“Are we there yet?” After 40 minutes or so, and yet another “how close are we,” in the distance the mighty
Harmony of the Seas cruise ship came into view as we approached Port Canaveral. Up until a little over a year prior, Harmony of the Seas was the world’s largest cruise ship; it was indeed awe-inspiring and immediately captured LaKi’s attention. Perhaps the only thing LaKi likes more than getting in the water is being on the water on a cruise ship. The beach outing was a fun subterfuge; in reality we had decided to celebrate LaKi’s birthday with a cruise. She loves cruising; this was going to be the 5th cruise we have done with
LaKi in the last 4 years—most recently the previous Christmas on Anthem of the Seas, the culmination of The Joy of Cruising. A broad grin took over LaKi’s face as the ruse about the beach became clear; the grin did not disappear for the next eight days!
Harmony of the Seas was all we had hoped for and more. Besides the many highlights of Harmony, it was also our first visit to the newly imagined Royal Caribbean private island, Coco Cay. The private island had recently re-opened as Perfect Day at Coco Cay, a $250 million transformation of Royal Caribbean’s picturesque beach playground into a more kid-friendly space with a water park and hot air balloon rides adjacent to the beach, and theme park style eateries replacing the private island standard picnic style buffet. Oh, and
a newly constructed dock enabling cruise ships to anchor right at Coco Cay instead of requiring ship passengers to be transported to the island from the ship via a tender, a small boat only capable of moving a finite number of the ships passengers at a time and subject to safety issues related to the weather and getting on and off the tender.
Cheryl, LaKi and I had a wonderful time at Perfect Day at Coco Cay despite a fair amount of trepidation as to whether we would get to experience it at all. During breakfast prior to disembarking, a downpour started, and it did not appear our day at Coco Cay was going to be so perfect after all. When the Cruise Director came on the public address system and announced several additional on-ship activities, it brought to mind my dreaded experience on Anthem of the Seas just six months prior. (On Christmas morning on Anthem, right before we were due to stop at Coco Cay, the Captain announced it was too windy to tender and we had to skip the stop.) This time there was a happy ending: the weather cleared, sun came out, and Perfect Day at Coco Cay was wonderful. LaKi loved the water park and the Up, Up & Away balloon ride with me; it offered great views and a wonderful vantage point for photos. My wife and I enjoyed a shady spot to sip our Miami Vices while LaKi was on the waterslides, and we sampled the nearby wave pool.
The second cruise I booked post-The Joy of Cruising was also chosen directly as a result of writing the book. Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, or Indy, as it was affectionately known to Brits after it was launched and based in UK in 2008, had a significant role in The Joy of Cruising. A popular feature in The Joy of Cruising, was “The Godmother: Elizabeth Hill,” which was about the first non-royal, non-celebrity person in UK chosen to serve as a cruise ship Godmother, of then new UK-based, world’s largest ship Independence of the Seas. Known as Cruise Like A Godmother on social media, Elizabeth’s story of being plucked from relative obscurity as a leader of a charity working with children on a working farm, to be named the Godmother (she had never been on a cruise before!) of the at-the-time, world’s largest cruise ship, was like a modern-day fairy tale....
In The Joy of Cruising I included a photo of The Godmother standing next to her portrait which is permanently displayed on Indy. My plan was to take a photo of my grandkids next to the The Godmother’s portrait for inclusion in this book.
Yet another cruise chosen as a result of my of my involvement with The Joy of Cruising, was our first Mediterranean cruise, booked for NCL Epic November 2020. I asked each of the passionate cruisers profiled in The Joy of Cruising about their most memorable cruises as well as cruises they have on their “bucket list.” A number of destinations showed up repeatedly: Alaska, Panama Canal; Galapagos, and of course, the Mediterranean, and, several cited Barcelona, Spain as among their favorite ports. Speaking to seasoned cruisers from around the world led us to broaden our horizons instead of always cruising to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. So, the Mediterranean cruise is our first step in that direction and we looked for an itinerary that included Barcelona. For our 28th wedding anniversary we will be spending a few days in Barcelona, and then on November 1 cruising from Barcelona to France, then Italy, and then back to Barcelona. In 2021, Alaska here we come. You know, research!
Alas, our 2020 cruise plans fell victim to the pandemic. It was going to have to be More Joy of Cruising…deferred!
Read the rest of More Joy of Cruising in Cruising Interrupted, available now!
“What are some of your standout memories and experiences,” I ask.
“So many! Sitting in the jacuzzi on my balcony with a drink in hand watching the sea pass by and listening to music; swimming with stingrays and swimming with pigs in the Bahamas; cruising down the Nile on the MS Mayflower; crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica while cruising on the expedition ship Vavilov; watching the sea lions bathe their pups in the Galapagos; seeing the hanging coffins in the cliff faces as we drifted down the Yangtze on the Victoria Jenna–there are literally coffins from ancient times, cliffside cemeteries, very unique, very interesting. I’ve seen nothing like that elsewhere in the world. And the whole experience of filming the commercials...”
Sarah was featured in a series of destination excursions commercials to be shown on the ship’s television for a major cruise line. I asked Sarah to elaborate on what made the filming incredible.
“So as part of the process of filming, I got the opportunity to do every excursion available in the Eastern and Western Caribbean: from swimming with the stingrays in Grand Cayman, to bobsledding in Jamaica [4000-foot sled coaster ride down a mountain and through a rainforest], to snorkeling in Cozumel, to the Flying Dutchman in St. Maarten [the world’s steepest zip line, from the top of St. Maarten’s highest mountain.]”
All sounds wonderful but no thanks on the Flying Dutchman; loved looking at the mountains in St. Maarten but that’s where it ends for me! I was fascinated about the Jamaica Bobsled ride; I remember the famous Jamaican Olympic Bobsled team and the fun movie based on their story, “Cool Runnings.”
“It’s really fun; kind of feels like a wooden roller coaster, but you get to guide yourself and control your own speed. I did it three times and I thought it was so much fun.”
Prior to the pandemic, I interviewed Sarah about her near-term cruising plans. Notably, while still planning to see the world, Sarah emphasized she is focusing more on experiencing it via the seas. “Ideally, I’d love to reach my next seven countries via cruise, bringing me to 120 countries. I’m working on transitioning from overland travel to cruise travel, as I prefer the leisure and luxury of it all.”
Of course, the pandemic derailed those plans. It would take several pages to chronicle the travel opportunities—cruise and overland—that Sarah had to forgo due to the pandemic. Her plans to increase her focus on cruising in 2020, following her Top 10 Cruise Influencers of 2019 accolade was thwarted by Covid-19 and the suspension of cruising and will have to be deferred.
Her last trip before the pandemic was the kind of grand, sweeping, multi-country excursion that has characterized the growth of The Five Foot Traveler.
Unfortunately it ran into the realities of a global pandemic and winding down the trip and returning home became an adventure that just adds to The Five Foot Traveler lore. Sarah had been invited to tour the Arctic and parts of Sweden and Norway by a couple of tourism boards many months prior. Her flight took off March 2, a week-and-a-half before the global pandemic declaration.
“When I left for the Arctic there was this vague talk about a virus in China—supposedly it was like the flu. I wasn’t really stressing about it, but I always take some extra
precautions when anything is going around, and I actually had an N99 mask with me. I’m a germaphobe by nature, so I always travel with a mask, wipe down my airplane seat and tray table and things like that. So the trip itself really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me. For the first part of the trip my photographer and I weren’t paying much attention to the news and we were just having this unbelievably unreal experience in the Arctic. Then, my photographer, David Rocaberti, received a call from his family in Madrid and was told the virus was getting really bad there and that they had shut down schools; he has two girls. We were like ‘there’s nothing we can do and it will get under wraps soon.’ We weren’t stressing…yet. The next day we took a train into Norway and as soon as we got there the country was going on lock-down and we were going to be quarantined in a cabin in Norway that we had originally planned to stay in for just one night. So all of
sudden it went from a bad flu to being caught up in a global pandemic and things got really scary. My family is in the states and my brother is high risk and my dad had to go to work every day. My photographer’s family is in Madrid which was already an epicenter before New York was. We couldn’t figure out how to get home to our families; all the information we were receiving was contradictory.”
“So the cabin in Norway, did you have to rough it, or was it decent accommodations for you to spend this difficult time?” I asked.
“Oh my gosh it was stunning. It was like the greatest place I could ever possibly be quarantined,” Sarah laughed. “The views were amazing; we were isolated; under normal circumstances it would have been spectacular. Even still we’re incredibly grateful for where we ended up. We were in a big, luxurious cabin called Dyrøy Holiday in the middle of nowhere; we saw the Northern Lights dancing overhead. It was spectacular.The only issue was the changing news every day, so we didn’t know when we would be allowed out of the country. So, we weren’t able to appreciate the luxurious accommodations because we were glued to our phones keeping up with the rapidly evolving news......”
Read the rest of Sarah’s wonderful travel journey in Cruising Interrupted.
Writing is done!🍾🥂 30 passionate cruisers, over 100 photos, 90000 words, fascinating stories. Cruising Interrupted is in production and will be available soon. Ordering information will be provided shortly.
I asked Judi to talk about how she gravitated away from big mainstream cruise ships to her predilection for smaller vessels. “Somewhere along the line we discovered Pandaw Cruises. We went on a Pandaw Cruise in Myanmar. It was our first small-ship cruise—it had 16 people on it. And that’s when we absolutely fell in love with small vessels. We loved it. It sailed a short stretch of the Irrawaddy River between Mandalay and Bagan in Myanmar. We landed in Yangon, Myanmar, and then flew to where we were going to board the vessel. Our first sight of that boat, the Pandaw Kalaw—it was so simple, a two-deck river boat. And the crew, and an onboard guide who accompanied us on our adventures off the ship at each stop was so welcoming, so genuine, we knew that we were going to be looked after well. It was just wonderful how they ran everything. Two excursions a day; if you wanted to stay on the ship to relax and read you could, but if you wanted to leave you could get off the ship twice a day. The adventures that we shared were into the smallest remote villages along the Irrawaddy. It was such a memorable experience.”
So small ship cruising seemed to appeal to Judi right away. I asked her how soon after the Kalaw did she do another small vessel. “Immediately; we got off that and then we took our kids, as well as two of our friends on the exact same itinerary with Pandaw the following year. And then we went back with the kids only and we did Vietnam and Cambodia with Pandaw.” Judi’s first three small ship cruises, done in succession, were with Pandaw. A new passion was born. Judi has essentially done almost exclusively small ship cruising since, ranging from very small ships barely holding double digits of passengers, to the 100 passenger Akademik Sergey Vavilov, a former Russian scientific vessel converted to an expedition ship to Antarctica, and up to luxury ships like Crystal Serenity which holds about 1000 passengers. By the way, of Judi’s many small-ship cruising lasting memories is a less than wonderful one an otherwise wonderful cruise on the Vavilov, operated by One Ocean Expeditions. “I really enjoyed the Vavilov; the cruise was fabulous, everything was first-class; seeing Antarctica, spending time with the penguins, learning as much as we did was a tremendous opportunity. I will add probably one of the most memorable—maybe not in a good way—was crossing the Drake Passage. It was rough, it was crazy, and my husband gets seasick in a bathtub,” Judi laughs.
Yet Lawrence loves to cruise. “He loves to cruise. He knows there is a price to be paid, but he is prepared to do it. I asked him if he would be willing to go back to Antarctica and he said, ‘I’d go in a heartbeat.’ He considers crossing the Drake a rite of passage.” That actually wasn’t Judi’s first experience crossing Drake’s Passage. She had done so prior to becoming a small-ship cruising aficionado on a cruise on Celebrity Infinity. That cruise on the Infinity—wonderful as it was—as compared to Judi’s small ship experience starkly depicts the contrast between big ship versus small ship cruising. “It is very different whether you go on a small or big ship—no less beautiful, but different. Our first cruise to Antarctica was in 2013. It was a wonderful experience. Celebrity Infinity departed from Buenos Aires and took us down through Argentina, Venezuela, a stop in Ushuai, and then into Antarctica. But we were sitting on the deck on a big cruise ship. Because the Infinity was larger, we could not get off the ship and explore. We crossed the passage, we went into the Antarctic Circle, and we saw all of these other people on Zodiacs and small vessels, and then going to land and hiking. Lawrence and I looked at each other and both said, ‘We have to do that. We need to come back here and do that.’ We knew we wanted to come back and do it in a more adventurous and immersive style. So in four long years, we did.”
Read the entire chapter, Traveling Judi, Cruisers Just Like You and Me...Sort Of, Cruising Interrupted (Coming Soon
“…We packed up the dog and whatever we could load into the car and headed to Florida…and everything was perfect. I started blogging more. I had been blogging quite a bit up north, but just didn’t have the time to put into it. I had started doing things for Google. For Google+, I was an early adopter and a power user in Philadelphia, and they rewarded me by putting me on a follow list with Emeril Lagasse, Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain, Rachael Ray; so here were all these huge chefs, and me!”
At this point, Chef Dennis was not a travel blogger but rather a food blogger who travelled with a live show. That was about to change in a big way. I asked, “How did you become a travel blogger?”
“I’ve been called the accidental travel blogger. My career as a travel blogger began in 2017 when I was asked to apply for a stay at an oceanfront motel that was looking for bloggers. I was a food blogger not a travel blogger; nevertheless I applied, and they asked me to visit. I was picked, and was given a not-so-great room on the third floor; it was a little old, twin beds. However, they had just installed these nine foot floor-to-ceiling sliding glass balcony doors facing the ocean. So I just stood there overlooking the beach, looking out at the ocean. At that point I decided, I could be a travel blogger!”
“…The Viking cruise on the Forsetti was along the Danube. And when I say the Viking cruise was magical—the wonderful aspects of my first brand ambassadorship started even before the cruise. First off, I asked them what they wanted me to do. They said, have a good time! There was no expectation of social media posts—although I did posts anyway. We boarded and they told us we upgraded you to a suite, we hope you don’t mind! And we couldn’t pay for anything either; even all of our excursions were taken care of. The trip was amazing; we made some really good friends. The hotel manager would sit and chat with us, the cruise director was wonderful. We made a number of lasting friendships.”
So began Chef Dennis’ brand ambassadorship with Viking, as well as similar relationships with several other luxury cruises lines. He told me, “With that initial relationship where nothing was expected of me, that started a series of opportunities that have enabled me to cruise all over the world. After getting started with Viking, I went to work learning how to be a better travel blogger and how to become an asset to the brands I worked with.”
As a brand ambassador, Ask Chef Dennis has been fortunate to sail some exotic itineraries on incredible cruise ships. For Viking, Chef Dennis cruised Viking Danube Waltz river cruise June 2017; Viking Bordeaux Chateaux & Wines river cruise July 2018; on Viking Portugal River of Gold river cruise. On European Waterways, Chef Dennis went on a Northern Burgundy Barge Cruise on La Belle Époque in 2018.
In 2019 Chef Dennis continued his impressive foray into small ship luxury cruising with Crosi Europe, sailing a Barge Cruise on the Seine in August on the MS Deborah. In December Chef Dennis and Lisa brought in the New Year on a UnCruise Sea of Cortez on the Endeavour.
Read the full story of how Chef Dennis transitioned from chef, to food blogger, to travel blogger, to luxury cruise influencer, in Ask Chef Dennis, Cruisers Like You and Me…Sort Of, Cruising Interrupted (Christmas)
There is no one better to lead off this section, The Globetrotters, than @MrScottEddy, as he is known on social media where he is the world’s most popular travel personality. Scott epitomizes a Globetrotter. In fact, he is the star of the new Lifetime television series VideoGlobetrotter, which premiered May 2020.
Scott Eddy has taken somewhat of a circuitous route to arrive at his current designation as one of the top travel influencers in the world. A Forbes Magazine profile stated that Scott Eddy “is consistently rated as one of the top five luxury travel influencers in the world.” Yet, travel wasn’t even Scott’s first career, although he traveled quite a bit with his family in his youth. I asked Scott to take me back to the route he took that culminated in his current standing in the industry and his own television show.
Scott was born in Michigan. Scott’s father’s side of the family was American. His mother’s parents were from Lebanon, and then moved to Jamaica to be entrepreneurs, and Scott’s mom was raised in Jamaica. Scott’s father, who was in law enforcement, first raised the family in Michigan where he was a state trooper for 11 years, and then moved them to Florida where he was a Fort Lauderdale police officer for 11 years. So, growing up all of Scott’s travels were either to Michigan, or in the Caribbean to see his family on his mother’s side. Consequently, the Caribbean travel enabled Scott to do a fair amount of cruising as a child.
“Back in the old days when Carnival Celebration, SeaScape, and NCL were all leaving out of Fort Lauderdale, it was super easy to do cruising to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Mexico; those three or four days, sometimes we would do a week—it was very cost-effective travel for a family. It wasn’t a big family—my sister, parents and me—we weren’t a big family but costs add up and we weren’t wealthy; we only had one salary. My dad was a cop and my mom didn’t work. So affordable cruising was a good way to go.”
While certainly those experiences cruising beginning at about 10 years old perhaps laid the foundation for this globetrotter to see the world, they did not spark a motivation in Scott to pursue a travel career as he entered the work force. In fact, a travel career was nowhere on the horizon for Scott. The script for Scott’s life was that he was supposed to follow in his dad’s footsteps.
“My middle school and high school was familiarity with the police station. I went on ride-a-longs, learned to administer a polygraph exam when I was 12. I took my driver’s license test in a police car. I was destined to graduate from high school, enter the police academy, become a cop, and retire as one. That was the life plan. Three weeks before my graduation from high school, my father was killed in the line of duty. He was a detective, and was flying to Tallahassee to get a confession from a suspect who was already in jail. On the way back to Fort Lauderdale, there were some fires in the Everglades, a lot of smoke, and as the plane turned towards the commuter airport, it went down in a tailspin. Changed my life forever; went from having a perfect childhood, about to become a cop, to not knowing what I wanted to do but not wanting to be a cop anymore.”
On somewhat of a whim Scott moved overseas. He ended up living in Europe and Asia for the ensuing 17 years. Scott made the move with about as much forethought as he did when starting a career as a stockbroker. And, just as he learned sales as a stockbroker, a skill that would serve him well, the move abroad was a fateful one that introduced Scott to a new skill set that would change his life.
“My friend’s friend was an ex-pat living in Thailand. My friend said to me. ‘Bro you’re 29; you’ve never been to Europe, never been to Asia. What’s wrong with you?’ So, I bought a two-week ticket to Bangkok, and after four days I just could not imagine leaving there. The people were like the finest people in the world. I couldn’t imagine coming back to the US where everybody is so…entitled. I just…it really changed my life. I ended up living in Bangkok for 11 years. While living in Bangkok, I started one of the first digital travel and tourism marketing agencies in Southeast Asia, and it remained one of the biggest ones in the region for five years. After selling the agency and spending some time in Europe while building my personal brand, I now travel full-time, while building digital strategies, speaking at conferences, creating video packages and consulting for the world of luxury travel.”
Between Asia and then Europe after that, Scott lived abroad over 17 years. Today Scott lives—well, everywhere. I ask Scott, “where are you based?” Before he could answer, I said facetiously, “the world, right?” He told me, “That’s actually accurate! I technically don’t have a home. I rent a room from a friend to keep my clothes, but I literally travel full-time. And I love it this way. Most people they want a house. I just want to keep going; I love it. I think it is the greatest thing in the world. It’s fuel for me. I got rid of my things a long time ago. I own nothing…I don’t have a bed, couch, TV.”
I responded incredulously, “No television, and you are about to launch a television show?”
Read the rest of Scott’s story in Cruising Interrupted, Christmas 2020.
I imagine that for many cruisers, the notion of “living the life” on the ocean--being personally served virtually around the clock filet mignon, lobster, and chocolatecovered strawberries, drinking martinis, fine wine, and champagne, relaxing and luxuriating in suite accommodations with an unparalleled view of the ocean from your veranda on a six-star cruise line—is an occasional fantasy. A relatively small percentage of cruisers get to experience some aspects of this on their luxury cruises. That was Doris Vasconcellos-Bernstein and Doug Bernstein’s experience around the clock for 12 straight days. Sounds glorious, except Doris and Doug had no input to this real life fantasy except whether to order Lemongrass Beef Nam Tok Nua, or Lobster Thermidor, or Milk Fed Veal Escalope. And, it took place at a time that outside of Doris and Doug’s suite on Silversea Cruises Silver Shadow—from which they could not leave—the world was grappling with a raging pandemic.
.......We came back to the ship to have lunch. Before we left the cabin to go to a restaurant, the Captain made an announcement over the PA system: someone had been taken off the ship sick and they had to follow some international protocols and asked us to stay for the moment in our cabins.”
That “for the moment” became 12 days. It became obvious that the “moment” was going to turn into something longer when shortly thereafter Silver Shadow Captain Gennaro Arma directed all guests to immediately return to their room and not leave. Doris and Doug never again saw any part of the Silver Shadow beyond their cabin until they were led off to be flown home. At that point, little did the guests
realize that not only were they confined to their cabins, but that the Silver Shadow would not be departing Recife that night en route to their next destination of Fortaleza, Brazil. Pending test results for the passenger who was taken off the ship with a cough, fever, and respiratory symptoms, Silver Shadow was held at Recife
Port. Port management even prohibited discharge of Silver Shadow’s garbage. Furthermore, the pier that the ship was docked on was ordered isolated.
Two days later, Royal Caribbean, Silversea Cruises parent company, released a statement to the media: "Two guests aboard the Silver Shadow have been medically disembarked in Recife, Brazil, and one has tested positive for COVID-19." The 79-year-old man who tested positive died a couple of weeks later in a
Brazil hospital. The second person removed tested negative.
It was not clear to the Silver Shadow guests when Captain Arma made his directive, of the extent to which the Brazilian authorities had exerted control over the situation. At the time, Brazil had reported 37 cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths since the outbreak began. It would become a lot clearer in the ensuing
couple of days.....
Read the full story of Trapped In Paradise in Cruising Interrupted, Christmas 2020