4 Months Down, 2 to Go (!?!)

Day 120 – Docked in Phuket, Thailand – Find Insignia on CruiseMapper

Not long after we sailed from San Francisco, a passenger who had already circumnavigated the globe told us the first month or two of the cruise would seem to take forever, and the last few would speed by in a blink.

We have reached the blinking stage.

It feels like a couple days since we reached the halfway point. Now we are at the two-thirds point and already seeing the end wink in the near distance.

As we did at the previous month-markers, we dedicate this edition of Partout to five observations and three surprises. This time we illustrate our reflections with random Hindu gods we met in India and Sri Lanka (and, no, we cannot begin to identify them).

5 Observations

#1 – A world cruise is a boatload of TRAVELERS.

Confession time.

Louis and Doris set off on our world cruise with a somewhat, uh, cynical view of cruising. We have been known to call cruises “geezer trips,” and we kinda assumed cruise ships were filled with people who considered a single day plenty for any destination. To be sure, Insignia’s demographic is … let’s call it “mature”: the average age on our cruise is 70. If that makes it a geezer trip, alas, we qualify.

But we have never found ourselves on this ship among more people who, on average, have seen more of the earth than anyone we know. We aren’t exactly slackers in this crowd, but we are not remotely the most widely traveled, even Louis with his 150ish countries. Comparing notes and stories makes for an inexhaustible source of conversation.

#2 – Ports are gateways.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Obviously, ports are gateways! After all, humankind has been traveling by sea for a very long time.

All the same, it has taken landing in almost 70 ports on four continents to fully appreciate how many world-class cities – especially outside Europe – owe their existence to being on waterfronts where mariners could land, and build, and procreate. What this has meant for us as travelers is that when we dock, even in enormous cities, we frequently find ourselves in walking distance of their historical cores. It makes for at-our-doorstep sightseeing.

#3 – 215 square feet is plenty.

Mind you, we are not saying we would want to live indefinitely in the 215 square feet our stateroom contains, but living in them for four months has given us an appreciation for why tiny houses work. When well-conceived and laid out with smart storage like our stateroom offers, a few square feet are all we really need. Really!

#4 – Exoticism feels like an endangered species.

When Doris and Louis were schoolchildren, both of us pored over National Geographic issues filled with pictures of locations, cultures and whole civilizations that seemed exotic. African hunter-gatherers, Siamese cymbal dancers, wildly unfamiliar dress and housing and innumerable other departures from our North American worlds filled the pages and our imaginations.

Fifty years of globalization and mass tourism later, we aren’t seeing much on the world cruise we find “exotic” in those ways, the Hindu gods in this edition of Partout notwithstanding. Urban centers all look alike. Traditional values surely endure, but traditional dress and building styles are rarer than styles we would find at home. English is spoken everywhere, and don’t even get us started on Starbucks.

There are still wonders and delights and discoveries worldwide. We are confident areas remote from cities would feel more foreign and are hopeful to come across more of them. For the time being, though, “exotic” often strikes us as a vanishing point on the horizon.

#5 – Into every circumnavigation, some doldrums must come.

Nautically, the “doldrums” are the equatorial band where light ocean currents and winds produce exceptional calm. In everyday lingo, the “doldrums” connote being stuck. We have not exactly been “stuck” in our fourth month, but the stretch from Oman felt a bit … becalmed. Oman was essentially closed for business all three of our days there because of the post-Ramadan holiday EID. Bombay was shut down for a three-day state holiday. Colombo was closed to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday, another two days. Our three-day visit to Myanmar, scheduled to start May 10, was cancelled because of the unrest there.

Altogether, that adds up to a lot of days of the last month curtailed in some way by local conditions. In the case of the Myanmar cancelation, we were rerouted to islands that were basically beach stops. They offered a nice break from the heat for the beach-lovers and snorkelers among us (that would not be Doris) but no comparison with the missed cultural riches of Yangon.

Subject as it is to weather and world events, circumnavigating the earth is inevitably a lesson in living in the moment. That said, the doldrums have not been our favorite moment.

3 Surprises

#1 – Cashews!!!

On a world cruise, you learn something new every day. One of the things we have learned is that cashews are native to Brazil and were brought to India by the Portuguese, two countries we are convinced produce the tastiest cashews in the world. We have been buying them by the kilo ever since Rio. Pictured below is Louis doing a little cashew shopping in Goa. If we end up gaining weight on the cruise, we will blame it on the cashews.

#2 – Smooth sailing.

We certainly hoped to escape being buffeted by high winds and tossed by roiling seas, but we did not expect day after day of smooth sailing. We lucked out on that score. The infamous Drake Passage was the Drake Lake for us. The oceans and seas and bays we have lost count of have been calm. Some days, we look over our veranda railing into ocean waters that could be a mirror. Doris has even been heard to rhapsodize about the joys of living on the water, words some of you (and you know who you are) would NEVER have expected to hear from her.

#3 – Coastal topography.

We all learned in school that Pacific islands and coastlines were molded by volcanic eruption, that South America was formed when it separated from Africa, that Southeast Asia’s landscape was the result of the Pacific and Asian plates crashing into each other. It has taken cruising coastlines from San Francisco to Thailand (with more yet to come) to fully understand the differences in topography this all produced. After four months circling the globe, we are pretty confident we could drop blindfolded onto a coastline anywhere locate ourselves with some accuracy based upon topography alone.

Another Question Answered

Susan T asked, “What about evening wear for the Captain’s table and dancing?”

Thankfully for us California-casual types, there are no formal-dress events whatsoever on board Insignia. Dress in the reservation-only “specialty” restaurants and the formal dining room is supposed to be “country club chic,” but this seems to be loosely defined. Though we talked to two German passengers who were turned away from the Grand Dining Room for wearing jeans or other attire that didn’t make the cut, we have seen some pretty casual dress even in the dress-code venues, especially on the men. Women generally wear dresses and heels or dressy slacks and tops, but sports jackets are rare and ties almost non-existent. (In the buffet, just about anything other than swimwear goes.) The Oceania line prides itself on offering casual luxury. We’d say that’s the dominant note.

Where’s Snowy?

Besides watching Doris get her hair refreshed in a Cape Town salon.

Coming Soon!

Fellow Travelers

4 thoughts on “4 Months Down, 2 to Go (!?!)

  1. So glad to hear that you are still so very happy travellers.
    Your sunny and humorous stories and comments are such a joy.
    And those photos…….stunning


  2. As always, the narrative is historically enriching, insightful, and beautifully written. How many photos has Louis taken? And where may I view them on the Web? — Olivier ( Washington, DC)


  3. Thank you for the 4 months of fascinating and informative travel blogs, Doris and Louis. We’re looking forward to more,

    A couple of questions from those of us who dabble in photography: how many photos does Louis estimate he’s made since your trip began? And how many of the memory cards he brought has he filled up so far?


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