Why I Love Cruising

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When I was a small child, my parents would take me to the island of Catalina, located just 26 miles from the mainland of California across from Long Beach. The white steamer would sail from the port of Los Angeles and cruise the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean to this lovely isle. We would depart at about 8:30 a.m. and arrive before noon at the dock in the town of Avalon.

The town was not very large in the old days, it perhaps had a population of 2,000, and the boat’s arrival and departure was interesting to many who resided there. There were two white steamers in the 1940s, one named SS Catalina and the other was SS Avalon. They both could carry around 1,500 passengers on bench and chair seating. Every time we took the boats they seemed loaded to the gills.

The cruise director would often call our attention to sea life visible from the ship and his voice was carried over a loudspeaker system. When whales could be seen we would all run over to that side of the ship for a good view. Often we could see “flying fish” which were always interesting as they darted out of the water, spread their fins and glided several feet through the air until they lost speed and dropped into the sea again. I think they heard the large ship coming at them and “flew” away for safety. The ships belonged to the Los Angeles Steamship Company that was a division of the large Matson Lines that provided passenger and cargo ships throughout the Pacific.

Once off the boat in Catalina, we would usually take a sightseeing trip somewhere on the island or a small boat tour of various interest. The undersea gardens were one destination and you boarded a glass-bottom boat for that one.

We always enjoyed a nice lunch downtown facing the beach activity across the road. Sometimes we would rent bikes for a couple hours to cruise the town streets or would just walk around to enjoy the spirit of this calm island. It was hard to believe Catalina was only 26 miles from the busy Los Angeles and area. The island’s harbor was protected from the rough seas and there were many private yachts tied up to buoys. Many belonged to movie stars and producers.

Late in the afternoon we would re-board the ship and cruise back to Los Angeles harbor. I would usually be very sunburned when returning home that night.

There were a few occasions when my parents would rent a cottage and we would vacation for a few days in Avalon. There was also a large casino and dance hall at the waterfront along with a beautiful movie theatre. It is still there and can be visited. Organ concerts on the Wurlitzer can still be heard.

These Catalina sailings gave me an appetite for ships and the sea. Later, we took a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii and cruised both ways on Matson’s SS Lurline. It took four-and-a-half days in each direction from and to Los Angeles. I think I enjoyed the ocean travel as much as the beaches in Hawaii. I lament the fact that there is no longer liner service from the west coast to Hawaii. It always made a nice cruise with several days at sea in each direction. There are a few sailings this year with Princess and Holland America Line.

After I grew up, we took Matson Lines’ wonderful ships to Alaska and places in the South Pacific. The Matsonia and Lurline did the west coast Hawaii runs and the Monterey and Mariposa sailed to Hawaii then south and west to Tahiti, Samoa, Rangoroa, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. These sailings took six weeks for the round trip. I was able to sail the South Pacific twice before the ships were taken off the route.

In the 1960s Matson Lines sold off their passenger ships to become a cargo-only operation. The American union crews were very good, but also very expensive. Our crews could no longer be afforded. Meals on the Matson ships were like going to the best restaurant ashore.

I also sailed once on American President Lines’ SS President Roosevelt. This was another fine experience with American crew, food and service. This round trip also took about six weeks from San Francisco to Japan and back. I When I was a small child, my parents would take me to the island of Catalina, located just 26 miles from the mainland of California across from Long Beach. The white steamer would sail from the port of Los Angeles and cruise the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean to this lovely isle. We would depart at about 8:30 a.m. and arrive before noon at the dock in the town of Avalon.

The town was not very large in the old days, it perhaps had a population of 2,000, and the boat’s arrival and departure was interesting to many who resided there. There were two white steamers in the 1940s, one named SS Catalina and the other was SS Avalon. They both could carry around 1,500 passengers on bench and chair seating. Every time we took the boats they seemed loaded to the gills.

The cruise director would often call our attention to sea life visible from the ship and his voice was carried over a loudspeaker system. When whales could be seen we would all run over to that side of the ship for a good view. Often we could see “flying fish” which were always interesting as they darted out of the water, spread their fins and glided several feet through the air until they lost speed and dropped into the sea again. I think they heard the large ship coming at them and “flew” away for safety. The ships belonged to the Los Angeles Steamship Company that was a division of the large Matson Lines that provided passenger and cargo ships throughout the Pacific.

Once off the boat in Catalina, we would usually take a sightseeing trip somewhere on the island or a small boat tour of various interest. The undersea gardens were one destination and you boarded a glass-bottom boat for that one.

We always enjoyed a nice lunch downtown facing the beach activity across the road. Sometimes we would rent bikes for a couple hours to cruise the town streets or would just walk around to enjoy the spirit of this calm island. It was hard to believe Catalina was only 26 miles from the busy Los Angeles and area. The island’s harbor was protected from the rough seas and there were many private yachts tied up to buoys. Many belonged to movie stars and producers.

Late in the afternoon we would re-board the ship and cruise back to Los Angeles harbor. I would usually be very sunburned when returning home that night.

There were a few occasions when my parents would rent a cottage and we would vacation for a few days in Avalon. There was also a large casino and dance hall at the waterfront along with a beautiful movie theatre. It is still there and can be visited. Organ concerts on the Wurlitzer can still be heard.

These Catalina sailings gave me an appetite for ships and the sea. Later, we took a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii and cruised both ways on Matson’s SS Lurline. It took four-and-a-half days in each direction from and to Los Angeles. I think I enjoyed the ocean travel as much as the beaches in Hawaii. I lament the fact that there is no longer liner service from the west coast to Hawaii. It always made a nice cruise with several days at sea in each direction. There are a few sailings this year with Princess and Holland America Line.

After I grew up, we took Matson Lines’ wonderful ships to Alaska and places in the South Pacific. The Matsonia and Lurline did the west coast Hawaii runs and the Monterey and Mariposa sailed to Hawaii then south and west to Tahiti, Samoa, Rangoroa, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. These sailings took six weeks for the round trip. I was able to sail the South Pacific twice before the ships were taken off the route.

In the 1960s Matson Lines sold off their passenger ships to become a cargo-only operation. The American union crews were very good, but also very expensive. Our crews could no longer be afforded. Meals on the Matson ships were like going to the best restaurant ashore.

I also sailed once on American President Lines’ SS President Roosevelt. This was another fine experience with American crew, food and service. This round trip also took about six weeks from San Francisco to Japan and back. I When I was a small child, my parents would take me to the island of Catalina, located just 26 miles from the mainland of California across from Long Beach. The white steamer would sail from the port of Los Angeles and cruise the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean to this lovely isle. We would depart at about 8:30 a.m. and arrive before noon at the dock in the town of Avalon.

The town was not very large in the old days, it perhaps had a population of 2,000, and the boat’s arrival and departure was interesting to many who resided there. There were two white steamers in the 1940s, one named SS Catalina and the other was SS Avalon. They both could carry around 1,500 passengers on bench and chair seating. Every time we took the boats they seemed loaded to the gills.

The cruise director would often call our attention to sea life visible from the ship and his voice was carried over a loudspeaker system. When whales could be seen we would all run over to that side of the ship for a good view. Often we could see “flying fish” which were always interesting as they darted out of the water, spread their fins and glided several feet through the air until they lost speed and dropped into the sea again. I think they heard the large ship coming at them and “flew” away for safety. The ships belonged to the Los Angeles Steamship Company that was a division of the large Matson Lines that provided passenger and cargo ships throughout the Pacific.

Once off the boat in Catalina, we would usually take a sightseeing trip somewhere on the island or a small boat tour of various interest. The undersea gardens were one destination and you boarded a glass-bottom boat for that one.

We always enjoyed a nice lunch downtown facing the beach activity across the road. Sometimes we would rent bikes for a couple hours to cruise the town streets or would just walk around to enjoy the spirit of this calm island. It was hard to believe Catalina was only 26 miles from the busy Los Angeles and area. The island’s harbor was protected from the rough seas and there were many private yachts tied up to buoys. Many belonged to movie stars and producers.

Late in the afternoon we would re-board the ship and cruise back to Los Angeles harbor. I would usually be very sunburned when returning home that night.

There were a few occasions when my parents would rent a cottage and we would vacation for a few days in Avalon. There was also a large casino and dance hall at the waterfront along with a beautiful movie theatre. It is still there and can be visited. Organ concerts on the Wurlitzer can still be heard.

These Catalina sailings gave me an appetite for ships and the sea. Later, we took a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii and cruised both ways on Matson’s SS Lurline. It took four-and-a-half days in each direction from and to Los Angeles. I think I enjoyed the ocean travel as much as the beaches in Hawaii. I lament the fact that there is no longer liner service from the west coast to Hawaii. It always made a nice cruise with several days at sea in each direction. There are a few sailings this year with Princess and Holland America Line.

After I grew up, we took Matson Lines’ wonderful ships to Alaska and places in the South Pacific. The Matsonia and Lurline did the west coast Hawaii runs and the Monterey and Mariposa sailed to Hawaii then south and west to Tahiti, Samoa, Rangoroa, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. These sailings took six weeks for the round trip. I was able to sail the South Pacific twice before the ships were taken off the route.

In the 1960s Matson Lines sold off their passenger ships to become a cargo-only operation. The American union crews were very good, but also very expensive. Our crews could no longer be afforded. Meals on the Matson ships were like going to the best restaurant ashore.

I also sailed once on American President Lines’ SS President Roosevelt. This was another fine experience with American crew, food and service. This round trip also took about six weeks from San Francisco to Japan and back. I When I was a small child, my parents would take me to the island of Catalina, located just 26 miles from the mainland of California across from Long Beach. The white steamer would sail from the port of Los Angeles and cruise the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean to this lovely isle. We would depart at about 8:30 a.m. and arrive before noon at the dock in the town of Avalon.

The town was not very large in the old days, it perhaps had a population of 2,000, and the boat’s arrival and departure was interesting to many who resided there. There were two white steamers in the 1940s, one named SS Catalina and the other was SS Avalon. They both could carry around 1,500 passengers on bench and chair seating. Every time we took the boats they seemed loaded to the gills.

The cruise director would often call our attention to sea life visible from the ship and his voice was carried over a loudspeaker system. When whales could be seen we would all run over to that side of the ship for a good view. Often we could see “flying fish” which were always interesting as they darted out of the water, spread their fins and glided several feet through the air until they lost speed and dropped into the sea again. I think they heard the large ship coming at them and “flew” away for safety. The ships belonged to the Los Angeles Steamship Company that was a division of the large Matson Lines that provided passenger and cargo ships throughout the Pacific.

Once off the boat in Catalina, we would usually take a sightseeing trip somewhere on the island or a small boat tour of various interest. The undersea gardens were one destination and you boarded a glass-bottom boat for that one.

We always enjoyed a nice lunch downtown facing the beach activity across the road. Sometimes we would rent bikes for a couple hours to cruise the town streets or would just walk around to enjoy the spirit of this calm island. It was hard to believe Catalina was only 26 miles from the busy Los Angeles and area. The island’s harbor was protected from the rough seas and there were many private yachts tied up to buoys. Many belonged to movie stars and producers.

Late in the afternoon we would re-board the ship and cruise back to Los Angeles harbor. I would usually be very sunburned when returning home that night.

There were a few occasions when my parents would rent a cottage and we would vacation for a few days in Avalon. There was also a large casino and dance hall at the waterfront along with a beautiful movie theatre. It is still there and can be visited. Organ concerts on the Wurlitzer can still be heard.

These Catalina sailings gave me an appetite for ships and the sea. Later, we took a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii and cruised both ways on Matson’s SS Lurline. It took four-and-a-half days in each direction from and to Los Angeles. I think I enjoyed the ocean travel as much as the beaches in Hawaii. I lament the fact that there is no longer liner service from the west coast to Hawaii. It always made a nice cruise with several days at sea in each direction. There are a few sailings this year with Princess and Holland America Line.

After I grew up, we took Matson Lines’ wonderful ships to Alaska and places in the South Pacific. The Matsonia and Lurline did the west coast Hawaii runs and the Monterey and Mariposa sailed to Hawaii then south and west to Tahiti, Samoa, Rangoroa, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. These sailings took six weeks for the round trip. I was able to sail the South Pacific twice before the ships were taken off the route.

In the 1960s Matson Lines sold off their passenger ships to become a cargo-only operation. The American union crews were very good, but also very expensive. Our crews could no longer be afforded. Meals on the Matson ships were like going to the best restaurant ashore.

I also sailed once on American President Lines’ SS President Roosevelt. This was another fine experience with American crew, food and service. This round trip also took about six weeks from San Francisco to Japan and back. I remember our cabin being quite large with a nice sitting area and large windows. APL passenger service also quit in the 1960s. The passenger jet was replacing the large ships during this period.

When I was 19 years old, my parents approved my taking a student tour to Europe with a professor as the tour leader. I was a student at the University of Southern California and had finished my second year. The tour lasted most of the summer vacation. We met as a tour group in Montreal, Canada and after some sightseeing we boarded a Greek scow of a ship built in the 1920s. I think it was named the Colombia or something like that.

We must have been booked in steerage since our cabin was, I believe, below the water line. There were nine of us boys crammed three high on bunks in our cabin. We had a washbasin with cold water only, no toilet. This was located down the passageway about 200 feet. The public toilet contained showers, washbasins and bathtubs. About half way through our voyage from Canada to France, the hot water ceased to function and it was cold showers only for the rest of the way. When you are young you can take almost anything, but a cold shower is not my choice in the morning. This was quite a contrast to the much nicer, luxurious ships I had cruised in with my parents.

We hit a terrible Atlantic storm about halfway over and I thought the ship was going to roll over one night. All in our cabin took blankets off our bunks and headed for the topside and survived the storm outside in the rain and wind.

On the 11th day we spotted land… it was France. We anchored in Le Havre and then took the boat train to Paris. When my summer in Europe was over I left the group and flew back to Los Angeles on PanAm and American Airlines. I did not look forward to another Greek Line Atlantic crossing in a dumpy ship.

I also served time in the United States Navy and was stationed aboard a refrigerator ship at Sasebo, Japan, as well as the submarine base in Vallejo, Calif. near San Francisco. Before entering the service I knew I loved ships and the sea and during my Navy duty I was most happy sailing the Pacific Ocean.

In time, I have been able to take at least 100 cruises as a civilian. In the late 1980s I decided I wanted to go to sea again and being too old for more Naval service I obtained a position with Holland America Line as a port lecturer. The ship was the Noordam, which was quite modern and new for the time. We carried 1,250 passengers. The ship was 703 feet long and 34,000 gross tons. I signed a Caribbean season contract to work the ship from late summer until spring of the next year. It was 33 weeks at sea doing mostly 7-day cruises out of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. to Puerto Rico, Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands and then concluding the week in Nassau, Bahamas. We cruised Saturday to Saturday.

I usually had about five hours off on Saturdays. I worked straight through the 33 weeks without a day off. It was busy work since my position also called for me to host a dinner table in the dining room twice each week and work three days during the cruise in the shore excursion department selling excursion tickets to passengers. My lectures occurred four times each cruise in the main lounge and were videotaped for playback on cabin TVs during the days at sea.

I had many interesting experiences while working on the Noordam and will share these with you in an article. HAL is a wonderful cruise line and I have enjoyed many cruises with them as a passenger since.

In the last few years a small cruise line, Discovery World Cruises, has cruised us through the South Pacific, the Panama Canal, transatlantic, the Baltic and still more locations. All these trips have been wonderful experiences.

I have also enjoyed cruises to Bermuda, eastern Canada, the Caribbean and Mediterranean, plus several to Alaska.

What stands out as special? It’s hard to pinpoint, but I would have to say at the top of the list are the Norwegian Fjords, the Baltic area with St. Petersburg, Russia as the focus and the Tahitian Islands. A cruise stopping at several New Zealand points is also outstanding.

Try a cruise yourself. Don’t bother with the 3- and 4-day cruises. I don’t like them because the first and last day of any cruise is not the best. You are busy getting packed and unpacked as well as making your flights to and from the ship. Make seven days the minimum of time for the ship experience and a 14-day cruise is just right. This gives you time to relax and visit a few ports of interest. Be careful not to eat too much or you will put on weight. Remember all meals aboard ship are included unless you dine in the extra charge restaurants. Personally, I don’t think these are worth the extra fare.

Enjoy planning your cruise.

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