What has been the most memorable, fondest or quirkiest experience ever on a cruise vacation, either onboard or ashore? Travel Agent posed the question to a sampling of cruise industry executives. Here are a few firsthand gleanings.
FAMILY TIES AT SEA: My fondest memories are from my first cruise with my parents onboard NCL’s Norway in 1981. It was a majestic ship, and a magical experience for me as a kid. I still remember the beauty of her public spaces. She was a true ocean liner [the former SS France] from a bygone era. —Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.
MAIDEN VOYAGE WOES: Perhaps the most memorable event in my career was the maiden cruise of [Carnival Cruise Lines’] Mardi Gras when the ship ran aground before even leaving Government Cut at the Port of Miami. Also, on that same cruise, I’ll never forget Ted Arison [the line’s founder] collecting coins from the slot machines and cash from the bars to buy enough fuel in St. Thomas [U.S. Virgin Islands] to get us back to Miami.
One of the most humorous events happened when we were inspecting [Carnival’s] Carnivale, prior to its first sailing on February 18, 1976. I was part of an inspection team and one of our tasks was to test the toilets in the cabins, so we went from one cabin to the other flushing toilets. And amazingly, not all of the toilets flushed down. Some of them flushed up instead—and drenched us! —Maurice Zarmati, president and CEO, Costa Cruises North America.
LOST IN CHINA: On an excursion in Chongqing, China, my wife and I watched locals perform in the city square. Then, we wandered off to search for a camera store to purchase batteries. Upon our return, we found our group had moved on. But where?
While we were looking for a familiar landmark or cab, a young man on a motorcycle stopped. He frantically motioned for us to go down the street in a particular direction, which we did. After a few blocks, we saw our bus and tour group. We had obviously looked very different, lost and out of place, so he figured we had to be with that tourist group he had just passed. It was surprising for someone to identify us, and without speaking a word, understand the situation and direct us properly. It’s something we’ll never forget! —Steve Tracas, president and CEO, Vacation.com
NEVER SAY NEVER: My first cruise was in 1981 on the MS Dolphin and I was very excited about it. My husband and I walked into our room where the beds were bolted down and on opposite sides of the cabin. Then, about an hour into the cruise, the ship—with no modern stabilizers—started to rock and roll.
After running back to my cabin and spending the rest of the evening in bed and the bathroom, I swore off cruising. I told my husband: Fly me home at the next port.
Thankfully [the vessels have changed], my last cruise was on the Celebrity Solstice and all was great. But who would’ve thought that 30 years later, I would be running one of the largest cruise companies in the nation. —Michelle Fee, CEO, Cruise Planners
RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR: I celebrated New Year’s Eve last year with my family on Oasis of the Seas. They loved the celebration and the ball countdown on the packed Royal Promenade. It was Times Square without the cold weather! Then I went to the crew celebration in Studio B. It was thrilling to see how excited and happy the crew were [as I went about chatting with them]; it took me about two hours to cross the room. —Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
GLOBAL EDUCATION: When I was in college, I traveled around the world for 108 days on the SS Universe with 550 college kids and great teachers—and it was life-changing. Many of the places we visited in 1981—like China and India—have changed radically. —Steven Gelfuso, president, CruiseBrothers.com
LUXURY LOVE BOAT: One of the fondest experiences I’ve had was on the Crystal Symphony, where my son Jeffrey Anderson proposed to his [future] wife. The cruise line’s attention to detail in leading up to this event was amazing. This was an incredible moment that my entire family was able to share. —Brad Anderson, co-president, Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center