Today’s port call in Nassau, Bahamas, reminded me that I’ve now been cruising for 20 years. Nassau was the final port of my first cruise, back in 1993. I had just finished a couple of huge work projects, both ending with press conferences in New York City. Then Mother Nature delivered a huge snowstorm to New Jersey, where I lived at the time.
I did something I had never done – called my travel agent and said, “Get me outta here!” She suggested a cruise that left in five days from Fort Lauderdale, and we quickly closed the deal.
My sea experience until then was purely bareboat sailing – chartering a 30- or 40-something-foot sailboat with friends on the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, Martha’s Vineyard and the coast of Maine. We once chartered boats in the Grenadines (southern Caribbean), and while in St. Lucia saw a ship like we had never seen before. It was the Wind Star, a four-masted cruise ship with sails. Not a windjammer, but a sleek, modern ship. Little did I know that in the 1990s I would cross the Atlantic five times on the Wind Star or its sister ship, the Wind Song.
But back to that first cruise, on Holland America’s Westerdam (not the current Westerdam, but the previous ship of that name). It was a different way to travel, and while it lacked the freedom of bareboat cruising (which I still love), it turned out to be an inexpensive and easy way to vacation. I soon introduced my parents and sisters to the fun of cruising, and there haven’t been many years since that I haven’t found myself on a ship going somewhere.
As my father’s health deteriorated following a stroke and surgery, cruising was the easiest way for him to travel. About that time I started working as a freelance writer and cruise ships started offering Internet access, so I could take my work with me and accompany them. Our record was six cruises in one year – Alaska, Hawaii and several to the Caribbean.
My last cruise was a 45-day adventure with my mother. We left from Fort Lauderdale, stopped a couple of times in the Caribbean, then on to the Canary Islands, Morocco, Spain, Italy and Portugal before ending back in Fort Lauderdale. That marked my 30th cruise and 314th nights aboard a cruise ship.
Oh yeah, and Nassau has changed a lot in some ways since my first visit on a ship, but you can still get your hair braided and shop at the straw market (a new one replaced the original that burned a few years ago). What did I do today? Mainly look for free WIFI to research some topics for client work I’m writing over the next few days. I guess some things have changed.
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