Turndown Chocolates in Reverse

Vickie and Peter John

You learn a lot about people driving a bus. My husband, Bernie, and I both drive buses for the city of Vancouver. We deal with people on their daily commutes—not exactly their finest hours—steering our buses through congested rush-hour traffic.

Getting a cheerful comment, a friendly hello or a thanks-for-the ride makes such a huge difference. It sets a sunny tone that seems to permeate the entire day.  I always say to my passengers, I remember the good ones and the bad ones and they have to figure out which ones they are! They are mostly good, of course. 

When it comes time to book a vacation, Bernie and I are off on a Princess Cruise. We bring with us our keen antennae for customer service and an extra suitcase filled with chocolates and small gifts, treats for crew members who work so hard. I realize this might seem excessive, but Bernie and I really appreciate service professionals and know how much a thank-you means.

Bernie fills his pockets with wrapped chocolates from Purdy’s, Vancouver’s best chocolatier, and we’ll leave a candy on our receipt at the International Café, put one on the purser’s desk, give one to the masseur and cabin attendant. It’s a turndown chocolate in reverse. The delighted reactions we receive from the crew always exceed our efforts.

Doing this has opened the door to many friendships with the crew, none greater than the one we share with the funny, charming and caring Peter John. We go out of our way to book cruises with Peter John and now, after knowing him for a few years later, we consider him to be like family. He’s that special to us.

We met Peter just after he’d been promoted to Captain Circle Host on Island Princess, so he was extra attentive to his charges, making sure everyone was happy and well entertained. By coincidence, we sailed with him again a few months later on Emerald Princess, and that’s when we really clicked and started spending time together.

Peter is a riot. We’d find ourselves laughing over everything from Botox to his love life. It doesn’t matter what we talk about, he radiates good cheer. We started to keep in touch.  

A year later, he proved what a true friend he’d become. I took an Alaska cruise on Diamond Princess with a girlfriend. Without being asked to do so, Peter stepped into Bernie’s shoes and joined us for every dinner, escorted us on port visits, took us to the shows and sipped afternoon tea with us. He was the consummate host and we felt cared for and pampered.

Vickie, Peter and Bernie in Vines

Vickie, Peter and Bernie in Vines

The next time I boarded with Bernie, it was for a month-long cruise on the Star Princess going from San Francisco to Mexico and on to Hawaii. It was so wonderful spending an entire month with Peter. Every day, we would surprise him with a small gift to brighten his day as he had brightened ours. Our extra bag was filled with candy, coffee mugs, stuffed animals, fancy moisturizers. Every day, we’d put something on his desk to surprise him.

Of course, that bag is also packed with treats for other crew members, but we do go above and beyond for our friend Peter.

Our working lives are marked by long days—my shifts start at 5 a.m. and I’m in bed most nights by 9—so we don’t have much of a social life in Vancouver. When we get away with Princess Cruises, we are there to relax. But, as Bernie and I came to realize, we are also there to connect.

The relationship we have with Peter and those with others we’ve bonded with over the years have made a real difference in our lives. We keep in touch with Peter and other crew by email, phone and Facebook as we save and plan for our next Princess cruise. These connections have added a lot to our lives and it’s amazing when you realize that it all starts with a friendly word and a surprise piece of chocolate.

Vickie and Bernie live just outside Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  When they are not working, they hike local trails, have dinner parties with friends, and of course talk cruising with anyone who will listen.


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24 Comments Post a Comment

  1. Princess Cruises says... March 13, 2013 | 9:19am

    Vickie and Bernie, thanks so much for sharing your story and for your generous kindness to our crew members!

    • Tzyrel says... March 14, 2013 | 6:48pm

      That is so nice you mentioned how wonderful for sharing Vickie and Bernie’s story. It seems they are very happy to sail with Princess and also they care very much about your crew and staff.

      • Joyce says... March 17, 2013 | 2:47pm

        I am very thankful for the story. I am planning on a cruise in 2014, I will be more appreciative of the crew. They are always so nice and make you feel like family. They deserve to be shown appreciation.

    • Judy says... November 18, 2013 | 6:10pm

      What a great idea!! we will be heading for our 2nd cruise in 2014 and I had been thinking to bring some maple syrup for out cabin attendant as a thank you gift!! Now I will get some maple sugar candies made for the rest of the crew!!

  2. Steve says... March 13, 2013 | 11:45am

    Hi Vickie,

    Nice story, Princess crew are the best.

    • Tzyrel Herman-Rein says... March 14, 2013 | 6:44pm

      I love your blog. It is so nice you can meet new people while on your holiday. I am sure working long hours is hard and taking cruises is fun. Glad you met Peter because it is a great thing for you and Bernie.
      I was amazed by your long month cruise. I wish I could do that and go to HI no less. Maybe one day. I wish you and yours the best and happy cruising…
      Be safe,

  3. Corinne Bissonnette says... March 13, 2013 | 1:01pm

    I had read Vickie’s blogs and finally met her and Bernie on our January cruise. They are such a down-to-earth couple and it was a pleasure to finally meet. Hopefully our paths will cross again!

    • Tzyrel Herman-Rein says... March 14, 2013 | 6:45pm

      That is great you met Vickie and Bernie. It is so wonderful to meet people you hear about. Maybe your paths will cross again..

  4. Carol Pike says... March 13, 2013 | 11:21pm

    A great story! And a very thoughtful couple! (most people wouldn’t think about packing a suitcase full of “treats of appreciation”)

  5. Kristen says... March 14, 2013 | 10:00am

    That sounds absolutely tremendous that you and your husband take such great care before your trip to make sure that you can give thanks to the crew on your cruise. They work so extremely hard, and I know it is not expected and that is what makes it nice. I can’t believe you pack a whole suitcase ahead of time so that you can spread a little cheer and thanks on your vacation to the people who are there to support you. I love this idea and I want to do something like this on my next cruise. It may not be much but the gesture says a whole lot and I’m sure it absolutely made their day knowing you took the time to say thank you in that way. Throughout the years cruising with Princess there hasn’t been a voyage that I didn’t find a crew member or two that really stood out and we became chummy with. I wish I would have thought of this then, but you have inspired me for future cruises! Way to go!!

    • vickie says... March 14, 2013 | 7:00pm

      it should be noted we only brought a suitcase full of stuff when we sail out of Vancouver as it is easy then. But we always bring stuff for the crew.

  6. Patricia Carlisle says... March 14, 2013 | 5:43pm

    What a generous, thoughtful thing to do. I have to admit….my suitcase is full of “me” stuff. I do appreciate the staff and a kind word, smile and piece of chocolate can go along way in making someone’s day. Great story. I need to find a way to do something good. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Tzyrel says... March 14, 2013 | 6:53pm

    I agree with everyone who posts. Vickie and Bernie are very thoughtfu and they don’t have to do the things they do. It is coming from their heart and soul. I never cruised with Princess but I see that so many like it very much. I am going to be sailing on the Ruby this year and can’t wait. I have only sailed with NCL and yes, I like it..but time for a change. I can’t wait to meet the staff and crew… :)

    • Janice says... September 28, 2013 | 7:13am

      I had the pleasure to meet Vicki & Bernie this past week while they were visiting our beautiful city, Halifax, Nova Scotia! Vicki & I spent a few hours chatting & getting to know each other & chatting up cruising with Princess. :) (Hubby & I are also hooked on Princess) Vicki, is a wonderful, down to earth kind of person….so easy to like. :) Glad we had the pleasure to meet.

      Tzyrel, you will LOVE the Ruby Princess… :) We have also sailed with NCL, and it’s cruising, so it was nice, but it’s not Princess!!! Ruby, really is a GEM!! Have a fabulous cruise. :) We’re sailing on the new Royal Princess in Dec, can’t wait. We’re on the countdown…..

  8. Gary says... March 14, 2013 | 6:54pm

    Giving chocolates from Purdys is great. However in todays sue happy world, espically the USA , i would only give store bought wrapped chocolates that a person can tell by looking at have not been tampered with. This is protect yourself and the person you give it to. The person recieving it could say you did something to it, and your gift then turns into a nightmare with legal action. Its a world that is NOT getting better , and need to protect yourself. Better to give cash or non edible stuff to be safe. That is what i would do.

    • Angela says... March 22, 2013 | 12:46pm

      ‘Bernie fills his pockets with wrapped chocolates from Purdy’s’

  9. Frank says... March 16, 2013 | 1:28am

    great insight loved your blog thanks
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  10. Josie says... March 21, 2013 | 5:30am

    I think what you do is kind and generous , however I’m inclined to agree with Gary , it is risky behaviour , and believe ” cash is always best “…

    • Vickie says... April 1, 2013 | 4:53pm

      we always leave our tips in tack and tip even more, the chocolates and token gifts are extra – just because

      don’t think it is too risky, chocolates are wrapped no different than the princess chocolates, only better tasting. Crew love them

  11. John Walsh says... May 26, 2013 | 12:54pm

    We like to leave the gold colored US dollar coins as tips for the cabin attendents and
    servers in the dining room. We will also use the two dollar bills as tips. The crew usually get a charge out of receiving something so different.

  12. James Malin says... June 23, 2013 | 10:29am

    Loved what you do for the crew. Our family is planning a cruise to Alaska in September and we’re already out looking for numerious little “goodies” to give to the crew when we’re on board. I’ve already started doing similar things for favorite wait staff in neighborhood restaurants. You’re so right, it brings a smile to their face that someone does something even a little bit extra for them.

  13. Felipe Vargas says... October 17, 2013 | 6:32am

    Vicky and Bernie, are two of the best people I have met on Cruises. They know the difference it makes to be a good costumer and a not friendly one. As a crew memeber, I would do anything for them, and it is not only the little treats, It is more about being looked as a person doing a job, not a servant. They know that. Vicky and Bernie, take the time to really listen, and some times they just joke with us, there is always a time for every mood. They have gone so deep in our hearts, we keep in touch, and when we know they are comming onboard we feel happy.
    We are all amazing people, crew and pasengers, when we really take the time to know each other is when we realized we are making memories and friends for life, that is even better than the money I am making onboard, it is the knowledge and BFF’s I am taking in travelling around the world.

  14. Paul Stouse says... October 20, 2013 | 11:44am

    Great blog entry Vickie. We enjoy your informative posts on Cruise Critic. We have only sailed with Princess and the reasons why are the great staff, service and itineraries. I live in Mission and commute to VGH daily. May say hi if I see you driving. Cheers!

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