We were the most envied couple on board. "I wish I could get my son to come on a cruise." "You two look alike, especially when you smile." "And are you both having a good time?"
Yes, we were both having a good time. It seemed a challenge to find something two generations can enjoy for a week without compromise, but I shouldn't have been concerned. Our week aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines' MS Windward was great for both of us.
On one hand my dear mother and I are of different generations (maybe you figured that out) and we are both strong and independent people. The prospect of living together in closer proximity than we have since the week I was born, seemed a little risky.
On the other hand, I love my mother without reservation, we're both single, we both like to travel. And, on the cruise I learned that my mother and I are even more alike than I had thought. Where did she get such good taste? We agreed on almost everything.
We liked ship. The Windward spends her winters on week-long runs around the Caribbean, in the summer she's on the Alaska run out of Vancouver. The Windward is just over 2½ years old, but is so well maintained that it was hard to believe that we were not on her maiden voyage. All the cabins have a sitting area and a comfy couch. The difference in cruise prices is the difference in your view: an inside cabin is the least expensive, a private balcony costs the most. We had an outside cabin with an unobstructed view.
This was a good choice. The window in our cabin was probably my favourite thing on the ship. We sat by it playing rummy (Mom won 51% of the games), reading (Mom read The Odyssey, I caught up on magazines), or talking. Every night when the steward made up the room, he drew the heavy curtain so that the sun would not disturb us. Every night before we went to bed, one of us would open the curtain so that the Caribbean sun would find us first thing in the morning.
Mother said that her favourite thing about the cruise was the motion of the ship. Getting rocked to sleep every night by the motion of the waves is alone worth the price of the trip.
As for the ship's itinerary, we even agreed on that. Despite our shared fantasy of hijacking the vessel at Barbados and heading for New Zealand, we agreed that the ports we visited were great. The first day was completely at sea: sleep, read, eat, walk around and explore, no pressure to do anything. We both needed a day like that to get over the world we had left behind and the trip down. We made a narrow escape from freezing rain in Toronto and our first fight was delayed. I'll be forever grateful to USAir for holding a flight in Baltimore for 15 minutes so that we could make it.
We agreed in our judgment of all five ports: in Barbados we rushed around like insatiable travellers. We got a taste of the wild west coast, the plantations of the interior, the history, and the beaches and resorts of the East coast but ended up agreeing that it was not possible to do the island justice in a day.
In St. Lucia we idled on board and walked cautiously around the town. At St. Bart's we relaxed again, each in our own ways. On this little French island I rented a motorcycle from a guy from Bordeaux who thought I had the funniest accent in French he'd ever heard (I can't dispute that). I screamed around the island all day on the bike. Six hours was enough time to circle St. Bart's twice and still spend a while on a great semi-nudist beach. Mother relaxed on board but allowed me to give her a lift into town on the little motorcycle.
In St. Thomas we braved the hoards of shoppers haggling over jewelry in what looks like an outpost of Hong Kong and then went together to a beach where we swam as pelicans dived all around us.
In Tortola we relaxed differently again: Mom read, walked the decks and had a great day in the sun without setting foot ashore. I went to the most perfect little beach over on the beautiful island of Virgin Gorda where I met a couple from Colorado who have lived very happily on that idyllic bit of paradise for 20 years. They made me promise to report that Virgin Gorda is not really worth visiting.
Those small islands and the Windward's home port of San Juan, Puerto Rico were a very good sampling of what the Caribbean has to offer.
But eight hours on shore is never enough to see more than one or two things in any port; the real destination was the ship. We were refugees from many the noisy activities on board, but developed our own routine which included afternoon tea. The best tea was to be found in the Sports Bar so we'd meet there every afternoon. We'd sit on deck, often watching the ship cast off from yet another island. The big bin of popcorn laid on for the heavy drinking sports fans was too good to resist, so we invented the tradition of afternoon tea and popcorn. It was great at the time, maybe you had to be there.
We dined with the Captain one night, at what he called "the family table of the ship" and were completely charmed by the Norwegian officers and their high-tech international life at sea. We drank many toasts, including one to Canadian unity, and enjoyed the air of munificent well being.
As we left the Captain's table I received a direct order from the man in charge. "You've got a lovely mother," said the Captain "look after her well." Yes sir.
We flew on scheduled USAir flights from Toronto to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The MS Windward is a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship. NCL ships are represented by Nordic Tours Ltd., and sold by travel agents. For brochures and information contact 800/ 263-0844, in Toronto 416/ 629-0212.