Ten Top Cruises
A number of our travel adventures have taken place on the rivers, seas and oceans of the world. Generally passing up luxury cruise ships in favor of more adventurous cruise experiences, we’ve set sail on ships ranging in size from a 40 foot yacht in the Caribbean Sea to a 40,000 ton aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean:
1. Exploring the Amazon. (Amazon River, M/S Rio Amazonas). Churning our way along the world’s largest river on a 100 year old riverboat, we cruised along the banks of the world’s largest jungle rainforest, stopping along the way to visit native villages where we encountered tribal peoples only recently exposed to civilization. With only five passengers on this converted cargo ship, we felt like were King and Queen of the Amazon for a week.
2. Greek Island Odyssey. (Aegean Sea, Arianna). Along with seven other couples, we chartered two, sixty foot yachts for a two week sailing adventure in the Greek Islands. A typical day started with a leisurely breakfast at a local pastry shop, under sail by ten, a swim and lunch in some protected harbor in early afternoon, into port by four, sightseeing and shopping until happy hour followed by an outdoor dinner at a local taverna at eight or nine. We dropped anchor at a total of eleven islands in our two week odyssey, each with a unique charm of its own. Our favorite port-of-call was the historic volcanic island of Santorini.
3. Voyage to the Bottom of the Earth. (Antarctic Ocean, M/S Explorer). Our seventeen day ocean voyage took us from the southernmost tip of South America to Antarctica to South Georgia Island to the Falkland Islands through some of the most inhospitable yet spectacular waters in the world teeming with frolicking penguins, soaring sea birds, monster whales and gigantic icebergs. It was a thrill to eventually set foot on our seventh continent, Antarctica.
4. Ocean Liner Crossing. (Atlantic Ocean, SS Raffaello). Returning to the United States following an overseas work assignment in Italy, our family crossed the Atlantic on one of the flagships of the Italian ocean liner fleet, the luxury steamship Raffaello. An hour after leaving the port of Genoa for our six day, trans-Atlantic voyage, the ship sailed slowly past the tiny fishing village of Spotorno, our Italian home for the previous two years. It was an emotional farewell as we waved goodbye to our little home on the Riviera.
5. Paddle Wheeling on the Mississippi. (Mississippi River, Delta Queen). Our trip down the Mississippi on the 80 year old Delta Queen riverboat was a nostalgic trip back in time to an era in which these elegant sternwheelers plied the country’s heartland. It was a glimpse into Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, when the cry of ‘Steamboat a Comin’ brought the townsfolk down to the levies to watch these magnificent riverboats pass by. A highlight for me was the chance to play a steam-calliope on the open deck to entertain onlookers on shore as the Delta Queen churned slowly past.
6. The Big Ditch. (Panama Canal, M/V Pacific Explorer). The final leg of our two-week cruise along the Pacific coastline of Costa Rica and Panama was a seven hour, fifty mile transit through the Panama Canal. Opened in 1914, the historic canal was one of the greatest engineering achievements of the first half of the twentieth century. Amazingly much of the canal remains exactly the same as it was when it was completed - a tribute to those who carried out this vast, unprecedented project almost one hundred years ago.
7. Windjammer Barefoot Cruise. (Bahaman Islands, S/V Polynesia). Our first sailing adventure was a week long cruise on a three-masted schooner in the Bahamas where we had a chance to take the helm and man the sails alongside the ship’s barefooted crew. When the ship was not under sail in the blue Atlantic waters, it dropped anchor at sandy, deserted islands for beach parties, steel band music, snorkeling, swimming and sunning.
8. Yangtze Cruise. (Yangtze River, M/V Victoria III). Our five day, seven hundred mile cruise took us down the Yangtze River from Chunking to Wuhan through the cradle of Chinese civilization, where over three hundred million people live along the banks of China’s longest river. Our trip through the scenic Three Gorges region was made more memorable knowing that much of that spectacular scenery will disappear forever, once the new Three Gorges dam is completed in the next few years.
9. Bareboat Sailing in the Caribbean. (British Virgin Islands, Scallywag). With our newly acquired sailing certification papers in hand, our family chartered a 40 foot sailing yacht in the BVI for a week of sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving adventures in the blue waters of the Caribbean. Since that first charter, we’ve been back five more times to rent sail boats, the last four with each of our children in turn and their spouses.
10. West-Pac Cruise. (Pacific Ocean, USS Kearsarge). The ultimate cruise experience was an all-expense paid, eight month cruise on a 40,000 ton aircraft carrier to the Western Pacific in 1957-58. The ship, the USS Kearsarge (CVA-33), was a floating airfield for ninety planes, a floating hotel for three thousand sailors and a floating city with every facility imaginable. After eight months on station in the East China Sea with daily flight operations interspersed with visits to Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines and other exotic ports-of-call in the Far East, the big ship headed back home where this sailor had an important date at the altar at the end of the summer.
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