It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. I love that phrase: pithy, pragmatic, and so often true. Last fall, our long-awaited cruise was cancelled two days before our embarkation date. In the headless chicken panic of trying to rebook nine people on a different boat and get us all to a new embarkation port, it was easy to let the financial consequences fade a bit. Truth is we wound up with a very nice compensation from the cruise line. I’m not sure who first said the magic phrase “repositioning cruise,” but I’m grateful to them for starting me on what will probably be the coolest vacation ever.
In November, we’re flying to Rome, and boarding a five-star cruise ship to travel across the Atlantic to the New World, Florida to be specific. Along the way we’ll make three stops in Spain and two in Portugal, then spend seven glorious days on the high seas!
It’s impossible for me not to romanticize it all. I’ve always loved boats, and as long as I have been reading, I’ve been reading historical fiction. So, even though we’ll be travelling in the lap of luxury, it still feels like a bold adventure. Airplanes and the internet can make the world seem kind of small, which is cool in its own unique ways, but I’m excited about the opportunity to get a taste of how big it really is. For days at a time we’ll be out of sight of land, not to mention the kilometres of ocean beneath us, harboring no one knows what kind of strange life. Romanticism aside, judging by the descriptions of the ship, we won’t have to worry much about dying from scurvy, being overhauled by pirates, pressed into service by a foreign navy, or poisoned by weevils in the hardtack. Our biggest privation will be figuring out how to distribute our 100 minutes of internet over 15 days. It’s true that we’ll be on a very luxurious moving village, but it’s one of the smaller ships, (800 guests) and no matter how insulated we’ll be by crew, staff and indulgence, isolated and cut off is still isolated and cut off.
I’m a bad traveller, I admit it, and I thank my stars every time I leave Toronto, for a patient and supportive partner. We have two days in Rome before departure, and at first I was completely daunted about how to spend them. Architecture? Art? Frescos? Not too compelling for a blind person, and I hate opera. Then I decided to come at the question from the bottom up rather than the top down: not, what do people do in Rome? But rather, what would intrigue me personally?
So far I’m excited about audio tours offered in the Colosseum, and a tour of the largest public bath in ancient Rome. To my dismay it’s no longer a functioning bath, but in its day it could house 1600 people, had an Olympic size swimming pool, a hot pool, a medium pool, a cold pool, athletic training areas, personalized spa services for the rich people, libraries, gardens, shops, and social areas. I’m also trying to find out how to locate choir practices in churches that are open to the public, cause choral music is just so much more excellent than opera.
Not being a traveller by nature, continental Europe is just somewhere I never pictured myself going. I’m extra eager to hear flamenco in southern Spain! I’m also curious about Rome in the sense of past and future mingling. Tourism is usually about antiquity there, but what’s the living city like? Is it ethnically diverse? Are there North African drummers or Ethiopian restaurants? How do modern romans contextualize their city’s past? Do they think about it much? Is it part of their consciousness? I know about some of Toronto’s history, but it’s just not the same thing; it just isn’t.
My research is on-going. I want to make sure I’ve thought ahead to things I’ll want to know when I’m there. This is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
I’ve always loved songs about voyaging, especially by sea. There are so many wonderful examples. Since I expect to be writing many posts about this trip, I’ll hold myself down to one song per post. This is a cover of a Josh Ritter song called Another New World. It recounts an epic sea voyage, and one man’s passion for his ship.