I have spent my life in motion, a journey that began with a bicycle adventure across the United States and landed me, much to my surprise, as a journalist specializing in cruises. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of how I got to where I am today and how what I do is aimed at benefiting you.
That bike adventure was more than 30 years ago, and, in fact, I am still pedaling. I recently wrote that I bicycle in ports on nearly all of my cruises, especially on river cruises, where cycling is becoming increasingly popular. If you missed it, be sure to see Bikes & Boats: River Cruising As An Active Experience.
From 1980 through 1990, I bicycled across America, pedaled through Europe and island-hopped the South Pacific. At times, I traded the bike for a backpack and eventually made my way around the world.
After backpacking through Bali, bussing through Java, hopping a boat to Singapore and crossing Malaysia to Thailand, I flew into Burma, tramped to Dhaka and endured a 32-hour train ride from calamitous Calcutta to bustling Bombay. From there, I hopped a plane for Greece and traveled to Switzerland before returning to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to obtain a degree in journalism. At the age of 32, with miles and miles behind me, I began my journalistic career in travel writing.
That was 1990. Soon after, I began to specialize in cruises.
As a member of the media, I was often invited on press trips to review ships. During the past 25 years, I’ve been on more than 200 cruises – river, ocean, expedition.
I’ve been to Antarctica twice.
I’ve cruised the Bering Sea from Nome, Alaska to Provideniya, Russia.
I’ve sailed the Mekong and traveled with trepidation across the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.
I boarded the world’s oldest passenger boat (built in 1874) to cruise across Sweden (who knew you could do that?).
On that cruise, the captain announced that the Swedish government had guaranteed to dredge the canal to 3 meters. “Our draught is 3.2 meters,” the captain announced to our group of passengers on board. Alarmed, an American lady asked if we would run aground. “Oh yes,” the captain replied, “many times.” And we did. Nonetheless, it was one of the best experiences of my life.
I’ve had a lifetime of peak experiences on cruises. It would be hard to single out the best. I can say this: the smaller, the better.
Nowadays, I tell people I only care to do three types of cruises: small ship, expedition and rivers.
Antarctica has certainly been a highlight, on both Silver Explorer and Seabourn Quest. The two companies offer completely different styles.
Silver Explorer feels like a real expedition ship. It’s small (bumpy across the Drake Passage) but with the ability to give folks plenty of time ashore. Seabourn Quest offers time ashore with a floating boutique hotel featuring multiple restaurants, lots of balconies and bars. Which was better? Neither. They were both out-of-this-world fantastic. And here’s a spoiler alert: You will never tire of seeing penguins, even after having seen thousands of them on a single Antarctic voyage.
My last ocean cruise was on Viking Star. It was an incredible ship, reminiscent of the old Royal Viking Line ships, which I also cruised. If you missed my review of the new Viking Star, you can find it here, Viking Star Revealed, Our Firsthand Report.
Equally as compelling as the oceans are the rivers. I recently enjoyed cruising on Uniworld’s S.S. Maria Theresa. What a great experience, and yes, I spent plenty of time cycling in the European countryside on bikes that Uniworld provided.
I’ve enjoyed several cruises on AmaWaterways. The Douro River ranks high for its sheer beauty. Check out Three Of My Favorite AmaWaterways’ Cruises & Three That I’d LIke To Do.
A couple of my very best trips were with my kids: With my son, Alaska on Holland America Line (read Awesome Alaska) and with my daughter, a Mekong River Cruise on AmaWaterways. I’d love to go back to Burma, or Myanmar as it is now called. AmaWaterways offers a great trip: See Mysterious Myanmar.
I could go on and on. Travel has been such a rewarding series of experiences for me.
I have no regrets of pedaling out of the small town in North Carolina where I grew up – and never looking back. I love North Carolina, but I love being in motion more. I’m 57 now, and as long as I can maintain my health, I see no end in sight.
When I am not at sea, I split my time between two homes, one in Asheville, North Carolina and the other in the south of Sweden. When in Asheville, I enjoy mountain biking, hiking, lingering in coffee shops and frequent trips to the gorgeous Biltmore Estate.
When in Scandinavia, I enjoy biking, hiking, lingering in coffee shops and frequent trips to Sofiero Palace. Notice the familiar pattern? I also enjoy trying to learn Swedish words. Just try saying the number seven, spelled sju. Non-Swedes are incapable of contorting our mouths in a way where the word comes out right.
To get home in Scandinavia (from Copenhagen’s International Airport to Helsingborg, Sweden), I go to Hamlet’s Castle and hang a right. No kidding!
My work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and numerous consumer magazines. The North American Travel Journalism Association, awarded my article, Ship Shape, which appeared in United Airlines’ Hemispheres, in the category of “Best Cruise Writing.” I am the author of four books, including Remembering Charles Kuralt,’ a biography that Publisher’s Weekly called “a sweet and lovely homage, a welcome commemoration.” I still miss the man.
My aim is to help you experience at least part of what I have been fortunate enough to experience during the past four decades of being in motion. I believe travel broadens and enriches us – and it gives us frequent episodes of euphoria.
Mark Twain said it best perhaps in The Innocents Abroad:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”