Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mediterranean 2014 - part one

When my English aunt - the lady who's waving - visited Canada on the Arkadia, I was allowed off school to welcome her. My father and I travelled by Canadian Pacific from Toronto to Montreal in a posh railway parlour car with swivel seats and porters who brought drinks to your chair. I still have the brightly coloured CPR swizzle sticks. 

Dad had last been in London in April, 1945. Here brother and sister meet for the first time in fifteen years, an event recorded, somewhat inexpertly, on my little Kodak camera.

Memory says Dad and Aunt Mary, being English, were affectionately restrained, while all around Greek immigrants loudly and weepily threw themselves at relatives who had come before. 

The sense of alien shores borne up the St. Lawrence on what seemed to be an enormous ship (only 20,000 gross tons), the dockside bustle and noisy, decidedly foreign, family dramas made my dreary boarding school seem, well, dreary. However, even at eleven, I realized I could not run away to sea unless subsidized by Dad and this did not seem likely. 

Happily, I can now pay for my own passages and, although foreign parts (sadly) seem far less exotic, I still enjoy the prospect of a long voyage. That is, after I sign a hastily prepared form declaring that I'm not bringing Ebola onto the ship. 

I am aboard the ms Maasdam, a Holland America vessel registered in Rotterdam and recorded in oils by Stephen Card. When the Maasdam was launched in 1993, Captain Card had (and still has) a lucrative business in maritime paintings. 

Who'd ever have thought that the Maasdam would be considered small? But, at 55,000 gross tons, she's modest by today's standards. With only two decks of verandas, she has a relatively attractive superstructure, a feature increasingly rare.

From my cabin window a few days ago, shortly before casting off from Fort Lauderdale.

My Toronto escape was well timed: there apparently were a few flakes just after leaving. I am on a six weeks cruise to the Mediterranean and back to Florida. Two Atlantic crossings, no jet lag and Europe in the shoulder season when ports, which sizzle in summer and explode with tourists, are cooler and quieter.

Some Canadians wave as we depart.

More waving ...

... and we're at sea. Next stop, Puerto Rico.