Monday, February 4, 2008

Cruising Back-To-Back

Even though I've sailed on nearly a hundred cruises and write the cruise travel material for eight Fodor's guidebooks, I continue to find new experiences at sea. Just this month I joined in the fun on a full-ship music charter and sailed on back-to-back cruises for the first time.

First of all, The Smooth Jazz Cruise, a full-ship charter on Holland America Line's Westerdam, was an incredible opportunity to indulge in my passion for cruising while exploring the smooth jazz scene with a ship full of ardent fans. Each night's two-hour concerts in the main show lounge were certainly entertaining, as were the music sessions in more intimate settings, but one highlight for me was meeting so many nice people. One morning I found myself having coffee on deck with a delightful gentleman who turned out to be Grammy nominee Kirk Whalum's father. Like all Holland America Line ships, the atmosphere on Westerdam is gracious and refined. That doesn't mean the passengers were stuffy, though. A late-night poolside Pa-JAM-A Party was well attended by passengers clad in PJs and robes and dancing went on well into the night in the Crow's Nest.

The week-long Smooth Jazz Cruise went by all too swiftly and it was time to disembark in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday and get ready for our next cruise--a five-night sailing on Carnival Imagination from Miami on Monday. At times the logistics of packing for back-to-back cruises seemed almost as daunting as storming the beaches of Normandy. Fortunately, I had two things going for me... we drove to Florida and I have a dear friend in Fort Lauderdale who happened to be sailing with us on the second cruise. Marcia kindly offered the use of her washing machine to solve my dilemma of how to pack enough unmentionables for two weeks and we were able to leave our excess luggage in her garage. That made room for her luggage and we were all able to drive to the Port of Miami together, thus also saving on the high cost of parking there ($20 a night!).

While I could have done laundry aboard the Carnival Imagination, having a day between cruises meant the luxury of not having to waste my time hassling with it during what turned out to be an exceptionally fun cruise. The "Evolutions of Fun" enhancements are all in place on Carnival Imagination and have transformed the aging Fantasy-class vessel into a bright and shining modern cruise ship. It should come as no surprise that when the world's largest cruise line sets about to do something that they do it right, but the level to which Carnival Cruise Lines went in the transformation astonished even me. I wasn't expecting an "all new" look and feel and it was hard to believe Carnival Imagination was launched in 1995.

There is a lot more to share on and here on the blog in the coming days. For now, I hear the distinctive DING of my clothes dryer! So much for the glamorous life of a travel writer.

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