With daffodils everywhere and the occasional day of sunshine, who isn’t starting to think about their holidays and visiting far-flung destinations around the world?

And it’s the same for our care home customers who are taking part in the Anchor Virtual Cruise. We’ve had the most amazing departure party this month, we’ve weighed anchor, and we’ve set sail on a voyage which will last until the autumn.

Every single Anchor care home in the country is taking part in the cruise, a feat which brings with it a sense of tremendous excitement as it tells me this latest initiative is something that has captured everyone’s imagination.

So what is the virtual cruise all about? In partnership with Unilever, who supply some of our food ingredients and have put together a cruise activity pack, care homes decide which countries they are going to ‘visit’ every month and hold a themed event or activity around this destination. 

What is unique about this initiative is the planning all starts with our customers: Where have they been in their lives, where would they like to go and why, what would they like to do when they get there, and what foods would they like to try. This then shapes the cruise itinerary and sees truly meaningful conversations and engagement.

I recently visited Faye who is the activity coordinator at Waterside in Peckham, and their first destination is France - chosen by a customer who previously very rarely took part in any organised activity. On the day I visited, he was attending an art workshop in the home, and his work will be part of an exhibition later in the year. 

Faye told me talking to customers about the cruise, both in groups and on a one-to-one basis, has been the best thing she has ever done in her many years of being an activity coordinator. She found out things she never knew about them, where they had been, what they would like to do - and the whole cruise has been planned by these conversations.

On a ‘tour’ of our care homes in the South West I was thrilled to see the large map of the world that comes with the activity pack and bunting already on display in the lounge of Kimberley Court and ready to go on the wall in St Anne’s. At Selkirk House, their cruise is going to take in the musicals of the world, so the Sound of Music will take them to Austria – At Anchor Cruises, we don’t let a simple thing like a country being land-locked stop us meeting our customers’ wishes!

Visiting different countries offers new opportunities for tasting new foods and drinks and this is another aim of the initative - for our great chefs and catering teams to show off their culinary wizardry. Already I’m hearing of fajita-tasting sessions, Indian curry nights, and great Australian barbeques.

The virtual cruise not only starts with the customer and is all about the customer, but is also an activity all colleagues in a care home can get involved with: Where are they going for their holiday? Which country do they come from? Can they bring in national dress, or food ideas or music?  This helps embed the belief that activity is everyone’s business in a care home – after all, there’s no line between where care ends and activity starts. “How would you like to spend your day today and what can I do to support you to do that?’’ is an everyday conversation for the people we care for.

We are hearing of activities taking place in the morning – coffee and croissants in France - in the afternoon, and in the evening – Anchor’s Customer Engagement Team know activity is not just a nine-to-five role. At Bluegrove House in Bermondsey, Eileen, the activity coordinator, has organised two social evenings around the countries they are going to in the evening so relatives can attend. Care homes are also using their iPads and involving community groups to add to the experience and of course making sure the public get to see some of the great activities by using our social media channels and inviting them along during events for this year’s National Care Home Open Day on Friday 19 June.

Providing activity and meaningful days for our customers involves everyone at Anchor – if you’d like to see where our customers decide to visit on the Anchor Virtual Cruise be sure to check out our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Bon Voyage!

Debbie Kirkbride MBE is Anchor's Customer Engagement Advisor

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