us was completely unexpected, and it put a big red bow on the box of happy experiences we had on this sailing!

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