As a college graduation present, my late, wonderful Godmother took me around the world on the old Cunard Caronia in 1959. There is a new Caronia now. It was like no other experience I have ever had. The good was a marvelous ship and crew, and since I was in my early 20's, there was literally no one to play with except the crew. the average passenger age was over 80. One very wealthy lady, the widow of a car manufacturer (you would definitely know the name, they've got it on a line of cars), didn't just bring one gigolo, she brought TWO. I was young, innocent and a farm bred midwesterner so this was amazing to me. We had another gentleman onboard who was a really nasty kind of drunk. The more he drank, the nastier he became. He disappeared somewhere in the mid Indian ocean. He either 1. fell overboard (very difficult), 2, jumped overboard or 3 was murdered by a crewman he insulted. I personally think that's what really happened, but no one will ever know the truth.
Ships were really different in those days. For entertainment, we had horse racing and the occasional movie and a band played for dancing every night. I went to sea with two steamer trunks and a couple of suitcases. Shore excursions lasted for weeks. We dressed for dinner every night except the night before we arrived in port. We sailed from New York on an icy blizzardly January day for our 108 day cruise. There was caviar and smoked salmon every night. Steaks, roast beef, salmonand lobster were on the menu all the time. My favorite meal was in the officers' mess. It was scouse, the Liverpool version of Irish stew. I've often thought about writing Cunard and getting the recipe. Very simple food afteer all that richness. We sailed South. If we stopped in the Caribbean, I don't remember. The first port we called at was Recife, Brazil, a northern colonial city with lots of 18th century architecture. The next stop was wonderful Rio de Janeiro, the only city I ever got busted in. Yes, I almost had an international police record!. I always wanted to swim on Cococabana beach. During the day I was busy with shore excursions, so I met the officer I was dating at that time when he got off watch at night and we were off to the beach. Seems that in those days, you couldn't use the beach after dark, and we didn't know that. The cops who picked us up couldn't speak English and neither one of us could speak Portuguese. Fortunately, at the station there was an English speakier who let us go with a stern lecture not to do it again. We almost missed the ship's sailing. Closest I've ever come to doing that. Then we sailed for an island called Tristan da Cunha in the mid south Atlantic. T da C is a volcanic island, impossible to land on, very rocky, meadows on the top of high cliffs. The entire population of the island took small boats out to meet and greet our ship. Population came from years of interbreeding and they showed it. Very heavy features and lots of mental retardation. They made their living posting letters (they brought stamps onboard and we just gave them the postcards and letters) and fishing for what would become South African rock lobster tails. The original settlers had been pirates and shipwrecked individuals. About 15 years after our visit, the island had a volcanic explosion that blew it apart and the entire population was evacuated to London. What cultural shock! Still, most of the island's young people stayed in London while most of their elders returned after the danger had passed. Then on to Capetown, one of the most beautiful places in the world. We took a 3 week long shore excursion there. We also chartered a plane fron South African Airways to fly over the long distances. Apartheid was still rampant then and we had two things happen that chilled my blood. I am a typical American I think. The usual mish mash of ethnicities that make up most of us. For that trip I was dating our flight engineer, an absolutely adorable Boer who spoke English just fine. While we were in Johannesburg he took me home to have a meal with his parents and I got to experience racial prejudice at first hand. Because I wasn't a Boer, I was made to feel very inferior. Then, on our drive from Capetown to Johannesburg we saw a black African man injured on the side of the road. Everyone on our bus wanted to stop and help him as he was clearly very badly hurt. Our bus driver and guide wouldn't let us stop, just said his own people would help him. Although I found South Africa one of the most beautiful countries I had ever seen, I absolutely hated apartheid and said I would never go back until it had ended, which I haven't done yet, but will eventually. We travelled up to Zimbabwe, which was Rhodesia in those days, in order to see Victoria Falls. So magnificent. Bigger than Niagara and in a wild setting instead of a park. Then up in to the then Belgian Congo (another fantastically beautiful country), Mombasa and Kenya. We stopped at game parks in all the countries we visited and boy, did we ever see animals. Africa is one of the highlights of my life. I will never forget the name of one of the areas we stayed at in the Congo. It was so evocative of the area. It was caled the Mountains of the Moon. Then we were off to India where most of us (not me though) became ill from food poisoning. I think it was my young age. I wasn't that crazy about India. The Taj Mahal was scaffolded for repairs which really didn't make it look very pretty. The cities had a significant odor to them. I was told it was from burning dung, which is what was used for fuel. Cattle freely roamed the streets and the poverty was desperate. Another chilling thing happened. I am a real animal lover. We were at a nice hotel in Calcutta. I ran into an Indian gentleman on the stairs. He had a mongoose on a leash. I went nuts and absolutely had to pat the mongoose. Mostly the mongoose used to bite strangers but he liked me and the Indian gentleman and I sat down on the stairs, playing with the mongoose and talking. Time flew and it was early morning around 4:00AM. I heard a truck stopping and when it stopped, I would hear a thud, then it would move on and repeat. I asked the gentleman if they were picking up the garbage as I'd not seen any garbage bags on the street. He said no, they were picking up bodies. There are no shelters (or there weren't then) in India and the poverty was overwhelming. People died in droves in the streets every night and Calcutta got more than it's share. On our trip to India the part I liked the most was when we went up to the Himalayas. The weather was lovely and cool and I've seen those incredible mountains, not Everest, but K-2 which is so close to the same size as Everest that it wasn't until recently when they measured the two mountains accurately and determined that Everest was a little bit taller. K-2 sure dwarfs anything I've ever seen though. Oops. We stopped in the Seychelles between Africa and India too. Pretty islands, but not so much different than the Caribbean, except for the huge land tortoises. Flat islands with gorgeous beaches. After India we were on to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). I preferred Ceylon to India. It was hillier, cleaner, not so much poverty and still very exotic. Since I am ending up writing a book it seems, I will just give you the ports we stopped at and you can ask me if you want anymore details. Africa was my number one favorite place to go and I think it still would be. Singapore (Singapore slings on the porch of the old Raffles hotel), Bangkok (wandering around like a typical tourist gathering flies looking at unbelieveable tmples and Buddhas), Hong Kong (shopping, shopping, shopping and GREAT food), then Yokahama. I got off the ship in Singapore for another long shore excursion that was done by air until we sailed from Yokahama for Hawaii. Miyanoshita and the ryokan we stayed in were fabulous. (Deep in the woods, in the mountains, wonderful Japanese hosts, Japanese baths are AMAZING). Then Honolulu. Didn't do much there because I'd been there before, San Francisco, Panama Canal and back to New York. I had just graduated in microbiology and was going on for a masters and PhD, but I became a travel agent instead!