And Not an Ocean in Sight

I thought I would be blogging from the deck of a cruise ship this month, after 810 days stuck on land. My plan was to fly with my two sisters to Amsterdam today and board Holland America’s ms Volendam, sailing as far north as Svalbard and as far south as Egypt, returning to the United States at the end of October.

Instead, I have returned to land-locked New Mexico for the summer. And I feel darned lucky to have landed here in Santa Fe.

When last I wrote – nine months ago — I was about to return after my second summer in Santa Fe to my sister’s house in the Dallas area. It had been my home base for the past several years since I had sold my house to travel more.

The last time I was on a cruise ship was in March, 2020, when the coronavirus sent everyone on the World Cruise hustling to find flights home from Perth, Australia. As the pandemic lingered, we spent last summer planning our epic 2022 summer and fall cruise on the Volendam.

Alas, as if a pandemic weren’t’t enough, Russia invaded Ukraine, making refugees of millions of Ukranians. The Dutch government chartered the Volendam to temporarily house some refugees, so in early May Holland America canceled our 11 back-to-back cruises (two- to three-weeks each). That left sister Elaine and me in a bit of a bind, as she sold her house in March in preparation for our move onto the ship.

Plan B was to shift to another Holland America ship as the cruise line suggested, but none had such varied itineraries. Instead, they typically alternate between the same two or three routes. Fine for replacing one or two cruises, but not for as many as we had booked. It seemed too boring for the cost involved.

My sisters decided to camp this summer in their RV, but it is (a) too small for three, and (b) not my thing. I quickly reached out to the owner of the Santa Fe condo I have enjoyed for two years, and it was suddenly available, at least for June and July. So I packed up almost everything I own (more about that in a later blog) and drove west.

I couldn’t let the whole year go without cruising, so I booked 51 days on the ms Westerdam, sailing in October and November from Seattle to Hawaii, the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. I’m still waiting to hear whether some of the islands will be open to cruise ships by then. Given the uncertainty, the cruise fare was a bargain so I splurged on a balcony stateroom. If nothing else, I will enjoy days watching the sea go by.

Here in Santa Fe, I’ve unpacked my watercolor supplies and plan to make painting a major part of my summer. I feel rusty after going months without lifting a pen or brush. It reminds me of the first day of my 2018 Grand Asia cruise, when I vowed to fill a sketchbook instead of a photo album. It was tough to jump into a new sketchbook during the sailaway. So far, I’ve “delayed” painting by sorting my colors and deciding which ones should go in my palette for now.

I’m incredibly disappointed to be missing the dozens of European ports I researched in such depth. But I’m once again enjoying the hummingbirds here in the high desert. And as I’ve said more than once, I’m learning to plan in pencil, not pen.