A true love of cruising

Sherri Gardner HowellBlount, Farragut, Kitchen Table Talk

I will never understand how anyone can eat steamed broccoli. Everything about it makes me nauseous, and the thought of having to eat a bite of it – even drenched in cheese sauce – just leaves me shuddering.

Many dear friends and family members, however, truly find there are few things quite as delicious and healthy as a stalk of fresh broccoli, straight out of a steamer.

It’s a love it or leave it vegetable.

Why am I going on about poor broccoli? Because I find the relationship between my reaction to this vegetable I malign and some people’s reaction to cruising to be exactly the same. “Couldn’t get me on one of those floating germ buckets.” “Not going if I can’t see land.” “Not spending money to watch a bunch of millennials booze out on free alcohol.” “Watching old people in ugly shorts play Bingo isn’t my idea of a good time.”

On paper, I am the least likely person to be a cruise fanatic. I get seasick driving through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can pour all the alcohol I consume in a week in a juice glass and still have room for ice. I don’t like buffets, dancing, jugglers or Bingo. For sightseeing in ports, I am most likely to pick a Hop On/Hop Off bus option over zip-lining or kayaking.

My first cruise was a Caribbean island hopper for my 50th birthday with two girlfriends. I fell in love with the whole ship experience. The love affair was set in concrete when my husband and I took our first cruise together a few years later on a trip from Barcelona to Rome. He was a hard recruit and only agreed to spend our vacation time/money that way to appease me. After that trip, Neville, too, was hooked.

When I try to explain what it is I love so much about cruising, I find I just can’t. The things I love aren’t unique to the cruising world. You can experience many of them on other types of vacations – ease of relaxation, friendly staff catering to your needs, choices of “what to do today” offered every morning in a lovely newsletter or ahead of the trip with excursion bookings, good food, nice pool, spa/sauna, beautiful vistas …

For me, it just all comes together and makes taking a cruise my very, very favorite thing to do. While I book other kinds of trips with SGH Go Travel, my new home-based travel agency, I like putting cruise-lovers on cruises best of all.

It has been tough for cruise lovers like me. When I walked off Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas (one of my favorite ships) on January 12, 2020, I was looking forward to a new year with three more cruises to come – one of them being a bucket list cruise/land trip to the Australian outback and New Zealand.

None of those happened, of course, and I had plenty more to be worried about than missing a vacation.

Now, however, I feel confident that the cruising industry has protocols in place to do everything they can to offer a safe environment. We are about four weeks away from our first cruise since that January day.

Am I ready, excited and raring to go? Well, if I had to, I would even eat a plate of steamed broccoli.

Right off a downtown street in the port of Madeira, Portugal, was this lovely garden.

Even on a cruise ship — and with the wind hazard high, Neville found an opportunity to golf.

In Malaga, a port stop in Spain, Neville and I indulged our “futbol” passion at the Malaga Club de Futbol.

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons. Contact her at sghgotravel@outlook.com.

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