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Heather Urkuski ’05
Alumna’s Career in Hawaii Cruising Right Along

Heather Urkuski ’05

Have you ever sat in your office, looked out the window and wished you were in an exotic vacation hot spot with nothing but warm weather, fabulous food and beautiful sights – a pure Hawaiian paradise?

Heather Urkuski ’05, Internet manager on Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Pride of America in Hawaii, doesn’t have to wish. She calls that
paradise both home and work.

Urkuski, 24, who had previously worked as a computer support specialist in the IT department at Albright, wanted a change. “I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work some place other than Reading for a while,” she says. “Last fall my best friend from high school took a job with NCL as a cook on the Pride of America. He told me about the Internet manager position and how to apply.”

So, she signed a five-month contract with Maritime Telecommunications Network (MTN), trained for two days at the MTN headquarters in Miramar, Fla., and was on her way to Hawaii, arriving on St. Patrick’s Day 2006.

Cruise ships, like hotels, offer wireless and Ethernet Internet access as a convenient service to their guests. Urkuski, as Internet manager, is responsible for connecting both passengers and crew members to the Internet, whether they are using the computers in the Internet center or their own laptops. Among her other duties are answering guests’ inquires and assisting them with logging on to the Internet.

Most of her job is customer service- and sales-related, which is definitely a change from her former, more technical IT jobs. “The most technical thing I have had to do since I’ve been here is swap out a hard drive,” she says.

Although her current job necessitates a lot less technical experience, which she admits she does miss a little, Urkuski, an information systems major and graduate of Albright’s Accelerated Degree Completion Program (DCP), says it is “refreshing to be doing something totally different.”

She also likes the autonomy of her position. “I am a department head of a department of one,” says Urkuski. “I report to the assistant hotel director on the ship, and I have a shore-side manager in Florida with whom I keep in contact weekly via e-mail.”

Of course, perhaps the biggest and best difference of all is that being in Hawaii makes work feel like vacation.

“Life in Hawaii is wonderful, especially since I like to be outside,” Urkuski says. “The climate here is perfect. It’s usually always in the mid 80s, sunny and fairly dry,” she adds. “People here in Hawaii are very friendly and most embrace the spirit of ‘aloha,’ which is the popular greeting for hello and welcome, but can also mean love and respect.”

The most rewarding part of her job, she says, is the opportunity to spend time in Hawaii without the living expenses. “I live, work, eat and sleep on the ship so I have no rent, utilities or grocery bills.”

And when she is not working her shift at the Internet Center, Urkuski likes to explore the islands’ natural beauty, such as its plethora of exotic beaches, waterfalls and trees.

“I just love to get out and walk, run, swim or roller blade,” she says. “I have even taken some surf lessons and got to go tandem sky diving here in Kauai. I like to go to the nice beaches in South Maui or sometimes just rent a car with some friends and drive around the different islands.”

While Urkuski enjoys cruising the Hawaiian Islands, there are some downsides to ship life, too, such as working five months straight without a day off and living so far away from her family.

“Ship life takes some adjusting to,” Urkuski says. “There are about 900 officers, crew and staff on the Pride of America, and we all live and work together on the ship. My living quarters are small, but nice,” she adds.

What does Urkuski’s family think of her new career?

“My family has been extremely supportive of my career decision and they are all really happy and excited for me … I keep in touch with everyone at home via e-mail, cell phone and even hand-written letters,” she says.

After a short, month-long hiatus at home in August with her family, Urkuski returned to Hawaii at the end of September to work another five-month contract on another cruise ship, the Pride of Hawaii.

– Joshua R. Grandy ’07

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