“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.