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April 19th 2019
Published: April 19th 2019
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I’ve been wanting to write about this since the first night. Who goes on these cruises? At the start it’s important to know that my experience and sampling is not even statistically significant; one National Geographic cruise and one river cruise, half over. But, actually I do have slightly more data. At every port there are several ships, all basically the same; 110-135 meters long and 3.5 meters wide. This is as big as they can be to navigate the curves and the bridges in the canals in Benelux. Often, like today, another ship is rafted up to ours (or we are rafted up to them) and the passengers pass over or through the other ship on the way to theirs. So we see the Viking, the Ama, the Seabourne and others close up. We even get glimpses of their ships and crews. Ok, still way short of statistically significant. Quit now if you want to stick to non-fiction. I'm taking a tiny bit of data and extrapolating. Highly unreliable. Why don't I quit now? Because it's my blog. Selfish. Here it comes.

From what I’ve seen, the ages of the passengers on all the river ships seem to be about the same. Some of the lines specialize in European or Asian clientele, but even on those, the ages seem to be the same. I’m sure the cruise lines have better information, but they wouldn’t dare share it. My guess is that the average age is 65, maybe a little older. There are older and younger, but maybe more, older. I think is probably a skewed number since there are some people traveling with their young adult children. But that’s a small group. On first glance it is very depressing. Some of these travelers are old, really old, done, or close to done, and some are young like us even if they may be older than we are. And the young ones, like us, are a heck of a lot of fun. We're not done. We're just getting going.

I take comfort in the fact that while we are not the youngest on board, from what we can tell, we are, for all the most important purposes, some of the youngest on board. As a small bit of evidence, we are having dinner tomorrow night with the Washington state six, the three dancing couples in their 40s or 50s. They party hard but always seem to be smiling and friendly. At night, the men wear custom-made, sport jackets. Two of them are identical, light blue with red tulips all over them, and the other one is white with drawings of windmills. They had them made for this Tulip and Windmill trip. Their spouses outfits are not unusual and they are always well-put-together. The guys are much braver than I could ever be or ever want to be. But they are wine drinking people which brings us together. When I saw the bottles of Sassicaia on their table and they saw our Barolo, we bonded.

Jews always look for fellow tribe members when we travel, and we are no exception. We’ve found some, but they are a bit in hiding because they feel guilty about being away at Passover. We can’t escape that. Passover is a holiday of family and we’re not with family. For some it’s a shanda. Harder for Fran than me. Maybe 20% of the passengers are fellow tribe members. Tonight, going through the dining room for dinner, a table of three women stopped us, handed us a small plate of matzoh and said Happy Passover. Cool.

There is a significant population of Japanese people from Los Angeles and San Francisco. They eat together even though they are not all traveling together. This isn't a hard and fast rule. Tonight, we saw Les and Holly, fellow tribe members, having dinner with two of the Japanese women. There is one Japanese-American woman who is very friendly when I talk with her. Her husband is very serious, stiff, and doesn’t smile; a little like the stereotype from the movies. I’m not friendly enough to investigate further, but Asians are definitely not strangers to river cruising.

What do all these passengers do, or what did they do before they retired? I think they did or do a lot of different things. Our Washington State group is still working. One guy owns a gasket company. One guy is in the sod business. And the other guy, I can’t remember but he owns his own businesses and they all seem to do well. Their spouses? I don’t know. I’ll find out tomorrow night. There is also a retired engineer, a school administrator, a neonatal ICU nurse, a gallery owner, a pre-school teacher and a man who does quality control as a consultant to the aerospace industry. They live in California, North Carolina, Fort Wayne, New Jersey, Naples, Pompano Beach, West Palm, Bermuda, and New York. It’s an economically successful group. I would know more if I were friendlier. If I were traveling with my friend Harvey, I'd know a whole lot more. He'd make friends with everyone, even if they were dicks. If I were traveling with my friend Howard, everyone would make friends with him, even if they were dicks. Fran makes friends with people that like art. I make friends, very rarely, but sometimes, with people that drink wine. I guess that's how the world turns.

And cruising is a bit of a club. On this trip, 40 percent of us are first time Crystal cruisers. I know that because last night in the bar before dinner they gave awards to people that have been on 10 or more cruises and there were quite a few. People applauded. I couldn't figure out why. The crew should have applauded. Why should the passengers? I had breakfast with a guy today who has been on 12 cruises, not all with Crystal. His rationale for cruising is 1) he’s a conservative eater and while he loves traveling to new places, he prefers the consistency and conservativeness of the food on board, 2) he hates to pack and unpack, and 3) he loves that everything is taken care of for him, from the flights to the transfers to the tours. I suspect that this is not inconsistent with why a lot of people like cruising.

What do I think? So far, there are a lot of positives and once we figure it all out; which cruise lines, which itineraries, what and how to do onshore activities, and whether to travel as a couple of with a group, assuming a group would have us as companions, I think cruising could be something we could do more of. I like going to many places with no hassle, places that would be hard to get to without our own boat or plane. I like being able to come back to the boat just like going back to a hotel room. I like the food and that's something that surprises me. I like the friendliness of the crew. One doesn't always experience that at hotels. I doubt though, that we would hop on a large ship from a canal cruising line (Viking) and venture into the North Sea in the winter. Actually, I’d guess we wouldn’t jump on a Viking ship of any kind since they did have the bad judgment to even try out that itinerary.

More about this trip tomorrow. Went to Antwerp today. Loved it. Food on this particular trip is really good. Happy Passover.

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