Texans Taken by Cruising

Published 8:39 am Saturday, March 19, 2016

  Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Though most may not realize it, the main reason cruise vacations rise to the top of bucket lists is anticipation of sameness–like going to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving.

Unexpected surprises also delight. Where else can one find delightful path-crossings with others in a setting replete with “non-stops” of food, comfort and entertainment? Cell phones and other assorted back-home cares are relegated to our memories’ farthest reaches. With eyes pleasantly in lock-down on the Caribbean, we relish astounding blueness not found on color charts. Quickly transitioning to vacation mode, we join others in pursuits to discover, remember or forget, always confident we’ll wind up with several new friends.

We’ve escaped from the real world of politics boiled over and drivers who never run out of honks. We’re also spared monotonous automated phone warnings to listen carefully, since menu items may have changed, but rarely do. Conversely, we are showered by greetings and courtesies suggesting that man’s “humanity to man” is the week’s norm, noted long before emptied luggage is shoved under the bed. We smiled at the prospect of “pigging out” on food and picking up on conversations suggesting that others don’t have life figured out, either.

There’s much yakking about cruises taken and itineraries chosen. Had Carnival Cruise Line not gambled with a single vessel assigned to Galveston for “trial runs” in 2000, most Texas cruisers still would be “landlubbers.”

We doff hats to all who’ve worked to make cruising convenient to families who’d rather drive to Galveston than fly to distant cruise points.

Little wonder that it is now the nation’s fourth busiest home port. Come May, CCL’s newest vessel, the Breeze, will replace the Magic. Another spring upgrade is the Liberty for the exiting Triumph. The Freedom will “stay put,” giving the port three of the fleet’s “most popular, feature-laden ships.”

My wife and I boarded the Carnival Freedom recently, notepads and cameras in hand. Soon, we mingled, discovering a half-dozen who live within 20 minutes of our home. Yet, our first meeting is a thousand miles or so away. Go figure.

Consider this: F. D. Andrews and Judy Stone, widowed after marriages of 54 and 45 years, respectively, drew repeated applause each time they danced. Turns out she lives less than 10 miles east of us; he, the same distance west.

At an afternoon newlywed game–following friendly banter between Houstonians David and Hayley Mui–trucking company owner Cal Cline of Fort Worth popped the “will you marry me?” question–on stage–to Cowtown nurse Kanika Choudry. (He’d purchased the engagement ring a day earlier in Cozumel.) Such proposals rarely are seen on cruise stages, since “no way” responses can occur. Her answer was “way.”

At one dinner table, Quan Wong, owner of the popular “Mei Yuan 1” Chinese restaurant in Burnet, was fodder for stories.

He’s known for welcoming diners by name and remembering their menu favorites. Recently, some strangers walked in. Asked how they found the place, they said Siri told them.

Quan, unschooled in iPhones, answered, “Siri? I don’t think I know her, either.”

Then there were Frank and Sonia Bartolic, who live in nearby Ellis County. He’s a manufacturing executive, big in the Ennis, TX, Lions Club, where I’m invited to speak next month.

He keeps delaying retirement, despite a bulging bucket list to “fix” a few things, none at Sonia’s behest. No, the projects are all of his doing–restoring two dozen motorcyles,15 tractors (mostly Farmall-Internationals) and five trucks and cars, including a ’38 Dodge and ’47 Buick.

Oh, he’s also building a new home by himself; the project is now in its 6th year.

I found a new, leisurely way to enjoy a port. While Brenda explored Mahogany Bay, Roatan Island, Honduras, I opted for the magical flying beach chair, something of a “ski-styled chair lift.” On this $14 ride, most cruisers hop off at the beach. The fee is for the day, so I rode three times, drinking in marvelous views from 60 feet up.

Next time, I’ll shoot for four rides.

Cruises–and column space–end. I’ll tell you later about the Ennis Lions Club talk, and whether Frank puts down wrenches long enough to attend.


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Columns archived at venturegalleries.com, newbury blog.