Cruising vs Ballooning
by Susan Owens
I just returned from my first cruise aboard Holland America Line's Veendam, and got a lot of good information from the Sealetter. My family has been hot-air ballooning for about 18 years and this was a real change from our usual vacations. Following is a story I wrote for our local balloon club newsletter. Thought you might get a chuckle out of how the "other half lives".
For those of us who have been ballooning for many years, all of our vacation time and then some is taken up with the occasional Friday or long weekend in order to go to balloon events. Recently my mother and I returned from a week- long Caribbean cruise (her treat, and my first cruise). For those of you who have never cruised, I would like to offer a study in contrasts.
How to get there:
- Ballooning: Load all the equipment, pack the coolers, fuel the vehicle and balloon, get a map (and a sectional of the festival area), pack jeans, shorts, T-shirts, jackets, sneakers, boots, rain-gear, and Drive Like Hell so as not to take any more time off from work than necessary.
- Cruising: Pack two formal gowns (or a tux), one informal outfit and casual clothes, shorts and swim suits according to the recommendations of the brochure. Take a plane to the port city, let the cruise line claim your luggage for you (they bring it direct to your stateroom) and take a taxi to the ship.
- Ballooning: Get up before daylight (way before) for pilot briefing, then go out to the field in the dark, in the fog, in the rain even. Lay out the balloon, hopefully fly, pack up, have a little champagne, have breakfast, have a nap, do it all over again in the evening.
- Cruising: Every night before you go to bed, a copy of the shipís newsletter is slipped under your door detailing all the activities available the next day, info on the next port of call, you can do as many or as few as you choose and except for gambling and shore excursions, everything is already paid for. Naps are optional. Each time I tried to take a nap, after about 30 minutes the Asst. Cruise Director would come on the PA system to announce BINGO. This was the only activity other than life boat drill they felt the need to broadcast to the entire ship.
- Ballooning: Breakfast and lunch are usually on your own tab as you search in a new town for someplace large enough to feed your group and with a parking lot big enough for the chase vehicles. Dinner is usually hosted by the festival and hopefully they included enough tickets for ALL your crew.
- Cruising: Each morning you get a copy of the eveningís menu delivered to your room so you can begin to anticipate the 5 course meal for the evening. Breakfast and lunch can be served in your suite or you can go to the formal restaurant or to the cafeteria style restaurant or eat by the pool where they are doing burgers, tacos, etc. And itís all included in the price. Dinner in the formal dining room is very elegant and you sit at the same table each evening and form new friendships. If you are very fortunate, one of the shipís officers may join you for dinner.
- Ballooning: You come home with everything dirty and spend all day Monday doing laundry.
- Cruising: On our cruise line, they did our laundry and dry cleaning FOR FREE.
Which do I prefer? There is plenty of room in my life for both activities. I hope to cruise again soon, itís easy to get spoiled. Am I ready to give up ballooning for cruising? Not on your life. In fact by the time you read this, we will be anticipating the delivery of our new balloon and preparing for Tour í98. But if you ever get the chance to go cruising, TRY IT, you might like it!
- Ballooning: We have all experienced the entire spectrum of hotels, motels, motor courts, etc. Sometimes we wonder why we left our own comfortable bed to stay in these places and if we are really lucky, there are more than two towels in the bath and they DONíT show up to clean the room while we are resting.
- Cruising: We had a suite with a bar, sectional sofa, coffee table, chairs, dressing area and separate bath, twin beds, and more storage than two women needed. We also had a private verandah with two chaise lounges and a table with four chairs. As soon as we left the room to go to breakfast, our room steward came in and cleaned the room, left fresh towels, put ice in the ice bucket and added fruit to our fruit bowl if needed. In the evening as we left for dinner, he again cleaned the room and bath, turned down our beds and left a chocolate on our pillows.
Susan and her family have been balooning for 18 years now. This was her first cruise but we doubt it will be her last! Susan may be reached at: TeamDuckie@aol.com.
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