Chapter Two
Home Up Indika Dinner Dance



Story written by Rick Archer
First published: March 2006
Last Update: July 2010

Although SSQQ took its first official cruise in 1998, it was our second trip in 2001 when the sparks began to fly.  That was the trip where I met my wife Marla.  We clicked from the very first night.  We have never been apart since. 

As our romance deepened, I discovered that Marla had a life-long love of travel.  One day in 2002 I suggested to Marla that she should try organizing an SSQQ cruise trip herself.  Marla gave it some thought, then smiled.  Marla was game.   The very first cruise she organized - Jubilee 2003 - set an attendance record that stood for seven years!  Obviously my instincts were correct - Marla was a natural.

Once Marla and I pooled our talents, we were tickled to see how quickly our cruise project caught on.   One cruise led to another which led to another... you get the picture.  Marla and I realized our little cruise business had become the perfect offshoot to the dance studio.  Our summer cruises were so popular that our friends began to clamor for trips to Europe, Hawaii, and Alaska as well.  So in 2004 we began offering two cruises a year - one dance cruise and one adventure cruise.  In 2011, we will add a third cruise as well (likely to be a repeat of a previous destination). 

Now that we have completed an entire decade of cruises, we can take a step back and see the big picture.  This is the story of how the SSQQ Travel Club got its start.   RA, July 2010

I don't know what I was scared about. As it turned out, trusting my feelings with her was the smartest thing I ever did in my life.  Marla and I have never been apart since.


We repeated this cycle.  First we danced some more, then we came to the bar for a second round of margaritas. We began to talk some more.  I was definitely enjoying myself.  In fact, I didn't want it to end.  I order a third round of margaritas.  Then I suggested we take the conversation up on the deck. 

Marla didn't blink.  She smiled her approval, so up the stairs we went.









"What happened to the boyfriend?"

"Hmm.  It turned out my instincts had been correct all along.  That Miami trip had been scheduled for quite a well.  Apparently her boyfriend won it in some company contest.  Marla was just going through the motions. 

Marla was unhappy in that relationship; she just didn't want to admit that her six-year relationship had hit a dead-end.  They had continued the relationship because it was comfortable, but the enthusiasm was long gone . The relationship was going nowhere.  They were spending less and less time together. Marla felt like he was taking her for granted.   Suffice it to say this boyfriend was long gone after the first night.  Marla threw him overboard.

However our new relationship got off to a rough start. 

First Marla had to break the news as gently as she could when we returned home.  That was very tough for her since no one ever wants to hurt a friend.  He wasn't very happy about this turn of events, but I have to hand it to him because he was a complete gentleman to Marla during this painful period of his life. 

Sad to say, there was a major tragedy lurking right around the corner.  9/11 hit just days after our return to Houston.

The nation was devastated.  Everyone we knew was devastated.  Every American was suddenly aware our lives might never be the same again.  We were at war.

This horrible moment was definitely the end of the SSQQ Millennium Generation.  9/11 stopped this wonderful period dead in its tracks. The studio came to a grinding halt.  The dance studio began to resemble a ghost town for the next several months as we numbly tried to make sense of it all.

Nor did I care that the studio was at a standstill.  I was far more worried about the human race than I was about selling dance lessons."

"How did you ever get it going again?"

Once we figured out that this horrible attack was an isolated incident, the attitude was life must go on.  Sure, a lot of our enthusiasm was gone, but we couldn't let the terrorists ruin our lives. It was time to pick up pieces and get on with things.

At the start of 2002, things were starting to get back to normal although dance classes were at best half the size of the previous year.  Marla suggested we schedule another cruise and try to cheer up.  I nodded in agreement.

However Carnival Cruise Line wasn't very cooperative.  They had short-changed us on the previous trip due to the hurricane, but now they didn't feel any need to compensate us with even a token discount.  Marla said perhaps we should try Carnival's main competitor, Royal Caribbean, instead.

After I talked to the local representative and told him I had a group of 100 people, Royal Caribbean was more than happy to give us a discount to lure our business away from Carnival. 

I was worried though.  9/11 still had all of us rattled, this new trip was 7 days instead of 5 days, and it was a lot more expensive even with the discount. 

Thank goodness my fears turned out to be unfounded. The response was excellent.  We got 87 people for our 2002 trip.  I didn't know it at the time, but this was the Dawn of the SSQQ Love Boat Era.

We were about to enter the most exciting phase of the dance studio's history yet."



"How did the 2002 Rhapsody Cruise turn out?"

"Gee whiz, this was a wonderful trip.  I learned so many important lessons on this trip.

This was the first trip Gary Richardson - Da Jammer - and his wife Betty came on. Gary's incredible gift for photography resulted in many great pictures from the trip. I used those pictures to document our trip.  This was also my chance to pay him back for his On-Off Switch trick a few years back. I got him pretty good for wearing blacks socks on the trip. It was as they say the start of a beautiful friendship.  We are pretty good teammates.

I learned first-hand how much people miss 'glamour' in their lives.  Seeing how much fun our group had thrilling the audiences at the Captain's Reception with their marvelous dancing was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Finally, I was astounded at the number of serious romances that developed out of this trip.  Six couples from our group eventually married, including two romances that developed right in front of my eyes in the same way that Marla and I had connected the previous year.

"Are you saying other people connect on your cruises?"

"Absolutely.  All the legends are true.  Women lose their inhibitions at sea and throw caution to the wind like Marla did. Men fool around and fall in love.  It happened to me and it has happened to many other couples... all of whom who would MURDER ME if I gave up names. 

My unofficial count now has 20 SSQQ couples directly related to our cruises.  They aren't all married, but they are together and moving in that direction slowly but surely.

One of the precious features of SSQQ cruises is that love can follow a couple to shore.

Back on the first cruise we took in 1998, we had a very small group with perhaps two single men and maybe ten single women.  With that ratio, the only way for the birds and the bees to take place was for the women to look outside the group.  Three different ladies indeed hooked up with men outside the group.

One of those ladies fell madly in love with some guy from a different city.  When we got back to shore, the guy went one way, she went the other.  She wasn't the same for a long time.  She always seemed to brood over her lost love. She had let down her guard and now she ached badly. 

An SSQQ ocean fling doesn't have to have an ending when the trip is over. 

A cruise romance gives two people an enormous amount of time to get to know one another... depending on their need for sleep they can go 24/7 for a week learning everything there is to know about the other person. 

I am not simply talking about cabin gymnastics, I mean that they can talk, they can dance, they can swim, they can sight see, they can see how their new friend interacts with others, how he or she treats the cruise staff, how they are with money, how they behave in the hot tub with other hot bodies around, are they a potential womanizer, you name it. 

You can acquire a wealth of information on a cruise that would take two months to learn onshore.  By the time they step off the ship, they feel like they have known each other forever.  Try using email or a dating service to equal that.  It isn't going to happen.  People need eye contact! 

And it definitely is important to see what their friend REALLY looks like in a bathing suit!"

"When did Marla become the Travel Agent?"

"From the start, it was her love of travel that really started my wheels turning.  As I got to know her better, I could see that Marla had phenomenal business instincts.  It wasn't difficult to figure out that she would be pretty good as a part-time travel agent.  As it turned out, this was a role she was born for. 

I wanted Marla to organize the SSQQ cruise trips for two reasons.  First, unlike the anonymous women who had put together our first three trips, Marla would know her passengers personally.  She would be at the studio for people to ask questions.  This would allow her to promote the event in person.   Second, why give the earnings to another travel agent if Marla could do the work herself? 

Marla wasn't exactly thrilled with her job as a sales representative.  She agreed she would rather work for herself than for someone else.  

So I used my contacts to get her a position with a travel agency as an outside, home-based agent.  It was no surprise that Marla took to the role like a duck to water.  She was a natural.

"How did the 2003 Jubilee Cruise turn out?"

"The 2003 trip was Marla's 'training wheels trip'.  Under the watchful eye of an experienced travel agent, Marla organized the trip herself and took the bookings.  She quickly realized that this job is not quite as easy as she had originally thought.  The first thing she learned is that single people change their minds all the time and that every time they changed their mind on this trip, it meant more work for her.  

The trip itself had its good points and bad.   Marla discovered that the Carnival Jubilee was ridiculously under-priced for a prime July 4th weekend sailing.  The combination of a date when everyone could get off from work plus the low rate was too much to resist.   We smashed the previous attendance with 144 people. That part was awesome.

The ocean's effect on SSQQ Slow Dance and Romance was also incredible.  There were 3  married couples aboard that had met through SSQQ before the trip.  There were 4 couples aboard that later got married.  There were three engagements that resulted from this trip.  (One couple soon married, one couple broke up, one couple I don't know the result of).  And I counted three more couples that are still together three years later... maybe??)

However the ship itself turned out to be in terrible shape.  The ship was rundown, air-conditioners didn't work, and one night at dinner the ship tilted so badly I actually wondered if we had a Poseidon Adventure on our hands.   The poor condition of the ship made everyone beg to go on Royal Caribbean the next year. "

"How did the 2004 Mardi Gras Cruise turn out?"

"This is still my all-time favorite cruise.  It was also the first cruise organized entirely by Marla.

By our usual standards, we did not have a large group.  I think our total was 39.  But that number turned out to be perfect for this particular trip.  As we entered the jungle of Mardi Gras, our group stuck together just like a safari into the wild jungle.

We had such an adventure together that we became close friends!  Usually I am the Leader of the Pack, but this time I was completely off my Turf.  I let a native Louisiana, MG Anseman, take the lead and he was terrific.

Our group stopped at St. Charles Street to watch the amazing floats, collect beads, and sample the local Margaritas.  After two hours, we were heavily beaded and quite drunk.

Then our trip took us to Bourbon Street for the most crowd I have ever scene. There were naked breasts everywhere. Some were painted, others were volunteered periodically.

There were throngs, there were wild-looking people, there was trash and litter, there were drunks singing at the top of their lungs, there were people passed out the sidewalk, and there was a constant hail of beads and confetti thrown from the balconies.

Our group discovered a blues bar.  We went in part for sanctuary and part to hear the music. We finished a great afternoon with two hours of the best whip dancing I have ever experienced!  The music was sensational and the Mardi Gras atmosphere was electric!

This trip also saw the first hot-tub stuffing marathons, the first bloody sand volleyball match at Chankanaab Beach in Cozumel, and the first Jigsaw Puzzle party.

"What was the story on the 2004 Rhapsody Wedding Cruise?"

"Since Marla and I had met on an SSQQ Cruise, we decided that getting married on an SSQQ Cruise would bring our relationship full circle. 120 people joined us for the fun.

Despite the fact that everything that could go wrong did go wrong, this eventually turned into a marvelous trip for everyone.  The Rhapsody Staff took a shine to us and made Marla feel like visiting royalty.  We were even invited to dinner with the Captain! 

As far as Slow Dance and Romance goes, Marla and I obviously were the focus.  However, we were not alone.  There were three couples on this trip that got married within the next year plus one new romance that formed during the trip."

"I heard there were serious sparks on the 2005 Alaska Cruise?"

"The 2005 trip to Alaska had tremendous magic to it.  We took over 70 people to view the stunning Alaska vistas. Every day we gazed in awe at the huge skyscraper mountains, pristine untouched forests everywhere the eye could gaze, magnificent glaciers just 800 yards away from the bow of our ship, and at rivers, waterfalls, and islands so beautiful they looked like they belonged in a travel magazine!

This was the trip where I first began to realize there really is something to this 'Love Boat' stuff.  We had an engagement announced on the first day of trip, but that turned out to trigger a veritable romantic avalanche.  Immediately after the trip ended, four couples in four months made trips down the wedding aisle.  Not one of these weddings was even hinted at during the trip.  In other words, our Love Boat trip moved people quickly in the right direction.

Including 4 other couples on the trip that had met previously at SSQQ and 2 couples that "connected" on this trip, we had 11 Slow Dance and Romance couples on one trip.

Do you think there something to this SSQQ "Love Boat" stuff or am I just making it up?"

"So the Love Boat myth is not necessarily a 'Myth'?"

"It doesn't matter whether you are Single or Double.  It doesn't matter if you are young or old.

Cruise Trips are valuable for romance on all levels. 

Sure, the singles are the ones who are out there making total fools of themselves and having a blast in the process.  Their antics are the stuff of good stories back home.  But important things are happening with the well-behaved people on the trip as well.

Many singles who are 'couples' take cruises as a part of their courtship.  I see a large number of people who take cruises together to see what it's like to be alone for seven days with another person. 

In situations like this, there is always powerful movement.  Two couples on the Alaska trip had barely begun to date before this trip and headed straight for the altar when they got back to Houston.  Two other couples could not wait to hit the Exit Door on their return.  Whatever direction you are headed, the cruise will accelerate it for you.

Think about it.  Last summer when we went to Alaska one couple got engaged on the trip. Four more couples got married within four months after the cruise.   Five couples made huge decisions during and after that cruise!   You can't tell me this was coincidence.  The cruise experience was so powerful it accelerated their progress towards commitment. 

Another group that doesn't get much publicity are the couples who take the cruises to fall even more deeply in love.  I cannot tell you how much Marla and I appreciate the quiet SSQQ couples who have made a half dozen trips with us.  

They never misbehave. They get very little publicity.  However on each trip, you will always see them hold hands.  You will see them making new friends at dinner time. They smile a lot.  They are always on the dance floor. They Foxtrot. They Waltz. They Cha Cha.  They are elegant in their dress and they carry themselves with grace and dignity.

I may only hear two words from them the whole trip - they always say 'thank you' when the trip is over.  And of course they pay us the highest compliment of all - they take another trip with us.  Marla and I have eight words for them - 'You are welcome. And thank you very much!'

The term 'Love Boat' is just as important to my silent couples as it is to the couples who are chasing love or falling in love."


"I heard 2005 Rita Rhapsody was a rough trip.  What happened?

"Of course everyone remembers that Hurricane Rita barely missed hitting Houston and caused the biggest traffic jam in the history of our planet.  In terms of sheer horror, it shook us all to our core even though our area was eventually spared.

By coincidence, our trip was scheduled to leave Galveston the day after the storm actually touched land about 100 miles to east on the Texas-Louisiana border.  For safety purposes, our ship stayed out at sea for four more days to let Galveston get its port going again.

Unfortunately our trip was cut in half down to a three-day trip.  This trip was meant to be the most exciting cruise in the studio's history and now it was little better than a quick little float out to sea and back.  After such a buildup, everyone single one of us felt deeply disappointed.  Many of us were too weary from Rita too even care any more. 

The majority of us would rather have postponed the trip. But Marla knew how unrealistic this sentiment was. She had seen how hard people had worked to get this time free from their jobs.  If we postponed the cruise, this would cost many of these people their trip entirely. 

Despite these obstacles and others, Marla held our trip together. Out of the original hundred people scheduled to sail, 85 people went with us.  That was quite an accomplishment!  By comparison, another group of 300 'Beaders' from Dallas threw in the towel and canceled.  And Dallas wasn't even affected.  Marla put this trip on her back and did everything in her power to help besides shove the ship out to sea herself. 

SSQQ Slow Dance and Romance suffered from the abbreviated trip.  Just about the time people began to shake their post-Rita blues, we were back in Houston again.  The sense of what could have been lingered in the back of everyone's mind.  We felt cheated.

"Three days. That didn't leave much time for romance, did it?

"No kidding!   But sometimes even just a 'taste' has a benefit. In some ways, this trip gave the members to our cruise group a Preview!  Judging from the fever at which many of our guests have been attacking their dance lessons ever since their return, they intend to make our next Rhapsody trip their coming out party! 

One positive effect of the yearly SSQQ cruises is the dedication people put into their dancing before the cruise takes place for several reasons.  First they fully intend to be able to enjoy their hobby to the fullest.  Second, if a cute guy or cute girl within the group (or outside the group for that matter) asks them to dance, they definitely don't want to sit the song out or feel clumsy.

Beyond the obvious birds and bees stuff, they genuinely enjoy seeing how much people appreciate their dancing.  Most people take a back seat to the hundreds of advanced dancers that populate the studio or the Wild West dance floors.  But aboard the Rhapsody or whatever ship we sail on, they become Dance Gods and Goddesses. 

The first-timers are stunned to discover they are better dancers than practically anyone on board the ship when it comes to partner dancing.  They give themselves a secret pat on the back for a job well done. 

People are surprised to find that cruises are one place where Ballroom dancing still lives!  I remember a number of our guests were forced to sit during the Captain's Reception.  Their Western dancing and Salsa dancing didn't help them much when a Swing like 'In the Mood' or a Foxtrot like 'I Get a Kick out of You' was played. They were definitely taking notes.  I was amused to spot a bunch of them in a Ballroom class after the Rita Rhapsody trip. 

Once they learned how important Ballroom Dancing is on cruises, back on shore men who typically wear boots and blue jeans or shorts and Hawaiian shirts quietly show up for Foxtrot, Swing, and Cha Cha classes to prepare for their trip. Around the studio, they are total bums, but they know deep down inside they can clean up when they have to.

All they need is a reason.  Secretly I think our guys enjoy looking good once in a while. I know I do. I treat the Rhapsody Crown and Anchor dances like I do the Halloween Party - wear a costume and come in disguise!  It definitely takes a while to recognize me.
Speaking for myself, I had to get used to it, but lately I have begun to look forward to these opportunities to dress up and dance.  It is fun to be sophisticated once in a while!  I can't see being Cary Grant every night of the week, but two or three times a trip I think it is terrific to a transform into a sharp-dressed man. Nor do I think I am alone.

Believe it or not, I think a lot of people from our group enjoy the glamour of the cruise.

Certainly the women don't need any encouragement in the glamour department.  When it comes to glamour, the women are on board before the ship even leaves the dock!! 

Every cruise becomes a fashion opportunity that cannot be passed up.  Unlike airplane trips, our ladies can take as many clothes as they want.  And their reward comes when Gary is right there to take their picture dressed in their beautiful gowns.  All they have to do is stand still and smile!   Women love to be elegant. They are definitely beautiful on these occasions.

Fortunately our guys have begun to figure this out.  Lo and behold, one night aboard the cruise, these barbarians are magically transformed into studs as they trot out in their ties and tuxes.  The women scream with delight as the men go through their 'aw shucks' routines. They won't admit it, but like the women, they too cannot WAIT for Gary Richardson to take the picture to show the world back home just how damn good looking they really are."




"So do you think the future holds for more cruises?"

"As of 2006, SSQQ has taken eight cruises.  When viewed as a unit, these cruises have had a profound effect on SSQQ. 

Our cruises have thrilled our guests out at sea and they have totally energized the studio back at home.  I have to come to realize that our Slow Dance and Romance activities at home have a perfect synergy with the elegant ocean cruises.

A careful analysis of my business and their business reveals an interesting fact - we are both in the same business, but we don't compete!  SSQQ promotes Romance.  The cruise industry promotes Romance.  SSQQ offers dance lessons.  A cruise trip offers dance lessons.  But we don't compete because they are at sea and we are on land. 

Sometimes in my idle moments I see a cruise ship as a giant floating dance studio.  Where our businesses differ is they offer vacations and my clients take vacations.

Thus the synergy - we not only do not compete, we help each other.  The vacation energizes my studio.  My wonderful dancers energize their ship.  It is a very unique and powerful relationship where everyone wins.  Yes, Slow Dance leads to Romance, but the Love Boat Era has shown that Slow Dance on a Cruise Trip leads to Romance much more swiftly.

Before I continue about the SSQQ-Cruise connection, I would like to point out there is an energy in the wind that may bode positive consequences for all of us.

The potential dawn of a new era of Ballroom Dance seems like it is just around the corner.   When 'Dancesport' finally makes it debut as a Summer Olympic event, people will watch in awe as the finest dancers will become Olympic heroes in the same way their winter counterpart - the figure skate pairs - have been capturing the hearts of millions for years.

At the purest level, social dance has become 'sport', a joy in movement set to music.  Any enthusiast of basketball highlights set to music marvels at the poetry of the athletes in motion.  But when you see a top-flight dance competition, you witness the same artistry in higher-level dance.  With intricate movements set to thrilling music, a Waltz, a Rumba, a Cha Cha all have the power to inspire.

Although 'Dance Sport' barely missed making the cut as an official sport at the upcoming Beijing 2008 Olympics, its inclusion in the 2012 Olympics is considered quite likely. 

The quickness, the style, the power, and the grace of 'Dance Sport' will prove that the kind of dance I am talking about will prove these artists are just as much 'athletes' as the gymnasts and the hurdlers.   Dance Sport will thrill the audiences!

Best of all, the competitors will add one element the other sports cannot touch - the elegance and glamour of the dancers and their unbelievable sex appeal!   People will soon realize these dancers are not only well-conditioned and highly trained athletes, they can take their place among the most physically beautiful human beings in the world. 

'Dance Sport' is the only major sport besides Figure Skating that allows men and women to not only compete together, but encourages the athletes to flirt at the same time!

And there you have it - the highest levels of dance combine glamour, artistry, and sex appeal."

The mural and statue above can be seen at the entrance of Rhapsody's 'Shall We Dance' Lounge.  Lorraine Cull, a member of our 2004 Rhapsody Cruise, wrote about this mural in her letter to me after the trip:

“Dancing aboard the ship made the pictures along the wall become a reality for those that danced. 

What a tremendous joy to be able to dance in an environment that was so luxurious as the 'Shall We Dance Lounge'! 

Dancing invites people to mingle unlike any other activity.  Dancing offers an expression for the young and the old that were aboard the ship.  Your dance lessons were fun and offered the participants the opportunity to dance later in the trip that they may have never tried to dance before.

The lounge was perfect for lessons and dancing in the evening.   "Shall we dance?"  

Yes, a most enjoyable evening.  When you dance you can only be happy.  

Thank you, Rick and Marla, for creating this opportunity.

"What is the importance of the Fred and Ginger mural to SSQQ?"

"The final piece of the dance puzzle is Glamour.  For women to look their best in their gorgeous dance dresses, you must have a glamorous setting.  'Glamour' demands a backdrop, an atmosphere, and an audience.  When it comes to Dance and Glamour, a cruise ship like the Rhapsody, our home away from home, delivers this setting perfectly."

The name of the Rhapsody's Ballroom is 'Shall We Dance?'  The name is a reference to a 1937 Astaire-Rogers dance movie with the same name. The plot has Fred meeting his future wife Ginger on the dance floor of a cruise liner known as the Queen Anne. 

Hmm.  That sounds familiar.  Isn't that how I met my wife? 

You absolutely cannot enter this room on the ship and see the beautiful murals without feeling nostalgic for this lost era.  You don't need me to describe it.  Just take a look at the panorama above and savor the images of a time when you could dance the night away in the arms of your sweetheart or perhaps capture the attention of a new lover with the simple invitation to dance.  It was a time when you could mix dinner, conversation, romance, friendship, and dancing into one complete evening.

It is my observation that people are beginning to miss the elegance of this earlier era. 

When people talk about the potent combination of Orchestras, beautiful dance floors, tuxes and gowns, elegant surroundings, sophisticated people, and best of all, graceful Ballroom dancing, they certainly don't think our modern times. 

Invariably our minds wander to the movies of the past when scenes of Ballroom Dancing were a constant backdrop to every plot.  Where on earth did these days go?  I am not sure why they disappeared, but I miss them.  I have a hunch that our society is ready to try again.

I say it is high time for us to discover the modern-day equivalent of Fred and Ginger to help us recapture the beauty of the Jazz Age and the Big Band Era. 

Wouldn't it be nice if our Icons of Sophistication - Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Kathryn Hepburn - could be joined by you, me and the rest of our Millennium Era counterparts? 

Fortunately at SSQQ we don't need to wait for this to happen.  We can do it ourselves."

Yesterday:  The Age of Glamour and Dance... Scenes of an Era Passed

Today:  Scenes of an SSQQ Night at Sea -

"Aboard the Rhapsody or any ship we sail on,
SSQQ has the opportunity to recapture these magic days of yesteryear whenever we wish." - Rick Archer

"Of course it would be fun to recreate the glory days of the past.  How do you propose to do this?"

"I don't think I am alone in my dreams about the days when Ballroom Dancing was center stage in American culture.  I am willing to bet that a lot of people are beginning to miss the glory of this earlier era. Judging from the excitement of my fellow passengers on Formal Night, they look forward to these evenings just as much as I do.  Fortunately we don't have to wait for it to happen.  Aboard the Rhapsody or any ship we sail on, SSQQ actually has the opportunity to recapture these magic days of yesteryear whenever we wish.

The Captain's Reception and the Crown and Anchor Dance are two Ballroom dance opportunities that are offered on every trip. These dances coincide with Formal Night.  As a result, every person in the room is beautifully dressed.  We all look like extras in a Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr scene aboard the cruise ship in An Affair to Remember.

Indeed,  our group is marvelous as we dance the night away to the ship's orchestra.  For an extra flourish, every seat in the elegant ballroom is filled to the brim with people who deeply appreciate our dancing.  We are the show.

In fact, our group is often mistaken for 'entertainment' thoughtfully provided by the cruise line to complete the ambience of the evening.  We always grin at that suggestion.  It is indeed a very high compliment.

These evenings are the ultimate reward for hours of dance practice back home.  People take a great deal of time over the course of a year to acquire their dance skills and practice them after class.  Performing to smiles and eye contact of the Rhapsody's guests is a marvelous compliment to their skill and hard work. 

These moments of dancing to classic Ballroom standards liked Sinatra's Foxtrot 'Witchcraft' or Benny Goodman's Swing 'Let's Dance' is a huge thrill for the SSQQ dancers.  None of us are accustomed to this kind of attention.  (But we like it!)

We don't actually realize how good we have it at SSQQ.  Sure, there are dance studios everywhere, but their system of instruction mostly consists of extremely expensive private lessons.  Here at SSQQ people learn the same amount of material at a fraction of the cost they might have to pay elsewhere.  We didn't become the biggest dance studio in the country by accident, you know.  Our group classes will never produce a dance champion - at the highest levels you do need private lessons - but they are very effective for creating a veritable host of quality social dancers.  That is of course our strength and it shows on these trips.

However surrounded here at home by all the terrific veteran dancers, most of our people have no idea how good they are because they lack perspective.  You can never really appreciate how good our dancers are until you see our program through different eyes. 

A funny anecdote also carries a strong point.  When Marla and I got married aboard the Rhapsody in 2004, I was pretty exhausted from all the frenzy of last-minute preparations and details.  Plus our 'oops' wedding left both Marla and me drained of all energy.   As a result, neither of us was in the mood to dance very hard on that trip.  O
n several occasions I would take a back seat in the Shall We Dance Lounge so I could rest.  I thoroughly enjoyed observing how much fun my friends were having and how impressive their dancing was. 

Thursday evening on the fifth night of the trip, 40 SSQQ dancers filled the dance floor during the Crown and Anchor Party.  Marla was asked to dance so I sat in a corner.  By chance I overheard a curious conversation from a couple sitting nearby.  They were dressed attractively in tux and gown.  They were indeed a handsome couple both in their 40s.  I had the feeling they were relatively new to their relationship and this was their first cruise together.

The lady said, “Frank, let’s get out there and dance like everyone else! 

The man said, “I don’t know how to dance like that!  There’s no way I’m getting out there!

The lady replied, “Well, there have to be at least twenty men out there dancing. Why are you the only man in this room who isn’t dancing?”

The man looked very uncomfortable.  He said, “I wish I knew the answer to that. This is my third cruise and I’ve never seen dancing like that before.”

“Well, how did those guys learn?  It can’t be that hard if everyone in the room knows how!”

Not every man in the room is out there.  Look around.  There are a lot of guys sitting still."

"Well, it can't hurt to try!
Just get up there and try to copy them!"

There is no way I am going to figure out what they are doing.  I'm not going to make a fool of myself.  If you want to dance, go ask one of them!”

Okay, I think I will do just that.”  

At that point the woman got up and asked one of the men in our group to dance the next song.  As they danced, her Left-Behind friend just shook his head in consternation the entire time. 

When I noticed the perplexed expression on his face, I had to laugh at his plight.  Seeing his girlfriend 'ooh' and 'aah' over the Swing moves of her SSQQ dance partner, this guy didn't look too happy. 

Then I started to think about his situation. It is true that Social Dancing as a part of American life been in serious decline. The Art of Formal Dance has indeed become 'a Lost Art' for the majority of our population.

We are the lucky ones.  We are at the crest of the wave.  As I write this story, Ballroom Dancing is trying very hard to make its way back to regain its former popularity in America.  I hope it succeeds because we could all use a little more glamour in our lives.

But we are not dependent on the world-wide success of Ballroom Dancing.  Rhapsody, our 'home away from home' cruise ship, has marvelous dance floors.  Now that SSQQ has taken four trips aboard the ship, each time we return, they get more comfortable with our antics and more cooperative with our requests to use their floors as much as we wish. 

Subject: Dancing aboard the Rhapsody

We played cards with several folks during the cruise and also met quite a few people during the Art auctions. When we mentioned that we were with a dancing group the majority seemed extremely interested.  They said they had noticed us and thought we were wonderful.  They asked so many questions!

Several single ladies said that they love to dance and that they wish they could find someone to dance with during the cruise. They begged me to help them crash our next class although I think it was as much as to meet our men as it was to learn more about dance.

I think offering some social dance classes aboard the ship for all the passengers - not just us - and the opportunity to dance afterwards or in the evenings would be a phenomenal idea.

I guarantee you and the Captain that it would get a great response.

Thank you, so much, for the wonderful cruise.

Stella Moore, 2004

One of these days perhaps the Rhapsody will actually ask SSQQ to participate more frequently than our current 'once a year' trip. 

But whether the studio gets more involved in seaboard dance lessons or not, we don't have to wait.  We can dance on our cruise trips just as much as we want to."


"What effect have the SSQQ Cruises had on SSQQ?"

"Over all the many years of the SSQQ Social Program that has led to so many marriages and relationships, I have never seen an activity that enhances my studio better than our cruises. The effect on SSQQ has been pure joy. 

SSQQ is all about Social Dancing... dancing with members of a Group.  A cruise turns out to be one of the finest 'group activities' known to mankind.  For OUR GROUP, a cruise is better than a ski trip and it is better than flying to some destination vacation by plane. For us, a cruise is perfect.  

I cannot imagine an activity that rewards our group more than a Cruise.  It is almost like 'Senior Prom' each year for a job well done. 

People learn to dance for a variety of reasons - as an art form, as a way to express oneself to music, as a way to get attention, as a way to socialize in group settings, as a way to exercise, and as a way to meet people.

A cruise trip allows a man and a woman the chance to be use dance for every single one of those reasons. 

But 'Dance' is just the start to any number of reasons why our SSQQ community is so drawn to the cruise experience.

One of the unique aspects to our cruises is that 'Singles' and 'Doubles' both appreciate the cruises. Singles can chase romance while Doubles can enhance romance. 

'Marriage is the Death of Dance' may be a problem ashore with busy careers and kids, but once a married couple is on board, it gives them a wonderful chance to reconnect with many of their friends they knew back when they were single.  Suddenly they are thrilled to be part of the gang again.  Plus they begin to see how much they miss their dancing!

What is odd about the trip is the lines that are often drawn between Singles and Couples start to disappear on a cruise trip.  I have never seen more cohesive groups than our dancers vacationing together on a cruise. 

Sharing the cruise together actually serves to bond the Singles and the Doubles into one group.  For starters, when it comes to 'travel' problems, it is one for and all for one.  People offer to help with transportation, with luggage, with snafus, you name it.  What a wonderful advantage it is to travel with a group!

The vacation puts so many people together in different situations like the morning dance lessons, the dinners, the Cocktail parties, and the Captain's Reception or Crown and Anchor Reception that the distinctions between couples and singles start to blur.   We become one big happy family at sea and that positive energy carries over onto shore. 

Then there is the funny crossover effect.  People who meet at sea often cross over in the middle of the trip from the Singles team to the Doubles team.  They are still close enough to their single friends to thoroughly enjoy the shenanigans of the Singles while enjoying an increasing bond with the couples on the trip.  Like I said, the lines begin to blur.

Another positive aspect is the amazing number of people who sign up for repeat trips.  If there is one thing the Doubles and the Singles completely agree on, it is that going as a group is a lot more fun than taking a cruise alone or even as a couple.  Our group activities are so much fun that everyone appreciates a crowd.  And in the classic 'have your cake and eat it too', if a particular cruise activity sounds like fun, you can always split off from the group to go explore. But if the activity is a dud, you always have our group to come back to.  Our people have the best of two worlds - SSQQ activities and cruise activities.  If you are bored, it means you aren't trying very hard.

Single women in particular are very grateful for our cruises. They say to me constantly how safe they feel traveling as part of a large group.  There are always men around to protect them from a creep.

The best example of 'safety in numbers' was our 2004 Mardi Gras Trip.   Several women said they had always wanted to go to Mardi Gras, but never felt safe enough.  Knowing they would be with our group gave them exactly the security they needed to give this bizarre event a try.  Now they knew they would have people to keep an eye on them in a rough place like the Mardi Gras.  Nor were the single women alone.  Everyone in our group appreciated the fact they were one holler from having 40 people come to their rescue or support in a bind.

We carry strength and clout in numbers, no question about it, and we often parlay this strength into benefits no one would ever receive traveling as individuals.

On a cruise, no one in our group will ever lack for a friend. No matter what they do on board or off shore, our group is so large they will always find company if they look hard enough.

Even better, after the cruise is over, each person will take a hundred new friends back to Houston with them. They are part of a 'community' now.  From that point on, no matter what SSQQ activity they participate in, there will ALWAYS be at least one fellow cruiser hanging around.  Even better, as you remember from how people in the Tom Easley era bonded so closely, you may have SSQQ friends for life.

These people have a shared experience that will always bind them when they are back on land.  They will see a fellow member of last year's cruise trip and go over to say hello.  After all, they may have sat with the person at dinner on several occasions or been in a snorkel dive together or gone on the submarine tour with them. 

Because we know each other on land, because we know each other through previous adventures at sea, because we have veteran cruisers on every trip, and because our numbers are huge, we cavort and carry on like we own the ship. 

Even when we scare the crew to death by stuffing twenty-five people into a hot tub meant for six or seven people, they stay as far away from us as possible!   Who wants to mess with a group as nuts as we are?"

"How has the Love Boat Era affected the 'In-Crowd'?"

"Now that is an interesting question, Gertrude.  The current SSQQ notables are the people whose names and pictures are part of the most recent cruises.  As people go to check out the stories and the pictures, each individual member of the trip gains recognition. 

Someone like George 'Mr. Handsome' Sargent walks through the studio and people actually point him out.  Even better, if introduced, they will say, 'I know you!  You're that guy who always stirs up trouble on the cruise trip!'   The same thing happens to Gary 'Mr. Hat' Schweinle when he comes to the studio.  Or Don 'Don Juan' Schmidt, Abbie 'Abba Dabbo Do' Barbley and Robert 'Frisky Business'. 

And goodness gracious, Phyllis 'John Shaft' Porter is recognized wherever she goes inside or outside the studio.  Along with the ssqq staff, the cruise members are the new ssqq celebrities.  Some of these people are so image-conscious they actually take their own camera with them in case they cause trouble or get into trouble and need their picture taken.  Some of these 'Usual Suspects' are so shameless that any publicity is good publicity. 

One development that surprises me is these days there are almost as many 'couples' in the In-Crowd as there are 'Singles'.  Gary and Betty Richardson, Jess and Pat Carnes, Garald and Virginia McEathron, Larry and Cathy Leising, Bob and Jan Milz, Patty Harrison and Joe Lachner, CA and Cathy Riser are couples that people recognize immediately.

The Love Boat Era has helped me solve my ancient dilemma. In the old days, the studio did best when I was single.  Today with Marla's help, it looks like the studio is doing just fine with me married.  Together Marla and I organize the cruises that give the studio its identity in the 2000s.  

The cruises allow me to contribute in many ways.  For example, although my days of becoming one of the 'Usual Suspects' is way behind me, I certainly don't mind writing about our modern heroes. 

Furthermore I don't have to shoulder all the load anymore. Because Marla is the travel agent for the cruises as well as the Head Registrar at the studio, she has become just as important to the studio as me.  These days people rely on her leadership just as much as they do me.   

Our two cruise adventures each year make it pretty easy for Marla and I to get to know everyone whether they are married, coupled, or single.  It is very satisfying to be married and still see the social side of the studio thrive.

"Why do you suppose that Cruise Trips are so conducive to Romance?"

"There are several obvious reasons. 

For starters, where else do you have an entire week of free time to devote to Romance - chasing it, finding it, enjoying it?   Club Med comes to mind, but if you find it, you probably have to leave it behind.  On our cruise, you can keep it forever if you want to. 

Second, there are so many opportunities to meet people if you are on one of our Rhapsody Trips.  As the years go by, our crowds are just going to grow and grow because the word of our success will be passed throughout the Houston dance community. 

And if you don't find the person you are looking for within our group, then why not look outside?   On the 2002 Trip, Marian Schoppe met her future husband on the trip even though he was from outside the group.  Since we depart from Galveston, it wasn't much of a coincidence that he lived in Houston.  On the same trip, Robby Thompson met his girl friend Lisa outside the group.  Although she was from San Antonio, they dated for quite a while until business forced him to relocate to California.

It turns out when 'outsiders' see our people on the dance floor, they are drawn to the energy of our group.  The dance floor becomes powerful 'Turf' and rewards all the members of our group tremendous visibility.  We are the Rock Stars of the trip.

Best of all though, that SSQQ Slow Dance magic is unbelievably potent at sea.  Put an SSQQ couple in tux and gown, strike up the orchestra, put them on the floor with glamorous, sophisticated people in the audience smiling with appreciation, then watch our dancers put on a show to light up the place!   We are the stars of the evening.  Our sheer numbers put people in awe.  Even the staff line up to watch.  What a thrill!

Or a simple evening in the Centrum with a little three-piece orchestra playing 'Besame Mucho' can become special... a couple can relax in each other's arms, have a drink, get up and dance, go back and snuggle together in a quiet corner, look out on the sea, get up and dance some more, and chat with friends who stop by.  All the tension of fast-paced city life start to melt away. People relax and start to open to each other.  It is pure magic.

Every stage of relationship can be touched by a cruise.  People can connect for the first time, people can develop a relationship already in progress, and people in established relationships can regain touch with one another.

Yes, a cruise can be Cupid's Paradise indeed."

"So what are your plans from here on out?"

"It is now 2006.  Marla has had a lifelong love of travel.  She and I are both reaching the time of life where 'Travel' sounds like a lot of fun.  It turns out there a lot of people our age here at the dance studio who feel exactly the same way.  They have already said how much more fun it is to travel with a group of their friends. 

The 2005 Alaska Trip was our first 'expensive' destination cruise.  With over 70 people on board, this trip proved our studio can support at least one high-end trip a year.  Since we have taken two cruises a year for 2004 and 2005, obviously there is enough interest in cruise trips to give us reason to offer at least two trips a year.  Maybe someday we can offer three a year.

Our hope is that as we increase the size of our group, we will be able to sail to farther locations each year.   Hawaii, Europe North, Europe South, Africa, the Far East... it's a big world out there.  Lots to see, lots to do.  Some places exotic, some places luxurious.

As SSQQ matures and new people step up to help run the studio, Marla and I plan to sail off into the sunset.  And we hope our friends will join us.   Let's put on our tuxes and gowns and dance our way right across the Seven Seas.

We will take this group just as far as it wants to go!"

"If you retire, what about the future of SSQQ?"

"I am very curious what the future holds for SSQQ.  If you asked me today, I could not tell you where the studio will be located in 2011 or who the owner will be. 

Our lease at the Bissonnet location expires in the middle of 2010.  The current owners of the location are medical people who are building the hospital next door.  They have made it very clear to me they think my space is more valuable to them being carved up for doctor's offices than to allow us to continue as a dance studio.  So I am pessimistic that SSQQ will call 4803 Bissonnet home after our lease expires. 

That means we will have to move.  Let me be frank.  The thought of moving that floor, those mirrors, that sound system, and all those Halloween and Christmas decorations is not very appealing.  Plus who wants to sign a five or ten year lease at age 60? 

It is pretty obvious I am going to have to hand the studio off to someone.  Give it to my daughter Sam?  Maybe.  Hire someone to run the studio while Marla and I sail the Seven Seas?  Maybe.  Take on a partner?  Maybe.  Sell the studio and stick around as a consultant?  Maybe.  

We have four complete years till the lease expires.  A lot can happen in four years.  When the right person comes along, I imagine it won't be too hard to hand him or her the reins.  After all, the legacy of thirty years of hard work has built up a lot of good will.  Just the kids alone from all these marriages should guarantee us a steady new supply of customers!

In the meantime, I think I will end this article with a preview of some of our upcoming cruise trips!!

Thank you for reading.
Rick Archer

New England

The Nation's Capital

West Coast
Far East


South America





Now that SSQQ on Bissonnet has closed its doors, maybe it is time to look for new doors to open.  What better way to spend the sunset years than seeing the world with loved ones and with friends to share the adventure?

It's a big world out there.  We hope you will join us for our next trip!

Rick and Marla Archer




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