I have to admit that I’ve been struggling to write this blog entry. No, that’s getting quite far ahead of myself. I’ve been struggling to think of what I should write about – the brilliant idea, the blockbuster topic to start 2016 with – so in reality, I’m actually miles away from being able to struggle with the writing itself.
It’s been a pretty hectic start to the new year. Christmas was a rare break for us: we had no ships scheduled that Friday. But it was back to work on Boxing Day to prepare for the packed following week leading up to New Year’s Day. And it’s been full-on, non-stop action since New Year’s Day weekend to now.
We’re now about midway through our annual going-bananas season. This happens between mid-October to early-April each year, when the northern hemisphere prepares to receive winter and the cruise ships head south for summer holidays in this half of the world. Not only is it nice and balmy weather here, it’s also safer sailing because the ships don’t have to navigate around ice-bergs, some as big if not bigger than the ships themselves, and other such natural obstacles as they would have to if they stayed north.
Here at Sofresh, we started preparing for this current high season from around last June, even while we carried-on with our usual year-round business. All our equipment was serviced to ensure everything would run smoothly. We added storage facilities to increase our capacity. And we gave our suppliers a heads-up. All of this is an annual ritual for us, because we can never take anything for granted: it’s a major part of our business to make certain of things.
Since then, we’ve also increased our staff headcount by a little more than half, to be able to meet the demands of increased orders – a healthy trend over the past few years, for which we are grateful for the privilege to serve. That’s our goal ultimately: to ensure that all the fresh produce, food and beverage products, and consumable goods that we supply are delivered to our clients on time and in the best condition, while keeping our prices down (despite cost increases!).
So far this high season, we’ve done more than 70 deliveries and loadings to cruise ships. That’s an average of between three to four cruise ships each week, give or take a ship (that’s without tallying the regular deliveries to our commercial vessel and oil/gas clients). And we’ve still got half the park ahead of us.
Even with our increased staff numbers, there are days when we’re just plain exhausted. We’re not superhuman, although sometimes when I look at my colleagues at work, I think that they must be. But it’s a good kind of tiredness, a satisfying and rewarding kind of exhaustion, the kind that one feels crossing the finishing line at the end of a marathon race. The smiles of accomplishment, sometimes disbelief at what one’s just achieved, are the same smiles I see on my colleagues’ faces at the end of each shift.
And really, our annual crazy season is very much like a marathon race. You don’t think too much about the distance at the start – you don’t want to – and you keep your head down and put one foot in front of the other repeatedly throughout the race to just keep yourself going. You know with utmost certainty that in front of you, somewhere out there, is a finishing line of triumph, just waiting. And with each step – each shift, each day – you’re inexorably getting closer to it. Eventually you’ll see it, and cross it.
And at such a point in time for us, somewhere in the not too distant future, we’ll rest, for a while. So what now, 2016? Well, for now we march ahead to that line of ours: step by satisfying step. Because we know that if we can do what we do well, we’ll be making many people onboard many cruise ships happy.
Until the next one, here’s hoping that you have all had a good start to 2016, and wishing everyone a joyful and enriching year ahead!