And so, it all began in June 1989, when at the age of 39, my husband, and I boarded the QE2 in San Francisco. Previously, we had travelled extensively, as we found the world and its people fascinating. In those days, it was very unusual for younger people to cruise, but husband had been ill and we thought it would be a lovely relaxing way to cruise from San Francisco to New York and then back to Southampton. We had booked into the Princess Grill and were blown away by the whole experience. Ward Room and Doctors cocktail parties, cocktails with the Captain…. Unknown to us (no social media in those days and we had been travelling for a week prior) it was the week of the Noriega crisis and the dear old QE2 cleared the Panama Canal in record time – 6 hrs 10 mins (if my memory serves me correctly) with helicopters escorting us throughout. Our arrival into New York was utterly amazing. QE2 had been on charter in Japan for nine months and it was her first time back to New York. Lots of tugs, water canon, small boats, helicopters and news crews – all very exciting. The was followed by a wonderful arrival into Southampton. How could we not cruise again?
Our next cruise was on Sea Goddess (to become Seabourn Goddess in later years) – what a difference, only 108 guests (but the ship was half full) and we cruised from Mumbai to Haifa. A very different experience – quite sublime – we were hooked on small ships! This was more like a private yacht. We walked up the gangway to be greeted with ‘Welcome on board Mr and Mrs Monk’ – how did they know that??!!. Very low key entertainment, amazing food and service. The crew were second to none.
In 1991, it was ‘all change’ and I moved into the travel industry, opening my own travel agency and becoming a top Cunard ‘Inner Circle’ agent and subsequently a top Seabourn agent. My love of cruising just grew and grew. In the late 90s, Seabourn was on my radar and the love of small ship sailing really started. What is not to like? The most amazing crew (many of whom have become friends), who seem to know what you want before you do…., service beyond compare, wonderful food, much of which is on special request. Request an Indian meal? You will be overwhelmed! You room Stewardess offers the most wonderful service – you go out for the day leaving a mess and come back to a pristine suite!! All done by magic! And what about the lovely towelling animals which greet you on your return to bed? Although, I do have to say that I got a big shock when I walked into my suite to find a towelling man watching the TV with a bottle of wine!! I apologised profusely and ran out of the room as I thought I had walked into the wrong suite!!
And, what about what is to offer in the way of entertainment? Fascinating ports of call – a fly-drive without packing and unpacking. Go off the ship for the day and return to the Pool Bar for a glass of Champagne. Shows around the pool and in the theatre. Champagne and cocktails poolside and pre-dinner drinks in the Observation Lounge listening to somebody tinkling on the ivories – all delivered by the wonderful Seabourn boys and girls. The joys of playing with the water toys …. And when we want a quiet night in-room service delivered by a lovely crew who want to set up the table for dinner, but smile when we say ‘no thank you’ we want a picnic and watch a movie!
And, those wonderful relaxing sea days – with the endless sea which meets the sky – will we see dolphins, flying fish and if very lucky, a whale? Sometimes a bird hitches a lift. I was once lucky enough to see a water spout close to the ship whilst on Seabourn Sun at Easter Island. Relax around the pool, join in the highly competitive Trivia (the highlight of the cruise for so many guests) and a series of interesting lectures to keep you busy. Extra entertainment around the pool – including ‘Caviar in the Surf’ which is almost as good as on the beach!. Crossing the Equator ceremony where the new crew are duly initiated with lots of slime (much to the delight of the guests). Time to meet your fellow guests (and grow your Christmas card list!!)
And, perhaps, best of all – ‘Seabourn fries’ …….. divine !!
In these challenging times, please keep your spirits up. Lots of us are looking forward to being back with you very soon. Take care of yourselves and stay safe.