Nail Those Profits At Sea (NTP), an educational cruise for nail techs, has been sailing the waters of the Caribbean and Mexico for more than 17 years. This year we ventured into new territory and took to the northern seas of Alaska. Jackets and umbrellas were the style, instead of flip-flops and bathing suits. Nail education, networking, and plenty of fun were in order as we set sail in August on the Carnival Spirit. In addition to all the fun and activities on the boat, I decided to “salon shop” while we were in port. I visited two great salons while in Juneau and Ketchikan.

DAY 1: All Aboard

I got up at the crack of dawn and headed for the airport — we were sailing at 9 p.m. that night so I had plenty of time to get there. I was flying from Los Angeles to Anchorage, Alaska, to catch the ship. (I usually like aisle isle seats, but I knew the view over Alaska was going to be incredible, so I opted for a window seat this time.) All those snow-covered volcanoes and glaciers from the sky kept my nose pressed to the glass the whole way.

After being greeted at the Anchorage airport by a Carnival rep we took a 90-minute bus trip through some absolutely beautiful areas. Going through a two-mile long, one-way tunnel (the oncoming traffic takes turns going through) that was built to access the ship’s location, we arrived at Whittier where the Spirit was docked. Once aboard and settled in I checked the view from my balcony — it was stunning and we hadn’t even set sail. Because we were so far north, the sun had still not set at 9:30 p.m. 

DAY 2: Sailing Prince William Sound and College Fjord

I woke up early to one of the most gorgeous views I saw all week. It was time for the welcome gathering and the first seminar of the cruise.

Detective Corporal Jorge Campos of the Gainesville Florida Police Department held an extremely informative presentation on Internet crimes and predators. After lunch I demonstrated how to apply custom mixed glitter in gel and apply it to the toenails. Salon owner Nanci Soltani from Fandango in Santa Rosa, Calif., demonstrated a new “secret” technique to get a similar look for those of us who don’t want gel on our toes by applying mylar one piece at a time in polish. My mylar-polished toes lasted a month after Nanci did them. It was fun and my cabin was full of glitter for the rest of the week. The cabin steward must have hated us!

DAY 3: Sitka, Alaska

Sitka was out first stop and we all found ourselves window-shopping in the most incredible fur jacket stores. Lida, Dr.G’s wife, was the only one who purchased a jacket and to my pleasure I learned that when an animal is used for its fur the Alaska law is that 90% of the animal is used for food and other things so nothing is wasted.


DAY 4: Juneau, Alaska

I was interested in exploring Juneau because my favorite uncle Russ used to live there years ago raising dogs. We docked close to town and I ventured out early with Renae Martin from Edmond, Okla., Tonya Hibdon, owner of Ship To Shore (my cruise partner), and Jorge. We shopped for souvenirs and had a drink at an old haunted hotel bar from back in the gold rush days before hitting a local vender for freshly caught Alaska King Crab — yum. Renae and I ventured farther up Main Street in search of a nail salon. We spotted Nail Jazz and peaked in. We were intrigued with the decor and saw a tech sitting at her station without a client so we went in. Salon owner Bernadine Peterson recognized me immediately, and the next thing we knew we were having tea with Bernadine and her husband Brian, also a tech. Renae and I spent over an hour with them chatting, comparing stories, and sharing information. Bernadine is a Tlingit Indian who spent more than 10 years working in New York before returning to her home in Juneau and opening a salon. She lost everything in a fire and had to start all over again, taking almost a year to find a new location and rebuild her business. Specializing in natural nails, she also does facials and Brian specializes in pedicures in a dedicated pedicure room. Decorated by her sister, the walls are red and the mood is soft. Everything was thoughtfully done and the presentation was very feminine and comfortable. It was nice to compare notes with her and see that even though she’s in a distant locale she shares the same challenges and has the same goals as techs who live in the lower 48. I made plans with Bernadine to meet up at the nail show in Sacramento. 

DAY 5: Skagway, Alaska

Skagway is a tiny town of only 800 and most of the cruisers went on helicopter rides to see glaciers. I sat on my deck and soaked up the incredible sun.

DAY 6: Ketchikan, Alaska

Ms. Alaska, as we affectionately call Blanche Dillashaw, a frequent NTP cruiser, was waiting on the dock for us to sail down the passage right by her salon so she could take us for a visit. Ketchikan is a busy port with lots of great shopping and it’s actually a rain forest. We all piled into her truck and a van and headed toward her salon. Blanche did her first full set at 14 and knew she was destined to be a nail tech. Fifteen years later she owns Tips & Toes, has a tanning business inside, and shares the space with a hairstylist. Ketchikan’s population is 14,000 at the height of the summer season and they put in longer hours to accommodate everyone. During the winter 10% of her clients leave for warmer weather. One of five nail techs in town, she specializes in sculptured pink-and-white nails and attributes her skill to attending shows. She told me she’s happy to go anywhere it’s warm! With no discount salons in the area, she says her competition is behind the times, which helps keep her on her toes. Blanche arranged for all of us to attend the Lumberjack Show (the one you see on ESPN) and we had a blast! Blanche will be sailing with us to Mexico in 2009.

DAY 7: Sailing the Inside Passage to Vancouver, Canada

Today was eyebrow tattoo demonstration day! Renae, a frequent NTP cruiser, recently trained on permanent tattooing and she brought all her equipment to do eyebrows. Tonya went first. We all gathered as Renae explained the training and licensing involved in her state and the sanitation issues that are critical in producing a safe tattoo. She explained her equipment and the process of correctly designing an eyebrow arch and penciling it out before she actually began the tattooing.  Renae educated us on the procedures as she worked and the follow-up care that Tonya would need for her new eyebrows. I was up next — ouch! That night we docked in Vancouver for repairs because we damaged a rudder. It was quite interesting as we watched from our balcony as the divers replaced it underwater.

DAY 8: Home Again

After spending a week at sea it’s always sad to leave old friends and the new ones who sailed for the first time. The thousands who have networked and learned while sailing on NTP over the past 17 years have cultivated long-lasting friendships, which makes it even harder to say goodbye. Until next year, goodbye!

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