The people you meet
“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.” — Amelia Barr
One thing I love about travel is the way it brings people together who might never otherwise meet. Cruises are great for this, with continual group activities planned, but even those of us who don’t go to the many onboard social events and games will still end up chatting with others while going ashore on a tender or lining up to board the ship at the end of a day spent exploring a new port.
Technology has made cruising easier in many ways, enabling passengers booked on a particular cruise to meet online ahead of time and exchange tips and information. Websites such as Cruise Critic sponsor forums for passengers of specific scheduled cruises. Past cruisers have helpful hints on what to bring and what to avoid, along with names of good tour and transportation companies, and not-to-be-missed sights at various ports of call. And for those of us who prefer not to take the ship-sponsored tours, such websites are a great way to contact others who want to share a cab for the day to explore at a faster pace and lower cost.
Before our Mediterranean cruise in 2008, I went to Cruise Critic to find travel partners for our days in Florence, Ephesus and Naples, since we had much that we wanted to see in each of those ports, and wanted to have a private cab or van to share with people who had the same plans. It was so much more fun to explore with others from our ship, and we felt safer, too, knowing someone would notice if we didn’t get back to the car at the agreed time.
For example, when we were driving the stunning Amalfi Coast and got stuck in traffic on the way back, it was reassuring to be with friends from our ship who would be “in the same boat” — or not — if the ship sailed without us! Not to mention the fact that two of our four companions were physicians; always a nice perk if there’s a medical emergency.
The cost to travel this way is far cheaper than buying a cruise-sponsored tour, and because only a few people are in the group (instead of 20 or more) it’s much easier to move efficiently from one sight to another. Online reviews and research have good information about which companies are most trustworthy, and in some cases, even an individual driver will be recommended by several different people. Having such travel tools at hand can make a trip go more smoothly, with a sense of familiarity when you are among fellow tourists you have already “met” online, going to places you’ve read about beforehand.
If you have travel plans coming up soon, I hope that you will come home with happy memories, not only of where you went and what you did, but also of people you met along the way. May you find, as we have, that there are friendly, helpful people all over the world, just waiting to greet you and share a few smiles to take the edge off the tiring, anxious or frustrating moments.
One year ago today: