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Friday File: Smile, You're On Cruise Camera!

Among the many benefits of seeing parts of the world from cruising is the happy people you encounter along the way. In North America, photo subjects are often reluctant to smile for the camera — in some cases, permission is requested or demanded. In many countries outside our continent, the smiles come readily from all walks of life, and often you can see from the pictures if they’re genuine, as they usually are…

1-Brenda

Brenda Purcell, who takes tourists on her little tour bus in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

2-Dominican

In Dominican Republic, a man happy to be making the biggest cigars we’ve ever seen.

3-Hotel

It must be the cigars…this man in the basement of Nassau’s Graycliff Hotel.

4-Veramonte

Margarita, not the drink but a hostess in Santiago’s Veramonte Winery tasting room.

5-Gavin

Once he was known as Captain Stubing…now in his 80s, he’s Gavin MacLeod of California.

6-Huatulco

Owners of a Mom and Pop restaurant in Huatulco, near the Mexico-Guatemala border.

7-Belize
A vendor named Rose in Belize City, happy to pose for shoppers who weren’t shopping.

8-Sandy

Nobody we’ve met has a bigger smile or bigger heart than Sandy Cuadrado in Cartagena.

In the news…

• Security concerns cancel Celebrity Reflection's port call at Istanbul
• Carnival Pride going back to Tampa to operate 5-to-14-day cruises
• Canadian Port of Saint John to deepen harbor and extend window for ships

Today at portsandbows.com: Regent Seven Seas world tour big hit

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
November 15, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, Philipsburg, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $519
Cost per day: $74
www.hollandamerica.com

A Princess Career's Last Chorus

For Gianfranco Verde, the road from opening for The Beatles to closing the door on a 39-year career on cruise ships has been, well, long and winding.

He’s heading into his final contract with Princess, as Hotel General Manager on the Coral Princess. You might have made the (lucky) guess that he’s from Italy, but when he walks off a Princess ship for the last time, he’ll be going home to…Australia.

Confusing?

Not to Gianfranco.

As a teenager in Italy, he loved music, especially playing instruments. His instrument of choice was the drums and that eventually led to being in a band. A pretty good band, evidently, good enough to be the opening act for The Beatles when they toured his homeland in 1965. (That’s Gianfranco on the right, standing behind George Harrison.)

“They were the idols in those days,” he says. “I have pictures at home. I introduced myself to Ringo and he said the best thing about being popular is you never have to introduce yourself. That’s my highlight.”

The leader of the band, Augusto Righetti, went on to own an entertainment agency. Gianfranco went on to sea.

“I had to [quit music] because I wanted to continue to go to school,” he says. “My objective was to complete the studies. I would do the same today. I studied economy and finance for eight years, in Milan. That’s part of how I learned English.”

One of six children, Verde’s father was a builder and his mother a cook. His thoughts of working on a ship were as far away as the sea.

“I had no thoughts of coming to sea,” Gianfranco explains. “I’m from Piedmont, about 60 or 70 miles northwest of Milan, or Turin. It’s an area which is industrial. Turin is the Detroit of Italy, and the sea is very far away. After university I had a friend who said to me: ‘Let’s go for an adventure.’ He’d found jobs on a ship, from Genoa. He left after a year, and I’m still here.”

All his 39 years have been with Princess, or with a company that owned Princess. He climbed the ladder on ships. Front desk. Back office. Crew office. In 1995, he spent a year and a half participating in preparing the Sun Princess for launch, and a month later he was promoted to hotel manager.

He remembers the Sun Princess with affection:

“There are many big ships now but the Sun Princess revolutionized the industry, with all the balconies. No one had balconies then. And 24-hour dining when no one had that. And electronics, and the new system of the cards in the stateroom door. So many innovations. It was a pleasure and an honor to have been intimately involved in something that has revolutionized the cruising industry. I was there [Fincantieri Shipyards] for one and a half years, and I was really involved.”

His best day at sea was on land. This was before he became Hotel Manager and he met a young woman who was a youth activity co-ordinator on the ship. Her name was Jacinta.

“We were friends on board, then we bumped into each other — literally — in Venice,” he laughs. “That was the luckiest day of my life and, after that, we stayed together. Now it’s 20 years.”

Australia?

That’s where Jacinta’s from, and they live 100 miles north of Sydney with their 18-year-old son. It is a long and winding way from Piedmont.

“Australia is paradise, but it was a big change,” Verde says. “We had to make a house become a home. Having a child actually made it a home.”

When he goes home early in 2012, it will be as a near-pensioner who still loves music, who still plays drums, who still he a home workshop and who still visits Italy.

“You can’t turn the years back to be young again, but I love where I am from,” he adds, allowing himself a self-deprecating joke about his countrymen. “When God created the earth, he rested on the seventh day…and then he saw Italy and thought it was heaven. In order to balance that, he put Italians there!”

DAILY DEAL:
Oceania Insignia
12 nights
December 10, 2011
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Buenos Aires, Argentina
Oceanview  $3,999
www.oceaniacruises.com

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