Selective statistics are handy for point-proving, even if they are “apples vs. oranges” comparisons.

    This thought came to mind recently when my wife and I boarded a cruise ship at Port Everglades, Fla. We were unwitting participants on an historic day when a record 52,000 guests boarded nine cruise ships on a single day.

    To gain perspective, consider that in 1930, 42,000 Americans flew internationally during the entire year from all U.S. airports. Thus, travelers cruising to international ports on ONE day from ONE port eclipsed the 1930 international flight totals by 10,000 persons…


    Little wonder, really, that Port Everglades is poised to become No. 1 among world cruise ports within a year.

    Weather in south Florida is typically inviting, locals have invested heavily in the cruise port, area attractions abound, and transition from airports/hotels to ships is short and seamless for the 3.5 million cruise guests expected this year. (The number is expected to double in the next 20 years.)

    Within a matter of minutes, visitors savor both the topical beauty of a tropical paradise and the sights and sounds of their floating vacation home…


    We were among some 2,000 guests eager for pampering by a crew of about 800 persons, most of them from Indonesia and the Philippines.

    The array of activities, entertainment venues, dining choices and comfortable accommodations did not surprise. In fact, we’ve grown to expect such treatment.

 We’ve also learned to expect the unexpected. It happened again on Holland America Line’s five-star Westerdam during its 2,200-nautical mile pilgrimage to the eastern Caribbean…


   Accenting the modern vessel are works of art and sculptures from the 1800’s, richly augmented by breath-taking floral arrangements at every hand. We learned that up to 20 crates of fresh flowers are delivered to the ship for each weekly departure.

    During a 30-hour period, in port and a long first-day at sea, florist Sjoukje Hospes creates memorable arrangements that elicit “oohs and aaahs” from guests. Her handiwork--some of it massive--is admired throughout the ship.

    Some guests, in awe of her creations, have to touch the blossoms, making sure they are real…


    A 35-year floral veteran, she favors calla lilies and roses, and tries to “stick with the seasons” in her designs.

    Her inspiration for “artistry with flowers” often comes during bike rides ashore at Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Maarten and on HAL’s private island, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

    What does she miss most about Holland, her homeland? Tulips, of course…


    It’s a given that talented chefs uphold five-star dining promises, turning out some 60,000 meals for guests and crew.

    Equally memorable are fascinating new friends. We favor open seating at dinner, increasing our chances to meet people from many walks of life.

    Remembered new acquaintances include:

    • A former crane operator who helped build the World Trade Center.

    • A retired couple on their 75th cruise.

    • A man-and-wife anesthetist team.

    • A couple, he 96 and she 89, who faithfully walk on a treadmill daily. They depend on each other; she can hear; he can see.

    • Three Canadian women trumpeting national health care, their voices drowned out by guests of opposite opinion

    • A veteran minister who claims his piano-playing wife helped him get some pastorates…


    Port memories include a free trolley ride around San Juan and its four-centuries-old forts and castles, handcrafts at every stop and funny T-shirt messages.

    Try these:

    • “Don’t need encyclopedia, my wife knows everything.”

    • “I am NOT bossy; I just have better ideas.”

    • “Parrots of the Caribbean.”

    • “Time flies when you’re having rum.”

    The only line on board ship that didn’t shorten quickly was the queue of folks signing up for their next cruise.

    The other “line” was verbal, posed by what must have been a first-time cruiser: “What religion are the folks who wear patches behind their ears?”

    I think it may have been her husband who earlier asked, “Does the ‘Westerdam’ have satellite TV or cable?”…

Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to His Web site is www.