Travel is broadening
They say travel is broadening. And, after a ten-night, Alaskan cruise on the Norwegian Dynasty, our bathroom scales give all-too-ample proof of that statement. Only Wonder Wife’s insistence on a minimum of four-miles-per-day of deck walking saved us from our gluttonous selves.
Other than an overnight ferry ride from Germany to Sweden and a day cruise from Athens out to some of the Greek Isles and back, Wonder Wife and this observer had never had this kind of full-blown, cruise-ship experience.
Ours was what they call a “repositioning” cruise. About the end of September, the cruise lines pull their ships off the Alaska Inside Passage route and send them south. That’s why we cast off in Vancouver, B.C. and ended up in Los Angeles. It was also a “rebranding” cruise because upon arrival in L.A., the beautiful, but relatively small Dynasty, was turned over to a smaller cruise line.
Norwegian Cruise Line is expanding its fleet with the construction of some larger ships and by stretching some of its existing fleet, making it the world’s fourth-largest cruise line company. Sadly, the lovely Dynasty was released back to its owners. But the good news is that this fine vessel will sail for another cruise line, probably in the western Caribbean.
Just like railroad rolling stock, most of which is owned by private investors and not the railroad companies, about half of the world’s cruise ships are not owned by the cruise lines whose colors they fly. Syndicates of private owners – mostly Norwegian, Greek and Israelis – own these luxury liners and lease them to the brand-name cruise lines.
Wonder Wife and our partners, Bob and Carolyn Doubek, own a 21-foot sailboat. So we have a hard time thinking of the 534-foot, 20,000-ton Dynasty as small. Yet, 80,000 tons is becoming the standard size and there is even a 140,000-ton cruise ship in service. Instead of the 800 passengers we had on the Dynasty, the standard passenger load now ranges from 1,800 souls to 2,500.
Two reasons account for the booming cruise line industry: the swelling ranks of retired persons and the economic good times that began with the Reagan Revolution in the early 1980s.
It was my privilege to spend some time with Captain Tor Dyrdal, the Master of the Norwegian Dynasty. Tall, and ruggedly handsome, Captain Dyrdal, looks every inch the experienced sea captain. When I mentioned the fairly large number of senior citizens on board, Captain Dyrdal explained that seniors feel safe and secure on a cruise ship because, at any time, they are only a few hundred feet from a physician. Moreover, dozens of his crew are highly trained in CPR.
When I consider how far Wonder Wife and I live from the nearest medical facility and the problems we might have during snow season to get there, I had to agree with Captain Dyrdal’s statement that we were safer on his ship than at home. After a tour of the bridge and a look at the vessel’s Differential Global Positioning System navigation gear, I knew there wasn’t a chance of our getting lost or running aground.
While I know I should have paid more attention to the many shipboard activities, it was the running of the ship that held my attention. Watching the pilots arrive on board either by fast boats coming along side or being lowered in a sling from a helicopter were highlights of my day or night. My only regret was not packing our hand-held, moving-map GPS so I could have kept better track of just where we saw all those Killer Whales and Bald Eagles. I could have spent the entire trip up on the bridge and been perfectly happy.
Now, if we can just figure a way to fit that five-star galley, those Las Vegas-style stage productions, those elegant bars, the swimming pool and the hot tubs on our 21-foot sailboat.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.