Friday, March 11, 2016
A New Adventure Begins…..
Hello to all our friends and readers (some of whom are friends we haven’t met yet). Tonight at 11 PM a new adventure begins for us as we depart Fort Lauderdale on Holland America’s smallest ship the MS Prinsendam, for a 55-day boat ride to Europe’s Mediterranean and back to Fort Lauderdale.
Because we’ve taken many long cruises in the past (and lived to blog about them), we’re frequently asked, “How can you stand being on a ship for so long?” So here’s the poop: Think about going on a long vacation to visit many new and interesting places (most of which you probably have never been to) and…….ONLY HAVING TO UNPACK ONCE ! That in itself is added value in our book. And then, it takes a little bit of a paradigm shift to understand that, at least on long cruises, the ports of call are not the destination; the SHIP is the destination, and the ports of call delightful .distractions. It took us several cruises to learn this by ourselves. AND, just so everybody understands, the ambience on a longer cruise is nothing like that on a 4- or 7- or even a 14-day cruise. On shorter cruises everyone is in a rush…rush…. rush… to get off the ship, to run as fast as they can to see as much as they can cram into the hours onshore. And to do it again the next day….and the next… And then, of course, there’s the food…on short cruises passengers often “pig out” like there’s no tomorrow: “that cruise line isn’t going to make a dime off of me….I’m going to eat my way through this cruise and get ALL my money’s worth….” By contrast, on a long cruise everyone is laid back, there’s a casual ambience on board, you actually have time to meet people, spend time with them…and even make wonderful new friendships that survive and thrive long after the cruise has ended. And when you do visit ports of call, some of them quite small, some quite exotic, and some very large cities, the outlook is not so much on “how much can I SEE?” but on “what wonderful new person, place or thing will I EXPERIENCE?” I have often compared short and long cruises as like the difference between a kind going to summer camp for a week or for the entire summer. The “feel” is completely different, and often life-long friendships are made by and between kids who are lucky enough to get to go to camp for the entire summer. I’ve often said that a long cruise is like summer camp for grown-ups.
One of the most valuable lessons we have learned by traveling on a cruise ship, is that serendipity is your friend. Sometimes what (or who) you encounter when you least expect it, is what you never forget and what colors your trip and your life. Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about.
Once we were in a small town in Chile, just walking around the town with the ship’s Watercolor Instructor and her husband (and yes, long cruises have so many more activities to choose from during sea day than the short cruises) when we happened to look into a coffee shop attached to a Theatre. And in the coffee shop who should we see but a local man sitting with an espresso doing water colors. This chance encounter led to a visit to his home/office/studio, and after spending several hours with him he actually painted an original watercolor for each of us, which he gave us as a gift.
On another occasion we were walking along the street in Manaus, Brazil (located 1,000 miles up the Amazon – you travel there either by boat or plane) with some Catholic friends, when my “Jewish radar” went off as we were approached by a figure walking toward us dressed in a manner that would be perfectly at home in Crown Heights, in Brooklyn. We stopped him to learn that he was the Rabbi of the Jews of the Rain Forest, a “turf” that begins outside the seaside city of Belem at the mouth of the Amazon and stretches over a thousand miles inland along the mighty river. Of course his story was fascinating, but equally as significant for us was that he invited us to dinner at his home that evening, where for what was the first time in 2 months we were able to eat chicken because it was KOSHER chicken. Both of these experiences we will remember and treasure for as long as we live.
And so it goes. Every day is a new surprise, every day is a new adventure. I have decided to begin this blog today, and I can’t promise how often I will be able to post because there are some periods when we are in a new and different port every day for as much as 7 days in a row. So I start today because for the next 8 days will be at sea as we cross the Atlantic, without “sights” to report and without any reliable internet availability until March 20th at the earliest (the internet service available on ships is, in our experience, outrageously expensive – think USD $0.50 or 0.75 cents a minute – and to add insult to injury, it is agonizingly slow – think slower than dial-up (for those of you who remember “back in the day”). So anything we post will be on the days were in port. We’re both going to try to make and keep it interesting, but both of us have agreed that we don’t want to be “slaves” to the blog. Maybe we’ll post photos but with less narration and description. We’ll see what this adventure brings, and we’ll try to share the most memorable experiences with you. So stay tuned… more to follow as the adventure gets under way.