Senior Dating Does Age Matter? And, Ghosts on a ghost ship

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  April 17, 2020

Senior Dating Does Age Matter – See Part 2 below

Columnist Tom Blake

Part One

“It’s like we are ghosts on a ghost ship.”
It could have been us.

The words, “It’s like we are ghosts on a ghost ship” caught the attention of Champs Ron, and his wife, Lee, this past Tuesday, in an online article on, about two ships dealing with the COVID-19 virus.

The reason Ron and Lee took an interest in the article was that they, and Greta, and I , were discussing the current situation in the cruise-ship industry, including the ordeal of those same two ships, during Happy Hour last Saturday afternoon.

“Happy Hour?
Last Saturday?
Four People Together?”

How could that be?

In California, where the four of us live, bars and restaurants are closed, except for take out, and people are supposed to be staying home.

Yes, the discussion took place during Happy Hour, where the two couples were telephone face-timing each other from their respective homes.

Three days later, on Tuesday, Ron and Lee read the online Bloomberg news article in which, Claudia Osiani, 64, of Mar del Plata, Argentina, in a phone interview from her cabin on the Holland America cruise ship, ms Rotterdam, was quoted: “It’s like we are ghosts on a ghost ship. We just want to go home.”

During Happy Hour, I had mentioned the sorry plight of the ms Rotterdam and ms Zaandam. In the same breath, I said how fortunate Greta and I were to not be on one of those two ships. Why in particular those two ships?

Well, Greta and I love to travel. More specifically, we love to travel on cruise ships. Our adopted cruise ship company is the Holland America Line (HAL). All the cruises we have taken have been on HAL vessels, except one Viking river cruise and one short Princess ocean cruise.

On HAL, we are what’s called 4-star mariners, which means we’ve logged a lot of sea days (245) on multiple HAL ocean cruises.

When you spend an extended time on a cruise ship, you start to feel the ship is your friend. You trust it. You trust the captain and the crew. When a cruise ends, and you say good-bye to the crew, there’s a tug on your heart because they’ve become your friends, and you realize you probably won’t see them again.

The ship in the HAL fleet that feels most like home to us is the ms Rotterdam. In 2010, we rode her from San Diego to Lima, Peru, and back for 30 days, stopping in several ports along the way.

In 2013, we boarded the Rotterdam again, this time for 32 days, cruising from Amsterdam to the Canary Islands, back to Amsterdam, and then to Russia, Estonia and Sweden.

    ms Rotterdam visiting Lerwick, Sheltland Islands 2019  photo by Tom

Our third trip on the Rotterdam was last August, from Amsterdam to Iceland, Greenland and Scotland for 22 days. One of our Champs, Marilou, and a friend of hers, Pat, were, by coincidence, on that cruise.

                        Champ Marilou, Tom, Pat, and Greta       photo by Tom

Other HAL ships we’ve taken include the ms Zaandam in 2017, for 34 days, from San Diego, around South America to Rio.

 ms Zaandam in Ushuaia, Argentina in 2017 – southernmost city in world   photo by Tom

In 2018, we were on the ms Amsterdam, the Rotterdam’s sister ship, for 82 days, traveling from Los Angeles throughout the Far East and back. We visited 34 ports, three of which were in China, including a visit to the Great Wall of China. We traveled on trains and buses in Shanghai, mingling with hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese citizens. We stayed healthy on that trip.

As the COVID-19 crisis started to evolve, Greta and I watched closely what was happening with cruise ships. We visualized passengers being quarantined to 392-square feet staterooms, some with no windows. Ships in all parts of the world were being affected.

We were saddened to hear that the Zaandam was not allowed to stop in a port in Chile because a virus had infected passengers. Four died. Some of the sick, not all, had COVID-19.

The Zaandam made its way to the Panama Canal but wasn’t allowed to transit through to get back to Florida—too many sick passengers on board.

And then, our old pal, the Rotterdam was sent to assist the Zaandam off the Panamanian coast. Oh my gosh, there they were—two Holland America ships that had been home to us for a combined total of 118 days—caught in the heart of the virus outbreak.

When we saw pictures on the news of those two ships stranded together, we looked at each other, saying, “It could have been us.”

Thankfully, the Zaandam and Rotterdam were finally allowed to traverse the Panama Canal, and, received permission to dock in Port Everglades, Florida.

Greta and I have always been impressed with how careful HAL has been with sanitation. Hand sanitizers placed throughout the ship. Constant reminders to wash hands. Staying in your stateroom if sick. Spraying passengers’ hands when leaving and returning to the gangplank. They are perfectionists for health; we always appreciated the crew going that extra mile.

Travel agents have been crushed by COVID-19. Airline travel down 96 percent. Hotels 80 percent empty. Cruising on hold. When things get back to normal, give them a call. They will be anxious to return to work, as the rest of the world will be.

Greta and I will be traveling again someday, and we’ll be cruising. We hope all of you will give your travel agents the green light to book you on a trip—maybe even a cruise. Trust me, the cruise ship companies will ensure those sea-going beauties will be sanitized from bow to stern and back again.

Here is the article link about the ms Rotterdam and ms Zaandam ordeal to which Ron and Lee alerted us:

Part 2 –  Tom has created a  new ebook

With so much spare time over the last few weeks, I got busy creating a new ebook, titled, “Senior Dating: Does Age Matter?”  That book is now on the website, the largest ebook bookstore in the world. It’s all about age and the age difference in senior dating. One chapter features women and what they have to say about age in dating.

Some Champs are quoted in the book.

Another chapter is titled “Cougars.” And another features what men say. Yes, it’s a hot-potato book with controversy. The cost is $2.99. But, I’ve created a 50-percent-off coupon for Champs which will be available for a week. The coupon code is: SC87U

To download the book, click on this link:. . You will see the new ebook cover on the top row. Click on it and click on purchase. Enter in the coupon code box this code SC87U. Your net cost will be $1.50.

The couple on the left: Champs Chris and Tina and Tom and Greta on the right

After you read it, I would appreciate your comments.

Reykjavik and Scotland September 2019

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter  –  September 6, 2019

by Columnist Tom Blake

The last eNewsletter (from Europe that is)

Today’s column is the final eNewsletter! (That is, the final article about our trip to Ireland, Iceland, Greenland and Scotland).

Last weekend, the Holland America Line Ms Rotterdam docked in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Unlike the other ports we visited, which were sparsely populated, Reykjavik has a population of 125,000 in the city, and twice that amount when the surrounding suburbs are included.

But, in Reykjavik, Greta wanted to get out of the city. She had one special request on this trip: to visit the famous Blue Lagoon, about 35 miles out in the fields of volcanic rock. One requirement: bring your swimsuit.

The Blue Lagoon is the largest outdoor mineral bath in Iceland. People come from all over the world to bathe there because of its healing powers, particularly for ailments of the skin.

Before entering the large lagoon, people are required to shower. Then, they wander down to the 95-degree, give or take seven degrees, milky waters (color caused by minerals) and, contrary to some beliefs that swimsuits are optional, swimsuits are required. After all, there are children enjoying the lagoon as well.

  The Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, Iceland

Most popular attraction in the lagoon: the swim-up, walk-up bar. I enjoyed a frosty Gull beer, an Icelandic brew. Two hours and 15 minutes later, we were on the bus and heading back to the city.

On the second day in Reykjavik, as we often do in overseas cities, we rode a Hop On Hop Off bus to visit the major attractions in the city. We got off the bus to enjoy the Opera House, which is almost as unique and attractive as the Sydney, Australia Opera House. The arts are very important in Reykjavik.

Opera House Ceiling from inside–strange photo I know but wanted to give you an idea

The last land we visited on the trip was Scotland, making three stops. The first port was Lerwick, a pleasant little town in the Shetland Islands, best known for the Shetland ponies. We didn’t see any horses as we just went ashore and walked around.

Turns out that Lerwick was one of the most enjoyable shore visits of our cruise. Cute shops, quaint homes with well-manicured lawns and gardens and friendly people. Like this man doing some maintenance on his 100-year-old boat.

    100-year-old boat

We did a little pre-Christmas shopping there.

The Wine Shop in Lerwick

Street sign in Lerwick made us chuckle:

Stop number two in Scotland was in Invergordon, a small city, and Inverness, a larger city. Took a bus tour to Inverness but ended up enjoying the quaintness of Invergordon more. On the bus one sees endless fields of malt and barley, which is where the famous Scotch whiskeys come from.

The Invergordon local church has one of the tallest steeples we’d ever seen.

We did not go to Loch Ness, where Nessie the lake monster is rumored to hang out but in Inverness did see a man fly fishing for salmon in the River Ness.

Invergordon has about a dozen murals painted on buildings around the city. It has a mural walk Invergordon. Greta joined in on a tug of war on this mural.

Look closely at tug of war to see who is pulling

Just prior to the ship departing the pier, a bagpipe band played for ships’ passengers songs such as My Bonnie Lassie and Amazing Grace. Here they are on the pier. In the next few weeks, after when we get home, I will post a video movie of the trip, including these bag pipe players.

8-piece bag pipe band playing for passengers and it was cold outside

Port number three in Scotland was Edinburgh. The ship docked at South Queensferry. We took a bus tour from there to Edinburgh. What a bustling, happening city Edinburgh is. More pubs than we could believe. The famous Edinburgh Castle stands visibly above the city. Impressive city but busy and congested as can be.

Edinburgh also is known for famous authors who were born or lived there. Among them: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and J.K. Rowling. There are many statues and residences where the authors lived in Edinburgh.

  Lots of writers in Edinburgh at the Newsroom Bar

While waiting to board a tender boat to return to the ship, one of the volunteer greeters from South Queensferry, upon seeing my University of Michigan block M on my shirt, approached me, dressed in his kilt, and said, “I’m Paul, a Purdue University Boilermaker.” He had played football at Purdue and now was coaching sports in nearby Edinburgh. We had a good chat. He grew up near the Bronx.

 Paul from Purdue with Tom from Michigan

On board ship, Greta and I chose “open seating,” which means the dining room steward seats you with different people each night. Now, Greta and I thought we had taken quite a few cruises in our 21 years together. Perhaps about 15.

One night we were seated with a nice couple about our age, David and Judy Egerton, from Victoria, British Columbia.  We got along nicely with them, as Judy is an author and David illustrates her books. We asked them if they do much cruising. Are you ready for this? By the end of this year, they will have logged 92 cruises, making our 15 cruises seem like a paltry sum.

In next week’s eNewsletter, we get back to the business of dating and finding love for the older set. We didn’t see any romances form on the ship, although perhaps behind closed doors some materialized.

Thanks for your comments about my cruise articles. Glad so many of you enjoyed them. Keep the questions and comments coming.

A woman Champ deals with life after divorce

     On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter –  February 22, 2019

By Tom P Blake

How a woman Champ deals with life after divorce–loving her Florida life

This week I heard from Lisa, who has been an e-Newsletter Champ for 15-plus years.

Lisa emailed, “Just read your latest e-Newsletter–In Search of That Special Someone. I’m still happy, healthy, and single (after three divorces – despite my happy ending story in your How 50 Couples Found Love after 50.)”

Note from Tom: When I hear from any of the 58 couples who were included in that 2009 book, I ask them for an update on what has happened to their relationship. The reason: the information they provide could become the basis for a follow-up study that would reveal why certain relationships last and others don’t.

And for the relationships that didn’t last, I’d like to know what the people are doing with their lives, and how the loss of the relationship has affected them.

That being said, with the book published 10 years ago, I realize that some relationships ended because of the death of one or both of the partners. I don’t want to make the surviving partner feel bad, but I do care very much how they have coped. So, I asked Lisa, if she’d relate to Champs, what happened to end the marriage, and how’s she’s doing.

Lisa said, “I’m an open book. Here’s the story. Also, I am including at the end of my story a link to an ‘online dating’ article that Champs might find useful.

“I was divorced a year after your book was published. Sadly, he couldn’t keep a job, or, simply didn’t want to work. It placed a lot of pressure on me. I was stressed and miserable. Not to suggest that there weren’t good times early in the relationship!

“He was the one who filed for divorce though. I was served with divorce papers out of the blue one snowy January 9 evening in 2010. Divorced now since September 2010.

“We married in May, 2005, so it was a pretty short marriage. Reportedly, he married me because he loved me, although the divorce was never discussed. It was so odd. Terrible communication to say the least!

“He married again not long after, and not surprisingly, has been claiming ‘happily retired’ ever since. He is six years my junior. His new/3rd wife is 4-5 years older than I. He and I have not stayed in touch.

“I did 18 months of counseling to try to understand my three failed marriages, and, have remained single.

“I had a boyfriend for a couple of years, someone I met on while we were both in Michigan. He moved back to Alaska. We are still friends with fond memories, and likely no future.

“I focused on finishing up my career, took an early retirement, sold my Michigan home, and moved to Naples, Florida, to get out of the cold. Became certified as a yoga instructor (although enjoy the practice more that the teaching.)

“I am taking a break from the online dating game for now and just living my life, doing things I love, and being the fittest, healthiest best me that I can! Still get ‘a lot of turns at bat’ so to speak, and no complaints or regrets!

“Blessed to be able to be fitness-focused in my daily life, and, take an occasional trip. I also do volunteer work. Loving my Florida life!

“Here’s the link to a great article that mentions so many dating sites I’ve never heard of. It’s also filled with a few true confessions. Couldn’t help feeling it’s share-worthy with our Champs! (It also gives me an upgraded opinion of the Oprah Magazine! Apparently ‘Mature Dating is a regularly published topic there:”

I checked out the article—entertaining and informative.

                            Possible future e-Newsletter topic

In pondering Lisa’s story and her 18 months of counseling to try to understand her three failed marriages. It led me to think, when dating and meeting new people, do multiple marriages on either person’s part matter? Would that be a deal breaker? Red flag? Non-issue? I think that could make for an interesting future e-Newsletter. What do you Champs think? Opinions one way or the other?

Another marriage for Neptune. Should that matter to bride dressed in green?

Senior Travel: 82-day cruise summary

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – December 21, 2018

by Tom P Blake

Senior Travel: 82-day cruise summary

Today’s eNewsletter is short. I want to wish you all Happy Holidays: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

This morning at 7 a.m., the Holland America Line ship ms Amsterdam docks in San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles. After 82 days cruising through Asia and the Pacific, it’s time to disembark and go home.

My partner Greta and I feel blessed to have been able to take this trip and are grateful to be home safely.

Thanks for your comments regarding the trip. If you’d like to read and see more photos than what have been posted here in the newsletters, I’ve written about every port we’ve been to on

Our last two ports were Honolulu, Hawaii, and Lahaina Maui. Below is a short recap of our visit there.

Going forward, the newsletter will once again address dating and relationship issues for people 50-90. Please email me your comments, questions and observations.

Part 2 – Honolulu and Lahaina December 14 – 15 2018

Hawaii was the final stop of the cruise. On day one there, the ship docked at a pier near the Aloha Tower in the port of Honolulu. About 100 yards from the ship, there was a bus stop for local buses.

 Aloha Tower in distance at Honolulu port

For $2, a passenger can purchase an all-day pass, which is what Greta and I did.

Our first destination was the Ala Moana Shopping Center, which must be the largest shopping mall in the world. Shopping at a mall was not how we wanted to spend our day in Honolulu, but I felt I could find a replacement wrist band for my Fitbit, which had become detached a month prior from the Fitbit itself.

We tried the Target Store first, and then Macy’s. Both stores sell Fitbits, but replacement bands are too small of a purchase for them to carry in-store; they told us to order them online. That was it for shopping in Honolulu.

We boarded another bus and headed for Waikiki Beach. Our destination was to have lunch on the beach at Duke’s Honolulu restaurant located in the Outrigger Hotel. At 11:30 a.m., the restaurant was packed.

 Duke’s Honolulu sign when entering the restaurant from the beach

After lunch there, we strolled around Waikiki, enjoying the perfect weather. We saw the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, considered to be the father of surfing. Duke passed away in 1968.

Waikiki – statue of Duke Kahanamoku, father of surfing

Waikiki from Duke’s Honolulu restaurant

Hawaii on a beautiful day

A while later, we boarded another bus and enjoyed sightseeing in the downtown area. We saw a lot of Honolulu, while riding around with the locals. It was a perfect way for us to spend our day in Honolulu. We saw some sites we had not seen before on previous visits to Hawaii. By day’s end, the Fitbit—not on my wrist but in my pocket—registered 15,000 steps.

Day 2 in Hawaii – Lahaina, Maui

When visiting Lahaina, cruise ships must anchor a mile or so out in the ocean. Tender boats take passengers from the ship and back to the ship. Seas were pretty choppy that day, and our tender boat was delayed out in the water for at least a half hour, tossing and turning. Finally, we disembarked in the center of the quaint and beautiful city of Lahaina.

The first stop ashore: the Maui Tourist Office, which is just across the street from the Pioneer Inn and adjacent to the largest Banyan tree in the world. The tree was planted in 1873. The Tourist office welcomes visitors with a fresh bowl on yummy Hawaiian pineapple.

Pineapple at the Tourist Information Office

Largest Banyan tree in the world on the town square in Laihaina Maui

Greta and I opted to take a local bus, #28, from the Lahaina Cinema Complex, which serves as the bus station, to Napili Shores, where we had stayed years before with Ted and Mary Kay Bowersox who live in San Juan Capistrano. The cost: $4 per person for the entire day.

Our destination? Of course! Another restaurant with which we were familiar. The Gazebo restaurant, located on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It’s a classic in Napili Bay. Fortunately, for us, we arrived there at 1:40 p.m., 20 minutes before they stopped serving (it’s more of a breakfast hangout but does serve some lunch items). Our food server told us she had seen the ship pass by at 7 a.m. in the morning a mile or so off shore.

Gazebo Restaurant in Napili Shores in Maui

A while later, we enjoyed the hour-long bus ride back along the coast, and returned to the pier in Lahaina. The seas were bumpy and the ride back to the ship was a rocking and rolling one.

When Greta was stepping off the tender unto the ship’s platform, the tender crashed hard against the platform and then moved away from the platform. The gap was too wide to step across. I heard other passengers watching her gasp and shout. However, the ship’s crew members had a good hold on her, thank heavens, and she crossed over to the platform safely. For me, seeing that happen to her, was the scariest moment of our 82-day trip, and gratefully, she was OK.

Our short visit to Hawaii was blessed with beautiful sunshine. Local buses are the way to travel around the islands of Oahu and Maui.

And now, after five sea days of crossing the Pacific from Hawaii, we are back in Southern California. Hurrah!

Here is Greta with some of the luggage waiting for our Lyft driver to take us home to Dana Point from the San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles:

Greta at San Pedro after getting off the ship
Greta is happy to be home after 82 days of cruising

Senior cruising: people you meet on board

On Life and Love after 50 e-Newsletter October 12, 2018

Senior Cruising: People you meet on board

by Columnist Tom Blake

My partner Greta and I are on day 13 of an 82-day Grand Asia & Pacific cruise. There are approximately 855 passengers and a crew of 700 the ms Amsterdam, a Holland America Line ship.

I estimate that 70 percent of the passengers are age 60+. Most are retired, some are married or traveling with a significant other. Many are single but traveling with a friend. During the first two weeks, we’ve met many interesting people.

If you ask passengers what they enjoy most about cruising, many will tell you it’s the ports they visit. Our first two ports were Dutch Harbor, Alaska and Petropavlovsk, Russia; there are 30 more to go.

Other passengers will say it’s the amenities: you don’t have to prepare meals, or take the dirty dishes to the sink, or even make your bed, those things are all done for you on a cruise.

But some passengers–Greta and I included–consider a cruise’s highlight to be the people you meet on board.

Greta and I prefer what’s called open-seating at dinner. You dine with different people most every night. You have time to talk to them over dinner and get to learn a bit about them.

Almost always, the first question when meeting new people: “Where are you from?”

The first couple we met were from San Antonio, Texas. They boarded the ship in Seattle, before it came to Los Angeles.

At dinner the second night, we dined with a California couple who live in Camarillo, California, but own onion farms in the vast Central Valley north of Los Angeles. They explained how hard it is to make a living at farming because of the lack of irrigation water coming from the California Delta area.

The man said, “The situation could be fixed by the authorities simply turning the pumps back on.”
A woman named Elena, originally from Romania, now residing in Canada, also was at our table. She explained that her husband was too busy to travel so she was a married woman traveling alone.

On the third day, we met eight new people, four at a small gathering in one of the ship’s lounges: a woman from Dallas, another woman named Barbara from New Orleans, and a married couple from Colorado.

The other four we met at dinner. Two of them said they were traveling together. I guess you could consider them to be a LAT relationship (living apart together) couple.

The man, Clyde, from Gulfport, Mississippi, had worked with Corrine’s husband before the husband had passed away. Corrine lives in Washington, D.C.

At the same table, there was another couple from Mississippi, who had driven four days to Los Angeles to save on airfare. However, they had parked their car for 82 nights in a nearby lot, which cost them $750.00. Plus, they stayed in hotels going to the ship and returning home. Flying might have been cheaper.

A couple of days later, we met another couple living in a LAT relationship. Frank, a former Department of Defense employee, who resides in Macon, Georgia, and Linda, who lives in Victoria, British Columbia. They met by coincidence on a previous cruise. He had purchased a vacation condo in Florida. His realtor had a client who wanted a winter, “snow bird” rental. Frank rented it, came on the cruise, and met Linda.
He was a character with multiple entertaining stories about his top-secret DOD life.

The other two at the table were women in their late 70s who met on a cruise eight years before. One was from Vienna, Austria, and her friend was from Florida. They said they enjoy traveling together.

Greta met a woman named Gillian at a seminar who said she was originally from Liverpool, England. Greta said, “Oh, did you grow up watching the Beatles?”

Gillian said, “No. I’m only 60; the Beatles were before my time.”

Later, I sat next to Gillian and her husband Jim while watching an NFL game on TV in the sports bar. Gillian was wearing a Green Bay Packers jersey.

I said, “Green Bay fan, eh Gillian?”

“Of course,” she said, “We are cheese heads; we live in Wisconsin.”

One morning at breakfast I saw a guy who looked so much like Johnny Cash I about fell over. I worked with and knew Johnny well in the 1970s. The next time I saw him, I introduced myself and told him how much he resembled Johnny. He said his name was Alex and he was honored and suggested we get together for dinner with he and his wife. He grew up in England and his wife in Germany and now they live near Vancouver, British Columbia.

Turns out, Alex and Kirsten were dance instructors on the ship.

Johnny Cash look a like
Alex (Johnny Cash look-a-like)  & Kirsten and Tom and Greta in the dining room of ms Amsterdam

Here is a picture of me, my sister Pam, and Johnny Cash in 1993. Doesn’t Alex look like him? Same height, same facial structure, and same smile.

Johnny Cash with Tom and Tom's sister Pam Peters in 1993
Tom, Johnny Cash, and Tom’s sister, Pam Peters, in 1993.Photo taken in 1993 at Humphrey’s By The Sea in San Diego

Another night, we had dinner with an intriguing couple. The man was 6’ 2” and his wife was 5’ 1”. He was also from a small town in Germany and she was originally from South America. They met while working for the same high-tech company. They now live in Carson City, Nevada.

The other couple eating with us that night were Diane and John from South Carolina, near Charlotte, North Carolina. They are retired and said they’ve taken several world cruises.

A couple of mornings ago at breakfast, a guy wearing a bright red tee-shirt with “Alabama Football” emblazoned across the front asked if he could sit at the table where I was having coffee.

I said, “Of course, but it’s about that tee-shirt you’re wearing.” He laughed and asked who I followed in college football.

“I’m a Wolverine,” I said. He laughed and said, “Poor guy, Michigan just can’t win the big games.” We exchanged friendly football barbs.

At a table near us, we both heard I guy mention Alabama. The guy at my table tapped the other guy on the shoulder and pointed to his tee-shirt.

“Roll Tide,” the other guy said, which is what all proud followers of Alabama football say.

Barbara, the woman from Louisiana we had met at the small cocktail party a few days earlier, sat down at our table next to the swimming pool. She said her son had studied computer programming at LSU and worked for Twitter in Silicon Valley. He had previously worked at Google.

She said she was dumbfounded that her son and his wife had just purchased a fixer-upper home in Mountain View, California, south of San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, for $1.8 million.

She told them they could buy a home in Louisiana for $80,000. “But, it’s an investment, Grandma,” he said. (My partner Greta could relate; he grandson Andre and his wife Lindsay just purchased their first house in Los Angeles for about $1.3 million.

And finally, yesterday at breakfast, we sat with two women who said they were recently widowed. The have known each since they were age 14 and enjoy taking trips together. They are from Norway. One of the women said her son is the President of Holland America Line.

I said, “Wow, I bet you have a nice stateroom.” She laughed and said, “Well, it is on the seventh deck.” (the deck with all of the luxury suites.)

So, you can understand why Greta and I enjoy meeting the other passengers on board the ship. Everybody has a story to tell. And it always amazes us the diversity of areas from which the people come.

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: 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.