WHEN DOES A VOYAGE REALLY START?

Stealing out of Monte Carlo at midnight....

Stealing out of Monte Carlo at midnight….

When does a voyage actually start?

That might seem like a strange question, but please bear with me here. A little background information is quite clearly in order.

I’m off to Fort Lauderdale in a couple of weeks to board HAL’s stunning Eurodam, for a long anticipated week around the sun splashed highlights of the balmy Western Caribbean..

It’s a fabulous itinerary on a supremely stylish and well run ship, and I have been anticipating it keenly for a while now. And that’s what led me to wonder; when does the voyage- or, indeed, any voyage- actually begin?

I think you build the pleasure and anticipation of a voyage in a way that mirrors the construction of any ship. From the keel up. Over time, the sense of anticipation and the details of the cruise as a whole take shape in your mind. They fill out and become something almost tangible enough to touch. That anticipation is the stuff of dreams.

It’s the kind of thing that gets us through bad days and hard times; the knowledge that something (hopefully) great and good is just beyond the horizon, and approaching slowly but surely with each passing day.

Just kick back....

Just kick back….

So I’d argue that the actual voyage begins the moment that the idea begins to take shape in your mind. When we pick up the brochures and browse through them. And there, suddenly, like some fantastic exclamation mark, the trip is waving back at you. Wearing a smile you can’t resist. Welcome aboard….

It’s like clambering aboard a slowly stirring carousel on a fairground. We do our research into the ports of call and, as we decide what to do-or what to avoid- the anticipation steps up a gear. We read online reviews of our chosen ship and route. We fret about flight times, and fuss pointlessly over connecting times at remote foreign airports. We sigh and sigh over what currency to take. And packing the right wardrobe becomes almost a holy grail. After all, looking good is feeling good too, right?

And when the tickets arrive… it’s like being a kid on Christmas Day again. You want- no, need- to see what cabin number you’ve been allocated, and exactly where it is situated. We pore like addicts through pages in the information booklets, with their almost impossibly tiny print. And we stare longingly at our shiny baggage labels as if they were the keys to the kingdom of Heaven itself.

If travelling on a ship you’ve never sailed on before, there’s a sense of anticipation; an excitement that builds like a gathering storm. If you’re going back to a ship that you know well, there’s excitement tempered by a kind of calm certainty that borders on smugness; you know exactly what you’re going back to and, if anything, that simply heightens the sense of anticipation even more.

Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral is a staple of the summertime Baltic cruise

Helsinki’s Lutheran Cathedral is a staple of the summertime Baltic cruise

And so, with just a few weeks to go, my voyage towards the sublime anticipation of another great Holland America experience is already well under way.  There is so much of the wonderfully familiar that I am looking forward to just diving straight back into. I love the wicker furniture on the cabin balconies, the classically elegant works that are everywhere, and the fact that the bathroom towels are big enough to get lost in. And soft enough to make the idea an agreeable one, too.

I’m looking forward to time out in those sunny, shaded cabanas near the pool, and my first, pre dinner chocolate martini at sunset. To just soaking in the hot tub, and picking at grapes while I lounge on my balcony, with a side order of glacially chilled champagne.

I’m looking forward to a calm, unhurried run of lazy, enticing breakfasts out on deck, with fresh fruit, wonderful waffles and piping hot coffee. To hearing subtle, sultry late night jazz. To time out just chilling in the room, with warm breezes and that wonderful sense of detachment from reality that you only truly get at sea.

All of which serves to make the point, I think. The voyage begins the moment that the seed is actually planted in your head. And, because of the incredible sights and scenes that a cruise delivers to you, and the people that you meet and encounter over the course of it, the memories will stay with you long, long after you leave the actual voyage behind. Close your eyes, and you can replay the whole giddy adventure on a loop in your head.  Time and time again.

So, there you have it. The appetisers have been served, and- thanks to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines- I have brilliant flight times, both outward and return.

The essence of Silversea. Quite literally...

The essence of Silversea. Quite literally…

As for the main course…. the mighty, majestic Eurodam will be waiting in Fort Lauderdale on October 25th. Beautiful, chic and totally compelling. And yes, I’m hungry to get out there, too. But anticipation is all part of the fun here.

And, my friends, wherever you sail off to this particular year, I’m pretty sure that the same holds true for all of you as well. Bon voyage!

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