VALLEY VILLAGE, Calif. - A single mom was blown away when Norwegian Cruise Lines helped her put together all the pieces for a perfect cruise-themed birthday for her son, who has autism.
Carri Wagner emailed the cruise line several months ago after her son, Chase, expressed to her that he wanted to have a Norwegian Cruise Line-themed birthday party.
"Most of you know that Chase has #autism and when he gets into things- they stick," Wagner wrote in a Facebook post. "We have taken Chase on 3 NCL cruises and to say he is obsessed is an understatement."
Wagner said that Chase gets so excited before going on a cruise that he will memorize the entire ship’s layout, including restaurant names and different floors.
"Honestly, he just loves everything about cruising," Wagner said. "He gets to be a kid, have fun and everyone is always so incredibly kind to him."
After being unable to find party favors or decorations that fit the Norwegian Cruise Lines theme she had in mind, Wagner reached out to the company directly and asked if they could send anything to help. She stated that she would be happy to pay for anything Norwegian Cruise Lines sent, but the company did her one better.
Wagner said that she woke up the very next morning to an email from the President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines, Andy Stuart, who thanked her for her email and for being a loyal customer. He also wished Chase a happy birthday and agreed to send some NCL swag for Chase’s birthday party.
"What I truly loved the most was Andy who is the CEO and President of this huge company took the time out of his morning to respond to a mom who was just trying to bring joy to her son," Wagner said.
"What Andy doesn’t know is what a HUGE impact his act of kindness has done. I feel like this is a perfect example of how one act (big or small) can make a difference," she added.
Wagner said that, as a single mom, she does everything she can to make Chase happy, but he faces certain challenges that many of his peers don’t, such as needing a lot of therapy — at one point he was in 40-plus hours of therapy per week on top of school. She said that Stuart’s act of kindness toward her and her son "made [her] heart happy."
Last week, Wagner opened her front door to find three big boxes of Norwegian Cruise Lines swag.
"Not only did they send him fun favors and decor, but they even had a personalized birthday captain banner made for Chase," Wagner wrote in her post. "I just can’t put into words how grateful I am."
Wagner said that Chase loves just about every aspect of going on cruises, but that his favorite activity is playing at the water park.
"He is a little fish and will swim and go down the slides all day long," Wagner said.
She said he also adores the experience of going to the Japanese grill restaurant Benihana, the all-day ice cream, the kids club and even playing bingo.“He’s an 80-year-old man in an 8-year-old’s body,” Wagner added.
Beyond the catered activities aboard cruises, Wagner said Chase loves to see and learn about how the ship runs. He dreams of someday being able to work on the ships he loves.
"He always wants to watch the ship docking and how they rope the ship to the dock," Wagner said. "He said he wanted to be a rope guy when he grows up. Now he has changed his mind and wants to be a captain."
"Every cruise we make a point to meet the captain of the ship," she added. "Chase always has at least 10 questions for the captain — to which they always take time to chat."
Chase will be turning 9 years old on Dec. 14, and Wagner said that she throws two parties for him every year — one while Chase’s grandmother is in town for Thanksgiving, and a second on or near Chase’s actual birthday.
Wagner said that she’s saving the Norwegian Cruise Line-themed party for Chase’s actual birthday celebration this year, which she said will be at their home in Valley Village, California, with lots of Chase’s friends, cake, pizza, and of course, all the Norwegian Cruise Line goodies.
"I feel like if other people see how much happiness and joy simply responding to an email can provide maybe others will think about doing small kind gestures in their lives," Wagner said. "Kindness goes a very long way!"
This story was reported from Los Angeles.