It’s time to go: departing on 82-day cruise

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – September 28, 2018

by Columnist Tom Blake

It’s time to go – Senior Travel – taking an 82-day cruise

Reality hit me this week when a Federal Express driver came to the front door of our Dana Point, California, home and picked up two suitcases belonging to my life partner, Greta, and two suitcases belonging to me.

Those four suitcases will be waiting for us in our stateroom when we board the ms Amsterdam, a Holland America Line cruise ship, at the San Pedro (Port of Los Angeles) Cruise Terminal this Sunday. Before the Fed Ex driver arrived, this cruise, which Greta and I signed up for almost a year ago, seemed like a dream far into the future.


Holland America ship Amsterdam (photo courtesy of Holland America Line)

Why the big reality check? We’ve cruised before. Our senior travel philosophy:  travel as often as we can, while we are physically able to do so.

We’ve been on three 30-day cruises and several shorter ones as well, so what’s the big deal? Why is this cruise any different than previous ones we’ve taken?

This cruise is called the Grand Asia & Pacific Cruise. It’s duration: 82 days! That’s two older dudes living together 82 days in a 297 square-feet stateroom. Maybe we could define it as a new type of relationship: a LTICQ (Living Together in Close Quarters).

People say to us: “Are you nuts?” And in the understatement of the year, they also say, “That’s a long time to be together.”

Here’s how it happened: Last October, we were on a Holland America Line cruise around South America. The future cruises director made a presentation to a very captive audience (passengers already on board) about the cruise that now departs in two days (September 30, 2018).

It appealed to us because there was no added expense of flying to get to the departure port or to return home. San Pedro is less than an hour from Dana Point.

For a cruise of 82 days, Holland America dangled quite a few perks to the audience, enticing them to sign up. And we did. Picking up the luggage ahead of time was one of the perks. Paying the tips to the crew was another (a savings of $15 per day).

Greta and I are truly blessed in retirement to be able to travel to distant lands. We do not take that for granted. We realize there will come a day when we can’t. And we also realize that not all people age 50+ can take a trip like this. When I blog or write about travels, many Champs tell me they enjoy traveling with us vicariously by reading about the trips.

As has happened in many of our trips to foreign lands, it seems events occur beforehand that make us think twice about going. In 2004, we were going to Madrid to take a train from the Atocha Train Station to visit other cities in Spain. Ten days before we were to board the train, Spanish separatists bombed Atocha. I asked my newspaper readers if we should cancel.

The overwhelming response: if you cancel, you allow the terrorists to win. We went but traveled by car instead (should have traveled by train, driving in a foreign country is far more dangerous).

Three years ago, we were going to France. The terrorists killed many people in Nice on a boulevard where Greta and I had walked a couple of years before. Again, we decided to go.

Two years ago, same thing happened in Brussels, Belgium. A few days before we left the USA, terrorists attacked there. We were scheduled to be on a train from Dusseldorf to Paris, passing through and stopping in Brussels. Again, we decided to go. And we did ride the train through Brussels.

This year has been no different.

On February 19, a volcano erupted on Mt. Sinabung in Indonesia. And on July 30, a 6.4 earthquake jolted an island in Indonesia. Our ship stops at three different ports in Indonesia, which is prone to quakes as it lies on a 25,000 mile-long, quake-affected area called the Pacific Ring of Fire, where 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur.

Our itinerary includes eight stops in Japanese ports. Also, on July 30, typhoon Jonqdari hit Japan, thousands had to be evacuated. Then, on September 5, typhoon Jebi hit Western Japan, including Kobe, where the ship is scheduled to stop.

On September 7, a 7.8 earthquake struck Fiji, where our ship is scheduled to make two stops. Fiji is also on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

And then this also on September 7: another earthquake, 6.7, struck Japan, Hokkaido Island, triggering a massive rescue effort.

So yes, there are things to think about. But, now that the luggage is on its way to the ship, we’re not turning back.

We will be stopping at 33 ports and cities, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Cairns, Darwin, Sydney and even a place called Honolulu (on the return). Besides Japan and Indonesia, we will stop in Russia, China, Viet Nam, Australia, and many smaller countries. We had to get visas for four of those countries.

Greta and I usually go ashore and explore ports on our own. However, one ship’s tour we’ve signed up for is a day-trip to the Great Wall of China.

I will be writing about the trip in the three Southern California newspapers where my column appears. The newspapers’ General Manager, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, suggested the final article be on how to hang in there with your partner for 82 days, and still be walking down the gangway hand-in-hand when disembarking.

I will also be posting articles and photos as often as I can to my travel website: www.travelafter55.com. If you go to that site, the current post opens on the home page. On the right-hand column you can see Recent Articles and under that Archives. All the October and November trip articles are listed there. The itinerary will be posted there also.

I will have internet access on board. So, don’t hesitate to email me. It might take a little longer to respond, but I will. Hopefully, we will get some good On Life and Love After 50 news and stories from other passengers.

Wish us well. Your thoughts will help us complete our journey safely. It’s time to go.

Author: tpblake

Tom Blake is a newspaper columnist in south Orange County, California. He has published four books. His primary topic is finding love after 50 and beyond, sometimes far beyond, for people 80 and older as well. He also blogs about travel at TravelAfter55.com.

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