I had another post scheduled to run today; a nice piece about the resurgence of West Coast cruising after a long draught. But then I realized that, next Tuesday, I will set off on my 43rd. cruise. For me, it’s an amazing number; I remember being quite proud of cruise number two.

That's right - I'm nearly 17,000 kilometers away from home in Cape Town! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Where should we go today? Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

But it also caused me to reflect on the voyages I’ve taken in the past, and I hope it might be an interesting tale for those readers who are just starting out on their own cruising adventures.

My first solo cruise abroad was anything but successful. It was a seven-night voyage from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera aboard Holland America Line’s Oosterdam, and marked the longest and farthest I’d ever been away on my own.

Holland America Line's Oosterdam at Canada Place on May 4, 2005. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Holland America Line’s Oosterdam at Canada Place on May 4, 2005. One of my first-ever solo cruises. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Things got off on the wrong foot early. My early-morning flight to San Diego was cancelled due to mechanical problems with the aircraft, and I was instead flown into Los Angeles. There, along with eight other passengers from the cancelled flight who were all racing to make the Oosterdam, I accidentally knocked a kid to the ground at baggage claim in my haste to get to the shuttle that would drive us to the San Diego pier.

I wish I could say I did it gently, but I didn’t. I bowled the poor kid over when he darted out in front of me, and we both went flying across the floor. I still feel bad about it to this day, despite the fact that his parents said all was well.

In short, I was all over the place.

The wide open promenade of the Norwegian Sun favors blue anti-slip decking over traditional teak planking. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Most of my early cruises – like this one aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun – were to close-to-home destinations like Alaska. Photo © Aaron Saunders

I didn’t want to be left in LAX Terminal 3, and I sure as hell didn’t want to miss the ship. Once we arrived in San Diego, I was able to race through the terminal – no check-in, a quick security check and up the gangway – and by the time I reached my stateroom, the Oosterdam had pushed away from the pier.

That frazzling experience was in February of 2006, and the whole thing was quite honestly nerve-wracking. Once I got on the ship I was fine, but I found the process of getting there and back to be stressful. To top it off, I was in the midst of being genuinely afraid to fly at the time; a condition I developed suddenly when I was 22 and never really shook until I was 25, when I began flying more regularly.

A KLM Airbus A330-200 waits at the gate at Vancouver International Airport for the return flight to Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Believe it or not, I was scared of flying for about three years. Not so anymore! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Today, I feel comfortable, even relaxed, transiting airports around the world. I love flying, and I look forward to every flight I take – even if I am crammed into seat 60K. More amazingly, I have flown 107, 353 miles – or 172,768 kilometers – to-date this year.  That’s enough to circle the planet nearly four times at the Equator. 27 different airports. 45 individual flights. And the same awful movies on all of them!

But I have to remember that it wasn’t always this way. And that’s the danger of being well-travelled; you can forget about how you started out.

The reason I write this is because I caught myself complaining about something today that, really, I had no right to complain about. It involved some of my upcoming travels, and the stresses and responsibilities that come along with running a site like this and writing about cruises for what has become a very happy, unexpected living.

Yours truly, on the left: doing much better with the chocolate mix! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I never really like posting photos of myself, but here I am trying my hand at baking cookies aboard the Sapphire Princess last October. I don’t think I’ll quit my day job! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

If there’s one thing I always promised myself when I started this site back in 2009, it’s that I’d share all of my experiences honestly and truthfully, good or bad. It’s a massive amount of work (and it’s well after midnight as I pen this), but I continue to push myself to do a little more and to take on a little more risk. To go to the places I never would have considered before, sail the ships I wouldn’t have tried, and to go the extra mile with each successive Live Voyage Report, just to share that passion and hopefully excite someone else.

The truth is, we all have our own personal cruising “dream.” And no two cruises are alike, regardless of what you may hear. It’s the reason I can love Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas and still enjoy the somewhat Spartan comfort of Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol.

Windstar Cruises' Wind Star at night off Portovenere, Italy. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Windstar Cruises’ Wind Star at night off Portovenere, Italy. My experiences on these ships taught me that small ships can be just as good – if not better than – their mammoth counterparts. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

When I acted as a guide for Cruise Experts Travel’s Ultimate Alaska CruiseTour this past summer, one guest confided in me that she didn’t know how she’d be able to relate to me because of all the places I’ve been. Which took me by surprise; I had never thought that my travels could be intimidating.

In fact, I’d never stopped to consider the astonishing number of places I’d been in the past few years. I still thought of myself as the same kid in LAX, scared of being left behind. The confidence I have in traveling the world by myself today started with that one experience.

Inside the Kirkenes Snow Hotel, the central bar area is flanked by two guest room corridors. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My personal motto now: Never Say No to a new experience. Like spending a night in the Snow Hotel in Kirkenes, Norway! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I think it’s always important to know where you came from – and how you started out – and to be appreciative of those experiences. I love talking to the people I meet about their favorite cruises, whether they’re to the Bahamas or Bali. I love meeting people who rave about their favorite ships, who cruise in inside staterooms and source out the best deal and, yes, even smuggle the odd bottle of wine onboard when maybe they shouldn’t.

Likewise, I love meeting the CEO of some company over dinner only to find out he’s sold the company he founded from the ground up and made off with a pile of cash – yet he’ll take the time to invite you to join them for drinks in the bar.

So don’t say no to an opportunity that comes your way, just because you haven’t heard much about the ship or don’t know anyone who’s been there. You just never know what that first simple trip to Mexico might take you.

Every good thing has to start somewhere.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Silver Wind sunset off the coast of South Africa this past January. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

From the Deck Chair will return tomorrow!


One Response to Becoming a World Traveller

  1. Kalle Id says:

    Well put!

    Also, you should post more photos of yourself; they add a nice personal touch. Easy to say from this end of course… I don’t much like putting photos on myself in my own trip reports either. But from a reader’s point of view they are nice.

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