Jason Leppert | June 23, 2016 5:00 AM ET
Celebrating 100 Cruises
When I went on my very first cruise before I was even two years old, little did I know that the dozens of voyages to follow would effectively train me for for the dream job I currently hold: getting paid to review and analyze cruise travel. Now dozens of sailings have added up to 100, and I couldn’t be more thrilled by the journey I have taken and continue to enjoy. Actually, I’d enjoy it much more if my wife could join me on more of my cruises, but alas our bills still need to be paid.
I’m only 32, so accruing 100 cruises as a millennial is even more signifiant, and I have my parents to thank for first taking me on Princess Cruises’ original Royal Princess back in 1985. Being an only child with folks who are just as enamored with cruising helped, and now I’m blessed to be able to frequently take them as guests on sailings.
Since my first voyage, I’ve sailed on nearly every cruise line, witnessing the fascinating evolution of the industry over three decades. The kids facilities have certainly improved, and I can only now wish that I had Disney Cruise Line’s clubs to enjoy back in my time as an adolescent. Nonetheless, I remain a kid-at-heart as I watch cruise ships get larger and larger and ever more elaborate with outrageous onboard attractions.
Still, my 100th cruise had more in common with my first than one might initially imagine. Viking Ocean Cruises’ new Viking Sea and Princess Cruises’ 1984 Royal Princess float around a 1,000-guest capacity (Viking Sea at 930 specifically), and so both are surprisingly comparable in size. The surprise comes in the form of disparate trends. Just as mainstream cruise ships are getting larger, luxury ones from Viking are staying conservatively scaled, and I appreciate both approaches for different reasons. In fact, for me cruise number 99 just days before 100 was aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, the current largest cruise ship in the world.
Thus, I’m very familiar with each ship, but the Viking Sea just feels like home to me. Plus, I got to celebrate my 100th cruise in even more special ways on it. For one, the ship embarked on Viking’s new “Into the Midnight Sun” itinerary, and all the Norwegian ports but one were entirely new to me. I got to witness several port plaque exchanges, also something I’ve never done before, inaugurating the ship’s first call at each port with a historic ceremony.
Also, founder and chairman, Torstein Hagen, and senior vice president, Karine Hagen, were along for the ride, and it was a pleasure to get to know the father and daughter, respectively, both professionally and personally. Their passion for the product and always making it better is evident every step of the way. It’s truly no wonder the company has succeeded as a home-run on the river and oceans accordingly.
Other memorable firsts for me along the way included stepping on the northernmost point of Europe at North Cape, trying Norwegian culinary delicacies and even catching my very first fish in Bodo, the specific story of which is especially amusing. I had only planned to take photos and record video onboard the fishing boat, but my colleague and friend Ralph Grizzle, who had been unsuccessful to lure a catch thus far, had to use the restroom and asked if I could briefly hold his fishing rod while he was below deck. Within seconds of trying my luck at it, I was reeling up a healthy pollock that we cooked up on deck and enjoyed. Poor Ralph never caught a fish even after that, but I remain thankful to him for the unexpected opportunity.
I guess my point in all of this is to share my experience as proof that the journey is always a splendid one and that you never know where life may take you over time. Travel is a blessing I hope everyone can enjoy as often as possible, and certainly cruise travel is my preferred and recommended format. Next up for me is cruise 101 to Cuba aboard Fathom’s Adonia. What’s next for you?
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