As a 737 Captain for Alaska Airlines, Steven Kriese sees the world. As creator and host of DCL Podcast, Steve and guests talk about seeing the world from the perspective of a Disney Cruise.
Steve is relatively new to cruising. His first cruise was in 2014—a seven day cruise out of Venice, Italy aboard the Norwegian Jade. It helped that his first cruise was a Mediterranean cruise; certainly a wonderful way for cruising to make a first impression. The seasoned traveler was hooked right away. I asked Steve what influenced him to try a cruise. “So, our friends had cruised several times before and they really enjoyed it. They kind of talked us into doing it. Like many others I never had a huge desire to go cruising. I didn’t know what to expect, but when we sailed on our first cruise from Venice and were able to experience so many exotic ports and sites, it was amazing and I was hooked right away. We stopped in Croatia, Greece, and Turkey. I learned that nothing beats a relaxing day at sea with friends and family, and good food. As an airline pilot, I also have become fascinated with the navigation and logistics of sailing a ship from one port to the next. Jade was originally built to sail out of Hawaii, but after the economic downturn in the late 2000’s, demand dropped there, so they sent her to the Med. It was kind of humorous sailing around the Med in this over-the-top Hawaiian themed ship. The ship had artwork and statues themed for the Hawaiian Islands; there was a large statue of King Kamehmeha in the main dining room. They have since re-themed her.”
A Mediterranean cruise as the first cruise! That’s on my bucket list. While a Mediterranean cruise contains a lifetime of memories for many, perhaps one memory of that first cruise Steve holds on to the most is his encounter on the water with George Clooney. Yes, that George Clooney. Steve told me, “Our ship cut off George Clooney’s wedding party as they were taking motor boats out of the grand canal to their wedding reception. We departed Venice around four. We sat out on our balcony as Jade sailed past the Grand Canal. We saw a bunch of small boats and commotion coming in and out of the Grand Canal.” Flying back home, Steve sees this story online about how some giant cruise ship had cut off George Clooney’s wedding party. Clooney and his wife Amal had the wedding and they had all gotten in these small boats, trailed by paparazzi, headed to the reception. Accompanying the story was a photo of the Norwegian Jade juxtaposed against the small boats containing the wedding party and paparazzi—with Steve’s balcony in the shot.
Less than a year later Steve introduced his sons to cruising and tried his first Disney Cruise. They cruised on Disney Wonder to Alaska. “My wife wanted to try a Disney cruise, and my parents wanted to go to Alaska. Our kids were five and nine at the time. We had heard good things about the Disney kids club; we knew on a Disney cruise the kids would be entertained.”
Almost all of Steve’s cruises subsequent to that first one on Jade have been on Disney Cruise Line. Steve has cruised on each of the ships in Disney’s fleet: Disney Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy. I asked Steve if that first Disney cruise to Alaska on Wonder made Steve and his family loyal to the Disney brand. “I think it did. Disney had this thing called rotational dining where you meet your servers and then they go with you to the three dining rooms on the ship. Our head waiter started giving my mom a hard time but in a playful way. She’s sort of a ‘stick in the mud’ about food but he could see he could play with her, and it was fun for us to watch. Then he started doing magic tricks with the kids. The kids were just enthralled. I have a video with my youngest son and his eyes get so big; he can’t believe what he saw. And this was only the first night. And it just went from there. Another server, his name is Tiger Tom—he’s now the head waiter on the Magic—but at the time he worked in the Cabanas which is the buffet on Disney, he came up to my son and started playing a game with him with the back of my son’s hoodie. And my son who was a little tired at the time just totally turned his spirits around. We’ve since seen Tiger Tom a couple of times on subsequent cruises and he remembers us. It’s those little touches like that. I think you could probably find that at other cruise lines too, but those are the kinds of things that hooked us to Disney.”
After three consecutive Disney cruises following Jade, Steve returned to Norwegian Cruise Line in 2017. He and Ahnawake, with friends and no kids, did a nine-day Baltic Cruise on Norwegian Getaway highlighted by St. Petersburg, Russia which Steve recalls as amazing. “We visited the Amber Room and palaces of the Czars in St Petersburg. Some of the most over the top wealth I’ve ever seen.” After Getaway Steve returned to Disney Cruise Lines and has gone on all Disney cruises since.
After 10 cruises, Steve has seemingly experienced enough cruise highlights and memories to last a lifetime. It helps that his very first cruise was to the Mediterranean. Beside disrupting the George Clooney wedding party, I ask Steve for a few highlights. “Oh man; there’s so many good memories…” I could sense his hesitation to pick one great cruise over another. (All cruises are wonderful!) I suspect he was “fast forwarding” through scenes from various cruises in his head. I said, “Pick a single day. If I could write only about one experience you got the opportunity to realize on a cruise, what should It be?
“In 2016, when we sailed to Norway on Disney Magic, the northernmost port we sailed to, Geiranger. Sailing along the coast of Norway—my mother’s home country—and exploring the amazing coastal towns we stopped at. Sailing to the head of Geiranger Fjord—a UNESCO Heritage site—and visiting a small farm which sat above an adjacent fjord. We met this Norwegian farmer and his wife. They raised sheep but couldn’t make a living on that alone so he also brewed beer and made cheese. So Ahnawake, my parents and I had some beer and cheese with him and while we were doing that the kids went with his wife. She had a business where she made metal stamps you ink and make impressions onto fabric; she sold these stamps all over the world. The kids each got a piece of fabric stamped and my mom made them into pillow when we got home. Just that whole day; the farmers, the beauty of this fjord, the beauty of the view from this farm. You walk out their door and you look out over the mountains and down into the fjords with the ocean and everything below you. Probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.”
Read about the other beautiful views Steve gets to experience not just on cruises but everyday as a pilot—like the one below! DCL Podcast, The Cruise Communicators, Cruising Interrupted, available now.