The One About The Cruising Dutch Priest, The Cheap Gin, & A Date in NYC
While mingling at recent press event, I had the pleasure of meeting some very charming and very entertaining veteran travel journalists who have been sharing stories on travel for years before many travel bloggers were even a twinkle in their parent’s eyes. Among them was Alvin H. “Skip” Reiss, with whom I quickly became enchanted not only for his sass and sense of humor, but also for his wonderful travel stories. They are the kind of stories that we rarely read about anymore, void of pompous grandeur and brag and full of all the essences of wonderful story-telling.
Below is one of the stories Skip shared with me on the day we met, and as great as it is to read, I must admit to hear Skip tell it himself is half the fun and cause for much laughter.
Water, Water Everywhere and Cheap Gin Too
On a recent cruise to the Caribbean aboard the elegant and classic Holland American Line’s Eurodam, I was reminded of my first, not quite as elegant sea voyage, more than 50 years ago. I was very young and anxious to begin a career and although I had no intention of cruising anywhere, two of my closest high school friends, Jimmy Stovin, a med school student and Joe Silverman, a law school student, had other ideas.
Both, on a summer hiatus from their respective studies, were eager to have a last fling before graduating, a first-time, on-the-cheap trip to Europe. Jimmy had a friend in Europe with a car and needing a fourth to keep trip costs down to much less than $5.00 a day, they besieged me daily with picture postcards showing the Eiffel Tower, Coliseum, and other landmarks. They wore me down.
On June 1st, after cashing in my remaining war bonds and army severance pay, I set sail on one of the relatively inexpensive options available, a shared cabin on a 10-day voyage to England aboard Holland-American’s Ryndam. I was excited. Three months of exploring Europe lay ahead of me and I would have a ball. I opened my stateroom door expecting to see another me, a young, fun-loving traveler. I was aghast. My roommate was – a Dutch priest.
As it turned out he was indeed fun-loving, and while he didn’t carouse with the nubile young girls, he enjoyed drinking the Heineken Beer and Bols Gin, both available then for the unbelievable price of ten cents a drink. At that price, for only a buck, I could afford to buy a round of drinks for the house, which I did once. Hey, I was on a budget.
I took my next cruise, about eight years later, after I was married and had two young sons. Ellen and I booked a relatively inexpensive sailing to Bermuda, aboard an Italian liner leaving from New York City. Our baby sitter, a mature woman, would stay with the kids while we were away. After a tearful goodbye to our children we headed some 40 blocks downtown to begin our adventure at 4PM that day. As we were preparing to wave goodbye to the Statue of Liberty, an announcement came over the loudspeaker. The crew was going on strike. We were told the strike would be over the next day and we could remain onboard if we wished, but because no food or services would be available we were given $50 as I remember, which went a long way in those days, for a hotel in New York.
Should we return home to our sons who we told we’d be away for a week? Perhaps they would then expect us to be there every night. We did what any savvy New Yorker would do. We called our sitter, telling her not to tell the kids what happened and we used our ship payment to dine out and to buy tickets to see Zero Mostel in “Fiddler on the Roof.”
We came home after the kids were asleep, and chatted with our baby sitter about the children, wondering just how much they missed our not being there. Very early the next morning, even before our children were up we sneaked out of the house. We then spent a wonderful day in the city, eating lunch out and visiting museums and art galleries. Back at the ship early that afternoon, it was as if nothing had happened. The crew was back at work and at precisely 4PM, we set sail out of New York Harbor. We had a wonderful cruise.
Reflecting on our experience we agreed that zero was great – both Zero onstage and zero, the cost of our wonderful night on the town, courtesy of the cruise ship.
Originally published in The Somers Record, December 20, 2012 and an excerpt from Mr. Reiss’ book “In My Anecdotage”.
About Alvin H. “Skip” Reiss
Alvin H. Reiss has been writing and lecturing on cultural tourism for more than 40 years. He is the author of hundreds of magazine articles on the arts and travel and of eight books on the arts and nonprofits. He has written humor for Esquire, New York Times, Family Health, Playbill and Diversion, and as well as original musicals. Reiss is the founding editor of Travel Arts Partnership, 2003-2006, the founding editor Arts Management which celebrated 50th anniversary in 2012 and the writer of book music and lyrics for three musicals, all which have been produced.
Recipient of the Beautiful Minds competition sponsored by the National Center for Creative Aging in 2011 he is a winner of the Austrian Business League’s International Management Club Award and recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award of the International Society of Performing Arts Administrators for “exceptional service to the performing arts as innovator, author, publisher and educator.” He is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.