Coming This Week, A Jaunt To See Seabourn Quest, A Makeover For Radiance & Happy Birthday To My Daughter

The Avid Cruiser & Company — @ home in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Today is Marilyn Monroe’s birthday – and more significantly for me, my daughter’s.

Happy birthday Britton!

More about this wonderful girl in just a moment, but first the news . . .

A Jaunt To Quest

This week, after lavishing my daughter with love and birthday gifts, I jaunt off to Rome to board Seabourn Quest for a three-night pre-inaugural sailing. Quest, of course, is the last of Seabourn’s three-ship order, following Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Sojourn.

Have a question about Quest? Just ask by replying to this email or posting it here.

Makeover For Radiance

Aarson Saunders will report on the Radiance of the Seas drydock in Victoria, British Columbia. Keep an eye on these pages to learn more about this extensive revitalization for Royal Caribbean. As always, Aaron is sure to have great photos.

Coming Home For Sweet 16

I wrote this story yesterday on an Air France flight that took me from Copenhagen back to Asheville, North Carolina, a trip that I make every four weeks so that I can spend a week with my daughter and my son. It’s a lot of travel, but Delta, and its Skyteam partners, loves me. And it’s good to be loved, even if you have to pay for the privilege. I don’t mind the flying, and no effort to be with my kids is too much.

As it’s my daughter’s birthday, I thought this would be an appropriate opportunity to tell you about my relationship with my kids. If you’re not interested, see ya next time. If you are, read on.

So You Want To Be A Travel Writer?

First, some background. In some ways my life is a story of “Be careful what you wish for.” I’ve made a career under the banner of a brand that has become a lifestyle, “The Avid Cruiser.”

Who could refuse the hundreds of thousands of dollars I would have spent on cruises – all offered to me because cruise lines trust me to report on their ships and readers trust me to guide them through the maze of choices when it comes to cruise vacations?

More important than the travel, I’ve been able to make a living writing about cruises and the destinations that cruise ships touch. It’s a job just like anyone else’s job. No question that it’s a good job. Heck, it’s a great job. But this life, which I began to dream of nearly 30 years ago while traveling as a backpacker, is not without sacrifice and some sadness. I am divorced, and if you’ve been through a divorce, you know how painful that is. Relationships can be challenging for sailors and itinerants.

I am away so much that I worried that my children will suffer issues of abandonment, and so I made a strong commitment to never let more than four weeks pass without seeing them. My constant concern is to assure my kids they are loved by their wandering father.

Several weeks ago, noting that more than four weeks would pass without seeing my children, I flew them to Paris. You might guess that I have more than enough points on Delta to do so. We had a wonderful time, walking the streets of the city, seeing the attractions, and even enduring the wait to go up the Eiffel Tower.

On one evening, we sat in our hotel room reviewing our photographs from the week. Later that night, we wandered down Nostalgia Lane, looking at the digital photo album of our family that I have kept since the kids’ births. It was a sweet moment.

I Am Lucky, Compared To Those Who Work On Ships

I am, of course, more fortunate than most who work on ships and are often away from their families for up to a year at a time. It’s tough to be away so much, but on the other hand, no one is forced to work on a ship, and in fact, I have met people who have found the life at sea, as I have, intoxicating and addictive.

Some have been afloat for so long that they no longer have lives back home. That’s too bad. They are in some ways, adrift and rudderless. I wouldn’t want that.So why don’t I stop what I am doing and settle back in Asheville? It’s not so easy. What would I do for a living? I wished to become the Avid Cruiser and now I personify the brand. My income supports the kids’ lifestyle (with help from their mom) and mine.

Always On The Go

Two weeks ago, I was on a flight from Barcelona to Stavanger, Norway. I used points to upgrade to Business Class on SAS, and as is custom for Business Class passengers, SAS served a meal. Those in Economy Class must pay for food.

On my tray was a square of chocolate, and eyeing it was a young boy, about my son’s age, who was standing in line to go to the toilet. It doesn’t take such an imaginative mind to guess what I did with that chocolate. Seeing my gesture, the lady behind me also handed hers to him. The boy’s smile took me far away, back to my home and to the memories of a life with my kids.

I am lucky to be able to take my kids on cruises, and we spend quality time when we’re together in Asheville. I’ll be home tonight (last night if you’re reading this on Wednesday) to watch my daughter perform in Open Mic (Update: I was there, and she performed wonderfully).

She told me recently, “Dad, I think I want to do what you do for a living when I’m older.” That was music to my ears.

I hope to bring my daughter and son back with me to Europe this year. They love traveling with me. But most of all, they just love the idea of us as a family, even one that is often continents apart.

A few weeks ago, I asked my son to name his best memory of Paris. Somewhat surprisingly, he responded that his best memory of our week in Paris was the night we looked back at the photos of us as a happy family, with dad ever-present.

Hearing that doesn’t make it easier to leave again tomorrow, even to step on board the beautiful Seabourn Quest. But I simply think of it as a long commute to work. I know how fortunate I am, and I am grateful for the opportunities given to me.

I’ll be back in three days to spend a week with the kids. So bye for now kids, dad’s got to go to work. See you Monday!

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  • I just read your article about your children. I commend you for doing what you do to provide for your family, while loving it … It’s no wonder one of your kids might consider doing the same when they grow up; they respect your work, and you – wonderful. I also respect you for what you do, and I thank you as I wait for your comments on specific cruise lines and areas they visit!

  • Very heart-felt story, Ralph. Let me guess- the pic is at Montreat/ Lookout, right?

  • This post about your lifestyle as a travel writer and your desire to spend time with your children is really poignant and heartfelt. I admire your goal of not letting more than a month go by without seeing them.

    Traveling alone, without spouse, companion, friend, or children can be rather lonely at times, even if one is seeing wonderful things and experiencing the “good life.”

    My first press trip was to my dream destination, French Polynesia. All the while I was drinking in the beauty of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, I was dreaming of returning someday with my husband.

    While some press trips have enabled me to include a guest, another writer’s only trip is coming up in August. I am not complaining, as I am blessed to be able to write about something I am passionate about – travel, especially tropical travel.

    I would be interested to know more about how you got your start, how you ended up focusing on cruises, and whether you write for print as well as for your online site.

    My best to you also for someday finding that special travel companion with whom you can share some of those cruises!

    • Thank you for the comment. I began my journalistic career at the age of 32, following the conclusion of my ‘sabbatical decade.’ From 1980 through 1990, I bicycled across America, pedaled through Europe and island-hopped the South Pacific.

      After backpacking through Bali, bussing through Java, hopping a boat to Singapore and crossing Malaysia to Thailand, I flew into Burma, tramped to Dhaka and endured a 32-hour train ride from calamitous Calcutta to bustling Bombay.

      From there, I hopped a plane for Greece and traveled to Switzerland before returning home, where I settled into a career of travel writing – after attending journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I worked for a travel agent magazine, then wrote for Hemispheres, United Airlines in-flight for 10 years. I was editor of Porthole Cruise Magazine and launched my own magazine, Avid Cruiser in 2004 and printed it until 2007. I’ve been all digital since then, except for a few freelance gigs for Costco magazine. I also publish a cruise magazine, called C Magazine, in the Benelux countries, but for me, digital publishing and storytelling is the future.


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