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The Death Of A Sea Salesman

The Orator of the Seas is silent. John Maxtone-Graham, who entertained cruisers with ship stories on whatever line would hire him, died of old age last week. He was 85.

We met him once, on the Celebrity Eclipse. It was both our good fortuneand our misfortune … to have met him at all, and to have met him only once. He was a delightful speaker who captivated us enough during his lecture in the ship’s theater that we wanted to interview him.

Off the stage, he was just as delightful.

We are among hundreds, perhaps thousands, who met this delightful man. Many of us have one of his books, signed with a personal message, because that’s what he did. He Maxtone-Grahamwrote 30 books, maybe more. It seemed that his first was his favorite, The Only Way To Cross (1972), perhaps because of all things cruising that he was passionate about, nothing compared to being on a ship crossing the ocean. He refused to call them cruises because they weren’t, they were “crossings,” and the fewer stops the better.

“Ships were meant to be at sea,” he said. “Draw a line from A to B. That's what cruise ships were for, to carry immigrants from A to B.”

He was born in New Jersey, lived in New York and spoke with a British accent, having been raised on both sides of the Atlantic by his Scottish father and American mother. A former stage manager on Broadway, he graduated from Brown, served with the Marines in Korea, worked on Broadway as a stage manager and became an author, lecturer and maritime historian.

He became a writer by accident when asked to author a book about ships that cross the ocean, a trip he first made at the age of six months. His two sons became writers, one for The Simpsons, the other for Beavis and Butthead.

Maxtone-Graham’s books – more eloquent than the works of his offspring — will be his legacy, but to us he was more captivating and spell-binding as an orator.

“I play it like a piano,” he said. “I know what works and what doesn't work”

Some people went on ships if they knew Maxtone-Graham be speaking. We didn’t. We just lucked out. He was 81 at the time, and it was appropriate that the Eclipse was “crossing” from Miami to Southampton. It was his kind of cruise, although there probably wasn’t a cruise that wasn’t.

He was often asked to name his favourite ship.

“The one I’m on,” he would say.

We thought it was ironic that his passing came during the height of Cunard’s 175th anniversary celebrations. Morever, he died as the Queen Mary 2 was “crossing” the Atlantic in a recreation of the famous cruise line’s first Transatlantic voyage, on July 4, 1840. It would have been even more ironic if he’d been able to be on the ship this month…if he’d passed away on board…if they’d buried him at sea.

From our one meeting, we think John Maxtone-Graham would’ve found that a fitting crossing to the after-life, for the Orator of the Seas.

In the news…

• Keel laying ceremony for new Princess ship going to China in 2017
• Spain's cruise visitors January to May up 6 per cent over last year
• NTSB looking for flight-seeing accounts from Alaska passengers

Today at portsandbows.com: Oceania's new early-booking promotion

Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas
14 nights
October 9, 2015
Barcelona, Crete, Ashdod, Suez Canal (cruising), Petra, Dubai
Inside: $533
Cost per day: $38
www.royalcaribbean.com

The World’s Youngest Cruise Blogger?

A few days ago, we discovered there's a boy who is surely the youngest cruise blogger in the world. His name is Theo Robson and he is the grandson of close friends of ours, and for some reason cruising is his passion, to the point that he writes blogs about his cruise interests.

And he is 11.

Theo’s website is called “This Kid Knows Cruises!” and while he doesn’t write every day — there is something called school, after all — he clearly spends a lot of time researching his subjects. For example, Theo can tell you the 55 biggest cruise ships in the world and all their vital statistics (gross tonnage, length, how many passengers, number of staterooms). He can tell you which cruise lines are best at responding to an 11-year-old who’s looking for information (Seabourn is his first choice). He can provide you with links to cruise lines and webcams that involve cruise ships.

Theo started down this path when he was just 18 months old. That’s when he first went on a cruise ship. That’s when the business of cruising began to get into his blood, which should tell cruise lines not to dismiss the value of having kids, even little kids, on their ships.

This kid is bound to be a cruiser for life.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest news about Venice

Carnival Valor
7 nights
February 15, 2015
San Juan (return): St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten
Inside: $349
Cost per day: $49
www.carnival.com

Reading The Writings Of Cruising 

Like you, we’re always on the prowl to read something interesting…especially if it’s about cruising. To that end, when we find the writings of others who we think might appeal to you, we pass it along.

Today is one of those days.

During our most recent cruise, we spent a few evenings enjoying the company of Tom Stieghorst, who writes regularly for Travel Weekly and — more importantly — is the father of two teenage daughters. They’re the subject of a clever column he wrote about taking his family on a cruise, and you can find it at www.travelweekly.com.

On our previous cruise, we visited Falmouth, Jamaica for the first time and a column in the Jamaica Observer by Michael Burke caught our eye this week. It’s worth reading even if you’re not interested in cruising, at www.jamaicaobserver.com.

Hopefully you’ll find them as interesting and/or entertaining as we did.

Today at portsandbows.com: The Norwegian purchase

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas
5 nights
October 27, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Nassau, Cozumel
Balcony: $554
Cost per day: $110
www.royalcaribbean.com

Nine in '14: Nine worldly events you can get to with a variety of cruises in 2014

One of the more interesting articles to cross our desktops this weekend was from FoxNews.com, which is not exactly known as an acknowledged source of cruise information. This article, by Andrea Rotondo, who appears to be a cruise expert for a network that most of us didn't know had one. It's entitled "9 major events you can attend via cruise ship in 2014" and it's an interesting read.

The events are from all over the world, and they're neatly arranged chronologically, from the Australian Open (tennis) in January to New Year'sAustralian OpenEve in Hong Kong. There is more variety in cruise lines — they're all different — than in events, eight of which are either sports events or parties.

Then again, aren't most "events" that you'd go to great lengths to see either sports events or parties?

The range of cruise lines goes from luxury brands like Silversea and Crystal MardiGrasand Windstar to some of the mainstream lines, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian…all of which are noted in the same breath as "Mardis Gras" because they all have ships that regularly sail from New Orleans. One "miss" is linking the Monaco Grand Prix only to Star Clippers when Windstar has been taking ships to the GP for a couple of years, at least.

Taking a cruise to a country because a big event was being held there is not something we've ever done, but after reading Ms Rotondo's suggestions (www.foxnews.com), it's worth thinking of taking a flyer.

Or a cruise.

Crown Princess
7 nights
November 30, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysCuracaoAruba
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.princess.com

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