Cruise Critic News Editor Dori Saltzman cruised alone with her father for the first time in June. Her experience is below. Read about cruising with your adult daughter — a blog from her father’s point of view.
“My dad died when I was 14,” said Anita, one of my tablemates, after she learned I was traveling on the Crystal Symphony with my father. “I would have given anything, anything to have been able to do something like that with him.”
It was Day Two of a 12-night sailing. “Yes, I’m very lucky,” I replied, before adding “We’ll see if I still feel that way 11 days from now.”
Now, after some painful growing pains and a few forever memories, I know I was lucky. Because for the first — and maybe only – time, I got to spend serious time with my dad, getting to know him and forging bonds made from understanding each other as adults, rather than simply parent/child. And that’s pretty rare.
Though I see him at least once a week and have traveled with him before, never had I spent so much time in such close quarters… which led to more than just a little awkwardness at times.
Boarding the ship, I joked with my 60-something dad that there were going to be several people mistaking us for older man, younger… ahem, partner. He didn’t believe me at first, but it didn’t take long before a photographer asked us to get close and hold hands. Um, no thank you.
We learned to stop such assumptions very quickly by introducing ourselves as father and daughter when meeting other passengers and crew. “I am not Mrs. Saltzman. That’s my mother. Please call me Dori,” I told our waiter the first night at our assigned table.
But the relationship misconceptions paled in comparison to the embarrassment of sharing a stateroom. Like when I walked into our room for the first time to discover a king-sized bed configuration, and learned that even when the twin beds are separated, there’s no more than six inches of space between them.
Or, hearing “No, no, no,” when I almost walked in on my dad in the bathroom in the middle of the night.
But most of that occurred early on. As the cruise progressed, there were fewer uncomfortable moments and more that seemed special.
Like going to see the Magic Castle at Sea show and watching Dad become enthralled by the magician’s sleight of hand. His eyes lit up like a kid, and he oohed and aahed as the magician first merged two separate cards into a single two-sided one, and then made a signed playing card appear in a box that had remained closed the entire show.
Or (Mom, skip this paragraph), teaching my skeptical dad to have fun playing craps, so much so that he’d hint to me after dinner that maybe we had time to hit the casino before the show.
It was special.
It was painful.
At 40 years old, I still call my father “Daddy.” I have happy memories of watching Sunday afternoon chop socky Kung-Fu movies with him and being introduced to the original Star Trek. When he wanted to see an action movie or a sci-fi movie, I was always his first call. We have always had that in common.
Fast forward some 20 years. When our evening entertainment choices were a showing of Jack Reacher (Tom Cruises’ latest action adventure) or a recital by a concert pianist… he chose the concert pianist. When it rained for most of our cruise and I suggested we try to catch the newest Star Trek movie, he said he wasn’t interested.
I felt my heart squeeze when he said that. I’m not exaggerating. It felt like a physical blow. Where had the man I remembered from my childhood gone? Where was my action/adventure/sci-fi partner? How had we grown so far apart in our interests?
And, most important, does that mean I have to start calling him Dad?
Then one night, I got very ill with a fever, and Daddy came to the rescue. He took care of me, fed me ice chips, piled on the blankets and made sure I was okay. The next day, he forbid me from going ashore even though I felt better, just to make sure I was indeed all right.
His interests may have become more boring (or, as he says, “matured,”). We may no longer agree on what to watch on TV. But none of that really matters: He’s still Daddy.
And spending time with Daddy was — and still is — precious.
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