"Long Live the Queen." - The Royal Caribbean Fan.

The year after I visited the Fairsea at the Port of Las Angeles I had the chance to visit the legendary Queen Mary at her home in Long Beach. The ship was ordered in 1929, served as a troop ship during World War II and eventually was retired and became a hotel in 1967. My trip was part of a YMCA field trip to see her and the Spruce Goose, the mammoth plane built and flown once by Howard Hughes. The Goose was housed in a large dome next to the Queen Mary and after touring it the group walked over to the massive ship looming in the air at the pier. I had seen the Queen Mary used as a set for numerous movies and TV shows. Usually my mother or father would point out that it was the Queen Mary being used again. After awhile it was easy to pick out that it was her, be it the dining room, the bridge or promenade decks.

Actually boarding her lead to a tour of the onboard museum and a space which was actually a pool which looked over one of the ships propellers. Seeing a huge propeller, green and dark under water, while actually on ship was a unique experience. Walking around the top promenade lead to the chance to climb into a WWII quad 44 mm anti-aircraft gun. The same sort as armed ships all through WWII, including some ships my grandfather had served on. However the highlight was spending time on the bridge, with the classic brass ships telegraphs, ships wheel and the wooden deck and décor. It was legitimately awe inspiring looking back. The visit became a favorite story of mine. For years afterward I would collect old editions of Sea Classics and read about the time the ship rammed a British cruiser, sinking it and the famous people who had traveled on her. The ghost stories would be highlighted on TV. The ship would come up when people spoke about cruising. Every time I was able to proudly say I had been there and knew the ship.

Heaped on top of the still fresh memories from the Fairsea I almost felt as if I had been on a cruise or a trip across the ocean. From that point forward I always felt like I was simply burning time until my “next” cruise, even though it would be over ten years as an adult before it finally happened.

"Saxonia, Long Beach and the Love Boat" - The Royal Caribbean Fan.

"Love Boat soon will be making another run
The Love Boat promises something for everyone
Set a course for adventure!"
~Charlie Fox / Paul Williams

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One of my favorite TV shows to watch when I was having sleep-overs at my grandparents or great aunts house was the Love Boat. Another Aaron Spelling gem with corning plots and ensemble casts of guest stars I recognized from watching entirely too many old movies and "re-runs." The implied maturity of some things was utterly lost on my young mind. I was more interested in the ship, captains table dinners, etc.

In 1983 friends of my parents took us to the cruise terminal at the Port of Los Angeles. They had taken a honeymoon cruise aboad the Sitmar Line "Fairsea." The Fairsea was a Saxonia class ocean liner built by Cunard in the 1950s. She was intended for passenger trade between the UK and Canada. Like most ocean liners she was sold and rebuilt as a tropical cruise ship.

Fairsea was moor at the east terminal. Back in those days you could actually walk right onto a cruise ship without passing through any security, which is exactly what we did. For the next four hours we walked all around the ship, even visiting the stateroom my parents friends had staid in. Years later when I learned what "turn around day" was like for the crew I understood the curiously unhappy look the steward gave as six people showed-up while he was stripping bed sheets off the bed.

Over the four hours we were on the ship I saw every public space, bar and even the small arcade for the kids.

It was standing outside leaning on a wide teak wood railing along the lowest pool deck that hooked me on cruising. The railing was warm though not hot from the sun. There was a cool breeze. And looking out over the water around the port I decided I wanted to take a cruise. Everything around me just resonated.

The day ended with walking around the late "Ports-o-Call" shops south of of the terminal. There, we ate dinner at a restaurant seated at a table along the waters edge. Around five p.m. the Fairsea, brightly lit, sailed by. Half an hour later, none other than the Pacific Princess passed by, her white paint seeming to glow. Hanging along the side all the way to the waterline was a mass of streamers from the traditional send-off celebration. It was like seeing a childhood myth emerge from a TV screen. It was a real ship, there really was a Pacific Princess. That I knew the show was mostly filmed on sound stages was beside the point.

My first cruise would not come until August of 1999, but that day was the time and place which hooked me on cruising.

"If it doesn't move, it's a hotel." - The Royal Caribbean Fan

If it moves, it is a hotel.

It was scarcely 5:30 in the morning, the October morning sky was still pitch black. The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina afforded a sweeping view of Port Everglades, the 17th Street draw bridge and beyond them the condo lined channel leading to open water. Bleary eyed I managed to drag myself to the balcony and turn on my camcorder then flop in a chair. My son and daughter surprised me entirely by waking up as though it where Christmas morning. Ben emerged first and marveled at the twinkling cityscape. Vicky, two years his senior came out next. The show I had promised them for weeks could be seen at the two mile bouy outside the channel. The Oasis of the Seas was holding station awaiting the harbor pilot, her bow facing the port. With all the lights forward of the bridge dark while at sea she was almost invisible. The ship began to make her way into the channel. Midway in the channel the Oasis slipped behind a block of condos and hotels. Vicky asked again where the ship was and her brother pointed to the condos and replied "If it doesn't move, its a hotel." 

Oasis of the Seas arriving in Fort Lauderdale

The morning ahead would be the culmination of decades of following cruise travel that began with scouring old editions of Sea Classics, touring historic ocean liners to watching the Love Boat depart the Port of Los Angeles. The adventure that started two days ealier as we began our drive to Florida was more than just a family vacation.  Here I was about to have the classic "family vacation" but also share a deep personal love for cruising.

In 2019 Royal Caribbean International began to celebrate its fiftith anniversary.  The first scratch built cruise line, which decades earlier had eletrified the emerging industry with the first purpose-built caribbean cruise ships sailing out of Miami was the first I sailed on.  During the next year I am going to share my experience of cruising and how from that I began the Royal Caribbean Fan in 1999 from a single HTML webpage.  I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have living it.

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