Saturday, March 28, 2020

One Community Copes with Quarantine

It is a challenge staying home 24/7. Fresh air helps – a balcony or porch, front or back yard makes it more tolerable. A walkable neighborhood is a plus. I walk on sunny, warmish days. I am not alone – sort of. I pass neighbors (at a safe distance) walking their dogs, folks of all ages riding bikes, couples strolling, often hand in hand, solo walkers and runners. Everyone has been respectful and keep their distance, waving, bellowing “hi, how ya doing?”

Wandering outdoors lifts the spirits in these troubling times. In my part of the world the gray dreariness of a Northeast winter is easing into the colors of spring early this year. My yard, a couple of small patches with no grass, is full of bushes and a variety of flowers planted over the years. Probably due to a combination of a mild winter and lots of rain, flowers sprout early and blossom beautifully. 

My town is getting into the spirit of spring and its implication, hope for the future. A neighborhood initiative called Rainbow Trail is the brainchild of a couple of local Moms. People post rainbows, most homemade, on their doors and windows as a colorful sign of optimism in the future. The pictures offer an opportunity for kids to scour the neighborhood for rainbows, a fun family activity. Folks of all ages pass by and smile when spotting the bright symbols. 

Creating sidewalk messages is another way our community spreads cheer.
Routine home-based activities include reading, preparing meals, exercising, watching TV, laundry and cleaning. Now that the opportunity arises we try new pursuits and resurrect old ones...Tackling intricate puzzles is not a usual activity, but a pastime now attempted while watching mindless TV or endless news briefings...I look forward to planting a vegetable garden, binge watching programs recommended by friends and shrinking my pile of must-read books. And taping a rainbow on my window.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Our Indefinite Staycation

We are lucky, and unlucky, to be seniors in these uncertain times. Hub and I are not confined at home with kids to entertain 24/7. On the other hand we are in the age group vulnerable to coronavirus COVID-19. We are lucky to live in a home that comfortably accommodates two people. Our neighborhood is conducive to getting outdoors. However we spend too much time hovering in front of the TV listening to dire predictions, a downer for our mental health.

My yard is becoming a colorful bright spot in dreary times.
Speaking of our neighborhood...we live in a beach town ‘open’ all year. The population swells over the summer with snow birds and second-home owners, out-of-town family and friends. Most second home owners hail from Philadelphia, New York, and the Washington, D.C. area. Over the past couple of weeks many snow birds, rarely arriving before April, returned to town. City folks, last observed Labor Day and not usually seen again until Memorial Day weekend, materialized early this year, like the flowers that have sprouted prematurely in my yard.

As a result of the increased population and everyone’s desire to stock up, local stores ran out of provisions. Supplied for a winter population, they were not prepared for the influx. Local governments are concerned with their ability to service the increasing numbers in town, especially if many get sick. Towns are urging folks NOT to spend their home confinement time at the shore. But folks will spend time wherever they want. Everyone – individuals, businesses, governments – are adapting to the new temporary normal, with hiccups as they adjust.

Monday was a landmark day in our town. Our favorite ice cream shop opened for the season – take-out only. Hub walked over to get our first delicious taste in months. He was surprised to see quite a few people with the same idea. People queued up, standing several feet apart. Hub waited outside until a space opened, went in, ordered, quickly received his precious package and walked home. A slice of ’normalness’ in strange times.

I ordered curbside pickup from our local grocery store. I called in the order and a couple of hours later drove to the store and stopped in front of the entrance. A clerk delivered my groceries to the car, placing the bags on the back seat. The store was out of some items ordered, but nothing vital. 

One morning I ordered sandwiches from the bagel shop, open for take-out and delivery only. Again I drove, but this time walked into the store to pay and pick up my breakfast. I feel it is important to patronize the few locally owned businesses open. They need our support to remain open and with any luck survive until better times.

I am cooking more than what, in the past, I would term ‘the norm’. Soup from scratch, salads with more than a couple of ingredients, vegetable dishes and casseroles. Trying to keep meals healthy and not too high in calories, and definitely consuming less salt and sugar.

I confess I am not exercising enough. No yoga or zumba or tap classes to frequent, no gym to stop by. Hub and I take walks when the weather obliges and I do my stretches at home, but it is not the same. I need the motivation of a class.  

What would we do without the internet? Zoom is on the lips of people of all ages. Meetings, religious services, programs now moving online, concerts, virtual visits to museums, the list goes on. It is not the same as personal contact, but beats being completely isolated from ‘regular’ life.

Going forward special projects are on my to-do list. I reviewed piles of papers and shredded. There are stacks of pictures to sift through, drawers to clean out, thrift shop bags to fill, books to read, virtual scrabble with family...

Our staycation continues indefinitely, but we look forward to restarting activities missed – going anywhere unconcerned about social distancing, socializing with family and friends, attending meetings and programs, traveling (anywhere!).

Until then everyone stay safe, healthy, and sane at home.
Looking forward to gardening this year!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Boomers Brave a Pandemic

All of us are focused these days on one objective – not getting sick. Specifically, the Coronavirus COVID-19, particularly cruel to individuals with medical issues and seniors. An illness medical professionals are dealing with for the first time, we maneuver unknown territory as best we can.

Of course the Coronavirus is top of everyone's mind. In Different Views of the Virus, Part I, Tom at Sightings Over Sixty takes a bemused look at how two different people approach the epidemic from two different points of view. That the two different views involve himself and his wife does present an interesting situation.

Rebecca Olkowski with has Coronavirus on her mind because everyone’s talking about it and not everyone is seeing it as a serious threat. As Baby Boomers, we’re vulnerable and need to be careful. Here are her thoughts on what she’s doing to prevent getting sick.
 On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal writes about what you should do with your groceries during this coronavirus era. Among the tips are to wash nonporous containers and wash your hands, counter, and other surfaces touched after you put the groceries away.

A common emotion many of us experience during these uncertain times is anxiety. Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles has few natural talents, but producing anxiety is right up there. It doesn’t take much to get the hamster wheel spinning – a medical test, taking a flight, meeting a new group of people. But having had this affliction all her life, she's gotten (if not good) at least better about relieving the rat-a-tat of her nervous heart. Here are seven things that help bring on (somewhat) calmness

At A Healing Spirit, Carol has embraced the gift of time that's come with social distancing. Her deep belief in taking action to protect public health means she is spending most of her time at home. In "Life in the time of plague: the gift of time," she shares with us some things you can do with your unexpected free time.

Cancellation of activities and staying home frees up a lot of time. If you are a blogger, or thinking of starting a blog, this is a great time to take the plunge. Jennifer’s blog post is a must-read. Jennifer of Unfold and Begin, shares her struggles and solutions with creating content for her blog.  If you're a blogger who struggles with what to write about then read How to Make Content Creation Not Suck.

Everyone must decide for themselves how to navigate the next few weeks. I sat through a meeting this weekend where we agonized over whether to cancel a series of continuing education classes for seniors. We polled instructors, sampled participants, reviewed medical and government guidelines, and finally decided not to cancel the small group classes where we can follow protocols for social distancing and sanitation. Meanwhile we continue to reevaluate as the situation unfolds. 

Be careful, be smart, and most important, do everything within your control to stay healthy.

Thank you for visiting the boomers and, for a break while listening to the latest news, stop by our boomer blogs and voice a digital hello.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Perforated Paper On A Roll

Sitting home watching a pandemic unfold before my eyes is truly weird, sort of an out of body experience. To (hopefully) avoid getting the coronavirus I listen to the recommendations...

Wash your hands for 20 seconds and wash often...wipe surfaces regularly...avoid large crowds...distance yourself from touching, hugging, kissing. 

At the drugstore the other day a long line of people waited patiently to pay for their toilet paper purchases. Folks kept a couple of feet apart from each other, heeding the warnings. No one attempted to cut in line.

On TV I view lengthy lines at grocery stores, Target and Walmart, carts full of hand sanitizer and toilet paper, and people crowding each other, jostling, touching, standing inches from those around them. Don’t these people know about the guidelines?

Pictures of empty shelves, toilet paper sold out, headline the news.

What is our obsession with toilet paper all about? After all, folks survived without toilet paper for thousands of years... 

The ancient Greeks used stones and pieces of clay. Public restrooms in ancient Rome contained sponges on a stick, kept in pots filled with salty water. Eskimos used snow and tundra moss. People have used leaves, grass, fur, corncobs and mussel or coconut shells. The French royals used lace. Colonial Americans used corncobs and paper torn from newspapers and magazines. The Sears catalog was commonly recycled for toilet paper. The Farmers Almanac had a hole in the top corner so it could be hung and pieces of paper easily torn off.

The first documented use of toilet paper dates from the year 580 A.D. in China. Toilet paper was a prized commodity exclusively for the use of royalty and the wealthy. Records from the 14th century indicate toilet paper was made for the Emperor in 2-foot by 3-foot sheets.

Fast forward to 19th century America. Indoor plumbing was becoming standard in American homes. In 1857 a resourceful American inventor and entrepreneur, Joseph Gayetty, produced individual sheets of paper he termed “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper”. The product was unsuccessful, most likely due to the absence of advertising.

Seth Wheeler acquired a patent for perforated rolls of paper in 1871. By 1877 his company, the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company, sold perforated rolls of toilet paper in plain brown wrappers. The company thought people would be too embarrassed to buy the item if packages were identified.

A decade later brothers Irvin and Clarence Scott founded the Scott Paper Company. The company introduced toilet tissue in 1890, and by the end of the 19th century manufactured perforated rolls of toilet paper. Victorian mores forbid advertising the product. Wholesalers promoted the product locally and put their own name on the product. 

Eventually the Scott Paper Company decided to sell its own name brands. In 1902 they purchased the name “Waldorf” from one of their customers – the well-regarded Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City - and Waldorf became the oldest name-brand toilet tissue in the United States. 

Another breakthrough in toilet tissue production occurred in 1935 when Northern Tissue advertised the first “splinter-free” paper. 

In the past century and a half toilet paper has become an essential item in every home in America. The average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day, or about 20,805 sheets a year. The toilet paper business is a $2.4 billion industry.

Americans may face a unique problem when the pandemic passes. What to do with all the toilet paper stockpiled in our pantries? They will not spoil or get moldy or ever be out of date, but do we want them taking up so much space? Check out this website and this one for ideas on what to do with your extra rolls.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Invisibles

I like to describe myself as a proudly visible member of the most invisible segments of our society – older women.    -     Cindy Gallop

Have you ever felt ignored? Whether in a social setting, retail establishment, at work or anywhere, it seems to be a not uncommon event in the lives of older folks – more so with women than men. Men on the greater side of 50 are described with adjectives such as distinguished, notable, revered. White hair is dignified and imposing on men. People admire, respect and pay attention to older men. Women of the same vintage are aging, mature, or simply old, the pressure for women to look young pervasive in our society.

The notion that gray hair implies old women, folks to be shoved aside in the work place and everyplace else, is pervasive in American culture, but slowly fading. Women are beginning to revel in their gray locks. I am not there yet, but slowly transitioning, at least mentally if not actually. 

This weekend hub and I attended a milestone event, a Bar Mitzvah, the center of attention a 13-year-old boy. Bar Mitzvah is a religious ceremony where a boy or girl (a Bat Mitzvah for a girl) stands before the congregation, participates in the service, and is welcomed into the community as an adult member now able to fully participate in religious services. A social event celebrating the occasion often follows the religious service.

As invitees to the event, we were surrounded by young people. Not only 13-year-olds –there were a lot of them – but men and women of all ages younger than we are. That is normal in our world today, but sometimes we are undeniably reminded of our advancing age and not thrilled by the revelation. We know we are older, but don’t necessarily want it pointed out. I felt that way at the party.

We were the folks at the old people’s table.

Remember the old folks when you were young and innocent? The men and women hunched over, maybe walking with a cane, tottering around, the women in thick stockings rolled down over their knees, wearing clunky shoes. They sat at a table in the far corner of the room, rarely moving, observing all the activity but not participating. If any of these ancients were relatives we knew, we went over, greeted them, then left to romp with friends.

Fast forward, and we are the old people. No cane yet, my stockings are black transparent ones NOT rolled over my knees, and my shoes, although not yet clunky, are definitely comfy.

We had a table in the back, but not in the far corner of the room. Reflecting on the perfectly placed event table, my criteria is as follows: far from the DJ and blaring music, although close enough to hear announcements, a short walk to the buffet table, and NOT a lengthy hike to the restroom. 

We are the older generation. The comrades at our table ranged in age from the early sixties to (early) seventies, not ancient in my estimation, and definitely not old-old. But I wonder what the 13-year-olds thought of us, although I suspect they may not have thought of us at all. 

In many ways we do not look like our predecessors. Some of us dye our hair. We look healthier. The women’s clothes are not old-fashioned and out-of-date, although most of our figures are, and that applies to both men and women. 

I wonder if the old folks I knew when a kid believed they were ignored by everyone else in the room. Or felt old. An aspect of growing old I find difficult to get my head around is that I don’t think old (most of the time), and much of the time don’t feel old, but when I look in the mirror the realization hits...Wow, I am old mature on the very high side of middle age...

Hub and I enjoyed the party and the company of friends seldom seen (this was an out-of-town event), danced (the girls a lot, the men not so much), and relished the fact that we were healthy enough to attend and participate in the festivities.

Returning to my opening premise...The fact of senior invisibility has been illustrated in TV shows and movies, but perhaps not as humorously, yet poignantly, as in the following excerpt from a Grace and Frankie show. In this segment, Grace and Frankie, a.k.a. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, react passionately when ignored in a convenience store.

I will never be an old man. 
To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.
-       Francis Bacon

Friday, February 28, 2020

Contemplating Confinement

Seventeen years ago a mega-blizzard blasted the Eastern United States. Folks remained home for days. The storm raged over President’s Day weekend, from February 14th to the 19th, 2003. Everything closed. Roads and airports, businesses, schools, all shut down. Life came to a standstill. Pennsylvania, my home state at the time, declared a state of emergency and insisted demanded urged citizens to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. Hub and I settled in our warm and cozy condo, enjoying domestic pastimes like watching TV, reading, cooking and eating, putting together a 1,000 piece puzzle, and watching the snow fall.

That blizzard experience came to mind as a result of today’s 24/7 news. It is difficult to avoid the coronavirus hype. Regions around the world are quarantined – a huge region of China, towns in northern Italy, folks on a cruise ship, then again when returning to the U.S. 

Being confined in an inside cabin on a cruise ship sends me into paroxysms of anxiety. There are no cruise plans in my future. But I think about the possibility...would I be forced to pay the exorbitant wifi fees charged by ships (usually $15-$25/day)? I can survive a week or so without constant wifi access, but I would not want to be cut off from the outside world for two plus weeks. Folks might get mad when I don’t wish them Happy Birthday on Facebook or like their posts...old friends might think this senior citizen left this world...bills would pile up and nasty notes demanding payment clog my email inbox and snail mailbox.

So, should I be proactive and prepare to be quarantined at home?

Should I fill my freezer with ice cream and other high-calorie frozen delights to ease my unease?

During a snowstorm folks make a bread and milk run. Should I stock up on firewood, Starbucks Frappuccinos, wine and cheese, and chocolate in preparation for fireside feasting?

I have a pile of books eager to be opened, but maybe I should stop by the library and take out a couple more. 

Should I buy candles and canned foods in case our electricity is knocked out? Another reason to stock up on books, an alternative to endless binge TV-watching.

And I better check my toilet paper supply (diarrhea can be a symptom of coronavirus, in case you missed that warning).

What about exercise? After being confined in a house without a Peloton, will I balloon a few pounds? I fear it is inevitable.

No one knows what will happen tomorrow, next week and beyond. Rather than obsess about the virus, I will fixate on whether the black pants I want to wear tomorrow night are clean, and if I can find them...That is really what I should do if confined at home.

Clean my closet. And maybe the rest of my house.

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Bit of Sweet Nostalgia

The current state of the world throws one into paroxysms of despair. I would like to ignore the goings-on, stick my head in the sand and not come up until someone taps me on the shoulder and says, “The craziness is all over. It’s OK now. Let’s go to Starbucks and catch up.” 

My week began with a long, long, long drive from Vermont to my home. Finally arrived, I nursed a sore back and aching muscles while mundane activities such as food shopping and laundry occupied my time.

Because of the stress of mundane activities, my system revolted and I succumbed to a bug that required me to do nothing but sleep for two days. It was a chore shuffling from bed to the couch. I needed comfort. My murky, sleep-induced mind drifted back to a time when a candy bar cured a host of childhood a time I didn’t worry about the state of the a time I didn’t care about calories or sugar or salt content or what difficult-to-pronounce chemicals comprised my favorite foods...a time when a small wrapped candy was one of my preferred go-to munchies.

I fancied a Tootsie Roll. The candy is still made today, it is still small and individually
wrapped, and probably still contains the same unhealthy ingredients. And I am sure mouth-watering, sticking to the roof of the mouth yummy.

Unfortunately, there are no Tootsie Rolls in my house, a house devoid of candy, my home a sweet wasteland. Only memories...

The Tootsie Roll story begins with an Austrian immigrant, Leo Hirshfeld, who arrived in the United States in 1884. Hirshfeld’s father was in the candy business, and the son followed his father’s trade. Hirshfeld invented the Tootsie Roll in 1896 and named the candy Tootsie, his daughter Clara’s nickname. The candies were sold out of Hirshfeld’s candy store in Brooklyn for a penny apiece. One piece contains 140 calories – but who can eat just one?

A nice narrative, but not quite true. I found the first version, but digging deeper discovered what apparently is the real tale

Tootsie Rolls were invented by Hirshfeld, but not until 1908. At the time he worked for the Stern and Saalberg Candy Company. Hirshfeld invented other food items, including a gelatin dessert mix that became a standard ingredient in many early 20th century recipes (does Shredded Wheat Biscuit Jellied Apple Sandwich sound appealing?). Hirshfeld received patents for candy-making techniques and machines. He became a wealthy man.

Sadly Hirschfeld’s story does not end on a happy note. He left the company by 1920, probably dismissed by new company owners. He committed suicide in 1922.

The Stern and Saalberg Candy Company became The Sweets Company of America, and eventually Tootsie Roll Industries.

The company has been wrestling with one big question for decades: How many licks does it take to reach the center of a Tootsie Roll pop? The answer remains elusive. While pondering the question view this 1970 commercial about this issue, and maybe go out and buy a Tootsie Roll or two, or a Tootsie Roll Pop, and enjoy!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Channeling Eleanor Roosevelt

The Hudson Valley of New York State is a sliver of real estate alongside the Hudson River. The Algonquin Indians lived in the region when the Dutch settled the territory in the 1600s. By the end of the 17th century the English controlled the area, and during the 18th and 19th centuries the elite of New York City made the Hudson Valley their summer playground, building cottages (mansions by my criteria) overlooking the river. Many of these homes are open for tours, including estates established by the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Roosevelts. 

Today the waterway and roadways meander north from the concrete metropolis of New York City through affluent suburbs, picturesque small towns and countryside. Hub and I drove country roads on a bitter cold February day, our destination Val-Kill, a National Historic site and the home of Eleanor Roosevelt (ER), wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the U.S. from 1933 until his death in 1945. 

FDR’s family spent a lot of time at Hyde Park, their Hudson Valley estate. But the residence belonged to his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt. FDR built a cottage as a retreat and workplace for Eleanor, titled Val-Kill after a creek next to the property (kill is a Dutch word for a body of water, usually a creek or river).
ER was an unconventional housewife, political wife, First Lady, journalist, ambassador and activist.

Val-Kill is stark during a winter shorn of greenery, no flowers blooming, no leaves on trees, no signs of wildlife. Snow would cover the grayness, creating a picture-postcard scene – Eleanor loved her snow-covered surroundings – but seasonal cold without winter white is just dreary (IMHO). But looking around I could see why the place became a welcome sanctuary. Far from the obligations and pressures of Albany and later the White House, ER immersed herself in her work – writing a daily column and more than 30 books, involvement in civil rights and causes championing the underdog. Prominent folks found their way to Val-Kill from around the world – Winston Churchill, Madame Chang Kai Shek, Shirley Temple, the King and Queen of England, John F. Kennedy, and many more. 

The weather did not deter hub and I from touring the house. But we are winter wimps, especially when temperatures hover below freezing, and did not hike surrounding trails. 

Hub and I found the parking lot packed - with three cars. Our tour began with an introductory film. We were the only ones in the screening room. The guide said others may join us later, but that didn’t happen. We enjoyed a private tour of the first and second floors of the house. If more than eight people are on the tour, the upstairs is not included. Narrow stairs and hallway preclude large numbers wandering the second floor.

ER’s home, viewed today as it appeared when she lived there, is a modest dwelling filled
with books, family pictures, and comfy-looking upholstered chairs. Chatting with her secretary, writing, meeting visitors, planning projects, presiding over a meal with numerous guests – local folks, dignitaries, old friends, family members - ER’s warmth, energy, and stamina (she evidently slept only four hours a day) pervade the house decades after she last roamed the rooms. A woman who championed causes such as civil rights, she worked to improve conditions she found unconscionable. ER’s legacy and life inspire us today.

When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die. - ER

Some of my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quotes:

A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water.

The only advantage of not being too good a housekeeper is that your guests are so pleased to feel how very much better they are.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.

And my favorite:
Once I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: "No good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.”

Friday, February 7, 2020

Driving Again, Almost

8:00 am and time to hit the road. Hub and I faced a long ride north to the state of verdant Vermont, and Bernie Sanders. Two granddaughters awaited our arrival - not so eagerly. Their Mom was leaving on a jet plane (apologies to composer John Denver and singers Peter, Paul, and Mary) and were not thrilled to be left in the capable hands of Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, all of whom place a distant second, third and fourth to Mom. But everyone needs a vacation, and Mom is no exception.

I am prepared for winter!
Hub and I pack the car with suitcases and backpacks, and toss jackets and cold weather wear in the car - hats, gloves, scarfs, boots, our warmest sweaters. I make a quick round of the house to ensure lights are off, faucets are not dripping, no toilet is running.

Hub and I get in the car, secure seat belts and lean back, ready, if not eager, for the trip. Hub, who earned the first drive stint, starts the car. We slowly head down the block. Then we hear a not-normal sound – ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk. No doubt about it, there is a problem. Hub stops the car, I exit and begin scouting around the car. Doesn’t take long to spot the problem.

A flat tire.

How could this be? We drove home from a Super Bowl party the evening before with no difficulty. We must have run over a nail or something that drove a wedge into the tire and deflated it overnight.

We weren’t going anywhere immediately.

We contacted AAA. 

A half hour later a quick-responding mechanic removed the damaged tire, replaced it with a donut spare, and we were on our way. Again.

Sort of. We could not drive far on a faux tire. I called the car dealer – we thought the tires might be covered under our recently-purchased car’s warranty - and scheduled an appointment to exchange the donut for a real tire.

By noon we were on the road. Again. After paying for a tire NOT covered by the car’s warranty.

I am glad to report we completed the trip without further incident, a calm, uneventful  journey through the pinelands of southern New Jersey, the industrial dreck of northern New Jersey, the congested suburbs of New York City, the brown mountains along the New York Thruway, and the fallow fields of Vermont.
A fave Vermont
outdoor activity
(some hearty souls participate.
Others, like me,
are spectators and watch
from a warm indoor location!)

Not many seniors travel north during the winter, preferring to escape to warm sunny skies. But family beckons, and so hub and I sit in a cozy family room, staring at a blazing fire as snow falls outside. In my opinion cold wintry weather is not fun, but snow offers some solace in its splendor, especially when initially falling, covering a gray landscape with pristine white, creating a temporary perfect, beautiful scene.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Cons to a Cruise Vacation

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float. 
To roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live. 
– Hans Christian Anderson

My previous post enumerated advantages to cruising. But there are drawbacks the wary traveler should consider. Amenities, charges, destinations, etc. vary with cruise companies and individual ships. Do your homework before booking! Here are a few cons to think about when contemplating a cruise:

·      Calm waters and sunny weather are NOT guaranteed. If prone to motion sickness throw Dramamine or another motion sickness remedy in your bag.

·      Stateroom size and type vary dramatically. The cheapest rooms are interiors, no room and no view. Will that suffice? Is a porthole window adequate, or do you want floor to ceiling windows with a balcony? Check out options. A tiny room with barely enough space to turn around and no view may hinder your vacation satisfaction.

·      Meals can be a challenge for the diet-conscious. There are plenty of selections, and buffets offer fresh fruit and salads, but hidden ingredients abound. The result can be too much salt, sugar, and other food no-no’s consumed. Another drawback - although menu offerings vary, the food can get monotonous. On the other hand the dining room responds to special requests, and the menu notes gluten free, non-dairy, and vegetarian options. 

·      The largest ships today accommodate around 6000 passengers, and a lot of walking may be necessary getting from stateroom to the dining room, the pool, to shops and showrooms and other venues. Wheelchairs and scooters are available for rent for the duration of a cruise, otherwise you’ll get your exercise! Check out ship details, especially if a cozier atmosphere and experience is preferred to a vacation shared with thousands of strangers. 

·      And speaking of strangers, shipmates, and strange shipmates...investigate the demographics of cruise lines and the specific voyage you are considering. Do you want to cruise with lots of kids? Young adults? A mixed age group? Do you prefer an older crowd? The population varies depending on the cruise line, length of the cruise, destinations, time of year, and cost.
·      Large ships can result in crowds and lines, especially when sailing with maximum passenger numbers during holidays – a wait for a dining room table, a seat in the showroom, delays for an elevator.

·      Hold your wallet close. There are cruise lines that truly are all-inclusive, but most are not. Hidden fees, such as mandatory room tips, crowd your bill. Employees encourage the purchase of drinks, specialty restaurant dining, souvenirs, jewelry, shore excursions and more. Internet access can be exorbitant ($25 a day on our Holland America ship – we resisted the temptation). If you can wait for port stops, wifi is usually accessible in restaurants and coffee shops.

·      Know what type of vacation you want. Some people love the leisurely pace of cruise ship life; others get bored. 

·      Limited port time, usually only a few hours. If you like to explore new places, a cruise may not satisfy.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, 
but in having new eyes.     
-Marcel Proust
On the plus side of cruising...
As the 2020 elections approach, a cruise
is a delightful way to temporarily avoid the
political hype.