On Wednesday, October 16, Embry and I boarded a Holland American cruise ship, the M.S. Vaandam. The 20-year old ship is considered small (and old) by today’s standards, accommodating “only” about 1,500 passengers and 500 crew. The cruise began in Ft. Lauderdale and 35 days later will end up in Rio with 17 stops and excursions along the way. We will spend several days in Rio after the cruise and then make our way flying back to Buenos Aries for a few more days on our own before flying to Washington two days before Thanksgiving. It is a big trip, maybe not so big when compared to our around-the-world-without-flying adventure in 2015 but still big for us. Just two codgers trying to squeeze a few more drops out of the lemon.
I have to give all the credit to Embry. She is the one who comes up with these travel ideas and makes all the arrangements. I just tag along for the ride. I have thoroughly enjoyed every trip. Last time we added them up, between the two of us we were just short of visiting 50 countries. When we return we will have added another eight: Aruba, Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, the Falkland Islands, Uruguay, and Brazil. We will pretty much have checked everything off our must-visit list.
My guess is that most people reading this will have been on at least one cruise. If not it should go on your bucket list. The way cruises work nowadays is that because there is a wide range in pricing depending on how big your cabin is and whether it has a widow or balcony, the experience is surprisingly affordable by people who do not consider themselves rich, and most cruises on mid-market ships like those in the Holland American fleet serve a pretty broad range of passengers, not just a bunch of rich white folks. For example, we had dinner last night with a group from Detroit who were retired skilled blue collar, union workers—and, I might add, Trump supporters. And having a mix is a good thing since living inside the Beltway limits our exposure to people who pretty much think like we do. Besides Americans from different walks of life and parts of the US, in just two days we have met or dined with people from the UK, New Zealand, Canada and Japan.
The thing that stands out most about this cruise, however, is the demographic profile of our fellow passengers: mainly people in our age bracket or older. There is a smattering of people with canes, wheel chairs and walkers, and lots of people with gray and white hair. You could call it a virtual, floating retirement community. As one whose career was providing technical assistance to developers of retirement communities, I feel right at home. It sort of figures since a 35-day voyage does not accommodate most people with jobs or kids in school.
The two days in the Caribbean have been spectacular—gentle seas and breezes with Carolina blue sky, white cloud puffs and blue-green waters. We have not seen a single sailboat or private motorboat since leaving Ft. Lauderdale. Our vessel has skirted the north coast of Cuba and passed Haiti to our east and will arrive at eight tomorrow morning in Aruba. As with most cruises there is something going on most of the time if you are interested—cooking classes, card games, lectures, concerts, and evening entertainment—and food is ample and ubiquitous. Not sure if power walks around the deck for a couple of miles each day will help keep the pounds off. To keep from gaining five pounds a week may be our biggest challenge. So off to a good start. Following the day in Aruba we head for the Panama Canal. Stay tuned.