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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

Everybody Should Meet Gavin MacLeod…Many Are

Gavin MacLeod hasn't had this much exposure since Mary Tyler Moore was Mary Richards and Murray Slaughter changed his pseudonym to Captain Stubing. Today, the 82-year-old actor who played both those roles is everywhere…NBC's Today, on board the new Royal Princess, signing copies of his autobiography, in the Los Angeles Times, on CNN, in People Magazine

What he's doing is meeting a LOT of people, which is what he does best. Because once he meets them, he tells a story. Or twenty stories. All of them The Captain's bookare entertaining, and most of them are in his book: This Is Your Captain Speaking.

We've been fortunate to have met him twice. The first time, for a 60-minute lunch that turned into three and a half hours…and not because we were that engaging. He was. The second, just a few weeks ago, at the church where he worships, on a Friday evening when he was telling stories after a showing of his last movie, The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry.

Everybody should meet Gavin MacLeod. He's 82 going on 52 and he seems to slow down only long enough to attend to the needs of the love of his life, Patti, his wife of 36 years in two installments (it's in the book). While he is an author today, he is also a goodwill ambassador for Princess Cruises, and proud of the fact that this is the second time he's been on a ship called the Royal Princess.

"I brought the first one over to North America in 1984," he says, sounding like the ship's captain he was for a decade on The Love Boat.

We haven't read his book yet, but we will, of course. Just like we watched Jonathan Sperry and  bought a handful of copies of his movies, a fund-raiser that night at his church. We don't need to read This Is Your Captain Speaking to recommend it.

"It was written like I talk," he told us.

That's recommendation enough.

Royal Princess
7 nights
December 15, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysSt.ThomasSt. Maarten
Inside: $759
Cost per day: $108

This Is Your Captain Speaking…Writing: The Real-Life Story of Gavin MacLeod

Captain StubingMark October 23 on your calendar. Mark the Today Show beside it, for whatever time NBC's morning cast appears in your locale. Mark it because, if you like cruising and one of the people who helped make it as big as it is, that's the day for This Is Your Captain Speaking.

His name is Captain Merrill Stubing, or Gavin MacLeod in real life. An actor of remarkable talent and of many years, MacLeod launches not a boat but a book that day. If you haven't figured out the title, you're not reading very closely.

He is "Your Captain" for followers of The Love Boat, the TV show that made Captain Stubing a household name and cruising a household pastime. And he is "Your Captain" for Princess cruisers who have been entertained by or possibly even met him, during his promotional and public relations work for the cruise line that just committed to keep him busy for another three years….and he is an indefatigable 82 years old.

The book is not just about his cruise-ship character Stubing; in fact it is more about the life and times — good and bad — of Gavin MacLeod. 

Gavin MacLeodOn Friday night, we happened to be at a screening of his last movie, the inspirational The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry and in a Q-and-A session with the audience when the movie ended, MacLeod dropped enough literary tidbits to sell more than a few books. From the highs of becoming a born-again Christian to the depths of two attempts at suicide, his life is all there, told with the candor and ebullience of this gifted and caring man who makes friends wherever he goes.

After the Today Show, Captain Stubing will hustle south to Florida to greet the Royal Princess as she arrives in North America, and he'll be making all the usual rounds of book signings, in stores and on TV, around the country. 

His book is expected to be available on all Princess ships, and why not?

After all, This Is Your Captain Speaking.

Holland America Veendam
18 nights
December 3, 2013
San Diego (return): HiloHonolulu, Nawiliwili, KonaLahainaEnsenada
Inside: $1,199
Cost per day: $66

Quickie Book Real Story of Triumph?

Some might call this a sign of the apocalypse…or maybe just a sign of the times in which we live.

The Carnival Triumph has an engine-room fire and loses power. The ship lists in open water and five long days later is towed to Alabama. Within days of going ashore, one of the 3,470 passengers turns her daily journal into a self-published book and e-book about "what really happened."

The book — it's on on amazon.com in both formats for $5.10 and $2.99, respectively — is in position to become the story. One person who read it called the book "a testament in part to the power and comfort of faith." Author Christina Peadon, on her first-ever cruise, becomes the latest candidate for a person in search of her 15 minutes of fame. Or she becomes a righteous person who, in the face of the criticism on TV and in newspapers for many days, just wants to set the record straight.

Her story is regarded as a defense of Carnival and the Triumph's crew, and "just one passenger's view" of the alleged "cruise from hell." The only thing that happened faster than the publishing of her book, which takes about two hours to read, was the filing of lawsuits by passengers who believed the incident warranted more than the offered compensation.

So a quickie book that wasn't even on Mrs. Peadon's mind when she and her husband and their three kids boarded the Triumph could wind up being evidence on what happened on a cruise ship days after embarkation.

Who would have believed a story like this?

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
March 30, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess Cays, Curacao, Aruba
Inside: $533
Cost per day: $76

Fly Free to Your Cruise…for Life???

Our son was telling us the other day that when people use capital letters on the Internet, it means they're shouting.


This comes to mind because of an ebook we heard about which "teaches you how to save money on any  cruise."

Hmmm…stay out of the casino?

It's a discounts book written by somebody who worked in the cruise industry for 15 years, as a cruise director. In it he reveals "insider secrets that will save you thousands of dollars every time you cruise."

Hmmm…some cruises don't cost thousands of dollars.

The book has the "cruise industry trembling at the knees" and the author claims he was forced to quit because he "no longer wanted to trick passengers into spend (sic) obscene amounts of money."

Hmmm…fired, perhaps?

He promises readers will be SHOCKED AND SPEECHLESS at how much they've been "misled, overcharged and…deceived" by cruise lines.

Hmmm…it's that capital letters thing.

He also promises he can show people how to get free upgrades, free bonus gifts, free cruises and even free airfare for life.

Hmmm…aren't "gifts" always free?

It was an intriguing (and public relations) dispatch, and maybe it has some merit. To us, it sounded a bit too much like HOW YOU CAN EARN $100,000 SITTING ON YOUR COUCH so, as you may have guessed by now, we took a pass on spending $37 on an ebook.

If you feel otherwise, post a comment and we'll send you a link so you can read through the 17 computer screens of information.

But don't say we didn't warn you about the caps.

Windstar Wind Surf
7 nights
May 28, 2013
Nice, Monte Carlo, Calvi, Cannes, Portofino, Portevenere, Portoferraio, Rome
Oceanview: $2,799
Cost per day: $399

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