My parents have just set off from wintry, cold and wet England, where it is dark before 4 p.m. at this time of year, to go on a trip of a lifetime. They are flying to Australia to see family, ending up in New Zealand to visit friends, and in between seeing some highlights of coastal Australasia by cruising.
My husband and I have taken several cruises over the last 20 years including:
• Two romantic Caribbean cruises (Did you know that in England, we pronounce this region the “Carry Bee Ann” unlike the American “Ka Rib E Ann?”)
• The Nordic countries and eastern Europe (St. Petersburg felt alien to us despite the fall of the Iron Curtain several years before)
• Up the Pacific Coast into Alaska with its majestic scenery and unspoilt beauty
• Bermuda for our 10th wedding anniversary (we found this country an interesting mix of British and American traditions — very like our marriage)
So we enjoy cruising, mostly because we only unpack once and see many places on one vacation. During these trips, we have learned some interesting facts about cruising and some nautical information (you can find more on www.seatalk.info).
• The speed of a ship is measured in knots because before modern technology, sailors used a log and a rope to measure the distance their boat had covered and to determine the speed at which it had advanced (the first printed description of this method is by an Englishman, William Bourne, in 1574)
• There are many explanations about why ships almost always are referred to as a “she.” They include because she has a “waist” (the mid-ship section), a “bonnet” (cover for the engine), “stays” (ropes) and “earrings” (short pieces of rope). There also is a great deal of “bustle” around a ship, and in port she has an agent handling her business known as her “husband.” On large vessels, the word “she” was attached because of the sails. The sail represented the vessel as “dressed as a woman”
• Seagulls have a built-in precise sense of time. They can take inland trips, but then return to shore to feed at the exact hour that the tide is right.
One thing people often talk about on cruise ships is the food. The big cruise-ship lines tend to compete on the quality of their food and drink, so it tends to be good and plentiful on them, with lots of opportunities to eat such as “midnight buffets” and “24-hour room service.” Therefore, despite the glamorous vision of coming back from the Caribbean thin and healthy, just about every survey you’ll find on the subject (such as at British newspaper www.dailymail.co.uk) indicates an average weight gain of about a pound per day. That’s 14 pounds on a two-week cruise!
Going back to my personal cruising experiences, I left one off my earlier list. The most emotional cruise I ever took was when we sailed across the Atlantic from Southampton, England, to New York City in 2009, the year of my immigration to the USA. Although we crossed the Atlantic many times that year for family and business reasons, this journey is the most significant in my memory. I never will forget cruising into New York Harbour, seeing the Statue of Liberty and breaking into tears at the emotion of the moment. It really struck me then that I was leaving the England that I loved, in which I had been born, raised, educated and worked — and where, before I met my American husband, I assumed I would live out my days. The symbolism of arriving on U.S. soil after sailing past Ellis Island where so many European immigrants had been before me as they faced a new life in this new and exciting world was overwhelming.
Of course, I realize how lucky I am that we have the ways and means to return to the land of my birth on a regular basis and that close friends and family from England often visit us. I also have a loving, supportive American husband, family and friends here in Coastal Georgia. It definitely was the right decision for me, and anyone who knows me or reads my column knows that although I will always love the United Kingdom, I have fallen head over heels in love and have a growing and deepening relationship with the USA and Coastal Georgia in particular — all made poignant that day we saw the Statue of Liberty from the deck of the HMS Queen Mary.
I will leave you with a quote by inspirational American writer William Arthur Ward: “The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails.”
God bless America!
Email Francis at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.lesleyfrancispr.com.