In the Suburbs: These never cruisers finally set sail

File photo of a cruise ship.

File photo of a cruise ship.

David Sacks/Getty Images

On a whim, the day after New Years, I booked our first cruise for this coming summer.

It will be a five-night, six-day journey to Canada, stopping in St. John and Halifax, and we leave conveniently out of New York.  The cruise is on the Venezia, a huge, relatively new ship that is just beginning to cruise in New England, Canada and other places. My wife and I are looking forward to this new experience with anticipation and, admittedly, with a little trepidation.

Mind you, until this point in our nearly 57-year marriage, we have been “never cruisers,” finding every excuse not to be on water, except for one dreadful day cruise across Lake Michigan from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Ludington, Michigan when we were newly married.

Since we were living in Chicago, we thought it would be a fun vacation to take a large ferry and drive around Michigan for a few days. It was a great idea at first, but the notoriously choppy Lake Michigan did us in and my poor wife, along with a lot of other passengers, really suffered. Within an hour of leaving Milwaukee, passengers were suddenly evacuating restaurants and the movie theater to find any accessible seasick receptacles. After what seemed like an eternity on water, we finally arrived, retrieved our car and said, “Never again."

These days, our cruises have been limited to the Bridgeport Ferry and friends’ pleasure boats. We've had zero interest in any longer cruises.  

Our reluctance to longer voyages includes the possible cost of a cruise; worries about bouts of ship-borne Legionaire’s disease or COVID, not wanting longer-term seasickness, concerns about possible boredom and being trapped on the water, and zero interest in having to fly to Florida before cruising to warmer Caribbean “climes."   

Good friends and even our daughter, who has already taken her older son on a Caribbean cruise, have tried to convince us that a trip on water can be absolutely spectacular and very relaxing, not to elaborate about the amazing food. All have offered to be travel companions on our maiden voyage, but we’ve continued to resist.  

All of my resistance decreased this past October when I was visiting friends in Chicago. Our close high school friends, Karen and Tom had recently returned from a cruise around New England and absolutely loved the trip. That planted the seed for me and when I talked with my wife, she quickly said, “Now that cruise I would consider.”  

Before I booked our Canadian cruise, we talked a lot about the possibilities for taking any cruise.  I will admit that the idea of cruising to Alaska from Vancouver was one voyage my wife and I have often considered, but we were really concerned about the cost and finding the best window for making the trip.  

Another idea was to take a river cruise in Europe – very expensive – or explore the growing number of domestic cruises around California to other parts of the western and the southeastern United States.  And the one amazing cruise that truly intrigued us, before I learned the high price, was a five-day voyage on a totally refurbished tug boat between Vancouver and the tip of Alaska for whale and porpoise watching and nature walks in beautiful forests.  

In the end, this cruise to Canada really looked like the best choice for these two doddering seniors with assorted aches and pains and back problems. 

Our friend Karen also shared that she and Tom had taken the Canadian cruise. She raved about the scenery and the land tours.

A delightful travel representative really took our needs into consideration and made the cruise really appealing and, honestly, very economical.

Despite my wife’s back and hip challenges, the representative found a handicapped accessible outside room view, assured me that the ship’s food services staff could easily accommodate my wife’s lactose intolerance and we’d have a ship steward assigned to us from the time we boarded the ship to the end of trip. And there will be a wheelchair outside the room at all times.  

At first, I saw little need for a wheelchair, because my wife can walk short distances. But when I saw a picture of the ship, which holds more than 4,000 people, I quickly decided that if the elevator was too far from our room, the chair would be a godsend.  

Right now, I'm exploring the costs of land tours in St. John and Halifax with a minimal amount of walking and exploring any unusual restaurants we might try. From what I can tell, there are many possibilities.   

It's only January, but we soon-to-be first time cruisers are already getting excited about this mysterious new adventure and hoping it will be all we´re hoping for and more. And our biggest hope, of course, is for relatively smooth sailing. 

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.