Archive for June, 2005

Notes about cruising 5: Crystal

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

Why is Crystal Cruises our favorite cruise line–and why are we willing to pay the high prices? (For the price of a modest cabin on Crystal, you can probably get a suite on Carnival or NCL or Royal Caribbean.)

One reason is that Crystal, like several other luxury cruise lines, is destination-oriented. They don’t go back and forth, back and forth on endless 7-night Caribbean cruises. Indeed, other than their 12-night Alaska round-trips from San Francisco (which end this year after a wonderful decade) and some European 12-night cruise series, they don’t have particularly repetitive cruises. For that matter, even with Alaska, each cruise is a little different–enough so that the cruise atlas includes a map for each cruise.

We’re generally destination-oriented cruisers. We’re not shoppers; the most popular Caribbean destinations don’t interest us much (we’ve seen some of them, and there are some we’d like to visit eventually, but…); while we enjoy cruising, we’re mostly “cruising to see the world.” That’s where lines like Crystal, Radisson Seven Seas, WindStar, and some others that we haven’t yet tried come in.

For example, this year, Crystal’s trio of ships (which becomes a duo at the end of the year, sadly) has visited or will visit 168 ports in 79 countries. Every year, Crystal visits new destinations–for example, this year the line makes its maiden calls at Porto Venere (Italy), Seno Eyre Fjord (Chile), Alesund (Norway), Belfast, Oban (Scotland), Monemvasia and Samos (both Greece), Nesebur (Bulgaria), Progreso, Loreto, Santa Rosalita, and La Paz (all Mexico), Turks & Caicos, and Roatan Island. That’s in one year, for three ships.

Crystal also finds or designs first-rate and varied shore excursions, and makes sure the guides and equipment are the best available. Typically, they won’t fill a tour bus more than 2/3 full, and we’ve been on an Alaska wildlife-watching catamaran designed for 150 people with 35 Crystal passengers: Crystal chartered the catamaran, and certainly wasn’t going to cancel the excursion for low turnout.

They also do everything right on board. The cabins are well-designed (although the Crystal Harmony’s bathrooms are small), with loads of nice touches. The public spaces are varied and superb: Even with a full load of 940 passengers, we frequently feel like we’re the only ones on board because there are so many different places people congregate. The ships have true promenade decks: 12′ wide teak decking all the way around the ship (unusual for recently-built ships), and with no deck chairs to block walkers. (There are plenty of deck chairs, but up on the Lido deck where the pools are, and back in various aft open spaces on several decks.)

The food–ah, the food. Crystal is regularly rated as having the best food (and the best service) in the cruise industry, even beating out much more expensive lines. They produce varied menus, they invite you to mix-and-match vegetables, starches, and entrees in your main plate (some lines can’t handle those changes), and they let you know that they’ll prepare almost anything you want (within reason) on 24-hours notice. They also have specialty restaurants considered first-rate, a pool grill that serves great burgers (regular, turkey, veggie) and the like all afternoon, free ship-made ice cream, yogurt, and cookies all afternoon (also by one of the pools), a Lido buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch (and casual poolside dining some evenings), and an extensive room service menu…

About the service: Crystal’s people aren’t obsequious, in your face, or anything like that. They just do a great job. It’s clear that Crystal treats its crews well (the dedicated crew pool and lounging area has the best views on the ship; crews are two to a cabin; the line goes out of its way to encourage married and other couples…) and it shows: You feel as though you’re part of a very large and happy family. The crew:passenger ratio is also very high, as you’d expect on a luxury line: about 1.6:1 (passengers to crew) if the ship’s full.

Crystal pretty consistently rates highest of large-ship cruise lines, but “large ship” is tricky. Yes, these are big ships–but they’re extremely spacious. The smallest ship, the soon-to-depart Crystal Harmony, is 49,000 GRT (gross register tons, a measure of space, not weight: a GRT is “100 cubic feet of enclosed revenue-earning space” according to the Unofficial Guide to Cruises, holding a maximum of 940 passengers. By comparison, Royal Caribbean’s Nordic Empress is almost the same size (48,563 GRT)–but it holds 1602 passengers. (The newest and largest Crystal ship, the Crystal Serenity, holds 1,080 passengers–but it’s also 68,000 GRT, so there’s a lot more space per passenger than on the Crystal Harmony or Crystal Symphony.)

We don’t ever feel crowded or herded on Crystal. We also don’t ever feel that they’re trying to nickel-and-dime us or shill for more money. Crystal treats passengers as adults: Other than one captain’s announcement at 9 a.m. each morning, there are no loudspeaker announcements under normal circumstances. There’s an extensive ship’s newspaper with a full schedule, there are lots of clocks on board, and they assume that adults can be where they need to be when they need to be there. (Similarly, for shore excursions, where one slightly-larger and much-cheaper line we tried had what we believe to be a standard ritual: Go one place, get little colored tags put on your shirts, go wait somewhere else, then line up again to go to your excursions–Crystal, whenever they’re docking, says “Meet your group on the pier by this time,” and that’s it.

As for nickel-and-diming, three years ago Crystal dropped all charges for nonalcoholic beverages; when you’re going ashore, there are usually big trays of bottled water so you’ll remember to take one or more with you–at no charge. The Bistro, a wonderful on-board space with a wine bar, teas and specialty coffees (with or without liquor), and light food most of the day, doesn’t charge for specialty coffees unless you add booze. Yes, you do pay for booze–but Crystal’s wine list is first-rate (and they now have their own vintages, “C” wines, produced for them by an experienced California winery) and fairly priced.

Let’s see: What else to mention. Yes, they have evening shows–magnificent ones. They have first-rate lecturers. The libraries are large and well-stocked. There are lots of things to do, and no pressure to do any of them. Each ship has a Caesar’s Palace at Sea–the casino staff all come from the Caesar’s/Harrah’s group of casinos. (But the free drinks come from the hotel staff, so if you ask for a glass of Chardonnay, you’ll get restaurant-quality Chardonnay, not warm white “chablis”) The rooms all have sitting areas, and most have verandas.

They treat repeat passengers well. In addition to the special Crystal Society gathering on each cruise, you get a special repeat-passenger discount on most cruises, shipboard credits that grow as you cruise more, and on each five-cruise milestone some special discount (e.g., our next milestone will be a guaranteed two-category upgrade). And they have loyal passengers–because they do a great job.

Not well-suited for boozehounds and partiers; Crystal draws a somewhat older and generally well-educated crowd, and tends to be reasonably sedate at night. They do have children’s areas and put counselors on board whenever there are a given number of kids, but they’re certainly not Disney Cruises. They have extensive computer labs (and free training).

Mostly, they treat you well; they feed you very well (quality, not quantity, although you certainly will never go hungry!); they go interesting places and offer lots of interesting things to see; they educate you on board if that’s what you want (and leave you alone if that’s what you want); and they seem to have every detail down pat.

Downsides (for some people): Crystal is expensive (but one of the two most reasonably-priced luxury lines). They do have traditional two-seating/assigned-table dinners (and we’ve always enjoyed our dinner companions). They do expect you to dress formally on formal evenings.

Oh, and if you hate all big business, they’re owned by NYK, Japan’s largest (and maybe the world’s largest) freight shipping company. But if you hate big business, there are very few cruise lines you can try–particularly when 12 lines are owned by Carnival.

We’ve gone through the Panama Canal on Crystal. We’ve seen New Zealand and Australia; Venice and surrounding areas; the coast of Scotland and the fjords of Norway; and Alaska, more than once. We hope to see even more of the world on Crystal (as always, “as time, money and health permit”).

Notes about cruising 4: Delta Queen

Monday, June 6th, 2005

Let’s talk about riverboat cruising–more specifically, Delta Queen Steamboat Company, cruising on America’s heartland rivers. (There are quite a few other river cruises–as many as four boats and ships cruise the Columbia River, and dozens of ships and barges cruise European waterways, not to mention the Yangtze. But we’ve never taken any of those, so…)

Delta Queen operates three riverboats. They’re boats, not ships: They’re not built for the open ocean. Very shallow draft (no more than 9 feet, because that’s as deep as the Army Corps of Engineers keeps the upper Mississippi). Dimensions small enough to fit into river locks and under bridges. The largest, the American Queen, is 418 feet long, 89.4 feet wide, and rises 97 feet above the riverline–but the stacks and pilothouse can be lowered to clear bridges. (If I remember properly, the stacks pivot–just like the old riverboats.)

These are authentic steam-driven sternwheelers. When the American Queen was built (we were on one of the inaugural voyages, in mid-1995, and have the working replica boat’s bell to prove it–and, for that matter, our names are engraved on or in the boat’s bell, probably in teeny-tiny type), the most daunting task for the builders was finding a steam engine the right size to drive the boat. After all, nobody builds those any more. (With the help of the Army Corps, they located a sunken dredge and salvaged the engine–actually two of them, from the Kennedy.) And that big red paddlewheel is not only for show. On the Delta Queen, it’s the only propulsion, and on the Mississippi Queen and American Queen, it’s the primary propulsion system. The sternwheelers were never the fastest steamboats, just the most graceful; the Queens typically run at about six to eight mph (not knots, since they’re on rivers).

The Delta Queen itself (herself?) is truly authentic, which is both good and bad. DQ was built in 1926 and originally ran in the Sacramento delta, between Sacramento and San Francisco, along with sister ship Delta King. (My mother-in-law used the Delta Queen as transportation, back in the day…) After WWII, the Delta King became what it is now–a floating hotel and restaurant in Old Sacramento. The Delta Queen was towed all the way to Louisiana, refurbished, and started a new career as a river cruise boat. (Not without hassles: The superstructure is wood, which means it can’t fully meet Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS, regulations. It required an act of Congress to keep it running, and you sign a waiver before you board this National Historic Landmark.) It’s also small–87 cabins on four decks (no elevators), with cabins ranging from 44 to 68 square feet, except for a few high-end 136-156 sq. ft. cabins. (No typos: A typical midrange DQ cabin is just big enough for two very narrow beds, a milk carton-size table, a three-drawer dresser, the 16″ hanging rod that substitutes for a closet unless you book the highest suite category, one chair and a sink; that 44sqft. doesn’t include the bathroom.) You really don’t spend any more time in your cabin than you need to–but all the decks are promenade decks, with rocking chairs all around. You meet everyone on board the first day, and it’s just small-town Americana from then on.

Yes, the cabins are tiny; no, we don’t recommend the DQ unless you understand that and can live with it. Public spaces include an open entry area/lounge/library, the Texas Lounge for piano bar, singalongs, drinks, and watching the sun set, and the Orleans Dining Room–which serves as the restaurant and showroom (after the second seating, they rearrange tables). Two seatings for dinner, not because there aren’t enough tables but because the galley’s so tiny that it can’t prepare that many meals at once.

As with all three Queens, it’s a little hokey, a lot traditional heartland Americana, and a great way to explore the Mississippi, Atchafalaya, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Arkansas rivers. Each Queen has a “Riverlorian” to keep you in touch with the rivers and what they’re all about. Interesting stops. Good food, with a range of choices (more on the larger Queens) including a fair amount of “river food.” Moderately dressy for dinner. Most people on the DQ, in our experience, are in their 70s and 80s and just love the boat.

Differences with the other two:

  • The Mississippi Queen, built in 1976, holds 416 passengers in considerably more comfort, with cabins ranging from 123 square feet up, including a fair number with private verandas. In addition to the dining room, there’s the two-level Paddlewheel Lounge (which overlooks…well, you guessed it) and Grand Saloon (showroom); there’s also an open-air Calliope Bar. (Did I mention that each Queen has an authentic steam-driven calliope? When they go through locks and under bridges, you frequently get calliope concerts.) There are elevators. There’s even a little bathing pool.
  • The American Queen, built in 1995, holds 436 passengers. Typical cabins range from 141 to 190 square feet; some have verandas. The J.M. White Dining Room is a recreation of one of the most splendid steamboat dining saloons; the Grand Saloon is a true showroom, with two levels and all the facilities; and there are a couple of good bars–plus the Front Porch of America, an inauthentic but wonderful view lounge with fresh-baked cookies showing up all day. Elevators, to be sure.

Our reminiscences are from the old DQSC, part of the same holding company that ran American Hawaii–and got too ambitious with a building program. The three boats are now operated under the same company name by new ownership; my understanding is that everything’s pretty much the same.

Our favorite cruise was St. Louis to St. Paul (or vice-versa), seven days on the always-changing Upper Mississippi. But we also loved a civil war cruise, mostly on the Tennessee and Ohio, with a team of historians along.

Downsides: These cruises are expensive–inherently so, since they’re small boats and American registry (which means the crew has to be paid living wages). Most passengers are, shall we say, older than we are. It is indeed a little hokey at times. And, on the DQ, those cabins are small.

Upsides: You get into the American heartland. River cruising is incredibly relaxing. We learned a lot about the rivers and the land around them (and the people, of course). And if you get seasick on a river cruise, it’s really all in your mind.

Notes on cruising, 3

Saturday, June 4th, 2005

Some personal notes on some “cruise topics”–some of the things you may have heard about cruising. Notes are based on our experiences, which include cruises on American Hawaii (defunct), Regency (defunct), Renaissance (defunct), Crown (defunct), and–lest you get too much of a pattern here–Crystal (our favorite line), Radisson Seven Seas, Windstar (these two probably tie for almost-favorites), Delta Queen Steamboat Company, and Holland America. In one or two cases I may include what I’ve read if it’s consistent. I’ll use an FAQ format, because that’s always fun.

What’s with the tuxedo evenings?

Traditionally, most 7-day and longer cruises include two formal evenings, which used to mean tux or dinner jacket for men, evening gown or similar for women. The first one’s almost always the day after you board, when there’s usually a Captain’s Party to welcome you aboard. The second one’s typically either the next-to-last night (never the last night, because people start packing early) or the last day at sea if it’s not the last night. On better lines, that formal night might feature the Captain’s Farewell Party. (On both occasions, if the ship’s not too big, you get portraits taken with the captain–but you’re never obliged to buy them.) Longer cruises may have more: Crystal cruises typically feature three formal nights (and usually run 10 to 14 days or longer). (“Secret”: The middle formal night on Crystal is the Crystal Society party, for repeat cruisers, which may be 50% to 80% of the ship.)

If this all sounds awful to you, don’t worry too much. Most mainstream lines don’t seem to care much about dress codes any more (although you’re expected not to wear t-shirts or shorts, or to go barefoot, in the dining room at dinner). Of the lines we’ve sailed, I always found that a sport coat was good enough on Regency and American Hawaii and Delta Queen (you see very few tuxes on Delta Queen!). Windstar never has formal nights (“resort casual” is the constant dress “code,” which for me means tropical shirts), and ships cruising in the South Seas (where we took Renaissance) almost never have formal nights.

When we took our first Crystal cruise, we knew from reputation that they meant formal. I’d never worn a tux. Turns out that a properly-fitting tux is fun to wear, particularly if (like me) you don’t normally wear a coat & tie at work: It’s a harmless form of dress-up, and most of the people look great on formal nights. I’d guess that 90% of Crystal passengers really do dress up on formal nights, and probably 80% of Radisson Seven Seas (RSS) passengers; Holland America was much more hit-and-miss.

By the way, there are two other typical dress codes: “Informal” and “Casual.” “Informal” used to mean coat & tie for men, dress or pantsuit for women; on Crystal and RSS, at least, the coat remains but the tie’s optional. “Casual”–always the first night, always the last night, and a fair number of other nights–is decently dressed but not dress-up. Of course, some men will wear a coat & tie every night, and some women will dress to the teeth every night. But not many.

What about dining all the time with people you don’t know, and at the same time every evening?

On our first two or three cruises, we tended to ask for two-person tables at dinner, and usually got them. We frequently shared tables at lunch, and finally concluded that we were missing a bet by not sharing a dinner table. We now ask for a six-up (always at the early seating–we don’t like to eat late) on those ships with traditional two-seating/assigned-table operations. (Crystal falls into this category; so does Delta Queen, I think, and so did Regency. So does Holland America.) We’ve had interesting and frequently delightful dinner companions on every Crystal cruise and on most Delta Queen cruises. We’ve had mixed luck on the two Holland America cruises: On one cruise, we considered asking for a table change (but didn’t), and on the second we did ask for (and get) a new table because we couldn’t see dining with one of the people for 10 nights. Generally, though, we’ve enjoyed getting to know people over the course of a cruise. The six-person table allows for more diverse interaction, while eight-person tables are hard to talk across.

We like the two-seating/assigned-table format on a line like Crystal, where the nature of the line and its pricing seems to offer a high probability that dinner companions will be reasonably well educated and not complete idiots. (Not a certainty, but a high probability.) But here too, times are changing. Most mainline cruise lines offer some variation on open seating in at least some dining rooms; some have loads of restaurant choices (some of them at extra fees). [Crystal ships have at least two first-rate alternative restaurants, by reservation, in addition to the usual Lido/buffet breakfast/lunch alternative that almost all but the very smallest cruise ships offer.] Some lines such as Windstar and Radisson Seven Seas, maintain open seating in the primary restaurant and may offer reservations in alternative restaurants (although two of Windstar’s ships don’t have alternatives, just as Delta Queen’s boats generally don’t). On those ships, we generally walk in and ask for a “shared table,” and we’ve generally found that good too (of course, if you make fast friends on board, you can get together and go in as a group).

Breakfast and lunch are rarely assigned seating. It’s rare to share a table at breakfast; lunch is almost always your choice (and we usually do if we’re not in a hurry). Lots of people seem to prefer the buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch; we tend to prefer the dining room unless we’re in a hurry. In a buffet restaurant, you’re unlikely to share a table unless the tables all fill up or unless you spot someone you know and suggest it.

And, if you get sick of people, there’s always room service (on most ships)–and on the better ships, you can order anything from the dining room menu as room service during dinner, sometimes served course-by-course. Some folks always have breakfast on their verandas. (Not us…)

Again, it’s a case of your preferences. Two of our three favorite lines don’t have traditional seating and times; our very favorite one does. It doesn’t hurt that all three serve restaurant-quality food and attract interesting people.

What about those grotesque midnight buffets and all the absurd overeating?

More than anything else, this cliche about cruising depends on the line. Crystal, Radisson Seven Seas, and Windstar don’t do midnight buffets at all, although the first two might pass snacks around in the various bars and lounges as the midnight hour nears. (Crystal has finessed the traditional “Grand Buffet” with its food art by doing it as a lunch–and in their case the food is not only gloriously worth appreciating for the carving and other artistry, it’s also worth eating.) Holland America does evening buffets, but I don’t think they’re actually at midnight, and much as I like chocolate, I found the whole idea of the “Chocoholic Buffet” a little much. Regency did have midnight buffets, but we never went, so I have no comment. (I think the same was true of Crown and American Hawaii, but not Renaissance.)

As for absurd overeating–well, if you’re a pig, any cruise line I know of will keep bringing you food as long as you ask for it, and the buffets are of course eat-all-you-want. But nobody forces you to take double or triple portions, and good cruise lines are learning to make the portions more reasonable. (We still have trouble getting modest servings of entrees, but less trouble than we used to have.) You will get varied food on good cruise lines, with Crystal at the top of the heap. (On one Crystal cruise, when the maitre d’ seated us the first night, he announced to the table that they were very proud of their menus, but considered the menu to be a starting point: If there was anything else you wanted that they could prepare, they’d try to do it on one day’s notice. He wasn’t kidding; the headwaiters love preparing tableside specialties and flaming desserts, and they really will try to accommodate you. Most other cruise lines are nowhere near as accommodating; we were stunned when Holland America’s waiters were unwilling or unable to make starch or vegetable substitutions from within that night’s menu: The combination on the menu was the only one you could get. Windstar and Seven Seas are highly accommodating, if not quite so much as Crystal.)

Pigs will be pigs. The better cruise lines don’t go out of their way to encourage it. Yes, there are at least four or five “dining opportunities” per day and, usually, 24-hour room service (free, and frequently with fairly extensive menus). But it’s not difficult to eat as much as you want and no more.

One higlight for us, on both Radisson Seven Seas and Crystal: Afternoon teas, with lots of tea choices and the appetizers you’d expect–on Crystal, sometimes served fairly elaborately, including the Mozart Tea with waiters in costumes.

What about free wine on some cruises?

Radisson Seven Seas pours wine free with dinners (and, on the Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia, lunch as well). So does Seabourn and Silversea–and I think at least one of those lines has an “open bar” policy where all alcohol is free. Windstar’s experimenting with “inclusive” cruises that include wine and beer with dinner. (RSS also stocks your fridge with complimentary beer, soda and two bottles of your preferred booze, which for us means wine.)

The good news is that the wine isn’t rotgut; it’s been quite good on Radisson Seven Seas, at least when we learned that you can ask for any alternative from that cruise’s list.

The bad news is that the wine is poured freely–and without your asking. When people don’t pay attention, they wind up drinking a lot more wine than they’d planned. Nobody gets stupid drunk, but I think that’s one reason Radisson Seven Seas cruises have very little high-energy night life: Too many people are about half gone. We’ve learned to keep an eye on the glass…and, in some ways, we’d just as soon order wine explicitly and pay for it.

That’s enough for now. Shore excursions? We use them, but adventurous folks may save money by rolling their own. Tipping? Varies by line, included some times, mostly done as part of your incidentals bill these days, no big deal (but it’s a lot of money–and has to be, because that’s how most staff make most of their living other than on American-registry ships).

Notes about cruising, 2

Thursday, June 2nd, 2005

Before going into specifics on some of the ships (and boats–there is a difference) we’ve been on, and the cruises we’ve loved, and specific notes and cautions, some general bullet points on the benefits and drawbacks of cruising. (Imagine the point sliding one by one onto PowerPoint slides with fireworks and dramatic music, if it makes you happy. Those of you who’ve ever seen me speak know just how likely that scenario is…)

Cruising advantages:

  • Check in once, unpack once, visit many different places, then pack once and check out once.
  • Leave the driving to them–but you’re not stuck in your seat on a bus or plane.
  • You know where you’ll be staying in each new destination.
  • You know where you’ll be dining, at least when you don’t have other plans.
  • You travel while you’re sleeping (at least in part), with no jet lag or travel fatigue in most cases.
  • With rare exceptions, you have ready access to entertainment (live shows, TV, movies), a library, room service, exercise equipment, one or more pools, and places to walk with great views.
  • You know most of your costs up front (but not all).
  • You’ll probably get lots of advice about the places you’re going, and can generally sign up for guided tours and excursions, but you can also strike out on your own.

Cruising disadvantages, at least for some people:

  • That up-front cost may shock you.
  • If you want to stay a day longer at a location, you’re out of luck.
  • If you don’t like your room, you may be out of luck (or maybe not).
  • If you don’t like the food, you’re probably out of luck (except when you’re in port and willing to spend more).
  • If you don’t like the gestalt of the ship or the people, you’re out of luck.
  • If you’re prone to seasickness, some cruises may not be for you.

What does that cruise fare cover?

  • Always: Your room; all meals in the main (and usually Lido/buffet) restaurants including at least some nonalcoholic beverages during meals, plus various snacks and the like; the ship or boat as transportation; access to all public areas; use of regular exercise equipment, pools, the library; most (usually all) onboard shows and other entertainment.
  • Usually: Coffee and tea at all hours; 24-hour room service.
  • Frequently: All nonalcoholic beverages (on a growing number of ships including almost all luxury-class ships); most or all alternative restaurants (with possible small suggested tips); some limited number of shore events (picnics, special excursions).
  • Sometimes/rarely: Gratuities (mostly on a few luxury lines); wine and beer at dinner, sometimes also at lunch (ditto); standard shore excursions (on some riverboats and specialized small cruise ships); all alcoholic beverages (two small-ship luxury lines); air transportation (usually as part of special promotional fares).
  • Never or almost never: Spa services; casino gambling (when there is a casino); dry cleaning and laundry (except in some suite categories on some ships); medical services (except, typically free aspirin and Bonamine or other seasickness pills).

Beyond that, and the fact that you’re typically sleeping and traveling above water, there’s so much variety among cruise lines that it’s difficult to make any sweeping statements. I will suggest that the cheapest cruises are also the least interesting after you’ve done one or two, unless you really love the Caribbean and get along great with two or three thousand other people in a floating village.

Some cruise lines and cruises are great for families with children. Some are terrible. Unfortunately, no cruise line bans smoking entirely–one tried and gave up (and went bankrupt for other reasons), one ship on another line did it for a while but then gave up. These days, you’ll almost never find smoking allowed in any dining area or in the main show lounge (assuming there is one); otherwise, you’re likely to encounter it.

We’ve found cruising a great way to see th world and to learn more about America’s heartland. We’ve also found that the mainline ships probably don’t agree with us, based on limited experiments. That’s our problem; you may find that you get along with them just fine.

In future episodes, I’ll get down to the ships (and boats) and cruises we’ve known and loved; most of them are still around.

By the way, if you’re thinking about cruising, a good book wouldn’t hurt. There are several, some of which you may find at (ta-da) Your Local Library. Currently, the one we buy is The Unofficial Guide to Cruises (John Wiley & Sons).