My dad ruined me. When I was four years old I took my first cruise on the Bahama Star. It was a short two or three-day cruise from somewhere in Florida to Nassau, Bahamas. There was me, my sister Pam, my mom and my dad. I actually remember very little about that cruise, except for my dad being sick in bed for most of a day. Mom told us that Dad was seasick, but I’m not so sure. My dad was a Navy man. I’ve been told over the years that he was always prone to seasickness, but for all the cruises I took with him, this was the only time I remember him getting seasick. I now wonder whether it was actually a little hangover rather than being seasick! Anyway, the Bahama Star started my love for travel aboard luxury liners.
My next foray into the world of cruising was a short trek in the early 1970s from New York City, again to Nassau. We cruised aboard what, at that time, was the largest cruise ship in the world: the Queen Elizabeth II. The QE2 was the flagship of the Cunard Cruise line. Unlike my first voyage, I remember so very much about the QE2. It was just me, my sister, and my dad. We were with a group of my dad’s clients/friends. One of the friends was his travel agent, who brought along a couple of his kids. His son was my age and together we explored every square inch of that 70,000 ton liner! I was so impressed at the mere size of the ship. The restaurants were without a doubt the best I’ve ever experienced on a cruise ship. The British staff was impeccable and I learned much about British customs, including “high tea.’
In 1976 my family (now including younger siblings Jon and Jenifer) embarked on a cruise to Bermuda on the SS Amerikanis. We were originally booked to have all six of us in a cabin, but our travel agent tipped my dad on the fact that the room right next door was vacant. For a $25 tip, us kids got our own room right next door. We had a blast on that ship. Jenifer (then 6) spent hours every day riding up and down the elevator with the “Lift Boy,” who adored her. She and Jon also ordered bunches and bunches of bananas from the room steward, who also took to our group of young kids. The only problem was that on the way back from Bermuda, Jenifer came down with the chicken-pox. From then on the crew avoided us like the plague!
The talent show those days was not nearly the same as today. Pam, Jon, and I entered as “The Spirit of ’76.” We played a drum and fife squad with Pam playing her piccolo, Jon on the drum (the cabin wastebasket), and me carrying an American flag. It was a big hit . . . and we WON the competition! The prize was a case of champagne. The staff scrambled to find more “appropriate” gifts for us, but still presented the champagne to our parents. All in all, it was a wonderful trip, which only cemented my love for cruising.
The next childhood cruise was only a few years later aboard the Cunard Ambassador. This time we included my grandma Grewe and cruised to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. We had two more “family” cruises that included my mom and siblings. The first was a Thanksgiving cruise on the Holland American Line’s SS Westerdam with my parents, siblings, and now children. My kids were young, but not nearly as young as my brother Jon’s kids, who were still nearly infants. That was a trip for the ages since it included near hurricane winds and the rockiest cruise I’ve ever been on. On the promenade deck, there were waves actually crashing up over the bow. It didn’t take too long before they shut down ALL outside access.
The cruise line had conveniently placed plenty of barf bags in every lobby. People were literally throwing up all over the place, and it wasn’t from a virus! The real testimony to the weather was that on Thanksgiving Dinner (the worst weather day of the week), there were only two other tables occupied besides ours. During dinner, I remember drinks and even salt and pepper shakers falling down. I enjoyed it all, but nearly everyone else was locked in their cabin feeling queasy. The fitting end to that cruise was when our flight back to Minneapolis was diverted to South Dakota due to the weather. We arrived very late in the evening and there were only a couple of cabs in town to take the entire manifest of passengers to the local hotel.
The final “family” cruise was a Christmas cruise after my father died. It was aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. This remains the largest ship I’ve ever cruised on. Its 150,000+ tons makes the QE2 look like a bathtub toy, but despite this, I continue my romantic fascination with the mere size of the QE2. That is probably due to my relative 9-year-old size.
Amy and I have taken numerous other cruises over our marriage, including: my second voyage on the Amerikanis, the Westerdam (2), the Norwegian Sun, the Norwegian Getaway, the Norwegian Star, the Carnival Liberty, and the Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas (2), Serenade of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, and Adventure of the Seas.
All told, that is somewhere around 18-20 cruises and over 100 days at sea! I am not writing this to brag. I am not even close to the number of cruises my parents or others who cruise sometimes twice per year. Rather, I am merely share my recollections and the genesis of my love for the sea. I find it both exhilarating and relaxing. Some of my best memories are aboard cruise ships. We’ve cruised with family and friends, as well as several with just the two of us. On the latter, we met numerous interesting people along the way.
While I am always up for a cruise, I recognize how much we miss along the way. A less than one-day stop at an island or city is never enough to experience the culture and beauty of any one place. But if you ever just want to simply relax and go to sleep with the soft waves lapping aside the ship, I highly recommend a cruise!