A New Adventure is About to Begin

Day -2, Grand World Voyage

Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023; Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

The reunions have begun! I planted myself in the Fort Lauderdale hotel lobby early this morning and — as I suspected — started seeing familiar faces. Some had just flown to Florida on red-eye flights. Others were trickling down to breakfast.

When I’m asked what I’m looking forward to most on this world cruise, most people mean which country or port. I have been looking forward most to reuniting with friends from previous long cruises on Holland America.

2023 Grand World Voyage

I read recently that first-timers on a world cruise initially feel like someone at his or her spouse’s class reunion. It seems like everyone else knows everyone. It makes sense, but it’s a welcoming crowd that makes new friends quickly. We were all first-timers once.

When last I left you about six weeks ago, I promised a wrap-up post from my 51-day South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand cruise on the MS Westerdam. That didn’t happen. To summarize: I stayed a night in Sydney and tried to watch the ship sail away from the Overseas Passenger Terminal but its departure was delayed.

My 15-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles left late, and American Airlines texted me that as a result I would miss my final leg, from Dallas to Northwest Arkansas. The airline promised to do its best to get me within 300 miles of my final destination. That wasn’t good enough for me.

Fortunately, my Twitter direct message to the airline worked great. I suggested that I would just spend the night in Dallas and take the early flight the next day to Fort Smith, my original destination. I had a fairly good Thanksgiving dinner at the DFW airport hotel.

Over the next six weeks I caught up on various chores and prepared for this cruise. The biggest time suck was medical related – nine appointments with various doctors over three days in Dallas (and the all-important appointment with my hair stylist) – and ordering enough medications to last through July. I became good friends with the pharmacy technician who navigated the vacation overrides.

I could write a book on packing for long cruises. I work off a packing list I have edited for years. I shipped one bag off in mid-December and next will see it in my ship stateroom. At the last minute I bought a new suitcase because my remaining items didn’t fit in two mid-size bags. Consequently, I added just a few things that I could have gotten along without. My tendency to pack lightly battles with the knowledge that this will be my home for seven months.

These days my goal is to minimize travel stress, so my two sisters and I had decided to go fly to Florida three days early to accommodate possible bad weather and flight delays. Elaine had booked a Southwest Airlines flight from Houston, but given its “meltdown” last week, she decided not to risk it and rebooked using miles on American. Our early-morning toast wasn’t too alcoholic, but was heartfelt.

Cruise Specialists, the travel agency for me and about 230 other world cruisers, puts us up the night before embarkation and hosts a pre-cruise dinner. That’s why I knew I would see people I know in the lobby this morning. In addition to reuniting with fellow travelers, we’re just relaxing.

Eloise, Jo and Elaine

Elaine and I are meeting area friends for lunch, and last night we cheered on TCU in the Fiesta Bowl from a nearby sports bar (“all glory too the Hypnotoad!”). We managed to stay up to ring in the New Year — by that I mean to see Sydney, Australia, ring in the New Year. Set the bar low, I say.

Happy New Year!