Lila and I have been on many adventures together, and next month we're embarking on the trip of a lifetime - a Caribbean cruise. Not just any cruise mind you, but the Downhome 20th Anniversary Cruise. From the way things are shaping up it's going to be nothing short of fabulous.
The idea for this cruise on the Crown Princess was conceived by my friend Lloyd Johnson, whose wife, Sue, is a tour planner at Clarington Travel in Newcastle, Ontario. Lloyd and Sue discussed the idea of a Downhome cruise then ran it by Patrick MacDonnell, who owns the travel agency. Patrick contacted Downhome and the idea became a reality.
The hundreds of people who have booked themselves on the seven-day Downhome 20th Anniversary Cruise - departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 30 - have loads of fun in store. Apart from the entertainment offered by the cruise line, Patrick has an itinerary of events designed exclusively for members of the Downhome group. Some of these he is keeping secret, even from me, but he did tell me there would be several "open mike" nights: karaoke-style affairs where "Downhome cruisers" who are musicians, singers or comedians in their own right will add to the merriment. We'll also enjoy live performances by well-known Newfoundland entertainers the Cobblestones and Bobby Evans.
But not all the fun will be aboard ship, as Patrick has exciting side trips planned for some of the islands along the way. In St. Thomas, Downhome cruisers will have an opportunity to take in the beautiful beach at Magen's Bay (rated by National Geographic as one of the world's top 10 beaches), visit Blackbeard's Castle, go to a flea market and take a downtown shopping trip. At Grand Turk, the plan is to visit Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville bar and enjoy entertainment by none other than Newfoundland comedian, singer and songwriter, A. Frank Willis.
Although most cruisers in our group are from Newfoundland, Sue tells me that a number of Downhome subscribers from other provinces have booked the trip because they know they'll have a good time travelling with Newfoundlanders. A group from Quebec is going because one of them visited Newfoundland with students on a school trip and fell in love with the place and the people. When he called to book the tour he told Sue that he couldn't think of a better holiday.
Karen Kennedy now lives in Pickering, Ontario, but is originally from Cape Breton. She has been reading Downhome magazine for a long time - long before she met Jim Slade, of Carbonear, Newfoundland. That was ten years ago, and the first year Jim asked Karen to marry him. "No," she told him - the same answer he's been getting every year since. Jim has proposed to Karen about ten times in the past decade, and each time she has turned him down because the timing didnít seem right. Then last fall she was reading her Downhome magazine when she saw the ad for the Downhome 20th Anniversary Cruise. It got her thinking: "A ship's captain marrying two people from the water, on the water, would be the perfect thing!"
Karen finished reading the magazine and left it out with the ad showing. Jim saw the magazine sitting there, and the ad inspired him to ask Karen to marry him yet again. This time she said, "Yes." Karen and Jim will tie the knot on the first day of the cruise, and the honeymoon will commence immediately thereafter.
Friends of ours, Shirley and Archie, who summer in Twillingate and winter in St. Petersburg, Florida, are bringing 22 couples along on the cruise. Some people in their group are from Newfoundland and Labrador, but most are from other parts of Canada and the U.S. (Archie, by the way, will have his squeezebox along for open mike night.) Downhome writers Lucy Fitzpatrick-McFarlane, of Tickle and Bight fame, and Ross Traverse, who lends his horticultural wisdom to our "Down to Earth" gardening column, will both be along to meet their readers.
Those of you who are not joining us on the Downhome 20th Anniversary Cruise will still get a taste of the fun through the magic of television: Pauline Thornhill and the whole "Land and Sea" crew from CBC will be there taping a show for future programming. Watch for it.
I am certainly looking forward to taking in the cruise's many shows and events, and just plain relaxing. But mainly, I'm looking forward to meeting some of Downhome's most important people - our readers.