The Week That Felt like a Month

December 20, 2018

Written by Art Petrosemolo

Sycamore Springs Resident Art Petrosemolo is a Type A personality, always on the go. If he isn’t writing a story and photographing for one of the Lancaster area newspapers, he is photographing sailing regattas up and down the East Coast. Art and his wife, Tina, have traveled extensively and, after a year break adjusting to retirement life, they got started cruising again in the spring and are completing 20 days away from New Holland in Europe. They are currently in the midst of a trans-Atlantic passage on the way home.

Art says, “As much as Tina and I enjoy traveling to see new places and meet new people, 20 days in Europe including a trans-Atlantic passage is pushing the limit of being away. We both miss our friends and neighbors at Garden Spot along with the myriad of community activities that keep us both busy. Although I can communicate, and do, with our friends at Garden Spot Village almost daily from the ship, it just isn’t the same. We are anxious to get back to the community and begin our third year at Lancaster County’s top place to retire.”

Before moving to Sycamore Springs at Garden Spot Village in the last days of December 2016, Tina and I traveled pretty extensively in the summers when she had time off from teaching. We went to exotic places like Hong Kong, Istanbul and the Arctic coast of Norway as well as to quieter spots. One time we drove around Tuscany for two weeks so I could butcher my families’ Italian dialect with the locals.

After a quiet two years, we got the travel bug again and headed off on a cruise from Ireland to Iceland with friends from Garden Spot Village, Bernie and Bob Collins, in late (note late enough) April 2018. Despite cold, damp and snowy weather we had a great time. I had been to Iceland alone several years ago in February to photograph the Northern Lights and had made friends with a guide who ran a small tour company. Despite the weather, he took us around to see what we needed to see.

So being bitten again by the travel bug—like many of our Garden Spot friends and neighbors—Tina twisted my arm hard enough so I booked a 14-day river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam in April 2019. It had been on her bucket list for a long time and she said I couldn’t plan anything else until we did one. So it’s on the schedule as well as a Queen Mary 2 cruise (our second) to Canada and Quebec in October and cruises to Australia in December and the Panama Canal passage in April 2020.

So what am I talking about in the headline when I say the week that felt like a month? Well, we booked our Iceland cruise with a company that consolidates cruises from many companies and then offers them to subscribers in endless e-mails. Sometimes it can be a double-edge sword if you know what I mean.

Anyway, in late summer I think, I saw on the iCruise site a repositioning trip from Rome to Ft. Lauderdale in December for 22 days that included 18 days aboard the Pacific Princess with stops in Rome, Naples, Palermo, Gibraltar, Seville and Tenerife. It caught my eye as my grandparents were immigrants from Naples and I had never visited nor I had ever been to Palermo, Gibraltar or Tenerife either.

If you are not familiar with re-positioning cruises, they are usually a bargain as they tend to be at least three weeks and make fewer stops as they move mostly from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean or vice versa. The last part of this cruise was a trans-Atlantic passage of eight days from Tenerife to Ft. Lauderdale, a trip of some 3800 nautical miles. A nautical mile is a little longer than a statute mile so the passage was 4000 miles plus. Hey, how hard could that be? We’ve cruised nearly 20 times and always found a way to keep busy.

The ship—the Pacific Princess—is a small vessel by today’s cruising standards. Some 600 veteran, experienced cruisers joined us in Rome for the voyage. There, literally, were only four grandchildren along although I’m not sure of the average age but, like us, it was well over 60 and there were at least six motorized scooters and lots of walkers in use. This was a cruise for seniors who had the time (and the money) to be away close to a month (as many had joined the ship 12 days earlier in Venice). And I believe everyone had cruised multiple times in the past.

So, OK Art, get to the long week!

The first 10 days of the cruise with the port stops was terrific and we saw new places, and checked lots of stuff off our bucket list. We even shipped two cases of wine, olive oil and vinegar home from a vineyard on Mt. Vesuvius not far from Pompeii. We were busy from nearly dawn to late evening every day.

But that changed December 13th. After a spectacular day by the ocean in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, the Pacific Princess pushed off for Ft. Lauderdale and somehow, someway, time just seemed to stop.

You know how when you fly to and from Europe these days, you can watch a replica of the airplane on a map on your entertainment screen make its way across the Atlantic and it gets to Europe usually in seven hours and to the US in eight. Well there is an application now for your computer, mobile phone or tablet called “Vessel Finder” and it does that for every registered ship from ocean liners to fishing boats. I called it up several times the first three days and then stopped watching it as it looked like we were still close enough to the Canary Islands so I could swim back.

Small passenger ships are unique. First, there aren’t many of them. Second, they tend to be a little older as is their clientele. Third, the shipboard activities and entertainment is usually limited. No, there aren’t any water slides, roller coasters of skeet shooting. So, you had better be a reader, a knitter or have something to keep you busy as with a relatively slow and expensive internet connection, you just can’t shop on Amazon all day or download movies.

Three years ago, for Tina’s retirement, we took an Oceania ship (an exact duplicate of the Pacific Princess) on a 20-day cruise from Istanbul to Dubai. We spent five days in the Red Sea after passing through the Suez Canal and there was no place to stop (we were between Somalia and Yemen) and they actually ran Pirate drills twice where the passengers were moved to the innermost part of the ship. I swore when I stepped on the ship in Oman or Dubai, I can’t remember, that I’d never do that again. So my memory must be turning to mush as I never really gave any thought to an eight-day trans-Atlantic passage. Never again. I may have it tattooed on my arm…..”you’ve enjoyed your one and only trans-Atlantic passage.”

Seriously, there is just so much you can do to keep busy around three gourmet meals other than try to exercise it off. I just am not into bean-bag toss, bingo, line dancing lessons and spending time in the casino. Tina has done a lot more than I have and we have both read at least two books. I must admit exercising, swimming and doing tai chi early in the morning on the top deck before the sun rises has been fun. And the seas have been calm (thank goodness) and weather clear with temperatures in the 70s (in mid-Atlantic in December).

I am not complaining, really. I love to cruise and as a sailor have done some port to port ocean sailing. And the motion of a boat or ship puts me to sleep before I roll over. But my metabolism just isn’t cut out to keep me confined to a ship even if it is 580 feet in length and 83 feet wide. I am re-looking at all the cruises we have put deposits down on for the next few years to check on the number of sea days and am thankful that the April river cruise on the Danube stops in a new town every day so I get go ashore.

Oh, as you read this (December 20th), say a little prayer for me. We still have two days to go (more than 500 miles) and I am doing my best not to jump overboard and swim the rest of the way.

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