Setting Off On 18-Day Mediterranean Cruise

Brothers on the Grand Princess

Brothers aboard the Grand Princess. This ship model is made of sugar.

My two sons, Matthew,  25, Alex, 12, and I wheeled our suitcases out of our apartment complex in Kayseri, Turkey, headed for our version of Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad.  In 1867, Twain crossed the Atlantic by steamer and explored Europe, Turkey and the Holy Land for six months. The cost was  $1,250 per person. In today’s dollars, that’s something in the neighborhood of $35,000 per person. By 2009,  an 18-day Mediterranean Cruise was valued at about $5,000 a person. In our case, however, it was almost free.

That’s because Matthew worked as a sound engineer in the entertainment division of Princess Cruise Lines, and his family could board ship as his guests, or as stowaways (as I called us) if there was cabin space available.

On a mid-November evening, Lucia and a small committee of Turks and Americans waved us off. I worried that it wasn’t exactly the best time to go, since our house in North Carolina still wasn’t rented because of the economic collapse in the states. But how could I say no to a ‘free’ cruise? My excuse was “what an education this will be for Alex.” And as Twain wrote:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

As we were wheeling our suitcases past the Turkish Leave-taking Committee, our wonderfully caring doorman Teyfek asked about Lucia.  “Isn’t she going?” I proudly informed him that Lucia was staying behind, working, and sending money. Another “committee member” then asked me if I could find such a “girl” for him.
We were to board the cruise ship in Rome; sail to Naples, Italy; Athens, Greece; Mykonos, Greece; make a couple of stops in Turkey; then to Cairo/Giza, Egypt;  Alexandria, Egypt; Cannes, France; Barcelona, Spain; and finish as the Mediterranean empties into the Atlantic Ocean at the Rock of Gibraltar. From there we’d fly to London, back to Istanbul, and down to Kayseri.

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