The Yacht Week - sailing the Adriatic Sea
Each week we profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.
By Health and Welfare Compliance Manager Kristin Komar
In the spring of 2017 I booked what was sure to be a life changing week- The Yacht Week. I had a friend who had completed the journey, and raved about how amazing it was. The Yacht Week launched almost 10 years ago, with Croatia as the original route, but in the recent years has grown in popularity. The company (based in London) now organizes an entire summer (and even winter break) of yachting adventures across seven worldwide destinations. Croatia, the original route, is still the most popular, but some of the other locations (Greece, Thailand, British Virgin Islands) are quickly gaining attention. Since it was our first time, and we had heard the most about it, we went for the Croatia route.
Each week of summer (for about 15 weeks in a row), as well as through the holidays, The Yacht Week charters boats and crew across all their destinations to sail for seven days, immersing it's attendees in the local culture, and forming bonds with people from around the world. I have to say, I was shockingly impressed with the origination of Yacht Week. Each day/night had organized events to connect all the attendees with each other and the island that we were on. The skippers (captains) and the hostesses (there to cook and clean the boats) quickly became our "parents" and led us through this journey of a lifetime. Yacht Week was a chance to unwind, de-stress, and put worries behind me, as I sailed from island to island indulging in the local Croatian culture, floating on inflatable floaties in the Adriatic Sea, and consuming copious amounts of fresh Mediterranean foods. It was promised to be the best week of my life -- and it was.
When it came time for this journey to begin, I flew from O'Hare International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport, and took a direct flight from there to Munich. After landing in Munich (and eating some sausage in a beer garden), we hopped a plane to Split, Croatia, where we spent 2 days catching up on sleep and drinking local wines. When sail day came, we traveled to our marina, met our crew, stocked our boat with food and drink alongside our boat mates, unpacked our inflatable rafts and bathing suits, setting sail on a Saturday evening. I traveled with three of my close girlfriends, and the rest of our boat was filled with people from around the world- two guys from Brazil, two guys from Australia, and our hostess and skipper (a couple from South Africa). People made jokes about how close you got to your boat mates, but I had no idea that these strangers would soon become family.
Our itinerary was quite simple, and unbelievably relaxing. Our day times were filled with exploring the Adriatic Sea. Some days we would just sail off on our own away from the other boats and float in the water. Other days, we would tie up with all the other Yacht Week boats in what is famously referred to as "the circle raft" or the "tunnel raft." Essentially all boats tied together in formations where you float around from boat to boat getting to know the other yacht weekers. We also spent some days exploring the Croatian landscape. Off the island of Vis we explored the blue and green caves, and cliff jumped. In total we visited five Croatian Islands- Trogir, Vis, Komiza, Palmizana and Hvar. On the final day, all of the boats sailed from the most southern island, Hvar, north to our origin, Split, in what is referred to as The Regatta Race.
Afternoons and evenings were spent on the various islands at chartered Yacht Week themed events. These events ranged from tropical themed to Riviera themed, and gave you a chance to unwind with your boat mates, sipping Mediterranean themed drinks and dancing in the sunset. After afternoon events, we would branch off as a boat and go get some local Croatian cuisine for dinner. Food ranged from coal oven roasted pizzas to the freshest Mediterranean seafood, caught dockside that morning.
Nighttime was spent one of two ways. We either had a Yacht Week themed event to attend (one night there was a neon themed soiree on the beach on the island of Komiza), or a chance to lay on the front of your boat and stare up at the stars. The stars were unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. You could see every single star in our galaxy, and the experience was one of the most humbling moments of my life.
By the time Yacht Week came to an end, I couldn't believe how much I had grown. I got the chance to immerse myself in not only the local Croatian culture, but in the world itself. Being surrounded by hundreds of like minded individuals from around the world, hearing the way their cultures experience the same things we do as Americans, was eye-opening. I tried foods that I wouldn't look twice at in Chicago. I put the stress of my daily life behind me, and for a moment, felt how enormous this world we live in truly is.
The Yacht Week gave me the time I needed to take a step back, to re-center myself in this crazy world, and to remember how fortunate we are to work for a company like United, which fully supports taking journeys far beyond our backyards. I have always been a free spirit, and a spontaneous person, but going on Yacht Week changed me for the better. When life gets crazy and stressful, I will always have my memories of The Yacht Week to bring me center again. Until our next journey together, I will always remember my new family in that Croatian sunset lighting, eating pizza in the streets of Hvar, forgetting the worries of our real lives, and dancing under those magnificent stars.
If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.
Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.
Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.
"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."
Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.
"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.
In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.
And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast
The Special Chronicles.
In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.
"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."
United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.
Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.
Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.
In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.
"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."
As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.
Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.
Jessica's new role is effective immediately.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Here's a fun way to take your next video call….from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude. We're introducing United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, video conferencing tools that many people are using to stay connected.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started. If you've already downloaded Zoom you can skip ahead to updating your background image (see instructions below).
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
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A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.