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So Long, It's Been Good to Know Ya

Unless the powers that be at the new, Google-owned Frommers.com have plans they haven't told me about, Monday will be this blog's final day. I did my first post here more than four years ago, on November 11, 2008, and have posted cruise-related news, opinion, supposition, wishful thinking, and snark nearly every weekday since. It's been a good ride, and I'm going to miss it.

At endings come reflection. I've often thought about what it is I like about cruise ships — a necessary question on my part, since I'm not your dictionary-definition "cruiser": I don't particularly like warm-weather destinations, beaches, or lounging around the pool; I don't much enjoy taking tours; I'm not big on glitzy dinners or Vegas-style musical revues; and I don't get off on piling up my plate at the buffet. As far as all the cruise cliches go, I'm mostly a no-show.

So what it is? I have a few thoughts:

  1. I like the sea. How much of our world is covered by water? And how little do we know about it? The sea sits out there, its depths a weird and alien universe, its tides reflecting the gravitational push and pull of the cosmos. We enter it at our peril, but it's also our ancestral home. It's beautiful and changeable like nothing else but the sky, and its quiet roar as it heaves against all the planet's shores is the finest music I know.
  2. I like ships. Craft can hold great romance, and of all the works of man, ships may be the most evocative. They have the cred, after all: For all of human history until just the past 100 years, ships were the great engines of adventure and exploration — the only way of getting between some places, and the best way of getting between others. Consider Odysseus's adventures returning from the Trojan War. Consider Columbus's and Leif Erikson's voyages to the Americas, or Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the world. Consider Captain Cook's Pacific expeditions or Roald Amundsen's three-year voyage through the Northwest Passage. Consider Zheng He's voyages to China's "Western Ocean" in the early 1400s, leading a fleet of 200 ships and almost 28,000 crew to more than 30 kingdoms as far distant as East Africa and Arabia. Said he, "We have beheld in the ocean huge waves like mountains rising in the sky, and we have set eyes on barbarian regions far away hidden in a blue transparency of light vapors, while our sails, loftily unfurled like clouds day and night, continued their course as a star, traversing those savage waves as if we were treading a public thoroughfare." That's what ships do, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
  3. I like traveling slowly and enjoying my leisure. Much as I'm continually amazed at stepping onto a plane in the morning and being 3,000 miles away by evening, I don't particularly like to do that. Travel, to me, is something best done slowly, so you can savor it. While today's cruise ships can't truly be called "slow," they sure are by comparison, and I like that about them. Why rush, when the point is relaxing? For me, there's great pleasure in arriving at a ship, getting to my cabin, and letting care fall from my shoulders. I can settle into a cabin as well and truly and (it seems) permanently as I would into a new house or apartment. That cabin is home, at least for a while, and it's a home where I don't need to do anything or worry about anything at all, ever.
  4. I like taking a holiday from adulthood. My recent thinking on cruise psychology is that being a passenger on a cruise ship is like being a child at the playground or a dog at a dog park: You get there not knowing anyone, but within a few minutes you get the vibe of the place, find some companions, and start playing. That's the joy, I think: You're out on the sea in a ship, you have time on your hands, and no one is expecting you to produce or accomplish anything not work, not chores, not nothing. You can do what you want and be who you want, and everyone is in the same boat. The only thing that counts is how well we all play together.

Have fun on your next cruise.

Fin.

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