Whenever possible on press trips, I take a seat at the table beside Marcia Levin. That way, I know lunch or dinner will never be boring. Marcia has sailed on more than 100 cruises worldwide, but that’s not enough in itself for someone to be entertaining and engaging. What I find intriguing is that Marcia remains absolutely passionate about travel, and after 30 years of motion, that’s darn impressive. Her Twitter handle is @marcygone. If you knew her, you’d say, that’s just so Marcia. – Ralph Grizzle
I am often asked how I became a travel writer. It’s not a long story, but it’s been a good ride. I have been fortunate. Some philosopher said something to the effect of “nothing you experience in life is wasted.” So here goes.
When I was about 12, my parents put me on a train from Chicago to Topeka, Kansas. The train ride would take more than 10 hours.
I was armed with my favorite snacks and the latest Nancy Drew book. I was prepared to go to the dining car for my dinner. It was exciting, and my first time traveling alone. I had traveled many times with my parents and knew the drill, but except for Nancy, I was flying solo for the first time. But definitely not the last.
I liked the feeling of being in control, but then again every adolescent feels the same way. Although it was a trip to visit my cousin and her family in Topeka it was, in actuality, a trip of discovery. I found I loved the travel experience.
And all these years later I find I am still in love.
Planes, trains, and ships have been my home away from home for many years and about five years ago I discovered Red Coach, a bus service between South Florida and Orlando where my oldest son and his family live.
So yes, I have added buses to my repertoire. But let me give you a little more background.
My family moved to South Florida in the 1950’s and in addition to family trips, I made several summer trips during high school and college to New York and back to Chicago. I married a man who also enjoyed travel and we, with our three young sons, traveled by car extensively through the South (North Carolina was a favorite) and the East Coast.
In the early 70’s we finally flew to London, our gateway to European travel and where we figured we’d do okay with the language. It worked, and at last count I have been to London more than 50 times. I am an Anglophile and looking forward to an upcoming September visit. Also on my UK favorite lists? The Cotswolds, Edinburgh, Cardiff in Wales, and Northern Ireland.
But a funny thing happened amidst all the air travel. When our older sons went off to college, I took a job at a local paper, putting to good use the journalism degree and graduate work I’d earned at the University of Miami. At first I was a general assignment reporter and ultimately was asked by our travel editor to write about I trip I was taking. When he retired, I became travel editor. It coincided with the Arison family debuting their new Carnival Cruise Line vessels on a regular basis and cruising – as we now know it – was becoming popular among people who had only dreamed of a vacation at sea.
I was fortunate to be a part of the Carnival Cruise Line boat parade of new vessels, the Ecstasy, Fantasy, on to the Imagination and Inspiration, etc, etc, etc. It was great fun and along the way I met many other travel writers – some who have become friends. I also got to know editors, public relations people, and ship personnel, and our travels together were always informative, always a bit competitive, and always fun.
We took part in bridge visits and galley tours, interviews in the engine room and with officers and crew, and cocktail parties, and often traveled back across the pond together. Our experiences were not unlike any consumer’s cruise; it was just that we had an audience with which to share our review of the ship, not just tell our friends and family how much fun we had in St. Martin.
The night my husband was dying I was aboard the Queen Victoria in Southampton Harbor. Several writers and representatives of Cunard Line kept me company until I could fly back to Miami, and I was with my family at the end.
Floral arrangements for cruise lines filled my living room. We were like a family, this group of writers and editors. And I loved what I was doing and enjoyed the people with whom I did it. The experiences were great.
I flew to Europe for float-outs of new ships, for inaugurals, and for cruises. On some visits, the invitation included my husband, on others I traveled alone. I had a grand time, and now that I am alone, I always look forward to my next cruise.
I have been freelancing for 30-something years; it is a strange life, but by now it is one I treasure. And I am still doing it.
I have two cruises and an Atlantic crossing on my dance card in the next few months. But no more Nancy Drew; I have pre-ordered Daniel Silva on my Kindle.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com.