I was hoping to take a golf vacation this summer. Instead I went on a cruise. Up until that point in my life I had successfully managed to avoid cruises. But when my wife chose a European cruise to celebrate a milestone anniversary, I had no choice but to take it like a man – right after I completed a sufficient period of whining and sulking.
Other than my recollections of Love Boat and Titanic, I really didn’t have any first hand knowledge of cruising. But I had some definite pre-conceived ideas about what to expect: Excessive eating. Excessive drinking. Cheesy entertainment. Shuffleboard. Bingo. Speedos. Foreigners. Boy was I wrong! There wasn’t any Bingo!
But despite the gluttony and occasional sightings of men wearing inappropriate swim attire, it turned out to be a terrific vacation. Our ports of call read like a Roman Empire tour – from Rome, through Greece and into Turkey. I learned a lot about ancient civilizations. I saw the influence of Roman & Greek architecture on modern buildings. And I saw how many of our current, classic wall motifs first emerged thousands of years ago, like the acanthus leaf, scroll and Greek key.
As a bonus, I elevated my speech. Just by inserting a few foreign sounding words into a conversation I now sound wiser and more worldly:
Me, at cocktail party: ‘My wife and I just returned from Santorini. It’s one of the Cyclides Islands in the Aegean Sea. Let me show you photos of our cruise on my i-phone”
Impressed Party guest: “I have to go now.”
So instead of boring people at cocktail parties with stories about my golf game, I can talk about foreign cultures and ancient civilizations, the Acropolis in Athens, the Greco Roman theatre in Taormina, or the Greek philosopher Euripides. I am now capable of boring people in a much more sophisticated way.
And for me, the memories still linger. I will never forget the day we visited the ancient Olympiad, standing at one end of the stadium on the very spot that athletes stood thousands of years earlier. I was staring at the other end of the stadium imagining what it must have been like. And as I stood there in the realization of this incredible moment, one thought kept running through my head – “I wonder if I can reach the other end of the stadium with a pitching wedge, or would I need a nine iron?”
I’m still working on this sophistication thing, but Rome wasn’t built in a day either.