Back in the late 70’s through the mid 80’s, my sister and I were always in the same place on Saturday nights: in front of the television, watching “The Love Boat”.
The weekly adventures of Captain Merrill Stubing (Your Ship’s Captain), Julie McCoy (Your Cruise Director), Issac Washington (Your Bartender), Doc Brinker (Your Ship’s Doctor), Gopher Smith (Your Yeoman Purser), and the parade of special guest stars that appeared each week (like Charo, Meredith Baxter Birney, Florence Henderson, Sonny Bono, and so many others) kept us glued to our seats from the intro song–which, at nearly two minutes, was clearly created in the days when the powers-that-be weren’t concerned about keeping it short so they could sell two extra advertisements to sponsors–until all three storylines had been tied up in a neat little bow, coincidentally just as the ship’s passengers debarked the ship, heading back to life on shore.
The show, no doubt, did wonders for the cruise industry. I know that it instilled in me a deep desire to go on a cruise somewhere, ANYWHERE. I couldn’t have been the only one.
In my imagination, I sailed to exotic locales as a Cruise Director, perhaps starting out assisting Julie herself (my favorite character, even when I learned that, off camera, the actress who played her was struggling with very serious personal demons that eventually resulted in her leaving the show). When Jill Whelan joined the cast as Vicki Stubing (The Captain’s Daughter) and started showing up to work in her little uniform, standing next to Julie in the very spot I coveted, I was slightly annoyed but ended up living vicariously through her. I had lots in common with Vicki anyway. Being a hotel manager’s daughter, I knew what it was like to waltz around my Dad’s place of business, interacting with the staff and acting like I owned the place. She was like the television version of me.
The show was still being broadcast when I was in high school, and when I got my driver’s license I used to collect cruise brochures from travel agencies, as if I could actually afford the trips and get permission from my parents to set sail alone (or with a friend).
When Jim and I were married, he was in the Navy. I used to ask him if he’d want to go on a cruise someday, and he’d emphatically respond in the negative. He was a Machinist’s Mate, after all, and worked in the engine room of a destroyer first and then an aircraft carrier. He was already cruising. He had no interest in doing MORE cruising.
“But,” I’d say, “you don’t have to WORK on a vacation cruise!”
Of course, budget got in the way, too.
Over time, I stopped thinking about going on a cruise, figuring it just wasn’t in the cards.
You can imagine my surprise, as we were trying to make some special vacation plans to celebrate our 25th anniversary, when Jim suggested that we take a cruise. I can’t express in words how exciting it was when he said it.
And so we went, on a four-day cruise that originated at the Port of Miami and made stops in Key West and Cozumel, two excellent destinations when you are running away from Chicago for a few days in January (even though this year, January has been spring-like!). The ship was unbelievably massive. It was like a small town, carrying around 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members. There was a comedy club, a piano bar, a disco, a sports bar, a coffee shop, a spa, a gym, shops, a theater, and so much more. Don’t even get me started on the restaurants.
When the ship was departing the port, I was all smiles. I told Jim that I hoped we would have confetti to throw and balloons to release, just like the passengers of “The Love Boat” did in the 70s. I forgot that we live in a more environmentally-conscious (and untelevised) world. There was no pomp and circumstance when it came to setting sail, other than the palpable excitement in the air.
When we were required to meet at our muster station so the crew could go over emergency policies, my mind briefly switched from Julie McCoy and company to Jack, Rose, and the story of the Titanic (which sank 100 years ago this April). BRIEFLY.
The cruise was fantastic. In fact, I was told before leaving to “be careful…cruising can be addictive.” I’m here to tell you that’s true. I’m already thinking about where we’ll go next. Better yet, so is Jim.
My next post will go over some newbie cruising tips, including how to book a trip so inexpensively that it makes a frugal person like me really, really happy. In the meantime, here are some pictures!