My earliest insights into the rarefied world of serious ocean cruising were provided by Delhis Mary Wolf of Pompano Beach, Florida, who knows all about being at your best when everything about you is all at sea.
We met aboard a Holland America ship. Mrs Wolf had boarded in Los Angeles at the start of a 62-day voyage to Australia and New Zealand. After this extensive journey she would take a ‘back-to-back’ Caribbean cruise. Having already sailed well over 100 cruises, on a variety of ships, she showed no signs of slowing down.
The first insight provided was about motivation. Sailing the high seas, she said, was a far more attractive proposition and heaps more fun than the alternative – being moribund in an old age home. She asserted that costs were not that different, whereas the benefits were incomparable.
“Not all cabins cost $1000 a day, although that’s what you often read in the media,” she said. “Consider this: I have cabin crew looking after me, all meals included, lectures and activities during the day, live shows at night, a library, cinema and a casino. And there’s also a doctor and nurses on call should I ever need them, God forbid.”
A second insight was social. Private parties are crucial to the voyage calendar. Mrs Wolf had thrown her own soiree early in this current cruise. “Tonight it’s my sister Zelma’s turn. It’s the best way of meeting people on board. I’ve made so many friends from around the world while cruising,” she said.
“You see, we cruisers really are a community afloat. Many of us are old friends. My late husband Larry and I began cruising way back in the 1960s and since then so many people we’ve met on ships have become close friends. I’ll sail the Caribbean with a dear friend I met on the Mediterranean.”
I assumed anyone with her cruising record, status and obvious means would have a suite or a cabin with private deck at least. “Oh no, dear,” she said, “I want stability and size. The higher up you are in a ship, the more there’s that rolling movement.
“I’m happy on Main Deck, amidships, in an inside cabin. They’re more spacious than outside cabins. And anyway,” she added, “I don’t really like looking at the sea.”
Before I could react to this unexpected declaration she’d glanced at her watch and dashed off to the hairdresser. Life aboard ship means never a dull moment.