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Memories of a Cruise

Ed Boitano, Curator
The Paul Gauguin in Tahiti. Photograph courtesy of Roderick Eime via Wikimedia Commons.

Most of us have been on a cruise ship, riverboat or barge; some good, some bad, and generally with a bit of overeating. We’ve asked the members of the T-Boy Society of Film, Music & Travel what were some of their cherished moments, or lack of, when traversing the world’s waterways.

Star Clipper was voted the world’s leading luxury sailing cruise company in 2020. Photograph courtesy of Rémi Jouan via Wikimedia Commons.

Ringo Boitano – T-Boy Writer:

Chaplin’s “City Lights” Revisited

On a Mediterranean sailboat cruise, an older and heavily intoxicated British gent would approach me and demand I sit at his table. Due to the martini in his hand and strained attempts at a posh British Received Pronunciation, his words were incomprehensible, but I always enjoyed playing along. Later, in the daytime, I would often notice him and greet him with a warm hello. He had no recognition of me at all, and would meet my greeting with a sour grimace as if I had just escaped from a penal colony in Australia. Didn’t I see this in Chapin’s “City Lights”?

Susan Breslow – T-Boy Writer:

Don’t Fall in the Water

On Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe was a place called Water Wilderness, comprised of four houseboats and a lodge. My traveling companion Tony and I were brought there by motorboat, served tea and scones, and then instructed to take a canoe and choose a houseboat. “Try not to tip over,” advised the guide. “There are hippos in the center and crocodiles by the shore.”

Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba with greeting friends. Photograph courtesy of Africa Odyssey.

Tony complained of not hiking after several days on safari in Land Rovers. “I’ll take you tomorrow,” the guide offered. Good to his word, he showed up bearing a long rifle and had bandolier ammunition belts strapped across his broad chest. They held the longest bullets I had ever seen. The day before, he had talked about what a conundrum it would be for him to decide whether or not to shoot if he were charged by an endangered rhinoceros.

Tsetse, sometimes spelled tzetze, are large biting flies that inhabit much of tropical Africa. Photograph courtesy of International Atomic Energy Agency via Wikimedia Commons.

As we motored to a nearby shore for the hike, my mind raced. What if I was charged? What if my legs gave out? What if I fainted? What if I were bitten by a tsetse fly? What if I fell in the water disembarking and a crocodile ate me?

The other hikers eagerly alighted from his vessel.

I burst into tears. The guide looked at me sympathetically.

“Do you want to go back to the houseboat?” he asked. I nodded.

He tossed his rifle to Tony and turned the motorboat around.

“Please, don’t cry,” the guide said kindly. “If someone stuck me in the middle of Times Square, I’d have the same reaction.”

Then Tony called from the shore: “What am I supposed to do if we get charged? Whack him with the butt of the gun?” Everyone laughed.

I spent the rest of the day on the deck of my houseboat, watching a herd of cape buffalo leisurely graze on the hills beyond. Tony, the guide, and our fellow travelers all returned safe.

Cruising the Columbia River on the Empress of the North. Photograph courtesy of Lyn Potinka.

Roy Endersby – Philosopher:

Regional Food on the Columbia River

The Empress of the North continues to make voyages along the Columbia, Willamette and Snake Rivers. My memories of this historic riverboat voyage; a voyage to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition into the nation’s new Louisiana Purchase, still color my thoughts today. The history, sites and day trips were profound. But I was anxious to return to the dining room for the Empress offered something that is often not found on a cruise vessel: Regional Sourced Food. Menus included everything from Dungeness Crab Cakes Benedict, herb rubbed Ellensburg lamb and Tillamook cheddar cheese soup to smoked salmon, grilled halibut and scallops. You could quite literally taste the landscape and waterways.

“Fruit Picking, or Among the Mangoes” by Paul Gauguin (1887). Photograph courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum.

Deb Roskamp – T-Boy Writer & Photographer:

Frolicking on a Tahitian Motu

Each port of call was better than the last as my ship glided through the waters of French Polynesia. One day – a day at sea – passengers were offered a luncheon on a motu. As we arrive at the island in Zodiac boats, the cooking staff was already in order with delicious Tahitian and French hybrid dishes waiting for us. To see fellow passengers frolicking around the beauty, food and merriment of the small motu was an experience I will never forget.

A cruise ship entering Venice. Photograph courtesy of Ian Pudsey via Wikimedia Commons.

Audrey Hart – T-Boy Culinary Writer:

I charged off the vessel, and somehow managed to reached the Bridge of Sighs, where the crowd had grown so thick that (ironically) I could barely look above the men’s mandatory Venetian straw hats to get a glimpse of the famous window. Of course, this is the window which prisoners would pass and take their final view of Venice before their descent into the darkness of the dungeons. A petite woman, almost hidden in the crowd, asked me to take a photo of the window with her camera; so she could actually see what it looked like. As I returned her camera, she politely smiled a thanks and disappeared into the crowd. My own personal sigh illustrated that I needed a break from the sweltering hordes of tourists. Yes, Venice is Venice, and everyone must experience it once in their life. But I felt it best to take a break.

View of the Venice Skyline from the Molino Stucky Hilton terrace and pool. Photograph by Deb Roskamp.

Problem solved. My cruise pass allowed me two days of accommodations at a hotel. I accessed a water taxi in the Grand Canal to my pre-planned cruise lodging at the Molino Stucky Hilton. At first, it seemed strange that I would be staying at a Hilton property in Venice, but that was before my eyes set on the palatial Molino Stucky, a former flour mill that has been painstakingly refurbished into a swank hotel, but still very much in the Venetian character. Luxuriating by the roof top pool, with Venice’s unforgettable city skyline in the distance, it occurred to me that I was experiencing something that even a Doge in all his glory would find unimaginable. Trips to the Molino Stucky’s Rialto Bar & Lounge offered complimentary regional snacks; coffee and the Venetian mainstays of spritz, grappa and Prosecco. Both the terraced pool and bar and lounge, proved to be a welcoming venue to relax and refresh. Plus, my batteries were soon recharged for a further exploration of Venice’s major attractions. This time, hopefully, with less heat and crowds.

A life reaffirming serving of Polish Plackiziemniaczane.

Richard Carroll and Halina Kubalski – T-Boy Writers & Photographers:

Heartwarming Experience on a Cruise Ship

We danced our way across the Atlantic on a 10-day dance-themed crossing from Lisbon to Miami on the Crystal Serenity. The vision of sea and sky, the foamy wake trailing behind, and the ever-changing rhythms of the sky evoked a sense of freedom. The bad news of the world, if only for a moment, could be tucked away in the heels of our dancing shoes. Throughout the cruise we were dancing Salsa and West Coast Swing, and meeting most of the guests on the dance floor, some who had not danced in years but were having a great time.

Following a morning dance session, we would enjoy a casual lunch and Halina, born and raised in Warsaw, quickly became friends with three or four of the Polish waiters. They were excited to speak Polish with Halina, hovering around her, and our service was beyond special. Halfway through the crossing, Halina ordered PlackiZiemmiaczane, one of her favorite Polish dishes which is potato pancakes Polish-style, and it definitely was not listed on the menu. The plate arrived at table and the Polish waiters were silent and staring at one another. One of them in Polish said to Halina, “That is not the correct PlackiZiemmiaczane! The cook on duty is German” and” picking up the plate, “I’m going to the galley and will create the correct Polish PlackiZiemmiaczane.” Guests were staring, but he returned to the table with a steamy plate of PlackiZiemmiaczane, the Polish waiters all broadly smiling. Halina said in Polish, “What about the German cook?” They answered, “No problem, he’s a friend and the Executive Chef is not on duty.”

Crystal Symphony was owned and operated by Crystal Cruises before the line went out of business.Built in 1995 at Kværner Masa-Yards Turku New Shipyard, Finland, she was the oldest vessel in the Crystal Cruises fleet. Photograph courtesy of Waerfeluvia Wikimedia Commons.

Then one morning the ship came to a dead stop in the middle of the Atlantic. Everyone rushed to the port side and below was a ragged group of sun-tinged would-be amateur sailors from Boston, near death. standing helplessly in their sailboat. They were far off course, lost in the vast sea for days without food or water. It was a heart-rendering experience to watch the Crystal Serenity lower boxes of food and water down the side of the ship to the sailboat, but no PlackiZiemmiaczane. Crewmen also boarded the sailboat to help them get back on course. Later, the Captain told us that it was a one-in-a-million chance for the ship to encounter the sailboat and if it had been dark they could have easily missed them altogether.

A day later Halina spotted a large double-rainbow from our balcony, and she was thinking it was a positive omen for the sailors on the sailboat. This dance crossing was a travel memory to savor.

Disaronno Amaretto and condiments, but with no soup bowl found.
Photograph courtesy of Toronto-based writer and photographer Andrew John Virtue Dobson.

Fyllis Hockman – T-Boy Writer:

Love That Drink

So I was just finishing my soup at dinner on a river cruise when I spied a waiter walking by with a bottle of Disaronno Amaretto. Oh, I love that drink I mumbled as he walked by. Without skipping a beat, he stopped and poured a hefty amount into my soup bowl and casually continued on. The recollection has brought a smile to my face for years!

Nostalgic Imperial Russia decoration in restaurant. Photograph courtesy of N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.

Ed Boitano – T-Boy Editor:

Salty Food in Moscow, Aspirin on a Plane

My group of journalists returned to our cruise ship late at night after a delayed flight from Moscow. Starved and thirsty – yes, thirsty due to the highly salted Muscovite food we had consumed earlier – and well aware that it was too late for dinner and beverages on our ship. To our surprise, we found the vessel’s staff waiting for us with champagne and a lavish buffet, complete with smiles and applause.

Earlier in Moscow, my restaurant tablemates and I had poured down a bottle of champagne and liter of water with a vengeance. When we requested addition water, our Muscovite waiter politely informed us there was no more available. Welcome to the Russian Federation.

Previously, on the tarmac for the flight from St. Petersburg to Moscow, I climbed the stairs to enter the chaotically packed plane that was well past its prime. I flashed my ticket to the flight attendant, but she decided to snatch it away into her own hand. She pointed to my seat, and then opened my hand and returned the ticket into my palm, not forgetting to close it into a fist.

No, not my plane. A Sukhoi Superjet 100 of the Russian airline Aeroflot sits on the tarmac after a fire that broke out while the plane crash landed at Sheremetyevo airport, in Moscow, Russia, May 2019.
Photography courtesy of Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE.

Yes, I thought I was ready for anything. But as I took my seat, I found the seatbelt was out of order and the back of the seat refused to stand straight. I realized it was useless to complain, but when another attendant passed by and gave me a hello, I took a chance, informing him that I had a headache of the splitting kind. A short minute later he returned with a glass of water on an elegant tray with two aspirins by its side. Spoiler alert: My headache disappeared and I enjoyed a fascinating day of exploration in Moscow, one of the world’s most remarkable cities; salty food or not.

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