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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Getting to 100 and How Cruising Keeps Surprising

Welcome to a milestone. This is post number 100, born from 20 cruises, 14 ships over 10 years on 4 different lines. Number of Caribbean islands? Too many to count

Musing About Cruising started the day the old Pacific Princess—otherwise known as the “Love
Boat”—in August 2013, made its final voyage—to that dry dock in the sky.

While my old Saturday night companion didn’t do much to get me cruising, once I started many decades later, I looked back at the show through different eyes.

And what’s kept me embarkation-bound over the last decade is cruising’s ability to keep surprising:

In the beginning
The magnificent midnight buffet. Alas, it’s been gone quite a while now, but what a show! Celebrity’s Constellation filled the main dining room with rows and rows of eye candy. Ice sculptures and vegetable carvings everywhere! Breads made into villages! Candy made into chess sets! Elaborate cakes and pastries by the many dozens! It was so spectacular that they let us in early just to take photos.

Feast for the eyes at midnight--gone but not forgotten
Black tie waiters and stellar stewards. On our first cruise, the room steward ran down the hallway just to open the stateroom door for us. The formally dressed waiters did napkin tricks and told us stories of their native lands.

Then later on
Chicago, Cats, the ice and aqua shows. When our infatuation with Celebrity wore off and we itched
to try other lines, we gave our nightlife to Royal Caribbean. Broadway shows, ice dancing and high diving—all for no cost and with the best seats in the house.

Ice and delight on the Navigator of the Seas
Off course, but oh, so worth it. We dabbled in some new ports not found on many itineraries and discovered some real gems. The “B” in the ABCs—the pristine Bonaire with its blue glass-like waters; the sleepy and lovely St. Croix; the chic hilly yacht and beautiful-people mecca of St. Barts—all held new wonder.
 
Laid back and lovely is the Virgin Island of St. Croix
A Northerly course. While we cringed at the idea of a cruise where we couldn’t wear shorts, the otherworldly landscape and quaint frontier towns of Alaska more than made up for it. The eerie silence, ice chunk-filled waters and frozen walls of Glacier Bay; the heavy fog looming over the mountain tops; the crisp and piercing clean air that penetrated our down coats—these memories will remain with us always.
The icy waters of Glacier Bay from the balcony of the Golden Princess 
And then there’s now
Making Diamond Club. Getting to Royal Caribbean’s Diamond Club was quite a thrill. The best loyalty club of the mass market lines gives us unlimited free drinks during their extended happy hour. White wine under the white lights in Allure’s nearly deserted Central Park at night has become a cruise highlight.
 
Central Park under the lights
Surging wave of technology—From the robotic bars of Anthem and Harmony of the Seas, to the touch screen room finders on Royal Caribbean ships, to Princess’ shipboard smart phone app that makes walkie-talkies obsolete, the ships are, thankfully, at last, wholeheartedly embracing the digital age. Even the customs folks are getting into the act with the newly launched passport app.

Just a bit more
Then there’s finding a new port that was better than you expected, like the gorgeous calm beaches and spectacular foliage of Carnival’s own Mahogany Bay in Roatan…or doing something new at ports you’ve been to, like picking up paintings for a song in Royal Caribbean’s Labadee…or watching ports grow and change, like the ever-lively Philipsburg, St. Maarten, with its new modern waterfront area with a nostalgic Dutch-style automat.
Mahogany Bay--Carnival's paradise for day
What’s coming next
In the past 10 years, I’ve not run out of things to share, guide and amuse on the world of Caribbean cruising…and the topics just seem to keep floating to the surface.

So, if you promise to keep on reading, you can be sure I’ll keep on writing.