First, I will include some shots of the glorious trip from Cypress to Dubrovnik. We had a lot of time, as the distances are quite small, and we do have an academic program to run on the ship. Everyday at sea is a “school day,” which can translate into 7 or 8 days straight of teaching. But the views as we sailed along were outstanding. We passed through the Ionian islands of Greece, including an entire day drifting around Corfu. Really, really gorgeous. 

Beautiful sailing

When it wasn’t cloudy, we had some incredible sunsets and sunrises. Joe and I tried to eat dinner outside at sunset one night, but it was just far too cold.

Whose idea was it to eat out here at sunset? I am freezing…oh yeah, it was me.

One morning, Dan was patient enough to take lots of sunrise pictures right from our balcony.

Sunrise from our cabin

Finally, we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Okay, I have said this about other places before, but I honestly think that Dubrovnik may be the most beautiful city I have ever seen. I have heard that it is positively overrun with tourists in the summer, but in the winter, in COVID-time, there are very few visitors. Indeed, on our first day in the city, the only visitors seemed to be other Semester at Sea voyagers. We heard a lot of “Hi Professor June” wherever we seemed to go. My favorite occurrence was when Dan and I were walking along the street just inside the city walls and we were hailed by SASers up on the wall! The students may feel a little “watched” when Joe, Dan, and I show up in the same restaurants, but we have honestly seen great behavior from my students, which makes me really happy.

If you watched Games of Thrones, as Joe and Jack did, you will recognize quite a lot of these places as pivotal location shots. The first season was filmed in Malta (our next destination) but the other seasons moved to Dubrovnik for many location shots. It is King’s Landing, after all.

This was “our” street – our apartment is the top door on the left

The first day we settled into our (freezing) apartment and turned on all the heaters. It took about a day to warm up, but it’s very cute and is in the heart of the old city, about a block inside the walls. We explored around, and then Dan and I did some more walking, mainly along the water outside the walls.

Our second day we walked the entire city walls. You can circle the entire old city up high on the walls; it was so difficult to choose just some pictures; the views are astoundingly beautiful! 

From the city walls
Goofing off
So many gorgeous views it is so hard to choose just a few…

The city is full of cats, and Joe is very, very happy about that. Tucked away in little niches are many human-made cat boxes/beds, and we often saw strays tucked in for the night together. 

Just a couple of the very well-cared for city cats

On our third day we left the walled city and headed to Fort Lawrence, which was used as the Red Keep in the Games of Thrones series. Again, gorgeous views on the way up, and from the top. It’s hard not to constantly take photos!

The famous Pile Gate, entrance to the old city
When you give Joe the camera…


A beautiful sunset at sea, on the way to Cyprus.

Sunset from the ship

What to say about our visit to Cyprus? Well, first, that it almost didn’t happen! Cypress requires PCR tests for entry, and they actually sent medical staff on board, while we were still at sea, to test us about a day ahead of docking (those are the scared people you can see scrambling up the ladder onto the ship).

I wonder if they knew this would be in their job description as COVID testers…

Testing proceeded as normal, except these tests needed to be taken back and processed in a lab. Late that evening, there was a miscommunication. Everyone who was definitely negative was cleared to leave the ship the following morning. But everyone whose test required the full 24 hours to process was not yet cleared to leave. However, that was translated on board to “all these people need to be isolated and their close contacts quarantined.” So, at about midnight Dan, whose test just wasn’t finished processing, was told to pack for 10 days isolation, and was marched into a windowless isolation cabin deep in the bowels of the ship. Joe and I were told we had to remain in our cabins. The next morning the food delivery began and we cancelled our Cypress Airbnb. It was stressful and scary. And then, after lunch, we were suddenly cleared, as Dan’s test was actually finished and was negative. So the ship went from about 15 cases, with 30 close contacts, to 1 or 2 actual cases, who went into quarantine. This hopefully is a manageable number. We all hope for zero each port, but testing ahead of Dubrovnik, where I am writing this from, detected one case and one close contact for isolation and quarantine. 

So, in the end, we got to Cypus, shaken and a little anxious, but happy to be on shore. We found another apartment, with an ocean view. And our host had actually spent several years in Edmonton, which was a funny thing to chat about.

Limassol was really pretty. The weather was cold, very windy, and somewhat rainy. So we actually weren’t too ambitious in this country. We stayed in town, walked the gorgeous boardwalk and through the old part of the city, and ate delicious and fantastic food. 

There is a pretty good archeology museum in Cypress, situated in a beautiful old castle. They had a great collection of old guns that Jack would have loved to see. 

From the top of the castle wall

And lots of very, very short ceilings that truly show how we have evolved into a much bigger species!

Giant Joe

Cyprus is full of cats, and these two were some of the prettiest.

Cute kitties!

A big family event in Cyprus was Joe cutting off his hair. I think it looks wonderful.

The new short hair of Joe


Well, sort of Athens and Athens-adjacent. Our first day in Greece we tooled around Pireaus.

The second day, while I took my students to the Corinth area, Joe and Dan went to Poseiden’s Temple, which is on the coast south and east of Athens. It looks gorgeous from the pictures they took, but it was very cold and blustery. 

Poseiden’s Temple

Every morning before we left the ship, everyone had to take rapid antigen tests. We continue to see very small numbers of positive cases (2 or 3 a day out of maybe 500 people), and those people and their close contacts are isolated or quarantined quickly. It feels quite safe here, which is odd for a close living situation. But the testing is well-done and efficient, N95 masks are required, and there are capacity limits everywhere there should be on the ship.

For the final couple of days we took the metro into Athens. After strolling through the sights, like the Agora and Hadrian’s Arch, we made our way past the Acropolis. Our apartment had a partial Parthenon view, which was pretty day or night. We had an amazing lunch and generally great food the whole visit.

Wine at lunch for us, excellent smoothie for Joe!

The first day Dan and I climbed up the Acropolis. Winter is definitely the time to come to Athens! It was sunny and cool, but hardly any people. Of course, COVID is an issue, but I generally think the cold weather (for Greece) kept people away too. So awesome for us. 

Our final day we all went to the Acropolis Museum. Joe was last there when he was 9, but doesn’t really recall a lot of the details. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. After a touristy but delicious final meal in the Plaka area, we made our way circuitously back to the metro and back to the port of Pireaus. I had heard from the guide on the student trip that a church near the port was really worth an inside visit, so we did that on the way back to the ship. And it was indeed a spectacular Eastern Christian (aka Greek Orthodox) church.

Greek Orthodox Church in Pireaus, devoted to St. Nicholas (yes, that one), who is also the patron saint of sailors

I am posting this from Cyprus, which will be the subject of a later post. But on the way, we sailed very close to the Greek islands of Naxos, Mykonos, Delios, Santorini, and finally Rhodes.

We also saw a beautiful “moon-set” as we waited for the sunrise. And a gorgeous rainbow, as the weather (and the colors) change constantly at sea. As I write this, we are heading to Cyprus and the nearest mainland is Turkey. More soon…

A Semester at Sea Field Class

This week was the first of my “field classes” where we take our students for 8 hour experiential education experiences in ports. I was privileged to take my Marketing 300 students to the Corinth area of Greece.

You may know of Corinth from the story of Sisyphus, or from First Corinthians, or even from Ricardo Montalbán’s description of the “finest Corinthian leather” (you have to be my age or older to get that reference). There is still an incredible fortification/ancient city and fort there, which I snapped a picture of from the bus. Not great, using an iPhone at great distances and from behind glass 😦

The fortification at Corinth

But we were in the area to visit two very successful companies, and learn about their marketing strategies. First up was Skouras Wines, where we were able to get quite close to the wine production process (I posted a short video below the pictures showing some of the bottling and packaging process). We also learned quite a lot about marketing this very successful brand outside of Greece.

After that we moved to Markellos Olive Oil, a fourth generation family business making high quality olive oil. Virtually all the product is exported, and we were shown the production process (although it wasn’t running, as the season is over) and then heard a lecture about the company’s B2B strategies. Then, some yummy tastings!

Finally, we ended our day with a delicious lunch at Almyriki restaurant and headed back to the ship. Oh, and on the way we stopped at Corinth Canal, a 4 mile long canal cut by the same builders as the Suez Canal.

The Corinth Canal

An excellent learning experience, in simply gorgeous surroundings.

Thanks again to Markellos Olive Oil and Skouras Winery for sharing their expertise with us!

Adjusting to Ship Life

On Semester at Sea, the faculty and staff always board the ship a few days ahead of the students to get used to the ship, go through orientation, etc. This voyage, we just stayed docked in Naples as we did this. Once we embarked, we could not leave the ship again due to COVID protocols (I suspect this is going to be my most common phrase in the next four months), so it was a bit odd sitting still, so to speak.

Our cabin on the MV Odyssey

My classroom on board

The technology on this newer ship is much better, but the satellite internet speeds on the ship still preclude any streaming services. But I have to say that I am looking forward to a few “Zoom-less” months. And the coffee is about the same as last voyage, so I am glad we brought our own! And thanks to Rebecca Cribbs, we can keep it warm as we move about the ship!

Christmas present mugs!

But once the students joined us, along with multi-generational life-long learners, we set sail. Not everyone who planned to could join us, as some tested COVID positive in their home countries, some independently in Italy, and some who tested positive right in the boarding terminal and were whisked away to government quarantine. Those voyagers will join us in Greece. On the way to Greece, we had wonderful views of Mt. Etna

Mt. Etna

We’ve had our first ship-wide COVID tests, and a few more cases were discovered each time. They are now in isolation cabins on the ship. In Greece, we have to do rapid antigen tests every single day that we leave the ship. Here in Greece, there are indoor and outdoor requirements are for full N95 masks. I am really anxious about testing positive in any given port, and being left behind. So, we are doing what we can to stay safe. And I know the SAS people are doing their very best too!

I am currently sitting in a lovely apartment in Athens, sipping wine after climbing all over the Acropolis today. Yesterday, I took my students on a Field Class, where we visited a winery and an olive oil company. More on that visit in the next post!

Naples and Area

Welcome to our newest adventure! Our entire family, along with the wonderful Rebecca Cribbs, arrived in Naples, Italy Dec. 21. We have explored the city, spent a day at Pompei, and also toured the Amalfi and Sorrento coasts. It’s been an adventure-filled 10 or so days, with lots of pizza. lots of climbing, and lots of fantastic Italian wine. And in a first for all of us, we ate Chinese food for lunch on Christmas Day, and pasta for dinner!

After much drama and stress using remote tele-health COVID testing, Jack and Rebecca return to Canada Sunday January 2, and we head to the ship for the Semester at Sea program. I’ll be teaching undergraduates international marketing and consumer behavior, with experiential elements designed around the countries on the itineraries.


An American senator, Ben Sasse, stole my thunder. Well, okay, not really. But I’ve been observing the hashtag #adulting for a while now, and wondering what it really signified. While I mused in my head, Ben Sasse wrote a book about it.

I’ve just read that book “The Vanishing American Adult,” and while it really isn’t about that hashtag trend, he uses that example to kick off the book. As I read, I found myself thinking things like “exactly” and “hell, yeah” and “I wish I had done that with my kids.”  (The fact that I, as a liberal Canadian, was astonished to agree on many issues with a religiously observant, home-schooling, conservative Republican senator reflects on the deep assumptions of “us vs. them” in our culture right now… a topic for a later blog).

I disagreed with many things, but agreed with far more. My quick summary won’t do it justice (you should read it) but the gist of it is that by “saving” our kids from hard work, letting them primarily spend time with their own age group (both in-person and online), travelling with them as consumers/tourists vs. travellers, buying them too many things, and allowing them to go through life without reading important books, we are doing them a grave disservice that will negatively impact them, but more importantly, American society. I think in Canada as well, we need to better raise citizens, not consumers.

So, what does this have to do with consumption research? Back to the hashtag. What does the repeated use of the #adulting hashtag mean? Is this a continuing trend of infantilizing young adults to see themselves as less than full adults? If so, does this mean they continue to consume as adolescents, with all sorts of macro implications (short-term vs. long-term savings and spending patterns, home ownership, etc.)? Is it shorthand for “I am being ironically adult, and actually don’t intend to grow up at all?” I don’t know. Maybe I will study it more systematically… maybe you should. But at the least, you should read the book!

Failing to See

Okay, so it has been far too long since I’ve written in this space. I blame it on a busy administrative role, and, truth be told, obsessive Facebook use concerning the American election. Enough; back to thoughts.

I was jarred into actual novel new thoughts by reading a colleague’s paper recently. My next-door neighbor at the office, Tima Bansal, has published a new paper with her students Anna Kim and Michael Wood. It is called “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Importance of Scale on Organizational Attention to Issues,” and you can find the paper here.

In the paper, they ask important questions, such as why financial institutions simply missed the signals of the impending financial crisis altogether, or why many organizations fail to recognize the possible impacts of climate change on their operations. They propose that one important reason why organizations miss these sorts of issues is because the scope or extent to which organizations pay attention is disconnected from the scale at which processes, such as climate change, or the financial crisis, actually occur.

There are many other valuable insights in this critical-realist approach to studying organizational attention. But what caught my attention (pun intended) were the obvious parallels to how we study consumption and consumers. As marketers, and academics who study consumers and marketers, we too are “bombarded by numerous external and internal signals that give information about potential issues” (page 5). Big data anyone? But we can’t pay attention to all details all the time. So, if we focus on large macro cultural trends, which play out over a long temporal scale, we can fail to notice very serious signals happening at a much smaller scale within our consumer base. Or, if we focus on the micro signals thrown up by mass datasets of behavioural data, we certainly may fail to see larger social and cultural trends. We must understand that real events and trends are actually happening in the world, even if we fail to see them. A firm may not recognize a massive cultural shift that will have important marketing implications for them, but that lack of recognition doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Another implication of this work for me was a theoretical rationale for my own innate unease with generational analysis (millennials, boomers, etc). Focusing on that scale often leads to overlooking what seems (in hindsight) as obvious differences within the cohorts. But that is a topic for another day.

Read this paper; it is dense and difficult, but thought-provoking, as all good scholarship should be!


Paid Caregivers and the Family

When is a paid caregiver, for your elderly parents or your children, part of the family? When is s/he not a part of the family? Why?

These are the sorts of questions examined in recent research I published in the Journal of Marketing Management with Aimee Dinnin Huff and Michelle Barnhart.  We investigated this topic within families using individual caregivers (not daycares, or seniors homes) for childcare or elderly care. Our methods included in-depth interviews with formal family members, care recipients (elderly consumers) and paid caregivers.

Our research really makes three main points. First, we show that the traditional separation between production and consumption doesn’t always work for caregiving as a service. Second, we outline the very difficult position caregivers may end up in, stuck in a sort of no-man’s land between “family” and “not-family.” And finally, we show that the ways in which family members “do family” demonstrates and strengthens dominant cultural values. In addition, our findings strongly suggest that longevity in the family–caregiver relationship is a critical element in family well-being and caregiver job satisfaction.

We also put out a call to other researchers of family issues, namely:

…consumer researchers designing studies of family consumption should broaden their conceptualisation of family to account for the various, perhaps non-traditional constructions of family possible under the particular circumstances of interest.

The article is provided for free until July, so if you are interested, go ahead and download it from the link above; and happy reading! I’d be happy to hear what you think.

And by the way, the article’s unique identifier is: DOI:10.1080/0267257X.2014.933865

Consumer Engagement and Deception

I was struck suddenly by a disconcerting connection between two ideas I’ve been reading and thinking about lately. I am finally reading a book I’ve been meaning to for years (it was published in 2009) entitled “Deception in the Marketplace: The Psychology of Deception Persuasion and Consumer Self-Protection” by the always thoughtful and excellent academics David Boush, Marian Friestad, and Peter Wright. At the same time, I am working with a young research assistant on the topic of consumer trust and engagement with brands, particularly in the social media space.

Here’s how the connection happened. On the same day I was reading that when learning about products, consumers tend to pay more attention to objective reviews from outside their social group than reviews from their friends I was reading a discussion of the rise of new forms of deception, which followed the rise in online and other technological advances. I came across the following by Boush et al, page 189.:

“When a marketer uses a deception tactic in a new-to-the-consumer communication medium, the consumer may not initially be effective in detecting and coping with that tactic in this unfamiliar context, even if they have dealt well with it in a more familiar context.”

The authors go on to discuss an example of a consumer who may be wary and well-protected against experts depicted in TV ads, but who may be more gullible and less suspicious when encountering a self-identified expert online. That seems to me to be an argument against trusting online bloggers and product reviews, which seem to be the dominant way many consumers now assess products.

Personally, this resonates, and is a little disconcerting. For example, if I were to see a TV ad where the spokesperson said “I am an expert at baking, and I can tell you that this is the best bakeware I’ve ever used” I know I would indeed, have my persuasive defenses up. This tactic would trigger what Friestad and Wright call Persuasion Knowledge. But if I were to read a review showing the same text verbatim, from an Amazon.com rater/user, I think I would be more likely to trust that. That’s odd. And I am in no way a member of the younger, more digital generation. As their online engagement with brands is often (likely) higher, generally, where does that leave their skepticism? Is it higher, as they have greater online persuasion knowledge, or lower, as they haven’t yet learned to see a possible link between increasing engagement online and a higher capacity to be deceived by a marketer online?

This troubling line of thought may make it into my next research project. Let me know your thoughts, that is, if you trust me enough to engage!

June's chronicle of Semester at Sea 2022