THE SSQQ TRAVEL CLUB BEGAN
Story written by Rick
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"How did you ever get it going
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,
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
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
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.
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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Second, why give the earnings to another
travel agent if Marla could do the work
Marla wasn't exactly thrilled with her job
as a sales representative. She agreed
she would rather work for herself than for
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
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
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
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
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
dancing I have ever experienced! The music was
sensational and the Mardi Gras atmosphere was
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
"What was the story on
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
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
"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
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
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
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."
2005 Rita Rhapsody
was a rough trip. What happened?
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
"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
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
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
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
'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.
tremendous joy to be able to dance in an
environment that was so luxurious as the
'Shall We Dance
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.
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?"
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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.
On 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
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
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
said, “I wish I knew the answer to that. This is
my third cruise and I’ve never seen dancing like
“Well, how did those guys
learn? It can’t be that hard if everyone in the
room knows how!”
every man in the room is out there. Look
around. There are a lot of guys sitting
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
Nevertheless 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
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."
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
'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
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
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
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
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
"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 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
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
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
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
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
"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
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?
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.