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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

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

Helpful Heald The Cruise Director

The world's best-known cruise director is Carnival's John Heald, who gets a kick out of shocking his readers with sometimes crude stories and borderline language, or borderline language and crude stories.

And, just like the papparazzi who keep taking and selling private pictures of public people for publication, readers keep going back for more.

Sometimes, there is good reason to go back. One such blog is a beneficial read for everyone, told in typical Healdelese, which makes it not only helpful and interesting but also entertaining. 

Let's put it this way:

If you're not intrigued by his tale of a "stunning girl from latvia with huge breasts" then skip it. If that's salacious enough to command your attention, click on John Heald's blog and you'll get the whole story.

At the very least, you'll chuckle.

Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas
7 nights
August 23, 2013
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, Anchorage
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

Plaudits for Ports and Bows

It's not often you can publish compliments about a friend and colleague without fear of bias.

Now is that time for us.

As you likely know, Phil Reimer is our friend and colleague. He writes a newspaper column about cruising for readers across Canada and a blog every weekday, and has for several years. Both are under the Ports and Bows brand and are widely read in the cruise business.

This month, Ports and Bows is being decorated.

It was chosen No. 1 of three "unique cruise websites worth a look" by Chris Owen, a respected cruise writer and blogger for Gadling from Orlando, Florida, and a "master cruise counselor" as certified by the Cruise Lines International Association. Here's what he had to say about our esteemed colleague:

"Phil Reimer’s Ports and Bows is one of the more unique sites with thoughtful insight and unique articles that talk about interesting cruise topics not found elsewhere. A recent article on interporting, boarding passengers at ports other than the homeport, highlights Phil’s insight about the cruise industry and makes for good reading."

That mirrors our feelings about Phil's work…and it's nice to know we have company.

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
November 24, 2012
New Orleans (return): Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68

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