June 2009 SSQQ Newsletter Issue Two
Written by Rick Archer
June Dance Classes begin on Sunday, May 31
THE BARCELONA CRUISE TRIP EXPLODES!
10 days ago, Marla sent out an announcement regarding huge discounts
for our late September Barcelona/Italy cruise.
As Marla wrote at the time, "The cruise lines are hungrier for
passengers than I have ever seen in my lifetime. They want
passengers in the worst way and they are slashing prices in order to
fill their ships."
Marla isn't the only person who has noticed this phenomenon. Here
is a Travel article from USA Today
"Summer cruise prices 'ridiculously low'"
One promotion for our Barcelona trip targeted people 55 and older,
offering price breaks over $1,000 less than had previously been
listed. I can now report that several SSQQ people jumped all over
Another promotion slashed prices $150 to $400 over previous prices
regardless of age. That created a surge of interest as well.
Marla concluded her story from 10 days ago by writing this:
"If you are interested in this cruise and have not signed up, do NOT
wait any longer! I was told on the phone today Friday, May 22, that
these two offers are good for one week only.
Although I have heard this line before, frankly this price is too
good to gamble with. If you are on the fence for our Barcelona
Trip, this is your moment.
I know for sure that I will lose my group space on May 30th.
In general, this 2009 Barcelona Trip has exceeded my expectations
more than I ever thought possible. Considering the economy, all the
lost savings and all the uncertainty about job security, we have
still EXCEEDED last year's 2008 GREECE CRUISE. That is remarkable.
theory is simple - many of us are getting to the age where we adopt
the attitude it is time to grab the opportunities when we can. In
addition, it helps that this is one of the most glamorous trips I
have ever organized - Barcelona, Mt Vesuvius, the Isle of Capri,
Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Florence, Michelangelo's David, the
casinos of Monaco, the beaches of Nice, and the nearby French Alps.
What a trip!"
Marla spoke and you listened. In the space of 7 days, our group
expanded from 51 people to 67 people. That is a phenomenal
development. Marla is in total awe.
On Monday, June 1, Marla is supposed to lose control of her
remaining space. She suspects that given the current economic
climate they may extend her space a bit longer, but there are no
guarantees. So perhaps prices will rise.
No matter what happens, Marla has a big grin on her face. She knew
all along this was an incredible trip and she is thrilled that
things have worked out for all of us.
REGARDING OUR AUGUST CARIBBEAN DANCE CRUISE
This trip is beginning to
fill up as well. Our numbers stand at 90 with several people
hanging on the fence.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a
story about my walk on Seven Mile Beach in the Cayman Islands. In
case you missed this story, I detailed how in 2008 I retraced the
same steps that other cruise members had taken the year before.
However, in the process, I almost violated Noah's Ark Rules of
Travel Number One: Don't miss the boat!
It took a minor miracle to get me back to the ship on time.
Although I suffered a lot on my walk due to time constraints, the
beauty of the walk cannot be denied. This is an exceptionally great
way to see one of the top 10 beaches in the Caribbean!
As for myself, I can't wait to try it again this year... except that
this time I want to walk the full Seven Miles, not just 2 miles like
the wimpy 2007 group did. I hope some of you will plan on joining
me for the Big Beach Walk!
For a fun story, read "A Walk on the Beach".
the way, if you are interested in joining us for this summer's trip,
just like the Barcelona Trip, prices are at an all-time low. Contact
THE 2008 STORY OF THE
GREECE- ITALY- TURKEY CRUISE TRIP IS NOW COMPLETE
Here is a brief recap of
the Chapters from the 2008 Greece Trip.
Rome Part One - This story
detailed the long walk that Marla, my daughter Sam and I took
through the streets of Rome. There are stories about getting lost,
getting robbed, and getting ripped off (the gelato incident). There
are stories about the Vatican Museum, the Borghese Gallery, the
Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Roman
Forum. I also managed to include a story about Julius Caesar and a
story about how modern Italy was formed for good measure.
Rome Part Two - This
chapter covers our trip to the Roman Coliseum, one of the Seven
Wonders of the World. It contains a history lesson about Nero, the
Christian Martyrs, the Gladiators, and Augustus Caesar. I also
added a piece that explains the Fall of the Roman Empire. For good
measure I added a piece on how my family was down to one Euro by the
end of the day with no way to get more money.
Sicily - We visited Mt.
Etna, the famous European volcano that is still active. While atop
the mountain, we came across a little restaurant that had barely
survived the last big Etna eruption in 2001.
Athens - Thanks to Iqbal
Nagji, our group toured throughout Athens. We saw the Acropolis,
the Temple of Zeus, and the National Museum. Believe me when I say
finding our way around Athens would have been a nightmare without
Ephesus - This story
begins with an interesting story about scientific discoveries that
might explain the origins of the Great Flood mystery. Then we take
a look at Heinrich Schliemann, the man who took all the credit for
the discovery of Troy.
Then read about the mystery of Ephesus. The ruins of Ephesus are
the best preserved of any Roman site in the Mediterranean. The
wonderful reconstructions create what is probably the most realistic
surviving example of life in an ancient Roman city. So why does
Ephesus contain the best preserved structures? And how does someone
explain how Ephesus was once one of the greatest ports in the Roman
Empire when the ocean is four miles away with no channel or mighty
river in sight?
And read about the obnoxious Turkish Rug Trap for good measure.
Crete - So was the ancient
Palace of Knossos really the home of King Minos? Was the Minoan
Civilization really civilized? Or was there a horrible secret about
Knossos and the Minoans that has been kept covered up for
centuries? Modern evidence suggests the presence of a death cult at
Knossos and worship of the Dead? Myth or Nonsense? Read the
Mystery of Knossos.
And by the way, what about that Labyrinth where Theseus killed the
Minotaur? Is there really a Labyrinth at Knossos?
The final chapter is the
Trip Summary plus Photographs of all our Guests.
I will share the trip summary here:
2008 GREECE TRIP SUMMARY
Written by Rick Archer
May 29, 2009
In one month, it will be a year since we took our Cruise Trip to
Italy, Greece, and Turkey. My daughter Sam was looking forward to
her Senior Year in high school when we took this trip last summer.
As I write this summary, Sam will be graduating from high school
tonight. My how time flies!
This was a difficult trip for me. The long plane trip over took its
toll on me. The summer sun took an enormous toll on me. I am so
vulnerable to the sun!
Our ongoing headaches with the euro weighed heavily on my spirits.
If you remember from the Rome Two story, my family finished the day
with one lousy euro between us and no obvious way to get more cash.
Not surprisingly, this problem seriously affected us for the
remainder of the trip. If we couldn't charge it, we were out of
luck. We went without on at least a half dozen different occasions.
I was out of sorts throughout the entire trip because I was so
completely lost. The language problems, the confusing maps, and the
difficulty of negotiating giant cities like Rome and Athens for the
first time threw me for quite a loop. My whole trip felt like a
bumper sticker: "How Many Roads Must A Man Travel Down Before He
Admits He is Lost?"
I was angry at my tour guides. The woman at the Borghese Gallery in
Rome was the exception. She made that museum come totally alive for
me. She opened my eyes to art in a way no one else has ever done.
However, after the brilliant young lady who guided us through the
Borghese Museum, we struck out with the rest. The guide at the
Roman Colisseum spent the afternoon lining up women, the guide in
Sicily couldn't wait for us to leave, the guide in Ephesus led us
into rug and jewelry traps, and the guide at Knossos, well, let's
just say he was a Cretan. None of these people went out of their
way to do more than the minimum necessary to get paid. In the
process, I learned the hard way the meaning of a well-known quote on
Travel: "When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not
designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own
people comfortable." (Clifton Fadiman)
Finally, I had a problem with our steady dose of ruins. Ruins in
Rome, Ruins in Athens, Ruins in Ephesus, and Ruins in Crete. Just
one little rain forest in the middle of the trip would have done
wonders for my spirits.
Looking back, I began to appreciate these ruins a lot more when I
began to investigate the stories behind them in preparation for
writing the cruise review. I only wish we could have found tour
guides gifted enough to delve into the mysteries and not settle for
giving us the names of each structure between yawns and glances at
their watches. Once I learned more about the stories behind the
places we visited, all sorts of fascination was created.
In truth, this was really the first "Intellectual" trip I have
taken. Our previous trips have been to places rich in physical
beauty. It doesn't take a lot of training to appreciate a beautiful
beach, a lush rain forest, or a majestic mountain. Unfortunately,
the Greece Trip was not about visiting physically attractive
places. I realized too late that a trip like this probably requires
reading preparation ahead of time. Marla knew what to look for
because she had read so much in advance, but I was caught
flat-footed everywhere we went. That difference alone explains why
practically every day her attitude was superior to mine.
On the other hand, this was the first trip I have ever taken where I
appreciated it more after it was over. Once I took the time to
bring my own personal knowledge of each location up to speed, I
found myself actually wishing we could go back so I could take
On the bright side, I was gratified by the constant support I
received from the members of our group. Of course, you know exactly
who I intend to start with. Thank goodness Iqbal came to my
rescue. He made sure I learned more about Athens and Ephesus than
would have ever been possible given the guides we had. His
exquisite knowledge of this part of the world was a true godsend. I
just wish he had been at Knossos to show me where the labyrinth was
I would like to thank Wendy Weston for loaning us enough euros to
finish the trip. When she learned of the fix we were in, she gave
us enough money to take care of basic things like being able to buy
post cards in Sicily, lunch in Athens and tee-shirts in Crete, etc.
It was really nice of her to come to our rescue.
I would like to thank Greg Hatchett for his constant shepherding.
Greg made sure no one was ever left behind and loaned his big
shoulders to anyone who needed them. Greg took care of everyone.
I would like to thank a lot of people who went to the trouble of
lining up hotels and transportation for other people on the trip who
were less experienced. There was a true "community" on this trip -
people with experience who guided the others with less experience
and watched out for them.
I would like to thank Gary and Tracy Schweinle for sharing their
honeymoon with us. You have no idea how much fun they had on this
trip. Every night their table bubbled over with joy and laughter.
They had grins that stretched as wide as the Mediterranean. It made
the rest of us smile right along with them and bask in their
warmth. Of course it made the tragedy of Gary's accident during
Hurricane Ike that much harder to accept, but as Tracy said, she
would never give up the special moments they had on this trip.
Most of all, I would like to thank Marla. As you can probably
guess, she carried me the entire trip. I know I was a burden on her
with my absent-mindedness, physical exhaustion from the sun, and
basic ignorance of the realities of travel. Since Marla is such an
expert on Travel, I tend to go along for the ride more than I
should. In retrospect, I know I relied on her more than was fair.
In a nutshell, I was truly a stranger in strange lands. I learned
the hard way why foreign travel can be very stressful and very
One definition of the word "foreign" is "unfamiliar". Truly I was
taken far out of my comfort zone on this trip. I learned there is
an entire world out there I don't have a clue about. For some who
likes to know what he is doing, I was very unhappy feeling
'clueless' most of the time. I was broke, lost, and ignorant the
entire time! However, today I know I am stronger for the
experience. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about the
next Mediterranean trip because this time I have a much better idea
how to prepare and what to look forward to.
Let me conclude by saying I probably wasn't the only person who was
overwhelmed. There were other people who were not experienced at
foreign travel either. To a person, they quietly confided in me how
grateful they were at the support they received. As a reminder,
here is an excerpt from my Athens write-up:
"She told me that she signed up for this trip by herself. She said
that she had wanted to visit this area of the world for a long time,
but didn't have anyone in presently her life at this time who could
accompany her. She said this trip was literally the answer to her
prayer. And although she didn't know a single soul in our group, the
people in our group had been so kind to her! Now she wanted to say
how grateful she was that a single lady from the other side of the
planet could feel so completely safe in such a confusing
environment. Thanks to us, she was fulfilling a dream."
What this lady did not know was I felt like I was in the same boat.
I didn't admit it to her, but in many ways I felt just as helpless
as she did. I was just as grateful to the leaders in this group for
making the trip possible.
Her compliments reminded me of Rule Seven from The Noah's Ark Rules
of Travel: "For safety's sake, always travel in pairs".
We all owe so much to Marla. Thanks to her, she makes our travel
dreams possible. We enjoy the safety of the group. We always have
friends to keep us company. Thanks to leaders like Marla and Iqbal,
we feel safe, secure and protected even as we tackle parts of the
world we know so little about. We feel brave enough to stick out
our necks and explore a little because we have friends watching on
As for me, I am ready to step up in rank. Now that I have walked
the streets of Rome, I am ready to retrace the same steps when we
visit Rome again this fall on the Barcelona 2009 trip. We all stand
on the shoulders of the people who came before us. Marla and Iqbal
carried me; now its my turn to return the favor to others.
That's how our SSQQ Travel Group works. Once we are ready, we
contribute any way we can.
ABOUT RICK'S POETRY
Roses are Red
Violets are Blue,
You Better Read My Story
Or Boo Hoo Hoo
realize it is in very bad taste to invite people to please read your
poetry, but that is more or less exactly what I am about to do.
One year ago, I spent three weeks writing a recap of our trip to
Hawaii. When I say "three weeks", that means I typed and researched
an average of 5 hours a day for three weeks. That's a lot of time
and a lot of work.
I do not recall getting one compliment or one thank you note. I
have no idea whether anyone even read the Hawaii story.
I am not going to fib.
That really upset me. It was the single best cruise recap I have
ever done and all I got for my efforts was the sound of one hand
clapping in the forest.
It wasn't completely wasted time. Fortunately it is true that I do a
lot of the writing to please myself. I enjoyed researching Hawaii.
In addition, I have gotten some credit elsewhere. People who are not
part of the studio have stumbled on the story via Google and have
written me to say it was the best story about Hawaii they have ever
read on the Internet.
People ask me why I don't
write as much as I used to. Well, let me be honest. I don't feel
like the work is appreciated, so why bother? If no one is going to
read three weeks worth of work, then there are always plenty of
Fugitive and Frazier reruns on TV to watch. You may have also
noticed the Newsletters are getting shorter and further spread
Last September I published Part One and Part Two of our trip to
Rome. It was a tremendous amount of work. I received one letter in
response. Here it is:
Sent: Monday, September 01, 2008 9:04 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: September Newsletter
Rick, I just wanted
to tell you that I have really enjoyed reading the September
newsletter, especially your story about Rome.
You have a great gift for writing. You are so very descriptive
and detailed that it makes me feel like I was there with you all
when you were spending your last Euro on the trip.
I know it takes a lot of time to write your scenarios but they
are so very good. So, just thought I would let you know that I
think you are a great writer. See you soon, M
I remember that letter
well. That one single letter made it all worthwhile. I felt like
someone appreciated the story. Incidentally, thank you again to the
person who wrote that letter. It was like water to a thirsty man in
I have now completed the story of our Trip to Greece, Italy, and
Turkey. If you are interested in Travel, I hope you read it. And if
you do like it, drop me a note. I would appreciate it. RA
And that's a wrap. Only 7 pages this week.
End of June 2009 SSQQ Newsletter Issue Two