The SSQQ 2010
Written by Rick Archer
A Note from Rick regarding the Names of
Starting on our 2009 Barcelona Trip, a certain schizophrenia began to
develop about posting complete names on our cruise website. Some
people had concerns that having their full names published let the whole
world know when they would be gone. This created the worry that
their home could be targeted while they were away.
person was going through a messy divorce and did not want her
whereabouts posted, particularly since she was heading off to sea with a
Another person was taking a break from their job, but didn't
particularly want their boss to know what he was up to.
others preferred to use pseudonyms for Google reasons. They
wanted to suck toes in the hot tub, but had second thoughts about
showing prospective employers what they did with their spare time.
It is one thing to have fun on a cruise, but another thing to have
pictures come back and bite you in the butt when it is time to become
words, as Google continues to thrust its tentacles into our personal
lives via our Internet footprints, all sorts of privacy issues have
begun to surface. For that reason, I will stick to first
names much of the time.
CLIMB TO 190
Any story about the
Bahamas 2010 Trip has to begin with the staggering number of people
Marla and I took to the Bahamas. Our final total of 190 was pretty
remarkable. This total broke a record that had stood for
cruises! Furthermore, we didn’t just “break” the previous record, we
What is odd about this
year’s 190 total is that it came out of nowhere.
We certainly didn't expect these numbers.
For example, last year
we took only 90 people. In other words, our 2010 total exceeded our
2009 total by 100 people! In most businesses,
you look for that pleasant 10% increase, but this was 110%.
Over the years, the
totals for our summer dance cruises have risen and fallen like the
Dow-Jones average. Some years we had 140, some years we had 90. Up and
down, up and down.
A Review of Attendance on past SSQQ Summer Dance Cruises
2003 – The Poseidon Adventure
We set our original
record of 144 passengers on the very first trip that Marla ever
organized back in 2003.
Jubilee 2003 was a short
trip over the July 4th weekend that was ridiculously under-priced.
Marla had no idea why the trip was so cheap on
the most important cruise holiday of the year, but she wasn't going to
miss an opportunity like this. The
combination of the attractive date and the low price was too good to
resist. Marla was right about one thing - that
price tag guaranteed this trip would sell. Our group numbers jumped from 85 in 2002 to 144 in 2003. Wow!
An increase of 60 people in just one year!
I was really proud of
Marla for the success of her first trip. However, like a couple of
rookies, we never anticipated that this trip would mysteriously backfire
on us. Throughout the trip we saw the warning signs, but neither of us
knew how to react to them.
Unfortunately, there was
an angry reaction the moment people discovered the ship we were on was
so bad it literally had one foot in the grave. For starters, the
air-conditioners didn’t work in our dance room. Our group suffered
terribly and the dancing wasn’t any fun at all. The
ship was dirty and unattractive.
Then one night the ship
mysteriously listed to the right during dinner.
To our horror, the ship didn’t
immediately right itself. It stayed stuck in the tilted position for
over a minute while all of us tried to figure out where the nearest
lifeboat was situated. The water in my glass
was at a 30% angle. This didn't look good. Apparently the
ship's stabilizers had gotten stuck and someone had to manually override
them to get the ship back on an even keel... while we sat there crooked
for five minutes wondering if we should panic.
one of the
ship’s personnel whispered the awful truth to me - this would be the final
voyage of the
Jubilee before being sent to Davy Jones locker. No one
was very happy with this ship, not us and not the
crew either. Noah's Ark was probably in
better shape than this tub.
2004 – The Wedding Cruise
People have a funny way
of sending a message. In 2004, Marla was mystified when practically no
one was signing up for her next trip. It is pretty tough to go from 144
to zero in just one year
unless of course you axe murder a few of your guests and people hear
about it. At the time, neither Marla nor I had any idea
why our next trip was getting the cold shoulder. Unfortunately people
were too polite to explain they would rather switch to the more
expensive cruise line than take any chance of sailing on another tub
like the Jubilee.
worries about everything and she had assumed she had done something
wrong. Marla was despondent. Finally someone quietly whispered the
truth. Marla was actually relieved to find out what was wrong.
Once she realized it wasn't something horrible she
had done, Marla sighed with relief, then bounced into action.
quickly canceled our summer trip on one cruise line and switched to
the other cruise line for a late September sailing date. Good move. Our
numbers rebounded immediately. People began to sign up in steady
fashion. As it turned out, not only did we take 125 on the trip, this
late sailing date allowed Marla and I to get married on the ship.
All’s well that ends
2005 – Rita Rhapsody
For the next several
years, our numbers continued to go up and down. Houston’s near-miss
with Hurricane Rita in 2005 literally forced our ship to stay out to sea
an extra three days because there was no one in Galveston to service a
turnaround. This meant our group lost three
full days at sea. We only had half a trip!
Thanks to the hurricane threat, 10 people canceled
ended up only taking 85 people that year.
2006 – Rhapsody Reloaded
Fortunately we rebounded
well in 2006 with 136 passengers.
Since last year’s trip
had been reduced from 7 days down to 4 days, many of us felt cheated out
of our vacation. So our group attacked the 2006 trip with a vengeance.
We partied long and hard into each night.
This was a pretty
cruise. The hot tub antics were without a doubt the craziest we had
ever seen. In addition, we had one lady who was completely out of
control. In retrospect, what I should have done was said nothing about
her and not posted any pictures. Instead, I posted her pictures. I
think that was a mistake on my part. I was sending out the wrong
message about what our trips were about. As you will see, I would
eventually pay for this mistake.
Meanwhile, the group had
a blast. We had so much fun that the energy heading into 2007
guaranteed we would have another great trip. The only sad part was this
would be the last of our 5 cruises on our beloved
2007 – The Perfect Trip
Once the Rhapsody left
the Houston market in 2007, Marla had no choice but to book us onto the
Conquest. Fortunately this ship turned out to be far superior to the
tubs we had been on before. Our numbers stayed strong with 125.
As it turned out,
Conquest 2007 was without a doubt the best cruise we had ever been on
to this date. Everyone had a marvelous time.
This was the trip
where Marla and I felt our group was turning into a real community. In
the old days, table-hopping during dinner was fashionable. Now people
had formed so many friendships that they were actually happier sticking
with the same people every night. Marla and I were quietly thrilled to
see so many people having so much fun.
And yes, there was more
hot tub mischief. However, judging from a comparison of the pictures,
it is obvious to me that 2006 had been much wilder. Nevertheless, I
continued to write about the “hot tub excesses”.
However, this time I
believe my hype backfired on me. I would pay a price the following
2008 – Crude and Rude
Back in the Eighties, I
took a trip to Club Med. I was fairly amazed at the consistent level of
risqué behavior displayed on a daily basis. In fact, I concluded I was
far too much of a prude to thrive in this situation. I never returned
to Club Med again.
Although I was
uncomfortable with the constant drinking and the party games at Club
Med, at the time I concluded I was in the minority. It seemed to me
that most people actually enjoyed this environment.
Of course, looking back, the only people voting were
the people at Club Med. I guess it was no accident the approval
ratings were so high. However, this didn't occur to me, so I went
home assuming the whole world enjoyed getting plastered and playing
naughty games for an entire week.
When I saw
similar behavior on our cruise trips, I gave it the spotlight thinking
it would help draw more people. In a way I was right, but I think
my hype attracted a few people who were not a good fit for our group.
In the past, whenever I have written about the Magic Bus Trip, the hot
tub activities and the Cozumel drinking sprees, obviously much of what I
said was tongue in cheek. Anyone who had actually been on our trips
knew full well that most of what went on was pure silliness that rarely
crossed any lines.
Everybody likes to tease me about my tendency to ‘embellish’ in my
cruise writeups. And why shouldn’t they? After all, I say some pretty
outrageous things at times. However, I assume most can tell when I am
stretching things and when I am being straightforward. For example,
when I talk about a man being reduced to a
Human Blob by hot tub
I think most adults can tell I am kidding.
Thanks to a combination
of word of mouth as well as my exaggerations about the wild antics on our
trips, our numbers swelled to 144 in 2008. It had taken Marla 8 tries,
but she had finally tied her 2003 record. We expected 2008 would be
our best cruise ever… only to discover this would be our toughest cruise
2008 passengers had a great time.
The only people who hated that trip were Marla and
myself. Behind the scenes, Marla and
I were miserable the entire trip thanks to a litany of rude and
thoughtless behavior on the part of 6 new passengers and one very
Marla and I could not
help but notice every one of the problems were caused by people we had
never seen before in our life. Where did these
guys come from?
It is just speculation
on my part, but I think some outside people read my hype about our wild
trips and actually believed we were the reincarnation
of Club Med at sea. Again, let me say this is just a guess
on my part. Whatever the reason, the wrong people showed up on the 2008
So what exactly did
these people do? One man deliberately molested a woman who is a
personal friend of mine in the hot tub. One woman was an alcoholic who
screamed at the ship’s personnel to hurry up and bring her more free
booze. Two women got drunk and started firing champagne corks at other
passengers and TV screens. One man raced ahead of a blind girl to steal
the last remaining seat at the table. There were several other
incidents as well. And I won’t even tell you the worst thing that
I was angry. Actually,
I was beyond angry. I was ashamed of the way these people had behaved.
Although I had no control over how these people acted, I took it
personally because I felt their actions reflected on our group. What
on earth did the Conquest staff think of our group? Would
they shudder the next time they saw the four letters SSQQ?
I felt exactly like a
high school principal who finds out his
students have senselessly
vandalized the mascot at another school during a football game – ashamed
and embarrassed at the behavior, guilt by association.
When I got back to
Houston, I wrote in detail about every single lousy incident on that
trip. In retrospect, I suppose I should have swallowed my anger and
pretended the trip was wonderful. After all, the trip was indeed
wonderful for the vast majority of our passengers. It was only Marla
and me who were bent out of shape.
Oddly enough, I was
roundly criticized for being too negative. That
Be that as it may,
unfortunately it is not my style to sweep things under the carpet. Nor
is it Marla’s style either. We tell it like it is. When we have a good
trip, we will tell you why it was a good trip. When something goes
wrong, we will tell you what went wrong and why. We don’t claim to be
perfect, but at least we aren’t sneaky. We don’t have secrets in this
family. We believe our passengers have a right to know what to expect
on every cruise. Our word is important… even if it costs us some
business at times.
2009 – The Silent Majority Speaks Up
In 2009, a combination
of the bad vibes from the 2008 trip and a shaky economy drove our
numbers down from 144 to 90. As it turned out, Marla and I could have
cared less about taking 54 fewer people on the trip than the previous
year. All we cared about was the troublemakers from the last cruise had
Nevertheless, as we boarded the ship, both of us were wary. Would there
be someone new to watch out for? Where would
the knife in the back come from this time? We realized we still felt bruised and
beaten from the year before. As it turned out, there was nothing to
worry about. Much to our surprise, the 2009 Trip became the most
pleasant summer dance cruise we had ever taken.
Although the Wild Bunch
had deserted us, fortunately the Silent Majority stayed with us. We
discovered to our delight the group was just as happy without the
insanity that had characterized the previous three years.
Marla and I
something in the process. Even though things were a lot tamer, this
trip turned out to be more fun than it had ever been. Our group had
finally found its true identity. We had become a Family of Friends.
the Family Spirit carry over
2010 - Our Record-Setting Cruise
said we were headed to the Bahamas this year, I didn't give it much
thought. But Marla predicted the change in venue from the usual
Jamaica-Cayman-Cozumel Triangle would be a shot in the arm. As it
turned out, Marla knew exactly what she was talking about.
As our passenger total
began to climb off the charts for the Bahamas Trip, Marla and I didn’t know whether
to be thrilled or panic-stricken. In the two previous years
when we had
experienced a huge rise in attendance, both trips had turned out to be
Did large numbers always guarantee problems? Would lighting strike a
third time in 2010?
After all, there were 74
newcomers to our group in 2010. That meant 40% of our group was brand
new. 2008 marked the last time we had seen so many newcomers.
That was the trip where we had been
badly burned by the behavior of several of the new people. Would
history repeat itself?
We got our first clue at
the Westwind Pre-Cruise Party two weeks before the trip. Marla and I
held our breath all day long with worry. To our relief, everyone had a
blast at the party. As the group danced the
night away, there were smiles everywhere. The energy was so positive!
That’s when we knew
things would go just fine. At this point, the Silent Majority was in
firm control. There were so many returning cruisers now that they set the
tone. Our Veterans took the lead, the Newcomers followed. It worked
like a charm. Despite a record total of passengers and a record total
of newcomers, there was not one single negative incident on this entire
Don’t get me wrong. The
SSQQ Travel group will never be mistaken for a church group.
We do misbehave. That is what
vacations are for. However the murky lines that separate silliness
from lewdness seem to be clearer now. On this trip at least, no
one crossed the line at all. As far as I was concerned, the entire cruise was one never-ending
Day at the Beach and
at the Disco.
like to salute my talented wife Marla on the success of her Bahamas 2010
been fun watching Marla acquire her travel organizations skills over the
past eight years. I cannot help but be impressed at how much she
met Marla, I had taken two trips outside the country in my life.
One was a cruise I hated and the other was a cruise I hated. I am
clearly not a "born cruiser". If I had continued to be in charge,
I think it is safe to say our program wouldn't haven't gotten very far.
So, yes, I give my talented wife all the credit for developing this
know why I like our cruises now? Besides having my wife along for
company, I like the cruises because I get to see my friends. Does
that sound familiar? Yes, I come along on these cruises for the
same reason as the rest of the group. This trip literally gives me
a chance to have fun with the entire group.
For a man
who loves geography and history, meeting Marla is the best thing to ever
happen to me.
Thanks to Marla, I have seen Greece, Italy, Turkey,
Spain, Alaska, New England, Hawaii, France, Scotland, Ireland, Norway,
and New Orleans (that's a foreign country, isn't it?). Pretty soon
I will see Egypt as well. Marla has opened up the entire world for
just the incredible places I have seen, Marla has brought me out of my
shell in ways you cannot imagine. When I first met Marla, I hid in
my cabin every spare moment of the trip. Today I spend as little
time as possible because I would rather be out chatting with all the
friends I have made.
many of you appreciate her just as much as I do. We are all
fortunate to have Marla as our fearless leader.
Marla, for creating this marvelous program for all of us to enjoy.