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Reporter’s Notebook: Learning New Skills

By actual count there were 13 classes and interviews before lunch on the compressed experience that Stein Kruse, Dan Grausz and Brendan Vierra have had at the ms Nieuw Jakarta. Participating in the actual class experiences that each student completes before graduating has made for a very busy morning.

Lunch cooked by the kitchen staff at the school is exceptional and the service is what is delivered in the dining room of every Holland America Line ship every day.

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The graduating class is really working to show off their new skills. But all too soon it is off to another round of classes. This afternoon everyone is going to learn the real work of housekeeping on a ship.

Ever wonder how to mop a floor? Or make a bed? Or set a table in the dining room? It’s not as easy as it seems. And the instructors at the school soon prove just how difficult it is. It takes Stein one minute and 45 seconds to put a place setting on the table. Not fast enough for the students who are keeping time and who enjoy the efforts of the newcomers. Turns out you have to measure exactly where the silverware goes on the table in relation to each place setting.

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Stein learns the finer points of setting a table in the dining room.

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Learning to take an order in the dining room.

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Learning to carry trays from the galley to dining room takes practice.

It seems simple enough to learn how to mop a floor, but when Dan tries it, the instructor calls on a student to show him how. There is real skill involved in even how the mop is wrung out. She soon illustrates the proper way. Begin at the edges then fill in the middle with back and forth strokes ending near the mop bucket. Sounds simple until you try and do it the first time.

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Dan finds that mopping is a science and that proper mopping is necessary for good sanitation.

Not long ago, Stein arranged for Fincantieri, the yard in Italy that builds the Holland America ships, to send three actual cabins to the school. This enables the crew to work in real cabins, and according to Robert “Nick” Nichols, the school’s academic director, it’s made a huge difference in their experience. “It seems simple, but just having actual cabins to practice in makes the students much more efficient. They can see where they will be working when they get to the ships.”

We have a cabin demonstration and a lesson for Brendan on how to make a bed the Holland America way — turns out that even fluffing pillows on the beds is an art.

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The mock-up cabin has a window where the students can look in and observe. The general feeling is that Brendan did OK for a first-timer.

After the skills classes, including an extensive briefing on ship safety, it’s time for a brief break before the afternoon’s graduation ceremonies. And while Stein is looking forward to giving several service awards, nothing has prepared us for what is to come.

Next – Joy, tears and celebration. Graduation at ms Nieuw Jakarta.

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