The people you will meet at Sea

We all have friends from our personal life and friends from our work life, but for those of us who sail the seas, we also have Cruise friends.  What makes these friends so unique is that we first meet as sea, away from our everyday comfort zones.   And chances are we would never have met under any other circumstances.


Many of these people are fascinating, with occupations and interests I might never have known of otherwise.


There was the Englishman whose usual occupation is  chauffering tourists.   However, when the Queen is in his area of southern England, his job is to open the automobile door when she exits, and open it again for her return.  Only that, nothing else.


There was a Scotsman who creates the formulas for the paint on the outside of cruise ships.  This also includes guarding the secret recipe for Cunard Red.


Have you ever sat on the deck of a ship in an industrial area and watched the machines that resemble Star Wars characters attach giant magnets to the tops of shipping containers and then move them from one stack to another or delicately and precisely drop them onto a flatbed truck?  I met a man who does the computer programming in container ports that allows that to happen accurately.


One of my all-time favorite moments was sitting on deck with the late mystery writer, P.D.  James.  When I asked her how she became interested in what the British call ‘crime writing’, and Americans call mystery books, she said “When I was young and learned about Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall, my first thought was ‘Who pushed him?’”


We dined for a week with an elderly woman who was Paul Newman’s babysitter and taught him how to swim.   And another time, shared a table with a honeymooning couple in their late 80s who were late  to dinner most nights for, in their own words, “the same reason any honeymooners are late to dinner!”   More power to them.


On a two month South American cruise, developed a friendship with  a doctor from Taiwan who had been a personal physician to Madame Chiang Kai-Shek.


On the same cruise, we met a Guest Chef on a an excursion to a hacienda in Ecuador that grows cocoa beans.   That grew into a holiday card friendship.  But after we met again two years later at sea and discovered we both love the same brand of French shoes, we truly bonded .


A shore excursion to watch penguins in the Falkland Islands led to a longstanding friendship with a First Officer and his wife.  We have promised to sail on his ship when he becomes Captain.


And a game of bridge became a twenty year relationship with a British judge at the Old Bailey and his wife.  Never did I think I would watch someone don a powdered wig!


My husband entered a cooking competition with two women, one from Arizona and one from Sweden.   We have been on three subsequent cruises with each couple, and we will be sailing around the World in January with our Swedish friends.


We have even become friendly with a travel agent and his wife, and now I am happy to collaborate with him to enhance the cruise experience of his clients.  You guessed, that is Ken!

Traveling with Friends

We are going on a World Cruise, and we will be travelling with friends.   One hundred days is a long time to be vacationing other people, but we met this couple on a cruise originally, have now travelled with them coincidentally three times, and planned this fourth cruise together. We know by now we are compatible travel companions.   What people find a bit surprising is that we have chosen to each eat dinner at separate tables for two most nights.   We will have dinners together on formal nights only.   It works well for us.


On past cruises, three of us have breakfast together, read what passes for the daily newspaper on a ship, do the crossword puzzles and plan our day’s activities, either separately or together, once number four finally arrives late! And the late person, incredibly, is not me!   That pattern is not set in stone, but the one definite activity we do share on sea days is playing on a Trivia team, which is how we originally met ten years ago.


Once every year or two, my oldest (not by age) and closest friend and I leave our husbands behind, and take a one week cruise.  On those occasions, we eat dinner together but during the day we often don’t cross paths.   She will participate in every lecture and activity available, and I will sit and read or paint for hours at a time.   She’s a very early riser, and I am not.   It works well for us.


While other people have had bad experiences cruising with friends—something to discuss another time—there is one category that can be most harrowing: travelling with relatives!  Our four-generation family cruise took eighteen months of negotiating to finally come up with a date and location suitable for all.  And I can’t imagine how long it would have taken if we weren’t financing everyone!!


Our family cruise rules were simple—dinner together, and other than that everyone was on his or her own to make plans.   With seven adults and two little children on a seven day cruise, each night a different adult would stay in the stateroom with the children after dinner, and the others were free to enjoy the evening.   For our crowd, that meant Trivia and the evening show.   Since six seems to be the universal number allowed on a Trivia team, our rotating group was the perfect number.  One night when great grandma was watching the children, the Trivia topic was ‘Show tunes of the 30s and 40s.’   Instantly, one of the younger adults ran up to the stateroom to swap places with great grandma—who knew all the songs, and we won that night!


The friend I sometimes travel with also went on a cruise with her family.   Her three-generation brood totaled seventeen, a more formidable group for arranging dinner seating and activities on shore and aboard ship.    Her solution was to give each grandchild a set amount of money (they were all teenagers) for shore excursions and spending money.   That was great fun as some bought souvenirs, some bought shore excursions, and one of them decided to keep the money and just relax!    For my friends, as was true for us, the family photos are a happy memory for all.


Of course, there can often be unanticipated issues that arise.  We took our nineteen-year-old granddaughter on a cruise as a graduation gift.   While that is below the legal drinking age for Americans, it was not for the European teenagers on the ship.  Fortunately the parents had said she could have a glass of wine with dinner each night (ordered by me).   As for whatever happened after we were in bed and she was with the other young people, she points out  “What happens on the ship, stays on the ship!”    And while we did not have the same rule about eating together each night, she chose to have dinners (not just for the wine), and spend time ashore with us in every port.    At the end of the week, her modern version of the family photo was a Facebook post!


So whether you travel with family or friends, the best way to assure a great cruise is careful planning; a ship with activities that everyone will enjoy, an itinerary to ports of interest, and agreements in advance about time spent together or on one’s own.


If you need assistance, advice or suggestions, we are here and ready to help!

Tips to Avoid “Mal de Mer” or Seasickness

I have a confession.  I am subject to Mal de Mer, which is a fancy phrase for seasickness.


My first experience with this most unpleasant ailment was as age nine, on an afternoon fishing trip with family and friends.   There were soft swells on the ocean, and after only half an hour, I turned green…. I will spare you the rest.


The next time I ventured into a boat, the ‘vessel’, if I can call it that, was a Swan Boat in Boston Public Garden.  For those of you unfamiliar with Boston, these are paddle boats holding approximately 20 passengers, moving at the rate of perhaps one mile a day, in a shallow pond with not even a ripple.  Green again, but this time I made it safely to shore.


Why am I telling you all this?  Because I was afraid to take a cruise fearing a week or more of dizziness and nausea.   While other people were dancing, eating and enjoying the scenery, I envisioned myself lying in bed with a cold towel pressed to my forehead.  Meals for me would be ginger ale and saltines, not an exciting prospect for a vacation.


Yes, I knew about Benadryl, and the famous seasickness injections ,administered in the ship’s infirmary after the fact, that would render me sleepy for approximately 24 hours, but that didn’t seem like fun either.


Still, I really, really wanted to go on a cruise.  Fate intervened when my husband gave me a birthday present of a cruise to Bermuda—and my doctor gave me a prescription for the  little ‘patches’ worn behind the ear to diminish the effects of seasickness without making one sleepy.

And that, dear readers, was the beginning of the most exciting travel adventures I could imagine.


While even the hardiest of sailors sometimes succumb to this malady, I am happy to share some of my prevention techniques.   First, the choicest stateroom location for the motion-sensitive passenger is low and to the center—that is where the ship is least likely to exhibit movement.   (Try putting a pencil across your hand and moving it back and forth.  The middle of the pencil sways the least.)


In rough water, try to face forward, in the direction the ship is moving.  I always sit in this position while eating my meals.   If you’re out on a deck, face the horizon.  Try to avoid looking sideways as that can increase a sense of dizziness, as you will have a feeling of both rocking and rolling.


If little bags tucked discretely onto the ship’s bannisters start appearing, it is time to evaluate what you should be eating.  There are lots of passengers who suffer from this malady on occasion, but it doesn’t prevent them, or me, from sailing.    It is claimed green apples are helpful, but I have not found these to be enticing while I feel as green as the apples, though I do chew on ginger and ginger candies.


Which brings me to my favorite travel jewelry— not gold or diamonds, but pairs of sea-band bracelets originally worn by sailors.  A form of acupressure, these are actually quite effective.     Being fashion-conscious, I possess them in four different colors to match my outfits!


The occasional bouts I have endured is nothing compared to the joys of ocean travel.  I have seen penguins float by my ship on ice floes, and watched lava flow into the ocean off the shores of Hawaii.   I have sailed into Sydney Harbor, and been on the first passenger ship to sail on the Orinoco River while the locals rowed out to greet us in small canoes.    I have come to love the beauty of the oceans, the smell of salt air, dolphins swimming alongside the ship, the brilliance of the nighttime stars and the occasional ‘green flash’ at sunset.


So while I might not venture onto Swan Boats again, I am always anticipating my next ocean voyage.  And where am I while you are reading this–crossing the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Queen Mary 2!



Packing Blues? Here’s 1 Simple Trick To Help Pack More Into Your Bag

Packing for a cruise is a double-edged sword. On the positive side, there is no limit to how much one can bring. On the negative side, there is no limit to how much one can bring! I have seen people take a two-month cruise with as little as two garment bags and an overnight case, and I have seen passengers with 20 bags of various sizes.

So how does one decide? The first stop is to learn how much storage your suite has available, and storage is the topic of today’s blog. I also want to introduce myself as a member of Ken’s team. My name is Susan, but my husband calls me The Queen of Packing, so hopefully I can offer some useful suggestions.

I always call Guest Services before traveling and ask for the exact number of shelves, cupboards, closets and drawers in my stateroom. In planning for an upcoming World Cruise, I have asked for the precise dimensions of the closets since four months traveling through all the seasons requires many outfits

With that information in hand, I head off to a place like Bed, Bath and Beyond or the Container Store to purchase over-the-door clear plastic shoe bags—these hang by hooks over the top of a door. It is amazing how useful these bags are. Small cameras, suntan lotion, insect spray, bandages, sunglasses, nail polish, pens and pencils, scissors, smart phones, the refrigerator magnets I can’t resist buying –even shoes if necessary: each one has a place in one of these shoe bags. If you are doing your own laundry on the ship, dryer softener strips will fit quite nicely in a pocket.

I also purchase one or two hanging sweater shelves that are held in place by Velcro over a closet hanger rack if I need extra shelving for sweaters, shoes, hats, etc. Both types of storage units are clever items to bring because the space they take up in suitcases before the voyage can later be filled with purchases on the return home! I try to leave the shelving on the ship—if I have room to repack it, I have not done a good enough job shopping!!

Then there are other important items to bring along, especially for longer voyages. Chief among these is a roll of humble masking tape. Masking tape has a myriad of uses, from being a temporary ‘thread’ for a danglng hem, to sealing around the caps of shampoo or perfume bottles that have a tendency to leak.

Plastic baggies of various sizes are useful as well. Let’s be frank—there is always the temptation to pack up a little snack, and these are perfect for that. Also, for the occasional chocolate bar, piece of fruit or other food item purchased ashore, they are handy to store the remains and leftovers. The last bit is important, since most ports insist ship’s food not come ashore, but there is no prohibition against purchasing and eating food actually bought ashore. (Nonperishable food can usually be brought back onto the ship.) I will also put coin and paper currency for each country into them to keep in the safe.

Compression bags that will pack flat when the air is squeezed out of them are useful, especially if bringing several sweaters as their volume can be reduced by up to 75%.

While you might be aware of some or all of the above, here is one tip maybe you don’t know. I carry a container that once held Altoids or something similar. I keep all but one credit card in it—nobody will ever reach into a purse or carry-on to steal breath mints.

I have reached the end of today’s space without clothing suggestions, so that will come at a later date. If you have questions about this or any other topic where I can be of assistance, please ask.

Happy Packing,