By Tom Blake
Reality hit me this week when a FedEx driver came to the front door of our Dana Point home and picked up two suitcases belonging to my life partner, Greta, and two suitcases belonging to me.
Those four suitcases will be waiting for us in our stateroom when we board the MS Amsterdam, a Holland America Line cruise ship, at the San Pedro (Port of Los Angeles) Cruise Terminal this Sunday. Before the FedEx driver arrived, this cruise, which Greta and I signed up for almost a year ago, seemed like a dream far into the future.
As seniors, we’ve cruised before. Our philosophy is to travel as often as we can, while we are physically able to do so.
We’ve been on three 30-day cruises and several shorter ones as well. Why is this cruise any different than previous ones we’ve taken?
This cruise is called the Grand Asia & Pacific Voyage. It’s duration: 82 days! That’s two seniors living 82 days in a 297 square-feet stateroom.
People say to us: “Are you nuts?” And in the understatement of the year, they also say, “That’s a long time to be together.”
It appealed to us because there was no flying to get to the departure port or to return home. San Pedro is less than an hour from Dana Point.
For a cruise of 82 days, Holland America dangled quite a few perks, enticing people to sign up. Picking up the luggage ahead of time was one of the perks.
Greta and I are truly blessed in retirement to be able to travel to distant lands. We do not take that for granted. We realize there will come a day when we can’t. And we also realize that not all seniors can take a trip like this.
Many seniors tell me they enjoy traveling with us vicariously.
It seems events occur beforehand that make us think twice about going. In 2004, we were going to Madrid to take a train from the Atocha Train Station to visit other cities in Spain. Ten days before we were to board the train, Al-Qaeda had bombed Atocha in protest of Spain’s involvement in the Iraq War. I asked my newspaper readers if we should cancel.
The overwhelming response: if you cancel, you allow the terrorists to win. We went, but traveled by car instead.
Three years ago, we were going to France. The terrorists killed many people in Nice on a boulevard where Greta and I had walked a couple of years before. Again, we decided to go.
Two years ago, same thing happened in Brussels, Belgium. A few days before we left the USA, terrorists attacked there. We were scheduled to be on a train from Dusseldorf to Paris, passing through and stopping in Brussels. Again, we decided to go. And we did ride the train through Brussels.
Our itinerary includes eight stops in Japanese ports. On July 30, typhoon Jonqdari hit Japan; thousands had to be evacuated. Then, on Sept. 5, typhoon Jebi hit Western Japan, including Kobe, where the ship is scheduled to stop.
On Sept. 7, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Fiji, where our ship is scheduled to make two stops. Fiji is also on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The same day, another earthquake, 6.7, struck Hokkaido Island, triggering a massive rescue effort.
So, yes, there are things to think about. But, now that the luggage is on its way to the ship, we’re not turning back.
We will be stopping at 33 ports and cities, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Cairns, Darwin, Sydney and even a place called Honolulu (on the return). Besides Japan and Indonesia, we will stop in Russia, China, Vietnam, Australia and many smaller countries. We had to get visas for those countries.
Greta and I usually go ashore and explore ports on our own. However, one ship’s tour we’ve scheduled is a day-trip to the Great Wall of China.
The San Clemente Times has asked me to send in some columns about the trip. And, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the publication’s business manager suggested the final article be on how to hang in there with your partner for 82 days and still be walking down the gangway hand-in-hand when disembarking.
I will also be posting articles as often as I can to my travel website: www.travelafter55.com.
Wish us well. Your thoughts will help us complete our journey safely. It’s time to go.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.