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Castle Pines Village resident cruises the world as ship’s doctor

Castle Pines Village resident Dr. Larry Odekirk serves as a ship’s doctor on Holland America cruise ships, traveling around the world. Odekirk has been a family practice physician for years and is still in practice at Three Oaks Medicine in Castle Rock.

By Elizabeth Wood West; photos provided by Dr. Larry Odekirk, Jody Anderson McMahon, and John & Judy Anderson

Dr. Larry Odekirk serves as ship’s doctor on Holland America cruise ships.

Longtime Castle Pines Village residents Dr. Larry Odekirk and his wife Gerry on board a ship Odekirk serves on.


Castle Pines Village residents John and Judy Anderson and their family joined Dr. Larry Odekirk on one of his Alaskan cruises.

Having practiced family medicine since 1964, including working with two partners at his own clinic and serving as chief of staff at the Medical Center of Aurora and president of the Adams County/Aurora Medical Society, Castle Pines Village resident Dr. Larry Odekirk thought he would retire in 2002. However, Odekirk’s wife Gerry had other ideas.

“My wife decided I had too much energy to be retired and suggested I do something; at that moment, I was reading a cruise magazine from Holland America and I thought I would call and see what they were looking for as a cruise ship doctor. Three months later, I was on my first trip to Alaska on the M.S. Veendam. That was the beginning,” said Odekirk.

Odekirk, who also works part-time at Three Oaks Family Medicine in Castle Rock, soon discovered that being a ship’s doctor is quite different. Odekirk said, “Bad things can happen on a ship! I’ve treated strokes, heart attacks, irregular heart rhythms, urinary obstructions, lots of broken bones and lacerations, and even death. As a ship’s physician, I care for all the passengers; we also have a crew physician and two to four nurses, depending on the size of the ship. Holland has 13 ships which carry anywhere from 850 to 2,500 passengers. If there is a downside, it is that I’m on call 24/7.”

Working as a ship’s doctor has taken Odekirk all over the world, including all seven continents and countless port cities. In 2005, Odekirk sailed on the Grand World Cruise, a 110-day voyage that circumnavigated the earth. His most memorable experience was helping set up the medical center for Holland America’s new ship, the M.S. Eurodam, which was being built in Italy. Odekirk explained, “That was an amazing experience. I was there for two weeks as the ship was being finished; it was wonderful when we sailed it out of the shipyard. We sailed for three days with only the crew aboard and went to Rotterdam, home of Holland America Line, where the ship was christened by Queen Beatrix of Holland. It was an extravagant party and I met the queen.”

As a senior officer, Odekirk enjoys meeting new people, hosting guests at his dinner table, and being able to treat passengers to a cocktail or glass of wine. On one occasion, Odekirk was hosting guests at a formal dinner, including a woman named Barbara. Odekirk said, “Barbara looked to be in her 60’s and was not very attractive, but quite pleasant. After a glass of wine, I asked Barbara what work she did or had done in the past. She looked me in the eye and said, ‘I’m a hooker!’ I was so flustered that I just turned to the passenger on my other side and started talking to her. The next day I was walking thru the Lido restaurant when I heard someone call my name. I turned and saw Barbara sitting with four other ladies. She introduced me and said, ‘These are my other hooker friends,’ and they were all knitting! She had a great laugh and so did I,” he said.

Longtime Castle Pines Village residents John and Judy Anderson joined Odekirk on a recent seven-day cruise that sailed from Vancouver, British Columbia to Juneau, Alaska. Anderson said, “We have lived in the Village for 23 years. I met Larry many years ago on the golf course and we have been good friends ever since. Judy has always wanted to take our whole family on a cruise. Our best memories are of watching the seven grandkids having to get all dressed up for dinner every night and watching the granddaughters chase boys! Overall, it was a great trip for our whole family.”

Dr. Larry Odekirk (center) recently sailed on an Alaskan cruise with Castle Pines Village friends John and Judy Anderson and their grandchildren (left to right) Luke Anderson, Sara DelMonte, Jordan Stoll, Emily DelMonte, Jake Stoll, Joe McMahon, and Jack Anderson.

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