It had to have been twenty years ago when I first met Sue on the Princess Cruise Line’s ‘Love Boat’. We were on a 13 day British Isles cruise. Southampton to Dover visiting ports in England, Ireland, and Scotland. It was the second night on board. We had docked at Cornwall that day and I had visited Falmouth on a shore excursion. After dinner at the late seating with my seven female table mates I decided to wander to the Carib/Pacific Lounge. ‘Bobby “J” and Friends’ were providing dance music for two solitary couples on the dance floor. As with most cruises in those days the majority of passengers were retirees or newlyweds. They often were in bed early leaving the night spots on board to those few that stayed up to enjoy. I had picked up a brandy and soda at the bar and settled in at a table just inside the lounge. Bobby “J” was playing some very familiar swing. It was then I noticed that other than myself and the two couples on the floor there was an attractive young lady sitting alone. She was almost directly opposite from me at a table on the other side of the lounge. The orchestra started the intro to “Satin Doll”. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dance. I walked across the lounge and asked her to the floor.
We have done a lot of cruising together since then, including getting married at sea. Cruise ships however, have increased in size and are now like floating resort hotels. They carry passenger loads in the thousands. They still provide a delightful travel experience but the intimacy that was prevalent before on the Love Boat is missing.
We were delighted to find that Princess had acquired two small ships similar in size to the original Love Boat when the Renaissance cruise line went belly up. They subsequently sold one of them, but after refurbishing the other they named it the Pacific Princess. The same name of the original Love Boat. And started sailing her on cruises to the smaller ports that could not accommodate the larger liners of today. When we started looking to book our annual cruise vacation this year we were delighted to see she had a cruise scheduled to visit ports that Sue had longed to visit. Further the timing was perfect for our schedule so we booked it. The cruise was 13 days starting at Venice and ending in Barcelona. Both ports we had been to before and thoroughly enjoyed. The ports to be visited were in five additional countries.
Preparation for the cruise started a week before departure. Sue on the Internet began monitoring the weather predicted to exist in the ports we were scheduled. This with the information about our shore excursions helped us decide just what clothes we should be packing. They were carefully assembled in the guest room. The goal was two bags to be checked (50 lb. limitation) and two carry on.
We were facing an action packed weekend prior to leaving. Hosting a dinner for eight on Saturday and having theatre tickets for a matinee on Sunday. Our flight out was scheduled for 6:20 on Monday requiring us to be at the airport by 3:20 am.
Sue had just had a stressful workload in the past month and I had finally completed the first draft of my second novel. We both were really ready for an escape.
The flight to Philly was not too bad, we did get a little breakfast. The wait for the flight to Venice was tolerable as we camped out in the Admirals Club. The flight to Venice was horrible. It seemed twice as long as it was and the only plus was the booze with our meals. Sleep was next to impossible due to the turbulence. However arriving in Venice in the morning had a bonus. We flew directly over the Alps on approach and it was a clear morning. They were beautiful.
We had never sailed on the new Pacific Princes but as the bus from the airport pulled on to the pier we were delighted. The ship was just about the same size as the original Love Boat and in a nostalgia way appeared just as inviting.
Upon boarding came our first surprise. We approached the elevator to go up to our stateroom and when the doors opened out came a couple from our home area. Who would believe running into a neighbor 7000 miles away on a cruise ship?
We were soon off to ‘Harry’s Bar’ and suggested they meet us there at 2:00. They never showed but we made it. Upon booking the trip we had set a goal to be in Harry’s Bar sipping a Bellini by 2:00 pm on arrival in Venice. Mission accomplished.
It had been 10 years since we had been in Venice and as we retoured the streets, alleys, and canals around Saint Marks Sq. We were surprised at the changes.
When did they put all those steps in? Or just maybe being ten years younger we just didn’t notice them on our last trip. And the people. It was crowded everywhere. There was even a long queue to get into the cathedral in the square. Oh well it was Venice and it was wonderful to be there.
Before sailing the next day we had booked a tour on two of the outer islands of Venice. One where the glass blowing factories were and one famous for lace. This rounded out our visit to Venice and we were glad to be back on board that evening and on to our next adventure in Dubrovnik, Croatia.